The Other Mary
The other Mary has no interest in sex. Louis says this as if he and I aren’t that square. All the while his sunken eyes are x-raying my tight skirt. I’ve been prancing around in high heels managing tellers and irate customers all week, but the wine and convivial atmosphere at our university reunion has me feeling blasé. Plus, every other Saturday another girl I know from church or around the way invites me to buy asoebi uniform for her wedding. Meanwhile, a cuddly nameless puppy is now my only flatmate. When Louis invites me back to his place, I figure, what the hell.
Louis owns a record label that churns out popular hip-hop. His flat is on the top floor of a two-storey building on Abuja’s Ministers’ Hill where the houses tend to be overly large. His furniture, clearly acquired to impress, is all glossy leather that aren’t particularly comfortable. There’s a huge flat screen TV, and, of course, a king-size bed with a leopard print headboard.
More than a decade of forgettable dates has taught me that men pursue me mainly to obtain pleasure for themselves. So, when the lesson begins afresh, there’s no surprise. Louis’s fingers on my nipples are belligerent tweezers. At least he mellows when I cradle his face and whisper his name.
Afterwards, he pads to the kitchen and brings himself a beer. That sort of inconsideration no longer worries me. I go to find me a drink. The almost empty fridge offers nothing more nourishing than a can of Sprite. I’m washing the can at the sink when a pecking sound on the window startles me. A pigeon is nagging from the window ledge.
“Hey, Buddy is here,” Louis says.
The Sprite almost slips from my hands. I didn’t hear him come in.
“Buddy? Is it male?”
“Don’t know.” Louis pulls out a drawer and takes out a bowl of raw groundnuts. “Comes around so often I had to call him something.”
He slides open the window, pours some nuts on the ledge. Buddy attacks the nuts.
“I always preferred you to the other Mary.”
I sip the Sprite and nod even though I remember the other Mary in our Economics class had voluptuous curves that set all the guys drooling. Louis smiles at Buddy as if it were his child. He fills another bowl with tap water and puts it out on the ledge.
“I saw on TV that pigeon droppings can make people sick,” I say.
Louis shrugs. “Pigeons have been saving lives for ages by carrying messages.”
I purse my lips and mentally wave away human/pigeon relationships.
“You know, the other Mary always carried on like she never farted or anything like that.”
I dump the Sprite in the sink. “Come, guy, why don’t you just go back and pick her?”
I hurry to the bedroom and begin dressing. Louis saunters in and fondles my rear.
“Hey, relax. I’m not all bad, am I?”
“You want a medal for not being an even bigger jerk?”
Louis raises his hands in surrender. “Sorry. No vex.”
I hesitate, study him. He’s lost some of his cool. I cock my head, waiting.
He exhales. “I guess I’m still… you know, I never figured you for that kind of girl.”
I snatch up my purse. “I’m not. My parents are still together after three decades. That’s the kind of girl I am.”
“Calm down. My parents stayed together till my pop died, though my mum always said if it weren’t for us kids she’d have left.”
I can’t help laughing. “All mothers say that. It’s maternal blackmail. I’m sure even Eve said it.”
“Eve? What did she have to beef about? Adam had no other women to chase.”
My eyes roll involuntarily. Why are they all so predictable?
“Louis, it’s not always about other women—”
A dish crashes in the kitchen. Louis and I hurry there. Buddy has flown in. The bird flaps about until Louis catches it, puts it out on the ledge and closes the window. He gets a broom to sweep up the broken dish. I cringe at the clumsy way he handles the broom.
“That’s what you get for ‘buddy-buddying’ with a stupid bird,” I say.
“Hey, pigeons are the only non-mammals that recognise themselves in a mirror.”
I think: am I really standing here talking about a bird? What’s next; bees?
“How come you know so much about them?” I ask.
“Checked online to know what to feed Buddy. Came across dazzling stuff. Pigeons are cool but misunderstood.”
That gets my attention. So, despite his flashy furniture Louis sees a pigeon in himself.
I take the broom from him. “You couldn’t Google the proper way to handle a broom?”
He smiles a shy boy smile. My heart skips a beat.
I take his hand, clasp it over the broom handle then clasp my hand over his.
“You need to bend lower.” I show him how. Then I leave him to it. He sweeps up the bits of broken dish but still misses some tiny pieces.
“Gimme, jor.” I snatch the broom from him and finish up.
He stands back and surveys the floor. “What are you doing this Saturday?”
I almost mention a wedding but—feeling both cautious and flippant—I say, “Climbing Mount Everest.”
He nods like, touché. “I’ve been invited to give a talk on entrepreneurship to the students at our alma mater. I’ll be glad if you’d come with me.”
I almost ask, as what? But I keep that to myself. If he wants to take me somewhere other than just where his king-size bed is within easy reach, maybe he’s graduated to checking me out for me and not just as an alternative to the other Mary who has no interest in sex. And yet I can’t ignore the thought that there’ll always be another Mary for him to x-ray. So, I decline, head home and name my puppy Louis.
About the author:
Davina Owombre’s recent fiction appears at Burrow Press Review and Litro Magazine. Her printed work includes stories in Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction (MaThoko’s Books) and See You Next Tuesday: The Second Coming (Better Non Sequitur). A finalist in Narrative Magazine and Glimmer Train contests, she’s also the sometimes pseudonym of an African writer who tweets from the handle @dowombre.