The One Who Strays
I wish I could see the look in his eyes when I asked him the question, “Who did you go out with last night?”. He kept talking until it dawned on him that I knew he was out with someone. Then, he stopped to ask me how I knew he’d been out the night before.
We did our usual dance where he’d try to change the subject while I make a futile effort to drill some more information out of him. Closely behind this, he follows up with a comment that is guaranteed to have me changing the course of the conversation as quickly as possible. He does so either by highlighting the fact that I’m so weird for picking up on the “signs” I’ve grown to learn and know like the palm of my hand or by insinuating that I’m over-thinking things while subtly hinting at the fact that I might just be slightly more clingy than he’d like. Oh! One more deflection tactic of his is low-key reminding me that we aren’t even officially bound to one-another so he doesn’t owe me.
Got it, baby! Once again, you’ve met another woman who you find intriguing. Someone who you can be different with - be the person you really want to be; speak to in a clean and sophisticated accent, talk about real-life issues with, connect with over things you never seem to have in common with me no matter how hard you try. An Eritrean beauty who you wouldn’t mind sharing your time with over the next few months, you know, until you get bored and come back to me whispering sweet nothings while convincing me that from the constellation of the stars to the fact that I’m always there for you — I’m most likely THE ONE.
Today, something was different though. I couldn’t let him have this hand, I had to have the last word.
So, I narrated a similar experience I’d had with a former lover who travelled to another city to see his friend that had flown in for whatever reason only to return and as soon as I heard him utter the first few sentences, I’d known that something was amiss. I’d asked the ex-lover, he’d deflected and denied but eventually burst out in tears and gave up the full gist about how nothing much happened between them because she was a virgin, however, she gave him a mere blowjob. How sweet!
I went on to say that I can easily tell when a man has strayed because I believe that when a man meets a woman he holds in high esteem, she almost always leaves something like a “footprint”. She usually leaves something behind to show that she’s made her mark. This was my way of saying, “I will always know when you stray, Baby”.
I didn’t see his response coming. His words, not verbatim but very close were, “Uche, I’m worried about you if you can sense that someone has left her “footprint” or that you can even sense this over the phone”. I was completely thrown off. How could he transform something I was so proud of a minute ago- my gifts of intuition and empathy, into something that makes me look like a sad, deranged woman. He even went as far as to bring up my background as a possible cause.
“Wow! 1– 0, my love. Once again, you’ve won”, was what I said to myself but I badly wanted to blurt, “ Do you even know why I know you strayed?!”
You see, when a man strays, he either overcompensates by being painfully nice or he sounds dismissive and distant when talking to his partner. Sometimes, the effect (footprint) of being with another woman, platonically or sexually, especially when there’s some degree of admiration or love could manifest in subtle changes in non-verbal cues such as an abrupt change in his perfume from his favourite which he’s used for ages to something totally new, his new found love for painting even though he hasn’t held a paint brush in the three years you’ve dated him for, change in his speech pattern or even the refined-ness of his accent/ intonation, a difference in his level of ambition and sometimes, a sudden switch in his dietary preferences e.g. from avid meat-lover to vegan in a very short space of time. No, he couldn’t possibly have seen Cowspiracy now after several months of convincing him to watch it. Right?
In the case of my ex-lover, it was his blatant, over-compensating niceness and the shallowness in his voice that I can’t really put into words. With Baby, in the past it’s been different things but today, it was the tone of his voice — it was different. He also didn’t try to suppress his foreign accent which he rarely ever used with me. I’d seen this play out before and I’m sure you understand that I knew he was out with Ms Eritrea because he was clearly mirroring her behaviour by being prim and formal as well as subconsciously still giving off the air he had with her the previous night. It’s classic psychology.
Every time I meet someone who’s partner has strayed in the past, they all say the same thing — “HE/SHE CHANGED”. But, who really cares to analyse their predicament from a psychology standpoint when all they care about is that their loved one isn’t who they normally are and it’s so damned glaring. It’s Female Intuition, they say.
Right now. At this moment, I can’t seem to shake off the feeling that Baby is gone for good and he’s most likely strayed for the very last time. I want my baby back but I wonder if it’s worth having him back only for him to stray again. I’m not sure how much more my heart can take.