A hot afternoon. Light comes up on LEYE OGIDAN driving a vehicle. He is in his mid-thirties. He switches the radio station for a beat before settling for a station playing old-school Nigerian music. He moves to the rhythm and follows the song. A young woman comes onstage and stands by the road. She is wearing a red flowing gown and dark sunglasses. She shields her face from the burning sun and fans herself with her hand. Soon LEYE drives into view and she hails his vehicle. LEYE sees her, removes his wedding ring then on second thought, puts it back on. He grinds to a halt before her. The young woman is FEYISARA.
LEYE: Good afternoon beautiful. Where are you going?
FEYI: Not too far up there. Just save me from this sun.
LEYE: (Unlocks the door for her.) You shouldn’t leave home without an umbrella. This sun will spoil your fine girl.
FEYI: Thank you sir. I was in a hurry.
LEYE: (Picks bottled water by his side.) You want water?
FEYI: No, thank you.
LEYE: Ehen? (Teasingly.) Fine girl like you in that gown, who is the reason you’re in this hot sun?
(She turns to him. A small frown rests on her face.)
LEYE: Don’t be like that now ahan. Two can play this game. I’m just trying to have a conversation here.
FEYI: Will I have to drop from your vehicle?
LEYE: Why would I let you do that? I’m just curious about this beauty in my car…that’s all!
FEYI: I don’t think I am up for this.
LEYE: No problem. (Beat.) My name is Leye by the way.
(She rolls her eyes.)
LEYE: (Smiling.) Come on now.
LEYE: (Slams his palm on the horn.) That’s what I’m talking about!
FEYI: Jesus Christ! Watch the road!
LEYE: Let the road watch itself. Nothing in the world at this moment is watching anything else but you. The roads of the world are watching you. The sun is in heat staring at you. Who am I to look away? Ehn Feyi?
FEYI: (Beat.) God! You are terrible at this.
LEYE: I am rusty, but I can get better. We have all day ahead of us.
FEYI: We do?
LEYE: Well, that depends entirely on you.
FEYI: I’m going to see my husband.
(LEYE suddenly hits the brakes. Beat. He looks at FEYI funny, starts the engine and puts the vehicle to the road again.)
FEYI: What’s the matter, Leye?
FEYI: You don’t want to play the game?
LEYE: I don’t think you understand the rules of the game.
FEYI: I don’t think you do either.
LEYE: (Laughs.) What do you mean? Men invented this game. How won’t I know the rules?
FEYI: So why is your wedding ring on?
LEYE: Ahan that’s it? Okay. See, now I am married. (He removes the ring and tosses it over his shoulder on the backseat.) Now I am not.
FEYI: One condition.
LEYE: Anything for you Feyi baby. Anything.
FEYI: Tell me about your wife. And be truthful when you tell me.
FEYI: I’m just curious. Who is that woman lucky enough to get someone like you and why are you tired of her to look my way?
LEYE: The essence of this game forbids such discussions, Feyi. In fact, all efforts must be directed towards avoiding that discussion.
FEYI: I thought you men made the rules? You won’t be the first to break it.
LEYE: Alright, let’s make this interesting. If I tell you something completely true, you’ll remove a clothing?
FEYI: I’m wearing a gown, that’s the only thing to remove.
LEYE: Well…(Clears his throat.) you’re wearing panties and brassiere, not so?
FEYI: Naughty naughty. But the same applies to you.
LEYE: Okay. Okay. Kosi problem.
FEYI: Alright Leye, you go first. How did you meet your wife?
LEYE: University. She was seventeen and I was twenty. She was your exact complexion, your height too but she was slimmer, firm breasts and big eyes in her head. That girl was fine. She was sitting with her friends and I went to her there — yes I’ve always been a what’s up guy, no fears. I walked up to her and asked for her number. Shy thing. Her friends were smiling because she wasn’t saying anything. I stood there for about five minutes. I kept repeating the question: will you give me your number? She was too shy to speak. Her friends gave me the number. We went out that same weekend. We kissed. Went on a date and six years later, we got married.
(FEYI parts her legs, dips her arms into her gown and removes a black panty. She throws it on the dashboard in front of LEYE. LEYE, eyes wide open, bulging with desire, snickers.
FEYI: My turn. What’s your question?
LEYE: (Recovering.) Same question.
FEYI: Don’t be boring, Leye. Give me something to work with here.
LEYE: Boy or girl?
LEYE: Your child, is it a boy or a girl?
FEYI: How do you know I have a child?
LEYE: I didn’t. So, boy or girl? How old?
FEYI: He is seven years old. I’m not talking about my child.
LEYE: Kids should especially be considered in matters of this nature. What would they think? Would they want to be considered in this decision?
FEYI: My turn. Have you done this before?
LEYE: Done what?
FEYI: Have you ever cheated on your wife?
LEYE: (Beat.) Yes.
(FEYI removes her brassiere…)
FEYI: It was a dumb question to ask anyway. I mean my pant is on your dashboard, your wedding ring is somewhere back there, and now my bra is on your dashboard.
LEYE: Feyi… you are the first person I would try this on in four years. The only person after the first time I did it.
FEYI: Okay. The first time you cheated on your wife. Why did it happen when it happened?
LEYE: We had just had-
FEYI: Shirt. (LEYE removes his shirt.)
LEYE: We just had our first big fight after marriage, you know. Our son was two, healthy, and taking all her bloody attention. Heard random things like she was growing into motherhood. Maturing.
FEYI: She said that?
LEYE: God knows I can’t make this up. We became these strangers living together with a two year old indefinite guest. Then she started going out with more friends, taking courses online and the timeframe coincided with the same time she was home with me! She talked less and less intimately with me. I barely saw her naked once in a month.
FEYI: And you don’t think she was simply redefining herself? Growing into motherhood like she said?
LEYE: People fucking grow every time. At sixteen. At nineteen. At thirty. At sixty. Heck! People grow too at hundred! But people set priorities. Life happens and we live and we keep those we love, those we truly love, we keep them close and grow with them.
FEYI: And you think she didn’t?
LEYE: She only took the son with her. Now I wasn’t jealous of my son or all those things that took her attention. I just feel when we love people, in spite of all limitations, we do our best to show it to them. I didn’t feel loved through that growth process. And a day came, I met someone out there who made me feel all the things she had grown out of making me feel. It was too easy.
FEYI: No ethical conviction? Nothing? The love you felt for her?
LEYE: Take something off, I was raw back there. (She removes her earrings. He laughs.) Earrings? Really?
FEYI: I haven’t broken any rule.
LEYE: Tell me, do you love your husband?
FEYI: Of course I do.
LEYE: That’s hilarious.
FEYI: What? You don’t believe me? (LEYE looks to the pant and bra on the dashboard, then he looks back at her.) Let’s just say we’re going through a rough phase.
LEYE: Tell me about it. I’m sure we’re in quite deep now.
FEYI: He… he is absent from our marriage.
LEYE: We have the same problem!
FEYI: Well you can say that. He no longer does all the things he used to do to make me happy. We quarrel every day.
LEYE: Quarrel on the same issue?
FEYI: Yes. Every time I bring it up, it seems as if I’m nagging so I just sort of turned off emotionally. Became passive until I stopped feeling anything about him. I’m just there now. And he cheats too.
LEYE: Your pant and bra are on my dashboard, Feyi.
FEYI: And you are shirtless with your wedding ring God-knows-where back there. (Beat. She leans in and they kiss passionately.) I was honest. Pull off your trousers.
LEYE: Wait. Before I do that…what are you going to see your husband for?
FEYI: He is waiting for me at Crowns cafeteria for-
LEYE: Wait. Crowns, at Morrison Avenue?
FEYI: Yes, you know the place?
LEYE: That’s where I’m going to.
FEYI: What are you going there for?
LEYE: I have a meeting.
FEYI: Are you meeting my husband?
LEYE: No. The meeting is with a woman. She runs Crowns and I want to buy it for my wife. Maybe I can get her back. Maybe she can love me again.
FEYI: Maybe we’ve all misread love, Leye. Maybe love isn’t just all happiness.
LEYE: What do you mean?
FEYI: You know how nerve endings are pain receptors? When you touch fire, the pain warns you that if you keep at it, your skin will get damaged.
FEYI: But the skin also feels flowers, it also feels the soft texture of another skin. The skin is multipurpose, it feels generally and we never think its only function is to feel pain or to feel pleasure or flowers. Maybe that’s how love is too. The only difference is that we’ve attributed just happiness to love and when we are no longer completely happy with the one we love, we assume love is over, but that unhappiness is merely another shade of love itself. And as patiently and dutifully as we experience happiness when in love, we should endure its other side too when it arrives.
LEYE: I envy the man who has married you.
FEYI: If only he knew what he had with him.
LEYE: Well, same goes to my wife. But look at you. You are here in the moment and I appreciate that. (Puts his hands on her lap.) Why don’t we find somewhere and get a room to ourselves before we get to Crowns?
FEYI: Tell me about these courses your wife take.
LEYE: Oh, different courses. Although she has a B.A and an M.A already.
FEYI: There is nothing wrong in getting broader.
LEYE: No there isn’t. But she has a relationship obligation. It’s like me travelling all around the world on business trips and barely being available because I’m building an empire.
FEYI: But a lot of men do that and expect their wives to understand. How is that different?
LEYE: There is emotional accountability. They explain when they call, they tell their wives how it’s all happening. They go back to their wives for succour.
FEYI: So, your wife doesn’t come to you for this?
LEYE: She has shut me out completely. And I’m afraid eventually, she won’t need me at all anymore. She’d have grown and grown…
FEYI: …big. Too big for you to matter to her at all.
FEYI: You’re insecure.
LEYE: I’m not! She already is showing signs of aloofness. She barely asks how things are with me. She barely tells me she loves me. She almost never puts me up on her social media. It’s as if she is cutting me out slowly and slowly, and I don’t want to lose her. If the evidence is present, is that still insecurity?
FEYI: No, it isn’t. It is worse. You like the idea of a strong and independent woman, but when confronted by one, you shrink away. I am here, a supposed stranger, breasts drooping beneath my red gown telling you whom I’ve just met that I’ll fuck you silly before going to see my husband and it’s exciting to you, the exoticism of it all. But your wife, who wants to go out with friends, who wants to do some online courses, personal development of her existence away from you, outside your shadow, she threatens your concept of love.
LEYE: Oh don’t bring that feminism parade in here. I love my wife and I serve her completely with this life. I submit my whole affection to her and that’s all I demand of her too.
FEYI: But you yourself said you cheated on her once. When you sensed she had withdrawn? How can your love be whole and complete if it cannot withstand a little neglect? How dare your love demand absolutism without understanding first, itself?
LEYE: Love is sacrifice. What do you call this holding on to memory? I can’t remember the last time she fully expressed love to me. And whether we like it or not, memory is where love draws strength from. I can’t love an idea of what’s to come. I can only dread what it will do to our love and I’m predicting that it might fizzle it out because it’s already doing that now. No, that rhetoric of ‘who am I to demand emotional absolutism?’ is flawed. Who are you who thinks herself the quintessence of feminine liberation? Is this all liberation is about? Sexual freedom and selfish adventure?
FEYI: We are here.
(She picks her pant and brassiere and puts them on. LEYE dresses up and reaches into the backseat and wears his wedding ring. FEYI waits for him all this while. They alight together and head into Crowns cafeteria. They step into the cafeteria and find it all empty.)
FEYI: Where did everybody here go?
A greying man, MR ADEWUNMI walks to them. He shakes their hands.
MR ADEWUNMI: Welcome Mr. Ogidan. Congratulations Madam. (They force smiles.) Come and sit down, please I’ll be back shortly.
(They go to sit while MR ADEWUNMI heads to the counter. He returns with a cake and places it before them. The cake has a candle on it and has the inscription written with icing, “HAPPY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY”. FEYI and LEYE maintain their smiles.)
MR ADEWUNMI: I purposely shut business down to celebrate your wedding anniversary today with you, our number one investors. May the good Lord bless your union further. (Calls.) Remi! Remi! Where is this boy? I’ll be back soon. I have to attend to the lighting. Congratulations, sir. Congratulations, ma.
(He exits. FEYI and LEYE sit and stare at the cake between them. The lighting in the cafeteria gets dimmed. They look around.)
LEYE: You meant all those things you said in the car? About me being selfish and afraid of you growing?
FEYI: It was your idea to role-play strangers and talk about our fucking marriage in third person. The fourth wall was there and I said what I wanted.
LEYE: Don’t talk as if this was my idea.
FEYI: The therapist was your idea. The therapist suggested it so, yes, this was your idea.
LEYE: Did you mean it?
FEYI: I don’t know. Did you mean it when you cheated on me?
LEYE: It was one time.
FEYI: One time is more than enough.
LEYE: You were unavailable, Feyi. You were growing.
FEYI: Taking care of our child while taking courses on the side.
LEYE: And when the child grew and didn’t need your doting attention, the courses stayed and I receded and it felt like I was loving you and I was loving me on your behalf too. I’m tired.
FEYI: Me too.
LEYE: I want a divorce.
FEYI: Me too.
(LEYE removes his ring and drops it on the table. FEYI blows out the candle.)
FEYI: (Quietly) Happy anniversary, love of my life.
Olamide Àdìó Olanrewaju
Olamide Àdìó Olanrewaju is a graduate of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His works have appeared on The Republic, Agbowo, and elsewhere. He writes from a small Rainbow in Ibadan.