Timeyin stared at his reflection for a few seconds, then shook his head as he turned on the tap.
He splashed water on his face twice, and stared some more.
“Bloody idiot!” He said to his reflection, his jaw hardening.
He did not realise how hard he was gripping the restroom sink on either side, until he started to feel the pain from where the sharp corners were boring holes into his palms.
He pulled away, stared at the centers of his reddened palms and sighed.
He shook his head again but this time, the corners of his lips curled up.
He continued shaking his head as he gradually went from a mild smile to a full chuckle.
He washed his hands, reached for his handkerchief and wiped his hands dry, then walked out of the restroom.
By the time he made it back to the dinner table, everyone was fully introduced and light conversations had begun.
He signalled for the waiter as he slid into the space beside Femi.
“Your best merlot. The bottle.” He quipped.
“Ah-ahn, somebody is vexing oh.” Femi said, smacking him on the shoulder.
“I need something strong, and the ladies may not be keen on vodka or whiskey so a red wine with 14.5% alcohol will have to do.”
Femi had not missed the part about him needing something strong. “Guy, you okay?” he asked.
Timeyin heard the question, but he was not going to answer it.
He had decided that on this night, he will not be life of the party as he always was; keeping everyone entertained and initiating interesting banter. Tonight, he would just be the quiet observer.
It should be easy enough after the stunt Ini pulled.
He looked around the long table that their party occupied.
Femi had come with his flavour of the week. Her name had not stuck. She was not particularly beautiful, but she knew how to play up her assets – which was exactly Femi’s type.
According to Femi, beautiful girls had wahala, and Timeyin could attest to that.
She brought one of her friends. Ebony skin, lovely smile, but wandering eyes. He was not sure what her plan was. Perhaps she was hoping to land a man tonight or she was just looking to catch some fun. Either way, he wished her luck with that. If not for his present state of mind, he just might have indulged her.
Osas was flying solo as usual.
He always played the devil’s advocate in conversations, and Timeyin was sure he derived pleasure from it. He hardly spoke; but when he did, it was to stir the pot and then stay quiet observing the aftermath of his always-controversial statements.
On the surface, you would think he did not do well with women but somehow, he always went home in the company of one. As a matter of fact, Timeyin and Femi were convinced his “brooding loner type” behaviour was part of his modus operandi because he always got somebody’s attention.
Perhaps tonight it would be the ebony-skinned lady.
Then there was the sickeningly affectionate duo that was Taiwo and Tuoyo. If they were not wonderful people, Timeyin would have stopped being friends with them a long time ago. They had the kind of love he dreamt of, though they lacked the ability to contain it in public. As if the constant touching was not bad enough, they occasionally talked about their future and how they planned to live with each other’s flaws and nuances. It was realistic and pure – just like Timeyin hoped his would be.
They did take certain things overboard though. They were not married, but they already had a hashtag that they used freely on social media. “#TSquared”.
It was all very nauseating.
Timeyin’s shifted his gaze to Ini. She was leaning against her guest’s chest, her left palm in his right as he played with her fingers and whispered something apparently funny in her ears.
She had mentioned his name, but he had not heard it because his chest had tightened when he noticed their interlocked fingers. She had also mentioned his name in that manner that said he was her boyfriend, or at least potential boyfriend, without you needing to ask.
That made it worse.
He grabbed the bottle of wine from the tray before the waiter had a chance to set it down, poured some into his glass and downed it in one gulp.
He was going to need something stronger.
“Hey!” he called out to the waiter. “Jack Daniels.”
Femi sent a concerned look his way, but Timeyin ignored it.
“Since we have some new faces here, let’s do something more interesting.” Taiwo started. “We’ll go around the table, and answer the question: ‘who was the one that got away?’”
Timeyin let out a scoff but it was drowned out by the collective “oooh” that went around the table.
“You cannot use a celebrity please, you have to be honest and tell us why it didn’t work out.” Taiwo added.
“Well mine did not get away, she’s right here.” Ini’s guest said, nuzzling her behind the ear.
A collective “aaaw” went around the table.
“Now that you have ensured that you are getting laid tonight, can you tell us the real answer?” Osas quipped.
The table erupted in laughter – except for Osas and Timeyin.
Timeyin had to let out a small smile. He did not know how Osas managed to say such things and keep a ruler-straight face.
After the laughter had died down, Ini’s guest said he had not been unlucky in that regard. Then it was Ini’s turn.
It was an easy guess for Timeyin – Olisaemeka Anayo.
When he had met Ini three years ago, she would not shut up about him. She had broken his heart, and left him for someone that seemed more exciting. By the time she realised Olisaemeka was her ‘one true love’, it was too late. He wanted nothing to do with her.
She was inconsolable for weeks.
He could still see her tear-filled face as she said over and over again how stupid she had been.
“Oritsetimeyin!” Taiwo barked, jolting Timeyin out of his thoughts.
He glared at her. She did not know how to pronounce his full name, yet she insisted on saying it.
“What?” He responded angrily.
“It’s your turn.” She said pointedly.
“Timeyin ke? I’m sure there is no answer.” Femi said a little too quickly.
Timeyin was amused at Femi’s discomfort. He would have remained quiet, but he knew Taiwo would not let it go so he opened his mouth to say something witty.
“Wait let me guess!” Ini said from across the table.
The corners of Timeyin’s lips twisted up a little. He poured some more liquor into his glass, leaned back in his chair and stared dead at her.
Timeyin was sure Femi had stopped breathing, but that was unimportant at the moment.
“Hmnnn” Ini said thoughtfully, tapping her right index finger to her chin. “This is actually a hard one. I would say Folasade but I wouldn’t quite say she was the one that got away. I think you were rather happy she went away eventually. You know what? None. I think the answer is none.” She concluded with a smile.
A vein in Timeyin’s neck twitched.
“Well, there you have it!” Femi let out. “Next topic!”
“What?” Ini asked, but the question was directed at Timeyin. He had said something but she had not heard properly.
“I said,” Timeyin repeated, increasing his volume, “it is you. My ‘one that got away’ is you.”
The entire table fell deathly silent.
His eyes remained pinned on Ini. Cold, lifeless, hollow.
“Oh don’t act so surprised.” He said finally then took a sip from his glass.
“Guy, you don’t have to-” Femi started, but Timeyin lifted a hand in his direction halting him mid-speech; his eyes remaining on Ini.
“The crazy thing is, I did not realise you had ‘gotten away’ until tonight.”
Ini shifted in her chair. She glanced from her guest to Timeyin, and back.
Timeyin clicked his tongue and looked towards the ceiling. “Wow.”
He looked back at Ini. “You are actually worried about what he will think? Okay, here, let me help you.”
He turned his attention to her guest. “Hi, I don’t remember your name but you don’t have to worry, she is all yours. I am just the idiot who thought he stood a chance. I actually rehearsed a bloody speech because tonight was the night that I was going to make it official.”
“Timeyin-” Ini began.
“What? You want to tell me you didn’t know? Don’t even think about it. You are not daft. I have a sister and other female friends, and I know you guys know when we like you. Besides, I know you knew.”
His lips stretched into a self-deprecating smile. “If you proper friend-zoned me, that would have been better because at least I would have known where I stood with you; but you always had to be so bloody confusing.”
“You put your head on my chest when we are hanging out, and then you give me kisses on my cheek and act like it’s platonic. A platonic kiss on the cheek is when you do it like the Europeans, not when you linger. There is nothing platonic about lingering!”
“Tee-” Tuoyo started.
“But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it was all in my head.” Timeyin continued, ignoring Tuoyo completely. “Why, in the name of God, would you come onto me?”
He turns to the others at the table, “Oh and by the way, when I say ‘come on’, I don’t mean the not-so-mild flirting she does all the time that I have learnt to resist. Oh no! I mean, a proper seduction.”
He snaps his head back to her “and don’t even bother telling me it was a moment of weakness, because I asked you. I asked you time and time again if you were sure, and you said ‘yes’. Even with that, I still didn’t want to believe you because you had messed with my head so much I was sure you were doing it again; but then you went ahead and said those words…”
His voice faltered, as he looked past her at some imaginary memory that was playing behind her head.
“I want you. You and nobody else.”
He brought his eyes back to hers. This time he did not hide the pain.
“You said the words I had been dying to hear you say, knowing fully well that I wanted so badly to hear you say them.”
“I am not even angry that you used me to scratch your itch, I am angry that you took advantage of how I felt about you, just because you were horny. I mean, was it wrong that I respected you enough to not want to have casual sex with you?”
He turned to the other ladies at the table. “Last I checked, that was a quality women looked for in a man right?”
They all remained silent, eyes averted.
He returned his attention to Ini. “Or does that not apply to you?”
“Timeyin-” Ini tried again.
“Shhh” Timeyin responded, releasing the index finger in the hand that held the glass and bringing it to his lips. “You don’t get to say anything.”
He sighed deeply.
“Will you believe I almost punched a mirror in the bathroom after I saw you with him? And then I realised, why am I getting worked up for a girl who does not give half a damn about me? I may not have RMD’s good looks, but I know my market no bad so why am I killing myself?”
“I think more so than anything, I am angry that I spent the last three years of my life pining after a girl that I would never have.”
“I seriously had no idea Timeyin.” Ini let out, a little more defensively than she had intended.
“Don’t insult me!” Timeyin snapped, startling Ini. The iciness had returned to his eyes.
“You did what women like you typically do – you assumed men don’t get heartbroken; because it’s an easier excuse than facing the fact that you are actually stringing the poor sod along.”
He emptied the contents of his glass in one swig, and got to his feet.
“I would say ‘I hope you two are happy together’ but that would be a lie. I don’t know if it’s the alcohol, but I am not quite in the lying mood so-”
He turned to the rest of their party, and dips his head forward in an exaggerated bow.
He turned on his heel, and headed out the door.
He heard two pairs of footsteps behind him, and knew instinctively that they belonged to Femi and Osas.
He was sure he heard Ini call out to him, but he did not bother to look back.