I put my arm around Max and my hand landed on a breast. I half expected her to slap my hand away, instead she ground into me, soft buttocks molded into the curve of my groin. I lifted myself onto one arm, the other still resting on her breast pulled her gently towards me and she turned. I was poised over her unable to see her face but I could tell she wanted me like I wanted her, but I also knew something was wrong. There was a niggling in the back of my mind as I dropped my face towards hers. My breath was shaky and my heart thundering hooves of racehorses.
Then I woke up.
My hardness was pressing into Max’s lower back. Somehow during the night we had moved against each other, not forming the perfect spoon. Our legs entwined.
I freed my legs gently, trying not to wake her. Her sigh was loud in the night, and the rustle of her shirt louder as she snuggled closer to me. I reached between us and tucked my turgidity between my thighs.
“Hey you,” I whispered. “I wanna go pee.”
Why did I say that?
“Oh-kay,” a thick coating of sleep over the whispered word.
I padded across the parlour, making my way to the toilet. My right small toe connected with something hard and I swallowed the yelp as pain shot up to my brain and back.
When I was done I closed the toilet lid and sat on it, my head in my hands.
Max and I have been friends for over ten years, I think.
The first time I heard her voice I fell in love. It was a Rock program on radio. I liked how she told stories with her selection of songs and that was what drew me in. I wondered who the presenter was.
When she spoke, she sounded like someone took sunlight and wrapped it in soft coarse clay, and when she laughed it was like the clay split and let out bursts of yellow beam, warm and bright, like children tumbling in the grass or butterflies flitting from flower to flower.
My cousin worked at the radio station and, when he came home that evening, I told him I was in love.
“Tell Maxine the Dark Phoenix that your coz is in love with her.”
He gave me a strange look but didn’t say a word.
I started listening out for her, catching her Rock program every week. Then I found out she had a night show which she anchored with a male presenter. It was a battle of the sexes type program and they complemented each other very well.
I nursed my crush until one day I went to visit my cousin at work. He invited me into the studio, tapped lightly on the glass partition behind which sat a a lady with headphones on. When she turned towards the tapping sound my cousin said, “Bobo meet Maxine, Maxine meet Bobo,” and walked out leaving me standing there.
She grinned at me, her pearly white teeth in stark contrast with her dark skin, and gave me a thumbs up. She cued some music, switched off her microphone and came out of the booth.
She stood a head shorter than me, a head of glistening cornrows. Her eyes slanted up in the corners, giving her an oriental look.
“So you are Nonso’s cousin?” she said.
I took her small soft hand in mine and was surprised by her grip. She led me to a couch against the studio wall where I sat while she returned to finish the program.
We spent that evening on another sofa in a room across from the studio talking about whatever popped into our heads.
When, at 10pm, she said she had to go because she had an early day the next day, I wondered where the time had gone. I visited her at work three more times that week – I didn’t need my cousin to take me anymore – and at least twice a week before I left for school a month later. She was at our door early the next day to escort me to the bus park.
The other passengers teased me about her, saying she was reluctant to let me go, especially since it was Valentine’s day.
I told them she wasn’t my girlfriend. It turned out she was in a relationship with a colleague – the guy on the night show with her.
When he left her for the GM’s niece, I was the one she called. I dropped everything and rushed to her side.
She said her life was over, I was afraid she would do something drastic. I held her through the night, her frame curled into a tight ball, small tremors wracked her body and my back hurt from prolonged sitting, but I held on and talked her down
Graduation came and went, and NYSC came calling.
One evening before I left for my final clearance in school Nonso, my cousin came with a message from Maxine.
“She say make you no fall for her, say e no go end well.”
Just like that.
I didn’t know if I was more embarrassed that she called me out on my feelings, or angry that she felt I wasn’t good enough for her.
I left for youth service camp prepared to forget her, but when on the day I left camp I got a mail from her congratulating me on my passing out from orientation camp. She wanted to know why we didn’t see before I left for camp.
All the resentment I felt just drained out of me like so much pus. I didn’t hurt anymore – I didn’t realise I was hurting before.
We exchanged mails frequently and had gotten into a rhythm when she told me she was dating Nonso.
I went and did it. She wrote.
It was like a kick to my gut, but I was more concerned about her.
Are you sure that is what you want? Or is this a result of a random cold lonely night? Does he make you happy?
She wrote back that he made her happy and that sex with him was great so her nights weren’t so bad anymore.
I didn’t visit Lagos once during my youth service, and when I returned home six months post NYSC, it was to meet her in tears.
My cousin broke up with her and her world imploded.
Many nights I would stay on the phone to listen to her cry until she quietened, and on the days I saw her my shoulder and chest would be soaked through.
Our friendship survived two more heartbreaks, and she had watched me fall in and then out of love over and over again.
In all that time I never thought of her again as more than a friend.
So this dream threw me.
“Bobo is everything okay?” her voice came through the door followed by gentle knocking.
“I’m good. Just finishing up. Or do you want to come help me hold it?”
“Don’t be silly,” there was no awkwardness is her laugh.
If she felt me pressing into her, she definitely didn’t think anything about it.
I splashed some water on my face and combed my fingers through my hair.
Maxine must have been leaning against the door because when I pulled it open, she tumbled into my arms.