There are decisions and there are decisions. But this was the mother of decisions.
I had decided the road to take before I boarded the plane at Heathrow; before the London School of Economics released the result that proclaimed me the best graduating student in the institution’s MBA programme; even before the telephone call from my father. But knowing is a planet away from doing.
"What about us?” Kay Adrian had asked. The blond Cockney was troubled. So was I. Almost two years of bliss was about to disappear like snow under the glare of the tropical sun.
I had not always been like this. Maybe it had been there all along, but I never tried to find out the truth. Or more accurately society had conditioned me to keep everything under wraps but the world changed that fateful evening at a pub where I had a chance encounter with a bright and passionate member of Arsenal FC feeder team. I still do not know who was the seducer or the seduced. When it ended I was flushed with freedom and guilt.
Now home beckoned. At twenty-five I was fully baked to take over the family business empire from my father, Chief Kanayo Oti. But this meant I had to leap into hell.
My parents came to my quarters the night after my homecoming party.
"That white friend of yours is enjoying Nigeria,” said Daddy. I had passed Kay off as a university friend who wanted to see Nigeria from inside. At the party my heart had glowed with jealousy as my favourite sister, Uloma, became his shadow.
"He might take Uloma home with him,” bantered Mummy.
Daddy took the cue. “And who will you bring home, Chisom? You’re my only son. The doctors have given me four years at the most. I want to see my grandchild before I go.”
Mummy interjected. “No girl since your school days abroad, so who are you picking here?”
"Please give me a break. I just got home.”
"Chisom, you’ve had too many breaks,” said Daddy firmly. “No eyes even for the angels who thronged your party. So this is our proposal.”
Oh dear, an Oti matchmaking agency, I thought.
"Diana Etiaba’s back. She and her parents will be here tomorrow.”
Diana was a close childhood friend. She had been in Canada earning degrees in International Law and Economics.
My smile concealed my turmoil. “Serious?”
"Just flew in yesterday,” said Daddy, beaming at my apparent enthusiasm. “Did both of you have any footy-footy arrangement to come home at about the same time?”
We roared with laughter. My brain raced feverishly: this was an opportunity to get them off my back, though temporarily.
I put on an Oscar-deserving act. I got my parents to promise a five-star banquet the next evening. I finished them off by saying:
"Hope you and Diana’s parents will leave us afterwards to compare notes.”
Daddy thumped my back merrily. “True son of mine.” At sixty-four he was a Casanova.
Shortly afterwards I feigned sleepiness. My parents left. I admitted Kay from the adjacent guest room. We tore into each other like famished wolves. During a pause Kay whispered in my ear:
"Darling, let’s come out of the closet.”
"Yes, but…I…” The manipulations of his hands stuffed my mouth with passion.
We never heard a sound, only the pure shriek:
"Goats have eaten the palm fronds off my head!”
It was Uloma who had sought out her apple. She had opened the door, which our hunger had kept us from locking. Knowing and doing finally met.