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“This Side of My Skin” — A Short Story by Somtoochukwu Benedict Ezioha

We are all the same, all of us, we are all hypocrites. But do you know the difference? Some of us know and accept that fact; the others, well… the illusion of being pristine in the eyes of all is too good to forgo. To those who’d already accepted and are working on their faults, I say a big kudos. You guys do not understand the light you carry with you. As for those who pretend, well…

This story isn’t about one of those who are working on themselves. Nope, this story is about one of those who maintain a façade of being holier-than-thou; this is a story about me. In the eyes of the world, I’m a very reasonable, no-nonsense, saintly fellow. And I worked hard to maintain that mirage, that image. But that was all it was… a mirage, a trick of the mind I use to make sure that no one sees me for what I really am — a hopeless hypocrite.

I tell this tale with the aim of seeking apology. From a dear friend and brother who I wronged terribly. Being also a coward, I cannot muster the courage to face him and make the necessary reparations; but I hope this goes a long way in showing him that I’ve realized the error of my actions.

Let me quickly tell you what happened. We were close friends for over ten years. We were poor together, and together we became rich, overcoming the hurdles life put in front of us. But then when life gave us — me — the biggest test, I failed, woefully. His name is Andrew Okaro or Andy as I used to call him. He was caught pants down with his secretary. Around the time, he was a successful businessman, but after he was caught, his finances plummeted. His wife divorced him, and despite his explanations, no one cared to listen. He was bad, period! What else was there to say?

When I learnt of it, instead of trying to diffuse the whole thing, I added more fuel to the inferno. People were attacking both him and anyone he called a friend, calling them ‘a gang of cheaters’. Troubled by the public label, I posted something on Twitter, distancing myself from him and officially labeling him a pariah. Can you imagine? I was his best friend!

Of course he tried to explain himself to me, tried to call on me as his brother, hoping that I would stand by him and help him up his feet. But I didn’t. The last time he had called me, what I said would continue to haunt me,

“Andrew, do not call me ever again. I don’t want to be associated with a cheat like you. You disgust me.” I was terrible, I know. In the end, he lost everything, his wife, his business, and his friends.

That was three years ago. Now, inside my lifeless office, as I cleared my desk, I remembered a quote I’d seen somewhere. It said, “We accuse others of the sins we are most guilty of.” And the veracity of that is most evident in my case.

On Monday last two weeks, I’d woken up normally, and was getting ready to go to work; lest I forget, I was the state Chief Judge. The first message that came in was a shock. The unknown sender berated me, calling me all sorts of unprintable names. That was followed by a cornucopia of hateful messages which I did my best to ignore. I had not as yet understood the meaning of the messages, so when my wife stormed into the room, and stuck her phone to my face, I was deflated. She was red with anger and indignation.

What did she show me? Something I thought only I knew about; something that was as ugly as my heart was. It was a video of me jerking myself off while watching porn. Inside my office! How was a camera planted in my office without my knowledge?

“So this is the reason why you couldn’t make love to me again? I’m now too old, right?” she questioned, all the while frothing at the mouth, “You prefer the pleasure of your hands obviously.” And she walked off.

I was too ashamed to go after her? What could I have said? What explanation is there to excuse my derogatory actions? Later, I searched for her in the house but she had gone out, perhaps she had left me. It would be a fitting payback for the way I had abandoned Andy.

The next days were hell on earth. Social media didn’t even help matters. One girl in particular posted this on her Twitter page alongside my picture:

“We have seen what true hypocrite looks like. Three years ago, this man attacked a man who was supposedly his friend because he (the friend) was caught cheating. He appeared to be without a skeleton in his cupboard, but today we have seen that he’s a regular customer of porn sites. For someone who prefers the company of his hands, I wonder how his wife would cope. Anyways, know that we would be more merciful if we judged ourselves more often than we judge others, and with the same standards.”

The insults became too much, I decided to resign and salvage my marriage. Today, I was clearing my desk and heading towards my wife’s family home (she had gone there after being stalked by newsmen); I just prayed that she would forgive me.

As I’m sending this post on Facebook, I implore Andrew Okaro, should he see this message, to contact me so that I can properly submit myself for his forgiveness. I’ve seen that in the end, I’m worse than he was, only that I appeared more sanctimonious. And you my friends, before you judge someone to be a bad person, ask yourself: should my closet be cleaned out, would it be as clean as people think?


Read Also==>“Season of the Ụdara” — A Short Story by Somtoochukwu Benedict Ezioha.

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