I met Charles some months back. I still remember vividly how it happened. It was the morning I left Lagos for coal camp. I was with my backpack and a heavy suitcase standing at a park very similar to this one, but with more footsteps and a greater sense of urgency. I was battling with my luggage, my left hand holding on to my handbag and a box, my right hand struggling with my heavy backpack when I heard a voice from behind.
“Hello, can I assist you with your luggage?” hands came for my suitcase and backpack almost at the same time. I turned around and saw his cute face and smile. He told me he was on his way to coal camp too. We spent the next few hours unravelling, finding ourselves in the rather pleasant journey from Lagos to Enugu state.
The camp experience was a ride in the clouds, there was so many colours in silky waves by just being with Charles. We set out on our genesis without knowing, the three weeks came to an end soon enough. I remember the last day, as we stood in front of Agbabanike hall expecting our posting letters, our hands quivered as we stood together, our voices muted by the dread and possibility of being wrenched apart.
“I will probably die or something if you have to go far away Charles.” My voice sounded coarse.
“Don’t say much things yet.” He said, pleading.
“It’s just how I feel, I know it has just been a few weeks, but I will really miss you…”
He squeezed my palms and said nothing more.
The letters came quick enough. As I held mine in my hands I said several prayers, I could feel my heart pounding, and I felt very hot all of a sudden. I read out my place of primary assignment, I heard Charles chuckle, then I saw my legs leave the ground as he swooped me off my feet.
“We get the same place! We got the same place!” he creamed.
Life gives us good days, special memories will drift in intermittently, like mindless seeds, but that day was one of my best. Destiny itself had carved a place for Charles and I to blossom. I smiled hard as we walked towards the bus that was to take us to Ibadan.
It has been several months since then, the rainbow came every day, in slushes and steady sprawls. We actually lived on the same street, so we got to see often. We would wave to me on his way to work, or give me a tap from the window of his taxi cab, but the special moments were those evenings and the long walks together. We would reminisce on days before and laugh at almost everything.
As the months rolled by, I feared that the end of NYSC was coming close. One evening, as we sat together in his room, with the light from his lamp flickering on, giving our shadows distorted shapes, Charles finally brought the topic up.
“What happens when all this is over?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but everything will be fine”
“Why are you so sure?”
“I just look at where we are coming from and all the feelings we both share, I can only hope for the best”
Charles had his eyes fixed on the lantern, I could see that he was trying to avoid my eyes, he kept his head straight. I could tell something was troubling him.
“I spoke with my Dad this morning” he said.
“And…what about that?”
“From the look of things, I would be travelling to England once the service year is over”
“You will be away for how long?” my voice was soaked in fear.
“That is the thing, I don’t think I will be coming back anytime soon”
That news from Charles sent flames into my heart, I felt my walls crumble apart. I remember I cried a lot in the days that followed, but I knew the tears weren’t going to change anything. We talked about how we could salvage the situation. Charles figured he could invite me over, after he had settled in, but even that was going to take several months. We treasured the weeks that followed, although we tried not to talk about what was waiting ahead, we knew it was coming.
Eventually, NYSC came to an end, we went together to the passing out parade, took tons of pictures, and laughed so hard till our ribs hurt. The next morning, I walked hand in hand with Charles to the bus station.
So here we were, at the bus station with arms wrapped around each other. Tears flowed freely from our eyes, as the emotions seemed to peak. Several words we could have said, but we treasured the silence, nothing more but the embrace and tears.
“We will be together soon, I promise you this” Charles said at last.
The driver came around from a corner, shouting for passengers too come in Charles slowly pulled out of the embrace, turned his back and took snail steps to the bus. Just as he got to the door way, he took one last look at me, his eyes were full of tears, his mouth formed the words ‘I love you’. He got into the bus and almost at once its engines roared on, the bus pulled away very quickly leaving nothing behind but the dust and myself.