Grace happened to me with a shock and rebounds like the overflowing answer to an improbable wish or prayer. And my life has reset itself for the better by Grace! I am reluctant to tell the story, but I must, to fulfil all graciousness. I consider the eleven-letter word sapiosexual a lofty prop of self-flattery coined to exclude, not bridge nor bond. A highflying word for conceited people attracted to accomplished partners and used to promote their love’s brains over incomes or social status. Wasting time on the motives for using such a word, my speculations arrived. Does the word mask a person’s desire to share in a darling’s success or are jingles of it a means to idolise intelligence when nothing else of worth exists to show? Rebuttals are welcome. However, the eleven-letter word offends my commitment to modesty and bears false witness against my many records of first-hand experiences. Besides, how does intelligence, by itself, seduce anybody, anyway? I doubt writing Schrodinger’s complete equation on napkins from memory as a party trick is sexy. Reciting John Milton’s Paradise Lost backwards without error isn’t either. Intelligence is neither visible nor tangible by itself. Only its rewarding outputs we experience in life are open to appreciation, not love. So why did Grace happen to me?
An interesting standard of our times is the money measure of intelligence. The word smart has almost replaced all concepts of human intelligence and smart translates primarily into feats of wealth creation. Being a poor genius is a harrowing curse; it deprives the owner of the privileges of money, recognition, fame, and many loyal friends. Solitude is the only sincere friend of such a genius from Lagado. Ha ha, legalised crimes produce more smart people than all the elite universities put together. Smart and crooked have no blur between them, for money justifies them both. Smart and intelligent, which sounds sexier? Never have we seen so many intelligent law-abiding citizens, many highly so, seek universal Grace via any belief or means on offer because all such persons have is whatever the markets decide for them and the Grace of their convictions. Words of resentment? No. A high I.Q. only impresses parents and a few others. Sibling and peer envy make a high I.Q. a dangerous gift. In contrast, money in large quantities impresses most people, despite the denials and wishes to grab some. Small fortunes offer comfort but will not bring much respect, admiration, or attention. One needs a cellar of cash to gain charisma, even if someone else’s. Opposing this truth shortens life expectancy, so why die before your time for denial’s sake? My story is, I want someone, despite my modest means, to give me love (and I will love her back), for love’s sake. I ask for Grace!
Grace is a lady I met inexplicably, meaning we found each other through the ether. We had never met earlier, but it felt like a reunion and our meeting didn’t even occur in person. She has a face that will pass the Golden Rectangle Criterion of beauty with a high score, a good firm bust, enticing hips, bust-length straight hair, a size-12 figure, and stands at 5 ft 10 inches. She is of an athletic build, though never wears sports clothing because her dress style is smart-casual and formal. Knowing pictures do not tell you much, I contacted her to know her better.
Our first conversation was enjoyable but short, yes, our maiden call lasted six minutes and twenty-eight seconds at the end of lunch break. She had a class to teach; she is a scientist and academic. I felt Grace as personable, friendly, but cautious. Her confidence, then and now, is even and taming, making me assume she had set the right personal distance between us without trying. She drew my attention to the word cool, and it took on a new meaning for me; the cool life, being cool, not as a hipster, but possessing an unassailable temperance. I like the art of inner peace. Three minutes into our chat and I could sense hints of her being bossy. Among the women I may fancy, I find the bossier ones more attractive, especially when they boss everyone around but me. I can offer an explanation, but it will entail plenty of digressions. Bossing me around does not rhyme with my blood, despite my confirmable modesty. Falling for her was natural enough, except a streak of pain taught me caution in these delightful though uncertain matters of deep sharing and exchanges. Yet a hidden endowment of hers enchanted me.
Grace called me back the next day while I was filling out a long service questionnaire in my living room. The first time she rang, I ignored the phone. The second time I saw her name and answered.
“How are you today?” She asked.
“I am feeling somewhat. And you?” I said.
“I’m fine, thanks for asking. You are funny”; she said without laughter.
“You are a biochemist?”
“Yes. Why?” she asked.
“Can you tell me the principal cause of memory loss? A friend of mine is complaining of serious memory loss and he is just forty-three. He spent an hour on the phone with me this morning. The first time you called, I thought it was him again. He consults me knowing I am no MD,” I said.
“Are you talking of amnesia or dementia?”
“I think it’s a case of occasional amnesia.”
“Are you familiar with neurotransmitters?”
“Dopamine, serotonin, and GABA?”
“Good. There is also one called acetylcholine. It’s the main neurotransmitter that assists in learning by the creation and retention of new memories in the brain. A lack of it can cause such memory loss.”
With subtle skill and starting with brain chemicals and memory ranges, she presented the brain as an exciting, unfamiliar landscape with a unique ecosystem. I skipped all thoughts of God’s Grace, intelligent design, and evolution. Listening to Grace speak, my breath became slow and heavier, my heart beat faster, and eddies moved my mood. From my Huawei phone, a green fluid medium, an air bubble emerged out of the phone.
The bubble resembled a lava lamp’s blob and was transparent with a different refractive index to the room’s air. The room itself had white walls boasting decorations and populated with dark brown leather and light brown wood furniture standing on a wooden floor. With a slow buoy upwards, the bubble grew larger and more. At first it was round, then taking the shape of a tall narrow solid cylinder of a ten-centimetre diameter stretching up to the ceiling, its short thin tail anchoring it to the phone. Grace continued talking, and I heard every word she spoke with utmost clarity.
My first thought was the memory of the story, The Red Balloon, which a teacher, Miss Grace, her surname, had read and shown to us with a projector in class forty-odd years ago. That was a story of a boy and his sentient balloon. The bubble moved away from me, precipitating a strong activation of my intuition. I could sense it did not appreciate my comparison of its presence with a fictional balloon. The bubble was sentient with the ability to communicate without sound. The bubble feels, tastes, smells, listens, and sees everything around it as a spy or scout would. I forgot The Red Balloon story with no contrition, focusing on both Grace’s words and the bubble.
After two minutes, I could see the bubble triple or quadruple its diameter and moving towards me. I needed no reflexes to know the bubble had no intention of harming me. Just inches away from my side, I reached out, touching it. The bubble had a cool feeling as my forefinger breached its boundaries, reminding me of Grace’s use of the word, cool. The coolness was emotional or mental, sensed by my mind, not skin. It was a ‘taste it and love it’ experience of gradual pace that spread to my whole body. I was choiceless in wanting it more and, as if by agreement, it began settling upon me, engulfing my entire body like an aura. Perfect serenity in this moment had become manifest to me ahead of my several years of meditation practice. I call it my maiden awareness of my soul, as it was, without doubt or reverie.
First, I could feel my soul in its full purity. It made me know I had come from way back in time and will go way forward. It was not eternity or infinity, though, not what I knew about it. Moments later, I could see its extension seep out of my heart while my soul’s core remained inside. My eyes followed it pour down my torso, spilling onto the table I was working at and into the phone. A two-way channel of communicating souls, I supposed. My soul medium was indigo and translucent, not that I knew what the colour meant. Testosterone surge! Now, Grace’s voice had become a verbal equivalent of roots, aphrodisiacs. And the added oxytocin floods swishing around my brain as we spoke were to make me helpless. At first, I thought my mind was playing games with me. My escape was to put an abrupt end to the call, using a quick credible excuse – My doctor is trying to get through. My soul withdrew itself within into a dizzying helicoid.
Grace may have noticed my reluctance to chat on the phone after that event. It was my only defence from her, even though Grace had done nothing wrong; she was just being her warm and authentic self. I wondered if was she beyond my modest capabilities, a thought I would not tolerate. The next day, Grace called twice in the evening, but I ignored the calls. Three days later, she called again. On her third continuous try, I took the call.
“Good afternoon Big Boss. Have you not seen my missed calls? Are you okay?” She asked.
“Good afternoon. Please accept my apologies. Something strange happened to me and I cannot discuss it till, I am sure,” I said.
“Okay. I too am very upset about something.”
“Oh, no! What happened?”
“I went to my mechanic workshop early this morning to look at the problem of strange noise when I speed up my car. So, I left my car in his care and took a taxi to work. I had left a cylinder in the car that contained cultures I prepared. A colleague of mine was to take them to Lagos for analysis. When I got back to the workshop, the cylinder had gone missing. It is so very annoying.”
“I am sorry to hear that. That country is so lawless. If people think unfamiliar stuff has monetary value, they steal it.”
“That’s what we face over here. I will redo the cultures from scratch again go to Lagos myself. It’s so frustrating.”
“Let’s hope you remake your cultures and not encounter any problem next time and always.”
“Amen, amen, and amen!”
“What is your research on?”
“The genetic sequencing of microbes known as pseudomonas.”
“Those bacteria implicated in chest-infections?”
“Yes, but a different strain. The oil and gas clean up industry can now use microbes with lipids to degrade petroleum liquids, making it very useful in treating oil spillages. The Niger Delta, home to several enduring oil spills, will benefit much from such treatments.”
“Wow! Crude oil-eating microbes! That’s fantastic. Have you seen microbes consume crude oil compounds in a lab?”
“Yes. I have. Many times.”
Grace’s description of her research aims, methods, and problems was expansive and captivating, creating room for questions. She had simplified a complex topic for me with a cadent Midwest accent carrying Northern traces. I could imagine her lectures being popular with her students. I was in learning mode. By itself, her lyrical sounding voice was another quality so attractive in Grace. It had a rare authenticity to it, within the soprano and mezzo soprano ranges, and her voice projection of it told of a skilled singer or chorister.
“Your breathing is heavy. Are you okay?” she asked.
“I am resting in an awkward position,” I said.
I could see the bubble emerge much faster from my phone this time, and instead of rising and reconnoitring my space, it engulfed me straightaway. The coolness of serenity was once again taking up residency in my body. Testosterone surge! Again? Bianimikaley! It wasn’t a fluke, after all. A friend I was not expecting barged into my living room and almost uttered his hello, but held the words behind his teeth, standing like a Queen’s Guardsman.
“A friend just came in. I will call you back later. What time will be best for you?” I asked.
“Between 5.00 and 7.00pm. Take care,” she said.
“And you too.”
My extraordinary but short call from Grace ended. I didn’t want it to stop, but it was refreshing to see my friend. He was my last loyal old friend of so many to keep me close, a surprise from someone so mercurial.
“81! Howdy? I was in your area and dropped in.” Willy said.
“Willy Y, I am fine. How are you? It’s good to see you. We’ve not seen each other since July,” I said.
“Don’t mind me. We seldom try to catch up with friends old and new and a fast-changing world comes along and weakens our fragile social bonds.”
“So, we see it. I remember when affordable housing in South East London kept us all together within miles or minutes of each other.”
“81, I see you are into these colourful phone-assisted soul-exchange things.”
“You can say that.”
“Nurture it,” he said, pointing to my loin edifice with a smile. The tight cycling shorts I had on were not firm enough and my polo shirt too short.
Willy had seen Grace’s green bubble enclose me, then retreat into my phone and my indigo one stream back into my body. He waited for the bubbles to go before he spoke. Willy reached out to shake my hand. Through the living room’s French windows, a big white pussy cat was looking in from my back garden. He approached the cat but did not go outside. As if he had forgotten me, Willy spent several minutes looking at the various canvases, pictures, and woodwork hanging on my living room walls. His nods must have been approvals.
“81, you have a large garden with potential here. This summer we should get a proper gardener to upgrade it.”
81 is a nickname only my classmates in secondary school call me. In a maths class, the teacher, noticing my mind was elsewhere, wrote 1 and 8 on the blackboard and asked me what it was. My response was 81 and defended it with sound logic. Willy was 5 ft 5 ins, of a light complexion, sported a large afro and very handsome. His small stature and neoteny of face made him look thirty-ish, but he was in his mid-fifties. He always wore suits or his jacket was close by.
“Your parlour smells nice, with a hint of orange. What fragrance is it?” he asked.
“Bergamot oil in a reed diffuser.” I said, pointing to the diffuser on the side table close the French windows.
“I forgot something in my car. Give me two seconds,” he said.
He walked with a pronounced swagger, leaving the passage and front doors open and permitting the outside chill to race into the living room. I was sitting close to the passage door and watched him go. Something tripped him in my driveway but he recovered his balance by shouting, Obukologbototor [The back of a cat never touches the ground]. Willy returned to my living room, shutting the doors behind him holding a shopping bag, and handed it to me. It was much heavier than I expected. I removed the items from the bag onto the table. There was a twin-pack of Johnnie Walker’s Black Label whiskey, a 100ml bottle of Giorgio Armani’s Gio, and two one litre bottles of tart cherry concentrate including the receipts for the goods bought at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on the 5th of January 2020. Today was the 29th of February.
“Thank you very much, Willy. I don’t see friends or family around anymore unless I am of urgent use to them. The last gift I received from anyone except you was in 2017. Well, I got a bottle of prosecco from a health visitor for my birthday last year. Willy Y, thank you, Willy Y,” I said.
“You are welcome. Remember, I am here,” he said.
“Please, not that I feel lonely or abandoned. Solitude is rare as a voluntary choice, but wonderful to have.”
“I feel you, my brother. I have had no major challenges and even I treasure solitude in rocks, mountains, forests, meadows, anywhere I can find it.”
“Our African culture prohibits solitude.”
“That is their problem. I am far more cosmopolitan now.”
“You have a daughter in Sweden and another in Germany.”
“I now have a son in Texas. I spent Christmas with him and his mother, Abby.”
“Brigitte, my Swedish daughter, got into medical school in autumn 2019. Constance, my German daughter, will enter medical school this year. Wilfred, my Nigerian son, in America, will turn one in November. His mother is full Esan.”
“You have done well. May I ask, no kids in Nigeria or the UK?”
“No. I love woman but do not trust them and you shouldn’t either, but you never listen.”
“Why Willy, Willy, Willy Y did you not use your name well?”
“I did not plan it, but having kids overseas and having the money to support and visit them as necessary has worked well for me Of all the many women I slept with in Nigeria and Briton, you know me, I got none of them pregnant.”
“I only seem to form meaningful relationships with female academics and lesser so with teachers.”
“Life and professions are about the circles you move in. We all wish we knew that when we were much younger.”
“It is a pleasure to have seen you, handed over my late gifts to you, and I know are doing well, as a medical doctor concerned. I have got to run along. In June, I am visiting my second daughter and her grandparents in Ghent, Belgium. It’s a road trip and you can ride along if you like.”
“I will, very much. Keep me posted.”
“Got to go. The lady you are sharing your inner blob with she is the real thing. Trust me.”
“Move your arse out of my house.” I said, as he left giggling.
Less than thirty seconds after Willy’s exit, I searched Grace’s WhatsApp profile and messages to view her pictures on my laptop. I looked through her photos, regarding each with near-forensic scrutiny, for a non-forensic purpose. Eureka came with Grace’s person looking clearer or even different to me as I viewed her on the screen. She was a Queen in the truest sense; her eyes, nose, lips, figure, poise, and demeanour were regal. Before her majesty could sink in, my vision changed or Grace became cool and ordinary. In her cool ordinariness I could see everything of necessity; the beauty and bounties of being ordinary. Eureka!
“Sapiosexual attraction may not exactly be so conceited when the lens change!” I said aloud, or shouted.
My scepticism was softening but had a few more hurdles to scale, if reason allows. A choice between serious internal conflict within and acceptance lay before me. Time and Grace will tell.
Be Good, Not Lucky