Building Bridge

Small talk about movies showing later, my (our) order arrived and I requested paper plates and cups to go.

“You didn’t say if you are going to see a movie, or what movie ” he asks, a little carefully.

I realise I’d been off-ish with him but his actions have been too careful,I’m certain there is more to it.

“I just wanted ice cream to eat while walking” he doesn’t say how ridiculous I sound but his face does.

“You are going for a walk?” He asks instead.

“Not in the fitness kind of way. I just want to walk on the bridge and eat ice cream” I leave out the part where it is on my bucketlist. Only one of us is allowed to be embarrassed for the duration of this meeting.

“Cool.  Can I come? ” he asks, actually interested. I hesitate, unwilling to share my experience with a “stranger”, when he adds “you can’t possibly be afraid of hanging out with me. I’m not technically a stranger, you know my grandparents.”

LOL! If only he had an idea, that I don’t even know his grandparents name.

But he does shed light to another bit I had overlooked, silly me! SECURITY!!

“What were your own plans?  You were just going to buy wrap and go home?” I ask.

“I was supposed to meet a couple of people here and catch a movie  but they can’t make it, so I was just going to buy the wrap and go home, actually.” He answered. There was a small pause between meet and a couple of people when he spoke,  I noticed but at that point couldn’t care about what he had wanted to say.

” Fine! You can come with me but I’m going to send your picture to my friends for security.” I quickly take a picture of him before he can mull over what I said and give his consent.

I send the picture to my silly neighbour, who is also a new bestfriend. In case of emergency,  I type, I was last seen with the fellow in this picture.

He giggles and I turn to find to him looking over my shoulder. “My name is Onyema. You can put that instead” he suggests smiling.

I don’t smile back, but I quickly add, His name is Onyema.  To which Stella replies “use rubber.” I already mentioned Stella was/is silly right?

“How did you get here?” I ask, because now that I’d decided to let Onyema come with me, we needed to sort logistics and get going. Midnight don’t last forever.

“Work Vehicle, but I have an Uber on standby. You?”

I’m a little befuddled as to how you keep an  Uber on standby, instead of responding, I let out a small sigh.

“If you really would rather go on your walk alone, it’s fine. You seem pretty uncomfortable with the idea”

“I’ll live” I mutter, not the most encouraging of responses, but I signal for him to follow. “I borrowed a vehicle, I can drop you back here when we are done walking” I say.

“Splendid”, He follows my lead.

I hear his gasp and I can imagine his face, Gboyega’s car always pulls this reaction from people.I’m really lucky Gboyega doesn’t have a girlfriend he trusts with his car more than he trusts me.

“It’s not my car. I borrowed it” I find myself saying without prompt.

“I heard you the first time.it’s a really beautiful ‘vehicle’ ” I can hear the cheeky in his voice especially when he says ‘vehicle’, and the unvoiced question ‘so whose car is it?’

I had an answer ready for whenever he mustered up courage to make his enquiry.  “my sugardaddy. He doesn’t want his wife to know he spent money like this” was my tailor-fit response to such inquisitions.

The beauty of driving past midnight is definitely on the clear roads,  streetlights strobing and very calming breeze. I don’t bother with airconditioning and my passenger seems to be relishing the experience.

I pack in the middle of the bridge, wordlessly and begin to go out of the car.

I can feel Onyema’s eyes boring my actions. “What’s up?” He asks, the edge a little on his voice. “I’m starting to think maybe I need to send your picture to my family and friends too”.

Now that was funny, so I laughed. Again.

“Too late”, I tease, and grab the bags of our food. I place them on the bonnet and start to share them between us. Onyema joins me.

“This moment is so snapchat worthy, but I’ll have questions to answer if I do” he gushes.

Clearly he is as smitten by the ambience as I am. “Your girlfriend will have you hanging by the neck” I tease, in reference to his reluctance to snapchat.

He giggles, “you know what’s funny?”

I shake my head.

“Do you remember when we met at my grandparents party?” He asks.

I’m a little torn as to whether to keep up the ‘I don’t remember’ charade, but it seems this is the puzzle piece I have wanted for so long, so I shrug instead.
He is not deterred. Surely he is not that forgettable.

“So when I walked up to you that day. I thought you were my girlfriend”.

I burst out laughing. I was laughing till I cried. I mean! What kind of boyfriend cannot recognise his own girlfriend in public.

“I’m sorry. WHAT?!!” I exclaim, catching my breath.

He is handling his embarassment pretty well.” I’m willing to explain” he says through his smile.

I motion for him to go ahead.

” So at the time of my grandparents party.I had met her only a couple of times. I think 3 times only. Her friends are my relatives and they were setting me up with her.

If you recall, I did say you looked diferrent with make-up on.

So yea! We had been talking when I mentioned that I’d like her to be my date to my grandparents party when the conversation froze.

I tried to call, but it wasn’t connecting. I spent the hours wondering if I’d said something wrong, and upset her enough to Barr my calls. I didn’t want to ask her friends, before they went on to tell her I was smitten, or used it as leverage to tease me. So I’d been lowkey looking out for her.

My God! You guys are so similar,  it’s almost unreal! Anyways, I thought you were her and playing games with me.”

In clearer light, his actions were very understandable. Heck! I’d do the same too if I were him.

“So what happened between then and now, because it appears you sorted your issues now, if she has become official girlfriend”, I can’t help fishing for more gist.

He chuckles, as if in understanding “it so happens that she was robbed after our last communication. My relatives heard of it after the party and we went to visit her. She hugged me and expressly told me how much she had missed me in all this time apart. It was a good feeling, we decided we were going to go steady, see how it plays out.”
I resist the urge to point out how dated”going steady” sounds, I give a small applause instead.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to apologise. I realise I must have been a jerk that a day we met? But you must understand my plight now.”

I cocktail my head,”are you apolosing or making excuses for your bad behaviour?”

He laughs,”I’m apologising. Really.”

I roll my eyes and he imitates me.

My ice cream is all melted so I gulp it up and have a momentary brainfreeze. Note to self: breeze from the water and ice from ice cream is overdoing it. Thanks.

When I recover , I fish for more gist. “So today, when you said ‘a couple of people’ you did mean to say ‘girlfriend’ ”

He blushed, “Ha! You noticed. Well, yes. Sometimes I feel a little presumptuous addressing her by that term so often and so soon.”

“Presumptuous? Is there a rule to these things?” I’m not sure why he has such opinions/ideas.

“No such thing. It’s just the type of person I am. If I use a particular word in over ten sentences within an hour, I tend to seek out synonyms to use. There’s a whole vocabulary full of such words to pick from”

“So it’s not just with girlfriend you have the reservation?” I ask, volunteering my neck to set him free for himself.

He nods in agreement.

“Cool. Cool” I start to pack up the leftovers and used items into the polythene bag that had housed our meal. True to his word, he had eaten only half of the jumbo wrap and saved half for me.

He takes cue and gets into the car waiting. When I get back in, Stella is calling on videocall. I answer it to put the twat to shame. The only reason she is videocalling is to garner evidence on her dirty conclusions.

“Oh, you are still alive. Okay o! Bye!” That was all she said, grinning wide.

“My friend, Stella, she is a nutcase.” I explain to Onyema, who nods in agreement.

I drop him off at the diner.

He offers his thanks and gets into an Audi (that I noticed was parked there before we headed out too). He probably wasn’t kidding about the standby  Uber thing.

It only occurs to me as I make note to ask him about it next time that I realise that I didn’t give him my name or take his contact.

Good job Das! Well played. Rme!!!

Hot Bother

Gboyega videocalls me every Thursday evening. It’s Friday for him and he wants to make sure I haven’t wrecked his car, and it’s fit for use by me the next day, which is not really saturday for me.

He insists that it is better that way,  so that if he notices something wrong, I can fix it during the day (on my friday) and have it ready for use by Saturday.

It’s a funny sight, if you walked in on me during these calls; I’m opening bonnet and checking oil while holding the phone for him to be able to see.I’m revving engine and saying nothing so that Gboyega is convinced.

It was after one of such calls that I decides to tick something off my bucketlist- eat ice cream on the bridge at midnight. The bridge is really close to my house and I love the subtle warmth the bouncing lights give off. It’s not really a significant thing to put on a bucketlist but it earned its place cause it felt like something I would enjoy doing. And I would not normally go driving in the night.

I didn’t have any ice cream at home so I drove to the closest 24h fastfood diner. At this point, I cannot be exercising exquisite taste.

Unfortunately the closest 24h place was also housing a 24h cinema. This caused an undesirable wait in line to get attended to.

I was patiently waiting my turn when he walked past me, the “rude” young man from some Saturdays ago. He walked right past me and didn’t recognise me. I thought, make up must really change me. Or could he still be smarting from our last encounter?

I chuckled at the thought, fickle humans. As a habit, I whip out my phone to entertain me while I waited for my tally to be called.

“Hello” I recognised the voice before I looked up. Which was a good thing because it gave me the upper hand to decide which way our encounter would go, and that is get answers to the why’s of our last meeting.

I pretend to not recognise him and respond to his hello with a poker face.

“We met a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know if you remember  it was my grandparents 50th anniversary ”

“We did?” I squint my eyes, feigning a failed recollection.

“It’s ok if you can’t remember me. I looked a lot different. Heck! You did too. I swear I recognised your anklet before your face.”

Now that was funny. So I laughed.

“I’m sorry I don’t quite remember” I continue with my script after I had laughed. I want to embarass him and ask details of our meeting, so he can deduce how badly he behaved.

He must have heard my thoughts because he quickly answered “it wasn’t the most conventional of meetings”. I feign an encouraging ‘Ah!’ Gesturing for more details, when they announced his tally. He offered it to me.

“That’s very kind of you”, I wasn’t about to turn down his attempt at penance, but firstly I’m a nice person,  so I offer to combine our orders. His delight shows. “That will be great. I want a chicken wrap”

“Please can I have a tub of pistachio and one jumbo  chicken wrap” I place our order and turn to meet his widened eyes.

“What’s wrong with your eyes?”

“I didn’t want a jumbo wrap”

I roll my eyes in reflex. What is he on about now? What normal guy eats normal sized wraps???

“You didn’t? “I ask for clarification. He shook his head in negative. “And you just stood there, wathing me place a wrong order and didn’t care to say anything?”

This guy is just trouble, I decide. Is trying to shirk away from paying for his food under the guise of I didn’t order what he wanted..

“I’m sorry, I thought maybe you wanted to share your meal with me. I mean you also asked for a tub of ice cream”

“What are you talking about? “I’m honestly confused at this point.

Assumption is really the mother of all fokops. It’s too late change the order by the time I can get the attention of our attendant.

“The wrap is already baked, ma” she tells me in an irritatingly tiny voice.

“Are you going to see a movie? We can still share the wrap if you don’t mind. I would love to have some ice cream too.”

He is trying to salvage the awkward silence between us.

Unfortunately, I death-stared him instead. He had his eyes on my ice cream and I am very protective of stuff like that. Stuff I love.

He shrinks a little. It was a beautiful sight. I tried to compare his current shrunken self to the 6 ft 4″ man that was walking in and out of conversations like a boss. It was a stretch relating them.

Then I remembered that I hadn’t solved the mystery of our first meeting, so I waved the white flag. “Oh well, You can share my ice cream, since you asked so nicely.”

Doppel-not-gänger 

Bessie of “Besseats” was very delighted to see me. I could tell from the tight embrace in which she held me in when I walked by to say “hey”. She even offered me a seat close to her stand.

Showing up after 4pm at a party is as close to providence as you can align your plans. All the plenty talks and boring speeches have already passed and it’s most likely time to entertain the guests, popularly referred to as Item 7.

Some 5-star events (this is a thing, trust me) have about 3 different caterers working different stages of the day.

I don’t know why I feel the strong need to reiterate that 5-star events are actually a thing. A 5-star event can be characterised by :

  • Heavy social media publicity/ presence.
  • Dessert stand.
  • Champagne fountain.
  • Celebrity presence, as a performer or guest.
  • Steaming hot food, whenever.

(I’m sure you are now nodding in agreement.)

Personally, as long as you have food and drink, I can’t be bothered about the others, you are still 5-star to me.

I was on my second bite into the loveliest apple tart Bessie had served me when he appeared in front of me.

I look up to see if it was someone I know or had met before, stopping to say hello.

He had a smirk on his face. Obviously he knew who I was, but he didn’t look familiar at all to me.

“I thought you weren’t going to make it” he said. Cool, I cursed inside, he knows me from somewhere. I half smile and attempt to riddle him for clues as to where/when we met. “Why would you think that?” I ask.

He throws back his head in question, then pulls up the seat where Bessie had been sitting without asking. The manners on this young man. “That seat is taken,  I hope you won’t be sitting for too long” I say as sweetly as I can muster. Bessie is making sure I get served, it’s only right that I save her seat.

He looks at me as in disbelief.

I realise now how rude  that may have sounded, but in my defence, he is the one sitting without asking if he could.

“You ignored my message inviting you here” he accused. I couldn’t make if he was asking a question or telling me.

My mind did a quick run through of my recent conversations, and I was sure at breakfast I’d painstakingly responded to whatever communication I’d received in the past week.

What am I even doing! I don’t know this fellow! I heard about this wedding at work. I chew up the last of my tart, ready to fix this apparent mix up.

“What message are you talking about?” My sweetest smile displayed, damage control for all my previous offs.

“The one you read and ignored obviously.”

I rolled my eyes, I couldn’t help it. He probably has a thing for 21 questions and I am not keen right now. I didn’t dress up for this.

While contemplating how best to ask if we have met before, he compliments me “you look really great with make-up, I almost didn’t recognise you.”

Here’s the thing – I’m usually bare-faced unless there is an occasion to play dress up (like every other saturday).  So there is a chance I have met this person but just don’t recognise him.  Also fat chance I gave him a phony number, explains all the unresponded messages.

I actually look at him, this time shuffling through my face recognition files to match his face with another time and place past.

It didn’t work.

However, I noticed other details, the uncle was fine like new mint. And family at this event because he was wearing the family asoebi.

Bessie distracts me a little with a platter of snails and moimoi. Lovely Bessie, she brings another one for my ‘guest’, whose family has paid for her service.

He ignores the plate like it’s invisible. IS HE SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?!

It makes me refrain from eating. The earlier I get him far away from me, the quicker I can continue to enjoy this party.

I throw tact and convention out the window and ask “have we met before? You seem to think we have.”

He looks a little surprised, and then chuckles. I think I heard him swear under his breath as he gets up. He is smiling and shaking his head as he walks off.

I want to call Bessie and ask her what just happened,  because I don’t understand, but Bessie’s stand was popping. People were flocking around her for desserts.

I take a bite of my moimoi and decide that everything that just happened was worth it.

The Ones Already Gone. 

Today I remember all of them.

Well, some. The ones that I knew of.

Bede was the 1st one.  He had been in my class since Primary one. Orangey and lanky, it’s been so long that I can’t confirm the picture in my head which gives him a buck teeth to be true. I remember he gesticulated as a habit. His mother was a nurse at the health centre close by , which caused Bede to always be one of the first pupils on the grounds on a school day. Restlessness in children and carelessness of the shool authorities cost us this one on a school morning.

Ezinne was the next to go. She was tall and ebony and wore her hair short. I don’t think we spoke much, but I think if we did, we would have gotten along well. We had just returned from school holidays, back to boarding house, and Ezinne was yet to show up. Times like this, we relied on information from family friends and relatives who attended our school. I don’t remember if word came, but when it eventually did, this strange life had been cut short in her.

Then came Nneka, one of the bulkiest girls in my set. I have a picture in my head of her school sandals, because they had heavy soles as if boots, and I concluded the shoes needed to support her size. Broad shoulders and a growth on her neck. The growth had been there for the longest but sometime in our SS 2 (or was it 3?), she disappeared from boarding school to have it surgically removed. We met again in University, but she didn’t stay long enough. It’s amazing how these stories come and spread.

The next one was Chinenye. Coursemate,  which means we didn’t quite say a word to each other until 3rd year or maybe final year (I was a certain kind of student). She was lightskinned and as I later found out bubbly spirited. We had same project supervisor for the final year project and became acquainted. In this time, I complimented her weightloss and her rehydration habit (she drank a lot of water, I called her mmiriaku). She once shared a video of her sister dancing to Timaya’s Yankulu ya, and now every time I hear that song I remember her. It was a morning during NYSC, I was in my apartment contemplating Lokoja’s sun(as was a habit) when I got the call telling me. Now that I think about it, maybe she didn’t conciously lose weight, maybe she didn’t drink all that water because she wanted to, she had to.

I notice how as I got older the details of each passing grew. Maybe it says something about how painful/significant each death was. I may never get a grasp of death, but I have decided that I will not be afraid of it anymore.

xoxo,

Jemjem.

Mogbo moya

My fanciest clothes are always out on the weekends

I don’t struggle with ironing. For a fee, Ahmed who lives in front of the compound makes sure I’m wrinkle free.

I usually babysit Gboyega’s car during the weekends too. He was recently transferred to an out of country office, has not found need to ship his car over, and would not sell because he had the car done up to suit his taste. It’s a 2015 Toyota Avensis. Considering how ugly I thought the earlier models were, I never thought driving an Avensis would excite me as much as the thought of the weekends do now.

My name is Dasola,  and this is how I spend my Saturdays.

I usually wake at 5 am because I prefer to fix my breakfast before my traditional run (usually starts up as run and ends as a long walk).I’m kitted and out the door by 6am, God forbid I forget my earphones. I “run” and I’m back within the hour, shower and have my breakfast. Ordinarily I’d have my laundry sorted while Mercy,my young Igbo friend whose mother fries akara across the street, cleaned the house. But recently Mercy begged for her brother to do the washing, for a token of course. She sounded like he really needed the money and since she has never stolen anything from me before now, I thought I’d oblige her.

“Bia Nwoke,  as you can see, I’m only letting you go through my stuff because your sister is my girl. This is lagos, if I shout “ole” we will lynch you and then ask questions later,you understand?” I tried to sound stern and pull off the little Igbo I’d picked while warning Mercy’s brother. Mercy was behind me and I caught her from the corner of my eye nodding in agreement.

So now that the usual chores are out of the way, I take the time to go grocery shopping and buy supplies for my workplace if need be.

Whatever the case, I make sure I’m home by 3pm, to head out at 4pm.

You see, the reason my best clothes are out in the weekend is because I have a habit.

I’m a gate-crasher. I’d gate-crash your parties, weddings, whatever event.

I have been doing this for so long now that the bouncers know me. Some of the caterers and the servers too. I’d blush and find it embarrassing, except that it’s a really good rep if you asked me. It means your “invitation only” event already has me on the list. It means that no matter when I show up, the waiter at your event has small chops saved for me.

I am a huge fan of Owambes. I figured if someone already paid for entertainment there is no need for me to go and spend money at a bar or lounge or whatever, buying drinks and forming “living the life”.

You may wonder how I hear about what events may be happening. When the bible said all things work together for the good of those who love God it wasn’t playing AT ALL!

Instagram comes in handy. When your fancy pre-wedding pictures come online, I find out if I know somebody that knows somebody. When I do find, I holla at them for details.

Fortunately, I have the most non-judgemental friends, they always indulge my habits and provide these info willingly. If they use it to yab me behind my back (I have heard a couple of gist,*rme), consign them really!

Also my hot cake caterer-turned allies also help me with details and what not. Sometimes I’m even spoilt for choice (Ha!I know right!).

Anyways, today is a beautiful sunny day in the city, and my face beat is so fleek you can cut through a crowd with the wings of my eyeliner. I’m feeling particularly good about today’s event. My favourite dessert person is catering the event,  and I cannot wait to dig in.

My inner fat girl is coming out to play but looking at my reflection, you can never tell. I smile at my reflection and as the highlight on my face hits the mirror, I feel it’s ray hit all the way across town.

Her Weakest Strength

A good heart”.

That’s the name they gave to her condition.

She was without a doubt the kindest person you may never meet, and the honesty in her words flowed like melted butter.

She didn’t kid herself into thinking that she could wish away the evils of the world, but she was hopeful enough to believe in the good in everyone.

Amber.

That was her name.

And unlike the amber-coloured vessels in Chemistry, she didn’t hold any volatility within. If anything, she wore her heart on her sleeves.

It’s a nice accessory” she responded every time a friend commented to that effect. “What I am trying to say is XYZ has no reason to lie to me. We are not even close enough for me to care

Oh, Amber! This was the problem.

Reuben walked into your life in perfect order; saved you from an embarrassing situation, defended you a second time without knowing your first name and helped you meet an urgent need.

He was your Knight in shining armour, even if you claimed to not subscribe to clichés.

Ruby, that was your pet name for him, would never lie to me” that was your defence every time someone pointed out a situation didn’t add up.

Every time he called you beautiful, you believed him.

Every time he promised to do better, you believed him.

Every time he said he loved you, you believed him.

Not because on your own you felt the need for a sense of validation, but because in your books all his goodness had crossed out his tiny flaws.

What are humans without their flaws?” you jokingly ask.

You were right in believing Ruby, Dear Amber.

He did mean those things every time he said them to you.

He never intended to do you wrong. He got carried away and forgot to mention his engagement.

Time went by so fast and he didn’t get the chance to explain he was already taken.

He showed up on his wedding day asking you to elope with him, so that he can do right by you.

Good intentions never resolve the issues, Dear Reuben.

Amber hasn’t been out of her room in 3 weeks. We know she is not dead because we hear her singing. We know she is still sane because we hear her sobbing.

Halfway Across The Friendzone, Turn Left

I feel it ever so gently.

It’s not creepy stealthy even though I am asleep; instead it resonates all the unspoken affection. The strokes are soothing, I snuggle up closer.

I’m a light sleeper, and I figure you know this by now.

You must have felt me wake,  but I try my best to maintain my breathing.

I’m safe here.

It’s pretence but it’s safer because I am afraid of the possible outcomes; the play out of events when my eyes spring open.

The decisions that would have to be made.

The unspoken that would have to be heard.

I’m too much of a coward to brace this yet.

Unconsciously I let out a soft sigh, and I swear I hear you whisper “it’s ok, I’ll wait.”