Joel secretly hated how friendly she was with everyone. He particularly hated it when she hanged out with her male classmates. V had no idea, not that she would do anything about it if she did. She would do anything for her man, anything that didn’t involve changing her personality. Their relationship was OK up until when exams came. He was smart and generally obsessed with books. V too was smart, but she didn’t take exams as seriously as he did. He didn’t have time for the relationship any more. Given V was seating for her exams at the same time, she couldn’t understand the fuss. He didn’t pick her calls. He barely responded to her texts. She started to take it personally.
Given her past experiences, she got suspicious. When the exams were over and he asked to see her she went, though not with good intentions. She was going to demand for an explanation. She got to his room and he seemed happy to see her. He didn’t seem to be in the mood for a fight. She decided to ease into it rather than just attack.
Joel’s first reaction was to hug her tight. He was living in an on-campus hostel at the time. The beds were double-decked which barely left enough space for sitting. She lay on his bed and looked at him, hoping he would make things easy and start the conversation. Perhaps he would explain why he had been such a jerk and apologize and then she wouldn’t have to bring it up. He didn’t. He joined her on the bed and started to kiss her. She pulled away. She was tired from the day’s rigours, not to mention the place she was at emotionally.
Joel noticed that V was not receptive to the kiss. He assumed he would bring her close if he put more effort into turning her on. He started to undress her. V didn’t protest. She was still that kind of girl, the one that believed a boyfriend had every right. I mean, hadn’t she tried once saying no to Martin and had wound up spending the night with him? She didn’t react; she just lay there and opened her mind to possibilities.
Joel must have tried oral, he loved those. But he must have proceeded too soon to s3x, the memories of that encounter were rather hazed for V. She remembered however that he had either completed too soon or had gotten off halfway through. He was rather gentle with her in bed and so the latter was highly likely.
“You’re kinda dull today, everything OK?” Was the first comment he gave.
“Yea. Am just not feeling so well… I think am sick.” That sounded more logical than “no, am not OK! Why haven’t you been picking my calls the past two weeks?” That would be an absurd way to bring it up. Also, she was honestly feeling not so well. The fatigue had gotten to her.
There was short silence. She guessed he hadn’t bought the sick story. “Am not safe.” She added, though instantly felt awkward.
Joel always insisted on protection. But that evening he hadn’t bothered. He had, for the first time, dived in without worrying much. V hadn’t commented because she had been caught off guard. But mentioning how unsafe she was now felt rather pointless.
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
OK, maybe she should have said something at the start, but what was the point in getting worked up? Why was he yelling at her?
“What do you mean what the hell is wrong with me?”
“What did I ever do to you? You couldn’t tell me that before?”
“I don’t know why you’re so worked up, it’s not like the world just came to a stop.”
“Easy for you to say. If you knew you are sick, couldn’t you have at least warned me or something? Do you really hate me that much?”
“Look, calm down, you aren’t helping right about now. It’s done.”
Much as she was mad at him, she couldn’t help but feel touched by how concerned he was. She was quietly forgiving him. She was going to let him know that the fight was over. She wanted to come clean on the real reason she had been unresponsive earlier to his romancing. She opened her mouth to speak but a freaked out Joel beat her to it.
“So now that you got me infected do you feel better? I never want to see you again! When I come back you should be gone.” He hardly finished his sentence and just like that he was gone.
V sat up from the bed narrowly escaping hitting her head on the roof of the bed. QUOI! She shook her head vigorously as though it would all go as fast as it had come. She wanted to unhear what she had heard. Maybe she had misunderstood the infection part. OK, being ‘infected’ was a possibility, no doubt. Besides, it was the first year of campus and the main advice parents and guardians gave to their loved ones when they joined campus was that AIDS is real. Everyone seemed to believe that HIV was located in campus, that everywhere else and everyone else was safe. The thought of that tickled her. She smiled. Just then, she shook it off, she had to focus. How could Joel accuse her of something so grave? Did she really seem like the kind of girl that would get a guy infected on purpose and be kind or cruel enough to inform him instantly? Maybe she was overthinking things like was her nature. That thought was too horrible to bear. She had to clarify it before she went insane.
So, just to be clear, did you imply that you think I just gave you HIV?
He didn’t respond to her text immediately. He was probably in a corner somewhere praying. Or perhaps he had gone to wash it off at a friend’s, a concept Jacob Tsuma would be familiar with. It was hard to imagine what he was doing exactly because she had never been in a situation like that. How was one allowed to react if they’d just been told by someone they trusted that they’d just been infected, and on purpose? Her phone rang while she was still carried away by thought. It was a text from him.
What else could you have meant by telling me that you were sick and unsafe immediately after unprotected sex?
V giggled a little. It was funny how freaked out he was. Only it was annoying he’d walked out on her without seeking clarity.
And you think I would intentionally get you sick?
People do that, don’t they?
And then I would tell you immediately about it?
You mean you seriously want to make this about you?
Ow, am sorry, who is it about?
Do you know how scared I was?
Sarcasm came to V naturally. She wanted to retaliate with something so mean that would make the first scare obsolete but she let go. She was too furious. But more than anything she was hurt. It was disappointing that the guy she loved wholly would think her capable of that. She stared at her screen with balancing tears.
Just get here. I want to leave and I don’t know how to lock your door.
Just pull it shut, that’s OK.
Maybe you don’t understand me. Am not leaving until you get back, whatever time that will be.
He didn’t respond. She didn’t move. She cupped her face in her hands, placed her elbows on her thighs then shut her eyes. She was in no hurry to leave. She was not some sort of hooker. There was no chance she was letting him off easy. She might not have been able to bring up the first fight but this time she had to get it off her chest. She was going to break up with him, most probably, but it had to be in person.
Joel must have felt incredibly embarrassed or silly. There was also a high likelihood that he still felt angry, for some reason there was no putting that past him. He didn’t show up until a few minutes past midnight. He must have hoped she would grow tired of waiting and see herself off; she could tell by his reaction when he saw her. He couldn’t dirk because then that would be even more childish. He didn’t apologize. She didn’t ask him to. She didn’t wait around for it either.
“Just what kind of person do you think I am, Joel?”
“Look, that was a misunderstanding. You should apologize for giving me such a fright!”
She scoffed in disbelief, got up and left. She had no idea where she was going at that ungodly hour but she knew she couldn’t bear the sight of him a second longer. He didn’t try to stop her. He was equally stubborn, perhaps obnoxious.
Campus grounds were safe at the time. She walked around still not sure where to go to. Then she remembered she had a classmate in one of the female hostels. She couldn’t go to her own place because she lived off campus and it was insecure at that hour. Her friend was yet to sleep, fortunately for her, and V found a haven for the night. Joel didn’t call or text to find out if she was safe. She took that personally, more personally than the HIV accusation. School was in recess. They had closed for the first long holiday. She was going to travel home the next day and stay with family for the next four months. Perhaps the holiday had come at a perfect time. She needed a break from everything.