Shame /SHām/ noun
a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
It’s Monday morning. I have to go to class. But I lie in bed for an extra twenty minutes, aware that I’m likely to be late as a result. I’m not sure I want to see him as I drive into the school compound today. I‘m not sure I want to sit and chat with him this morning. I’m not sure about anything. He tried to call me yesterday but I didn’t answer the phone. He’s sent me several text messages since Saturday when I left his house, but I haven’t responded to a single one. My head is in all kinds of places but one thought keeps echoing – I’m not a virgin anymore. I’m no longer “innocent”.
I had cried out when he had broken that fragile barrier. I had felt him stiffen. My mind had gone into a panic at the thought of him stopping and asking me what was wrong and so I had urged him on by wrapping my legs around his waist, effectively stopping him from moving away. I soon forgot the pain as more pleasant sensations overtook me. When we had both sighed, our passions slaked, he’d pulled me onto his chest, held me close and then asked me the question I had been dreading.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” His voice sounds hurt, quiet.
I move slightly to be able to look at his face, the dull ache between my legs registering somewhere in the back of my mind.
“If you had known, would you have…?” My voice trails off, I’m embarrassed to put into words what just happened between us.
He sighs heavily and that is answer enough for me.
“I’m sorry” I whisper. Then I get out of the bed, grab my clothes and rush into the en-suite bathroom, tears streaming down my face.
“Asher!” I hear him call out. But I lock the door behind me, sit on the edge of the bath tub and give in to all the emotion I’m feeling. I’ve just been made a woman, by a married man who would rather not have been with me because I was a virgin. I’ve just committed adultery. I’ve just cheated on my boyfriend. And I’m ashamed. I’m a bad person. I’m a horrible person. Especially because I enjoyed it so. The sobs still wracking my body, I get into the tub and switch on the shower. I can’t tell the difference now between my tears and the water streaming down my face. I’m still going to have to face him. I won’t be able to avoid that. So I tell myself to suck it up, I finish washing off, use his towel (I assume it’s his own, cos it’s the only one hanging in the bathroom) to dry off and get dressed.
I try to collect myself just before I open the door. I’m hoping that by some miracle, he’s left the room. But he hasn’t. He’s sitting on the edge of the bed, he’s wearing his jeans. My breath catches in my throat at the sight of his naked torso. I’m still so affected by him. He gets up and walks towards me. I move quickly toward the bedroom door, in an effort to escape. I don’t think I can handle this confrontation.
“Please. Don’t leave.” He implores quietly.
I pause for a beat or two, steel myself and then continue towards the door.
“It’s getting late and I need to be going.” I say without looking at him.
“ Asher, don’t do this. Don’t leave like this. Can we at least talk about it?”
“Thank you for lunch. And for having me…” Why does that last bit sound wrong? But it doesn’t matter. I just need to get out of here. I pull open the door and step out and I make a run for it, stopping only to pick up my scarf and my purse which were in the living room. I can hear him coming after me. I don’t look back. I pull open his apartment door and run to my car, fumbling slightly with the keys but finally getting them to work. Fifteen seconds later, I’m speeding down his street heading in the direction of home. Tears threaten again, but I keep them in check this time. I will not give in…
So now, I have to go to class where I know for certain that he’ll be. And I have no idea how I’m going to manage the imminently awkward situation.
“ Asher!” My mum calls. “Aren’t you going to French class today?”
“I am” I shout back, finally dragging myself out of bed. I’m aware that I’ve been acting weird all weekend, and I know my mum has noticed. She probably thinks I’m on my period which might explain why she hasn’t said anything. I wonder how she’d react if she knew what was going on. Anyway, I’m not about to find out, so I inject a false note of cheerfulness into my voice when she pokes her head round the door of my room, with a questioning look on her face.
“I’m up. I’m up” I say, hands raised, palms facing outwards, a gesture of surrender.
“You know the traffic will be building up already. It’s a Monday.”
I roll my eyes, not in the mood for one of her lectures this morning. I have my own problems right now. And traffic is right at the bottom of that list. In fact, the traffic just might be my ally today. An hour later, I’m enroute to Ikoyi. The traffic is epic, but I barely notice. Snapshots of Saturday’s events keep flashing in my head. I feel awful. And to think I encouraged him! When did I become so bold? Imagine me, kissing him like it was the most natural thing in the world. He even gave me a chance to escape and I turned it down. What does that say about me? Wanton wasn’t a word I would ever have described myself with, but then again, I also wouldn’t have expected to become a mistress. But that’s what I am. That’s how I behaved. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself’, that idiotic little voice in my head opines. Well duh! If I wasn’t ashamed, I wouldn’t be having these crazy conversations with a voice in my head…
I drive into the school compound a little after 9am. No one is milling about. All classes are obviously in session. I know I’ll have to explain to the tutor why I’m late. I can always blame it on the traffic. But my course mates might be a bit more difficult, Yvonne especially. I pick up my books and make my way into the building. When I walk into the class, the tutor pauses mid-sentence, making it even more obvious that I’m late. I apologise and shuffle to the back of the class, find a seat and spend the rest of the period staring sightlessly at the board. Before I know it, it’s break time and I realize that I had forgotten about the usual study session with Danladi. What do I do? I certainly can’t go to him now, not with the way I’m feeling. But if I know Monsieur Nestor, he’ll come looking for me when I don’t show up.
I’m still debating my options when Yvonne walks up and sits across from me.
“Your friend was waiting for you this morning, but you didn’t show up. He looked so sad sitting there all by himself because no one would talk to him.” And then she giggles. I’m wondering why she sounds super excited to be telling me this and I’m starting to get irritated.
“So, why were you late anyway?” she continues.
“I woke up late and got stuck in traffic.” At least I wasn’t lying. I didn’t have to tell her I was deliberately late because I was trying to avoid my “friend”, speaking of whom would be expecting me in his class right about now. I decide that I’m not going to his class. I’ll deal with the consequences later.
“I’m going down to get something to eat. Are you coming? Or are you going to disappear like you always do?”
“I’m not really hungry. I’ll just stay back and try to cover what I missed this morning.”
“Ok then. See you.” And she finally leaves me in peace.
I spend the next 30 minutes trying to come up with a good reason to give Monsieur Nestor for having to stop the study sessions. My tired brain comes up with nothing useful. The other students are trickling back into the class and I soon get embroiled in a spirited discussion about the morality of gay marriage. In all honesty, I think there are bigger problems in the world, but I have to make a show of taking active part. No one has come to look for me so it looks like I might have gotten away with not going to Danladi’s class.
The rest of the day goes by and by the time class ends, I’m truly drained. Home time. I can’t wait. I head downstairs, brushing past students who are obviously in no hurry. I almost trip in my haste to leave before Danladi’s tutor comes to find me. Danladi would be gone by now anyway, so that’s one less person to deal with. I make it outside with no incident and walk briskly in the direction of my car. Because I was late today, I didn’t get a parking spot in the main lot. My car is at the back of the building. I turn the corner, finally out of sight of everyone and heave a sigh of relief, then almost pass out at the sight of him leaning against the side of my car.
I must have made a sound because he looks up just as I come to a complete stop, still a few feet between us. I contemplate turning around and going back the way I came but I have a feeling he’ll just lean on that car until I’m ready to go home. So I make my way towards him, slowly. He stands up straight and puts his hands in his pockets. I know not to confuse that with arrogance. It’s a nervous gesture.
“Hi.” I say without quite catching his eyes.
“Asher, I’m sorry about a lot of things and I’ll get to those shortly. But I certainly I’m not sorry about what we shared this weekend. And for the record, I would still have made love to you even if I had known. I just would have liked the chance to make your first time more special, lame as that might sound. I am sorry though that I was such an idiot at dealing with it. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings and I didn’t mean to give you the impression that I didn’t want you. Hell! I can’t not want you!”
I’m still not looking at him, my gaze fixed on the big toe of my right foot. Why had I chosen this idiotic colour of nail polish? And why do his words excite me? He can’t not want me? So why had he acted so unimpressed and dissatisfied? He certainly made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for him and that hurt.
“3 years I’ve been married and not once have I looked at another woman, until I saw you. To be honest, I didn’t expect you to pay me any attention, least of all agree to visit my home. And I certainly didn’t expect you to fall into bed with me. But you not only did that, you let me be your first. And I have to admit, it’s a huge responsibility but it’s also a gift, one that I’ll treasure always. I just wish I could do it all over again, and do it better, treat you better.” He runs a hand through his hair, seemingly frustrated. I still haven’t uttered a word and I’m thinking I’ll let him stew for a while longer.
“ Asher, please. I’ve never been as happy as I am when I’m with you. And it hurts me deeply to think that I might have ruined everything. Tell me I haven’t. Say something. Anything…”
I look up at him, at the droop in his shoulders, at the sadness in his eyes. Like it or not, he is the first man I’ve ever been with and for that reason alone, he will forever be tattooed on my heart. Besides, I wouldn’t have felt so hurt if I didn’t care about him. And since I’ve established that I care about him, wouldn’t it be fair for me to talk to him, tell him how I feel? So I make a quick decision.
“Do you want to go grab a drink? I’m not sure this is the right place to have this conversation…”