To put it mildly, I felt used. As I slumped on the sofa in my living room, my mind felt too strained to process the sequence in which my princely empire had been toppled. I was suddenly frazzled to a fag. I thought I should just get a much deserved sleep and try to make sense out of the past twenty-four hours when I came back awake.
My eyes had been closed for only a minute when my phone started ringing. My first instinct was to ignore it, but I went against that and took the call. With a tired voice, I said, “Hello…”
“Have you missed me?” It was a female voice.
I was quiet for a while. “Who is this?”
The lady snickered. “Aww, where are your manners, lover boy?”
“I’m not in the mood for–”
She interjected. “You’re really not a lot of fun today.”
“No, I’m certainly not.”
“You sound fifty years older.”
“Well, how’s that working for you?”
“Working for me? I’m not the prick who thinks the world revolves to massage his self-inflated ego.”
I knew the voice and the vibe was familiar but my mind was working at a depleted efficiency level. I wasn’t in the mood for games. “Listen, if you don’t–”
She interjected again, “Is there anything I can do to fix this humdrum mood?”
“Only if you’re open to us screwing like minks in this rather too excited Sunday sunshine and sprawling like dead frogs afterwards,” I said, trying deliberately to offend her sense of morality.
But she surprised me and said, “That’s quite an imagination.”
“Oh, would you like to hear more?”
“Roll out the garbage drum,” she challenged.
I thought about it for a few seconds. The silence lingered. Then I said, “Forget about it.”
“But, why, you already got me started.”
“Well, find someone else to bother, I’m just not game at the moment.”
“That’s so sad,” she said without a trace of sadness in her voice.
“Look, I’ve got to go.”
“Just like two nights ago.”
Then it all made sense. “Eloke?”
“Dull kid! That took you forever.” She was laughing raucously now.
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But it disturbed me somewhat. The night I had her exactly where I wanted, and made to get on with our little dirty dancing, I’d stopped because of the uneasy feeling someone was watching. Now she was on the phone speaking with me, a totally different setup, and yet I was having that feeling again. The timing of her call was too conveniently placed. It had me wondering, so I said, “I’m trying not to get paranoid here, but something just makes me think you’re in some kind of conspiracy against me.”
“Oh, my, why so?”
I thought I heard genuine hurt in her voice this time. “You couldn’t have picked a worse time to call.”
“But I’m calling because you didn’t call yesterday as you promised.”
“Yea, I know. Something came up. My apologies…”
“What’s the problem, Ronnie,” she asked.
I suppose she was beginning to feel my deflated spirit. I told her, “I just feel messed up.”
“Is it something you want to talk about?”
“No, don’t bother.”
“Please, Ronnie, I’d like to help.”
“I’ll much rather figure it out myself, but thanks.”
“Does this have any link to the night at my place?”
I didn’t understand her question. “I don’t follow.”
“You said you feared someone was watching.”
“Oh, that. No, no, not at all.”
“If it helps you some, I actually felt it too.”
“That was just my mind. I’m sorry to have infected you with my paranoia.”
Eloke cleared her throat. “I don’t think you were being paranoid.”
“That would mean you’re being paranoid too but prefer to remain in denial of it.”
“Not quite, darling,” she said, and then took a moment for herself. “It was exactly what I wanted you to feel.”
My head began to spin. “Eloke, was someone actually watching us?”
“In a manner of speaking, sort of.”
I was angry and flummoxed at the same time. “What kind of game were you playing?”
She snickered. “Let’s just say I’m the worst kind of tease.”
“All the while you strung me along, this was a game to you?”
“Don’t fake the hurt, lover boy. We both know it never meant more to you.”
Now I blew the lid off. “This is preposterous!”
“Aww, poor baby,” she teased, unfazed by my anger.
“Who was watching us? Was it your boyfriend?”
“Ermm, how do I say this?”
“Just say the name,” I demanded.
“Think on these things: snow on coal and fire over.”
I thought about it for a second. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Fine, I’ll help you with a clue.”
My door bell chimed just then.
“Are you expecting someone?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah, I almost forgot.”
“I’ll call you back,” she quickly offered.
Before she hung up, I quickly told her, “Hold that thought.”
“You hold the thought,” she said, laughing.
I ended the call and went to get the door. It was India, as I expected. Yet, I froze as soon as I saw her. She wore a white satin blouse on black flowing pants with a red hat that matched her red bag. The description was instantly clear: snow on coal and fire over. Now my head was in full spin like a turbo propelled carousel.
India beamed a victorious smile and said, “I can explain everything.”