Yesterday, I paused after reading the second story in Diane Cook’s Man v. Nature, lifted my head, stared straight at nothing, and suddenly felt like a teenager forced on a diet of broccoli. I mean, my literary self is in good health thanks to a long stretch of feeding on a strict diet of A-grade short stories. But that moment, the cool air of Lagos-after-rain blew through my body, and petrichor serenaded my nostrils, and I shivered a little, and I felt the urge to read a page-turner. I wanted to feast on what Ursula K. Le Guin recently referred to as “packaged microwavable fiction.”
So I made the decision to switch location and books at once. I grabbed my bag and headed for a more relaxing place. There were three people on two of the four concrete seats surrounding the tree in my chosen location. Two of them were obviously a couple, the head of the lady nested in the crook of the man’s shoulder, and the other, a lady, was reading from a tablet on the seat opposite them. I sat, opened Paper Towns and started to read. In no time I started to giggle like a fool at the witty dialogue in the book. I raised my head to see how the people around me were taking in my awkwardness. The lady studying had left but the couple were still there, only now, their tongues were in each other’s mouths, and they giggled intermittently—like fools.
I am single. And, apart from a few brief episodes of emotional dependence on some other humans, have been so all my life. That is over two decades worth of existence without ever being in an exclusive romantic relationship with a living being. I have never felt jealous at seeing someone I like like another person, never missed someone so badly as to fall into cliches like heartaches, and I’ve never had my heart broken.
I have, however, always been fascinated by the life of coupled individuals. Most of my teenage years was spent taking punts with myself on secret couples. I dedicated an unhealthy amount of time to deciphering new relationships from non-verbal communication clues, changed gestures etc., and often waited in silence for the confirmation of my hunch. I was usually right. I also often attempted to guess which relationships would last and which wouldn’t. Again, I was usually right.
But all of that has changed now. There are too many things jostling for my attention that two friends could be necking beside me and I still wouldn’t realise that they are now together.
For a moment I studied the couple, attempting to decipher why they had chosen one another and if there were obvious flaws that already doom them. As morbid as it sounds, attempting to forecast the demise of a couple is not a difficult endeavour, especially seeing as many people stick together for easily observable traits. It is possible to tell which of those traits holds the potential to wreck the relationship.
Then I stopped trying to speculate. I took my pen and wrote the seed of this piece. Maybe they are truly in love and are so into it that they cannot stop having a piece, or slaver, of each other. Nothing in my experience can confirm this. The only livelong love I’ve known are books. I’m a decent reader with a fairly wide palate: Shakespeare, Harlequin romance, George Orwell, SciFi Paper backs, literary doorstoppers, sex-filled crime/thriller paperbacks, english classics etc., etc. But none of these has made me the type of human that understands the need to sit facing the Lagos Lagoon in the cold with another human, and kiss continuously like one of you is going off to war. I’d rather be there with a book.
I stopped writing, and went back to Paper Towns. The next time I raised my head up, the couple had taken a fresh position. The guy was now on the edge of the seat, and the lady’s legs were across his laps. Their faces so close that I wondered if they were not getting spooked by one another’s breath. They kissed and giggled again, and the girl fake punched the guy on the back. Taking a bet with myself over their relationship would have been pointless. They were just part of the landscape, part of the view. I returned to Q and his search for Margo. The next time I paused my reading was to check the time. I was already late for a class.
Featured image by electrictuesday via Flickr