Long Distance Sweethearts
The Love Story of Maduka & Chiamaka
Written by Udochi Okeke
©2017, Udochi Okeke. All Rights Reserved.
“Pooja went to India to get arranged married…is that how you say it?” Chiamaka heard her confused American co-worker of European decent say. The Nigerian software developer stirred the jollof rice that she brought for lunch around her glass bowl in the break room. Her mind was not fully in the conversation. The banter of her female co-workers was always background noise to her. She often could not relate to what they were saying, but she endured it, because sometimes it was just more comfortable to be around other human beings rather than computers.
“Aren’t there human rights violation laws about that sort of thing now?” asked another co-worker of Hispanic heritage. “I mean it is a women’s rights issue isn’t it?”
“She’s not in any danger,” Chiamaka finally spoke up.
The White and Latina women finally looked over at Chiamaka as if suddenly realizing that she was in the room.
“It’s kind of weird, though, right?” Gloria, the Latina woman began. “You have to marry someone you don’t know. My boyfriend and I have been dating for 9 years, but we don’t even feel like we know each other enough to get married. How can she know after what? A month? She didn’t even mention she was dating anybody.”
“Totally!” agreed Amanda, the other woman. “Mike and I have been married for 7 years, but we got married straight out of college and have two kids. Marriage is hard. Sometimes I hate him. I actually HATE him! It’s not something you do with somebody you don’t know.”
“Yea,” said Gloria, “What about dating? What about romance?”
“What about love, Amy?” Amanda addressed Chiamaka by her office nickname.
“I don’t know her situation,” Chiamaka said, never taking her hand off of her spoon, “but I think we do something similar in my country…my…my parent’s country.”
“Really?” Amanda’s eyes were wide with a mix of concern and interest.
“So, was that like offensive to you that we were just talking about it like that just now?” asked Gloria.
“Umm…no. Not really,” Chiamaka shrugged.
“OK, cool,” chuckled Gloria.
“Do you date?” asked Amanda.
“What do you mean?” asked Chiamaka.
“I mean like you’re 33 and not married yet. I just never see you talk about your love life,” said Amanda.
“I just turned 32,” said Chiamaka.
“Would you ever get arrange married?” asked Gloria.
Chiamaka shook her head vigorously, “I don’t think so. I think I prefer to choose my own husband…and I agree that romance is like a really big thing for me.”
At that moment, a tall, statuesque Black man wearing a pale-blue dress shirt tucked neatly into khaki slacks walked into the room. Chiamaka noticed, as always that his hair was perfectly lined up as if he gave himself a fresh shape-up every morning with his morning shave. As he breezed past the girls at the table towards the coffee machine she inhaled a huge waft of his cologne. The musky scent aroused mischievous excitement within her.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Derek said without looking back as he placed the coffee packet into the machine and the cup under the nozzle.
“Hey, Derek,” the other two ladies said one after the other.
Chiamaka shoved some rice into her mouth and began to chew.
Derek turned around. He was one of the only people in the office that actually tried to call Chiamaka by her real name. “Chi-Ah-maka, is that a new hair style?” He turned to face Chiamaka and place his hands on the counter behind him, nonchalantly resting his bottom on his hands. Cocking his head to the side, he gave a flirty smirk.
“Mmmm,” Chiamaka said placing the scoop of the spoon over her lips as she swallowed the mashed jollof. “Yea…”
“’ts cute,” he said plainly.
She fought her face muscles as she felt them attempting to tighten into a smile. She dipped her spoon into her bowl again looking to dig out another heap of jollof to shove into her mouth, but came up empty. She laughed nervously, and sprang up out of her seat with the bowl moving towards the sink.
“Derek, did you hear about Pooja?” Chiamaka heard Gloria asking.
“No, what happened?”
The sound of the faucet was soothing and brought Chiamaka back to earth. “See you guys,” she finally said as she left her chattering co-workers in the break room carrying the washed bowl in her hand.