ROOM 88 : EPISODE 5 – FELIX PEREKEME
“Daddy, why are you sitting out here alone, where’s mummy?” I asked my dad. He was sitting outside the entrance of our two bedroom ground floor flat.
“Your mum is not back yet, I’m waiting for her so we can go in together. Have you finished your food?” He replied, as he took a look at his wristwatch.
“Yes daddy, and I have completed my home work too” I answered, moving closer to him.
“Good boy, if you do well this term, I promise to get you that bicycle we saw at the supermarket the other day” He said giving me a high five.
I smiled when I heard that. I had always wanted a bicycle and I know my dad would have bought me one if he could afford it, regardless of my grades in school. I know he loved me that much and I loved him even more. He was my hero.
He lifted me off my feet and tickled me as I burst into bouts of laughter, then he placed me on his right thigh and together we sang one of our favorite tunes.
“I know I can, I know I can
Be what I wanna be, be what I wanna be
If I work hard at it, if I work hard at it
I’d be where I wanna be, I’d be where I wanna be”
On and on we went, laughing and singing while he made beats with his lips and tongue. Then he stopped and looked at me.
“You deserve the world boy, you’re such a very good kid and I will do everything humanly possible to give you the best. I pray for you specially today that when you are all grown and successful, you will marry a woman that will give you peace, a woman who will love you and be your rock at your lowest moments. I love you son.” He pulled me into a hug and then put me back on the floor as he stood up.
We went back into the house and I sat with him as he watched the Nine O’clock network news. My dad passed on about six months after this day, he didn’t even live long enough to see me turn six.
It all started one Sunday evening, we had gone to church that morning and came back home to have lunch. It was a ritual. My dad would make the best fried chicken stew with fried plantain every Sunday after church, we’d eat and then go to bed to take a nap, siesta, that’s what my mum called it. Most times, when we wake up, we’d watch a movie and then prepare for the week ahead.
Dad was a very domesticated man, he would clean and cook and do the laundry. The only thing I never saw him do was go to the market. My mum was the better bargainer, she did all the food shopping. I grew up in love, I know my parents loved me, especially as I was their only child. But for obvious reasons, I leaned more towards my dad. He was the more present parent, who paid attention to all my needs. It’s not like my mum didn’t care but she was always busy. Busy getting her hair done, getting a manicure and making sure her clothes fit right. Nothing to her was more important than that.
My dad was a supplier to many pharmaceutical companies in Ikeja, Lagos. He would supply cleaning materials, uniforms for the janitors and whatever items these companies requested. He made money from these supplies and was able to provide all our basic needs and some extra. We never lacked anything. Then came the dwindling economy, things started to get difficult and companies who were cutting down their overhead costs no longer required the services of third party vendors. Of the five companies my dad worked with, only one of them retained him.
“Kenneth, you are hell bent on making me suffer, look at me, my hair is turning to sponge because I can’t get a new one fixed. Is this the life you promised to give me? Is this the forever you promised? I can’t continue like this o, I cannot Kenneth. There are so many men out there who are willing to spoil me, but see me here because of love ehn” My mum cried as she yelled at my dad.
My mum was a beautiful woman, extremely beautiful. She had a very exotic look, it was as if she picked the best features from every continent in the world. Everything about her was just perfect and it was no wonder my dad worshiped the ground she walked on.
“Diane, please now, I can barely raise Felix’s school fees, I just made up the money for our last rent. Please be patient with me. I have said that as soon as I get paid from the last supply I made, I would give you all the money you asked for and extra. You know it breaks my heart to see you cry” He went to her where she sat and tried to pet her.
“Please don’t touch me, don’t just touch me” She got up and walked away.
This scenario had now become a norm, she was always crying about one need not being met and threatening to leave my dad for one wealthy man or the other. My dad had exhausted all options, he was in debt and desperately looking for a way out. My mum started to keep late nights and their quarrels became more frequent.
I felt really sorry for dad, I could see the sadness in his eyes and feel the burden in his heart. I knew he was struggling, I knew he really wanted to make things right. I also knew my mum was a selfish woman and a part of me began to not like her a lot. I wondered why she couldn’t be more sympathetic and caring towards my dad who had always given her everything she ever wanted.
This Sunday evening, she had dressed up and gone out after we had lunch, leaving my dad and I to observe the siesta. I slept with my dad in their room but I could tell he didn’t sleep at all. He kept turning and tossing and by the time I was fully awake, I saw him sitting at the edge of the bed with his hands holding his head tightly.
“Daddy, are you okay?” I asked.
He managed to look at me and I could see he was in pain. “I’m fine son, just a slight headache.“ He tried to get up and that was when he fell back on the bed and went into a spasm.
I rushed out of the house, crying and screaming for help. Our neighbors rushed out and in no time, they got him to a hospital. It was the scariest moment of my life. Someone had called my mum while we were at the hospital but till we left later that night, she didn’t show up. It was dad’s cousin and best friend, Uncle Dan who had come with his wife to see the doctor and sort out the hospital bills.
It turned out, my dad had developed a High Blood Pressure condition and would have picked up a stroke if not for the timely intervention of neighbors. He was placed on bed rest and given some medication. Everything went downhill from there. My mum continued to keep late nights and sometimes will not come back home for days. It was Uncle Dan’s wife who would send cooked food to us and send help over to clean the house.
On some, dad seemed to get better and on other days, he’d stay in bed all day. The arguments with mum didn’t stop and one night he slept and never woke up. A Cardiac arrest, that’s what the doctor called it.
About two months after the funeral, my mum moved us out of the house into a block of flats in another area, she also changed my school. Her reason was that she wanted us to start afresh, but I know it was because of the constant gossip of how her promiscuity had killed my dad that made her move. I can’t really say I saw her mourn my dad. I remember she cried a lot at the burial ground, but that was it.
She bought me toys and books to keep me busy, she gave me everything a child from an average home would desire but she was never there. No one checked my home work or came for school functions. I learned how to use a washing machine and microwave oven at the age of six and it didn’t matter that my clothes were never ironed.
Mum would explain that her ‘new business‘ was taking up all her time and then buy me more books, toys and video games to keep me busy. I was excellent with my school work and every time I had questions, I would remember my dad and cry. Our song never left my mind, I sang it all the time.
I grew up an only child with a single mum. She never remarried but there was always one man or another in her life. All I wanted was to be old enough to leave home and see the world. Reading exposed me to a lot the world had to offer and I was so eager to see it all. I had no doubts in my heart that I will be successful. I wasn’t very sure what I wanted to become but I had a conviction that whatever thing I chose to do, I would be very successful at it.
Another thing I knew for sure was I would never let a woman have a hold on me, not the way my mother had a hold on my father. I met many girls while growing up, from Primary school through Secondary school. I wasn’t exactly what you would call handsome, but I was very charismatic, a power dresser – my mum made sure of that, funny and of course very intelligent. In my years at the University, I was tagged the ladies’ man.
I met Moji, my wife at the library in my third year, she was in her first year and we were preparing for the second semester exams. Dark skinned, average height, a little thick in all the right places, long natural hair packed in a loose bun right at the top of her head with sparkly gold hoop earrings, face devoid of make up, everything about the way she looked was perfect.
I had been in a lot of relationships right from when I was in Secondary school. It was always a case of a girl crushing on me and after a few letters exchanged here and there, we would become an item. For me it was all fun and games and on to the next one. I was never in anyway emotionally committed or felt anything for any of them.
With Moji it was different, I liked her and wanted to be friends with her. I wasn’t thinking of a kiss or how to get in bed with her. I introduced myself and fortunately for me, she wasn’t hostile. It turned out we had a lot of things in common. We liked the same food, had read the same books and wanted to visit the same countries. By the end of the library session, we had not done any studying but enjoyed each other’s company enough to have exchanged phone numbers.
Our friendship grew and it was refreshing. She had a boyfriend and we both agreed to keep it platonic. We remained friends up until my final year. She tried to hook me up with a few of her friends but I had no interest in any of them.
Once in a while, I nursed the idea of a relationship with her but I knew it was an idea that would never materialize. Her boyfriend had proposed to her in her third year and they were set to get married right after she graduated. She told me her plans to go for her Masters Degree in the United States and how they had postponed their plans to get married till after the program.
Life continued for me, I completed my NYSC and got a certification from the Chartered Institute Of Personnel Management right after. My mum was now a lot older and wanted to make up for lost time by trying to get involved in my life. She was many years too late. I appreciated her for all the financial and material provision, but I had gone through the rest of life on my own and I didn’t have any need for her again. I remained civil with her and going to visit her was out of duty.
At the age of twenty five, I had bagged my Masters’ degree, started a dry cleaning business with an old friend, traveled to seven countries in four continents and hoped to make partner at the Consulting firm I worked for within the next three years. Life was good and would definitely be better. The only thing missing was a woman to share my successes with.
I was very dedicated to my job and business and didn’t have the time for women. There were many of them that tried to come around but mostly for financial gain. A handful wanted a committed relationship, but none of them ticked my boxes.
Another Five years down the line, I had made partner and was heading for the next big thing in my career – to start my own consulting firm. I was due to go on work leave and planned a trip to Trinidad and Tobago. I would usually travel with a tour group, but this time I wanted to be alone so I could reflect and make plans for the future.
I remembered how Moji and I would talk about what it would be like to attend their carnivals and see the humming birds at the Tobago Ridge Forest Reserve. T & T was one of the countries to visit in our bucket list. Moji, we lost touch months after I left Uni, I had been engulfed in starting up my career and gotten too busy. I wondered where she would be and imagined she was married with at least two kids. Maybe pursuing a career in investment banking or actualizing her dream to produce shoes. I wondered if our paths will ever cross again.
And so it was that our paths did cross right there in the heart of Trinidad & Tobago during their yearly carnival at the Port of Spain, the country’s capital.
“Excuse me, excuse me please, you’re standing in my way” I heard the female voice sounding a bit irritated.
I turned around to apologize to the voice behind me and stood there in shock. Right in front of me was Moji, fully clad in a carnival costume looking like she just stepped out of a magazine.
“Moji” I exclaimed with the look of shock still intact. “What are you doing here?, okay that’s obvious, but I mean, wow” I said as I tried to hug her with her feathered body suit getting in the way.
I remember she kept screaming, “I can’t believe it, what the hell, whaaaatttt FX?”. We tried to get through the procession as we found an exit and made our way to the nearest sitting area.
“Oh my God FX, it’s so good to see you and in T & T too, damn!!” She said, adjusting her bra-let. It was fully beaded in gold details and sat on a rich emerald green silk fabric. She looked beautiful.
I laughed heartily, “You still call me FX” That was the nickname she had given me back in Uni ” So tell me, what are you doing here?” I asked looking at her finger for a ring, there was none.
She laughed, “Searching for signs of a husband and kids right?, let’s get away from this madness, I have had enough fun to last me till the end of the year. ” She asked as she got up and pulled me up with her.
Something about her seemed to have changed. She had always been a confident girl but there was this strength to the confidence she now exuded. I couldn’t contain my excitement. We took a walk to the hotel she was lodged and she went up to her room to get a change of clothes while I waited for her at the lobby.
I couldn’t take my eyes off her as we made our way to one of the beaches. She was wearing a kaftan paired with flat slippers and had her hair up in that loose bun just like in school. She was still as beautiful as ever. We grabbed some food and talked till we got to the beach front.
After taking her through what had been going on with me career wise, she teased me for still not settling down and went ahead to tell me about how she started a career in banking after her Masters Program. She moved back to Nigeria and got a very good high paying job but it turned out to be the beginning of her problems.
Her fiancee became very controlling more out of jealousy and insecurity than anything else. The more she saw that side of him, the more she became convinced she couldn’t marry him. Then one day, he hit her and she broke off the engagement.
She told me how she yearned for love and companionship and looked in all the wrong places. Every relationship was a miss. The men seemed to be threatened by her success and financial independence. She quit her job to be able to settle with the last guy she was with and started her shoe production company hoping the liberty the business came with would work in the favor of their relationship. All was going well until she discovered the guy was married with a family in Canada. He was a serial cheat and a complete nuisance.
“FX, I gave up on men and marriage at that point. So I put my back to my business, it was tough and it’s still tough to be honest, but i’m learning the ropes. I’m in between Yankee and Naija now. I’m doing all I can to get my production line into Los Angeles and New York and maybe make it to Fashion Week.” She finished off and then asked “So, you, what’s the story? Doomed to be a bachelor for life by village people?” We both laughed.
I told her how I still hadn’t found the one but was actively searching, we talked into the night. It was fun being with her. I caught myself flirting a few times and I spoiled her with gifts in the few days we spent together for the rest of the vacation.
I didn’t want her to feel like I was taking advantage of her emotions, but I did feel very strongly towards her by the end of that trip. I promised to stay in touch, she said she would be going back to Atlanta but planned to come to Nigeria a few weeks after.
This time we stayed in touch – Phone calls, video calls, messaging and every means open. Soon it developed into a relationship after I asked her to be my girl friend. I felt like I was ready to be committed. My mum had shaped my view of women and it was an issue I always tried to avoid. I knew it was a major reason why I hadn’t been in any serious relationships all my life.
With Moji, I gave it my all and she didn’t give me any reason to doubt her love and loyalty to me. I knew she was self sufficient but I still gave her everything she needed as far as money was concerned.
I proposed to her on the night of her thirtieth birthday, we were taking a stroll down the board walk at the Marina at Keppel Bay. We were in Singapore, it was another country to visit on our bucket list. We had walked for a few minutes when I stopped and leaned in for a kiss. I was extremely nervous and my palms had become sweaty.
“I just want to wish you a happy birthday again babe, I want you to know I love you. I know I can be an a**hole a lot of times, but I promise not to be the type that will break your heart or take advantage of you” I paused, I was scared to continue, I felt like I sounded foolish.
Then I remembered my dad’s prayers for a wife that will give me peace, and in that moment I realized it had been the missing link with all the other women, I never felt a sense of peace with them. With Moji, it was different and I was more convinced she was that woman my dad prayed for when I was five. I wish he was alive to be a part of this.
I dipped my hand in my pocket and felt for the Vintage 14 Karat White and Yellow Gold Emerald and Diamond Ring I had bought some weeks ago.
“Marry me Moji, and I promise to love you the way you deserve to be loved, I promise to be your support system and help you achieve all your dreams and even more. I promise to be a husband and a friend and the one who’d leave bathroom towels on the floor and press the toothpaste tube from the middle”. I stopped and looked at her, she had tears streaming down her beautiful face and a smile on her lips.
I pulled her in to me and kissed her as I slipped the ring on her finger. I felt like I was home, I gave my dad an imaginary high five and imagined he was smiling down and saying “Well done son”.
Our marriage was everything I wanted it to be. There was laughter, there was fun, there was romance, there were quarrels that didn’t go beyond the night and silly arguments that ended up in sex. She opened up a side of me I didn’t know I had. With her I was extremely vulnerable. We had our four children in the space of eight years and settled into our lives.
It never crossed my mind to cheat on my wife, not one single time. Then one day, I needed to get a number off her phone when a message came in.
“I have sent the money you requested, I hope that will be enough, If you need more, I’d be more than willing to give you.
I must say I really enjoyed your company, I can’t wait to see you again, let me know when that will be.”
The number wasn’t saved in her contact list but when I went through her call log,I noticed there were back and forth calls between them and for long duration too. I looked for message threads but found nothing.
My mind was racing, I didn’t know what to think. So I waited and hoped she will tell me something relating to that message. That night turned to three days and then a week and she didn’t mention a thing.
I became paranoid and started to disconnect myself emotionally, I had all these thoughts in my head and her recent schedules made it worse. She was always busy and so consumed by her business. She would travel for days and even extend some trips and the whole thing reminded me of my mum. I was able to convince myself she was cheating on me but I never confronted her or made reference to the text message I saw.
We spent less time apart and in no time, I fell back to the other women. She would confront me and I could see the hurt in her eyes each time she did, but I also couldn’t wrap my head around why she was hurt by something she was also doing. I was very sure she was cheating.
She threatened to leave me, but I didn’t think much of it. My assumptions had built a castle in my mind and it made everything she said or did make me more convinced she was having an affair. Every time she cried and asked why I had become this man, a part of me would tell me I was wrong. I knew I should confront her, but I was too scared to hear the truth. It was a battle in my mind
I have been extremely unhappy, pouring all my energy into work and being the best father to my kids. Moji moved out of our house when she found out about my recent affair and to be honest she has been a rock in all this mess. The fear of my marriage breaking is eating me up. Being in this therapy session seems to be my only hope for redemption.
And here is Felix’s story, what do you guys think about this one? So many things running through my mind but I’d wait to read your thoughts first. Hope you enjoyed this episode.
Remember to drop your comments or at least click on a smiley, you know how your feedback makes me feel.
It’s your girl sending you love and light