His new shoes pinched.
In fact, everything pinched and scratched – one way or the other.
Kehinde frowned at the rain as it pelted the streets and people alike, with raindrops that sometimes felt like hurled stones. From his perch under the arch of the Baptist Church – the perch he shared with some other characters – he brushed off his new suit, poked his finger in his shirt neck to get his neck more space.
His armpits scratched. His waist, thighs and feet itched as though someone had doused his new clothes in scratching powder or werepe; the leaves of an herbal tree his mother liked to talk about a lot. Hopping from one foot to the other, Kehinde hoped the other people wouldn’t be too concerned with his antics.
“Dis kain rain no dey quick stop o,” a woman who looked and smelled like a fish factory said. Kehinde agreed gloomily, realizing she was correct in her assertion. It was the kind of rain that looked deceptively light – until you stepped in it and got drenched within seconds. It was the kind of rain that fell the whole day – no reprieve whatsoever.
It was going to stay a while.
Dismally, he looked at the carefully wrapped parcel he was carrying – the parcel that represented his entire savings minus transportation for the rest of the semester and some change for miscellaneous expenses. He couldn’t afford for it to get wet – and he couldn’t stay underneath the church awning forever.
An image of Tokunbo trapped in her room, her friends unable to show up because of the rain decided him. Quickly he shrugged off his new grey jacket and carefully wrapped the parcel snugly. And then, keeping his head down, he dashed into the rain.
Because Tokunbo’s house wasn’t too far from his, he ignored the Keke Napeps as they slowed down beside him earlier. The lightness in his pocket had also helped make him decide to walk to her place instead of riding. But now, in the rain he wasn’t sure if that was such a hot decision. His new shoes squelched and squealed as he ran – but he wasn’t worried. They were leather. They would survive their baptism.
He had felt self-conscious buying the suit and shoes. He didn’t trouble his mother for money that session because his sister would be sitting for WAEC and JAMB soon enough – that was burden enough on mother. In fact, he had taken menial jobs – laborer, handyman and the likes – so he could have enough money for himself and still pitch in at the house.
He felt stupid buying the suit for so much. But he knew the kind of girl Tokunbo was, the kind of guy she was used to. That she gave him attention was enough for him – and when she had agreed to be his girl he had almost died from pleasure.
He was determined not to fall her hand.
There was a smidgen of worry nudging his mind – something about her reaction when he’d told her he wouldn’t be able to see her that day. “Why?” she’d asked, and he had told her he was sick.
“Okay baby. Rest up, I’ll miss you.”
It bothered him she hadn’t offered to come over, but then – it was her birthday after all. So he had made cooing noises weakly and she’d laughed. He smiled now; thinking about her laughter.
That had to be the most beautiful thing about her. That; and her smile.
And her eyes. And lips. And boo –
“Okay, that’s enough.” He chided himself out loud – and then spluttered as rain water ran into his open mouth. Spitting out, he wiped his eyes – his mouth, and then slowed down as he rounded the corner to Tokunbo’s house.
His heart started to thump heavily and he stopped for about nine heartbeats, steadying his breathing and getting himself together – as much as a drenched chicken could compose itself before dying. And then he started to walk slowly – past a shiny Honda Accord parked in front of the building – and down the path that led to his heartthrob’s side of the house. Some soft music was playing from – where; he couldn’t tell but it sounded familiar.
He stood on the doorstop and listened for sounds of activity. It was all quiet – but he knew she was home because she said she would be. Carefully, he unwrapped the parcel – grinning happily when he saw it was still dry. He placed it between his thighs, flapped the suit to get some water out of it before shrugging it on and shivering in the wetness.
And then he knocked firmly.
After some time he knocked again, pounding the heavy metal door a lot longer than before. He looked around; to see if there was someone he could inquire about her whereabouts from and then he realized the sounds of the rain hitting the roofs were making quite a racket.
“She dey house.”
He looked to his left – it was Alali, one of Tokunbo’s housemates, a guy with a permanent scowl on his face. Kehinde waved – but he had disappeared.
He grinned and turned back to the door. Only then did he realize the soft music was actually coming from Tokunbo’s part of the house, and it was a little something by Asa. He lifted his hand to knock again – and then decided against it.
He walked along the wall of the house – past the living room windows and then turned to the left to where her bedroom was. The music was getting louder – and Kehinde’s smile widened. She was home indeed.
He stopped by the bedroom window. “Tokun – “ he started to say, and then something inexplicable put a chokehold on his throat and silenced him. It had to be something inside the room; because he looked – looked; and couldn’t tear his eyes away.
The room was just as he remembered it – the little he could see but that wasn’t what arrested his glance.
His sight was riveted by the couple who were doing a dance as old as time on the floor, after making a mess of Tokunbo’s usually impeccably-laid bed. Familiar sounds and moans struggled to be heard over the music – and the rocking up and down motion could only mean one thing – except some guy was doing pushups on some girl.
His mouth opened – but no sound came out. His limbs unfurled, and he staggered backwards, letting go of his most precious parcel. It fell and hit the edge of the concrete pavement, smashing the only way a Samsung Dual Phone could smash.
But Kehinde did not notice.
Holding his head as though trying to physically keep it from splitting open, he weaved a drunken pattern past the main door and away into the street, rain mingling with tears on his cheeks and staining his new suit, shoes still squealing and squelching – but not the same way as before.
Now, they mourned too.
As he disappeared, the door he had been pounding on opened and a fully dressed Tokunbo stood in the doorway, looking at her phone screen.
“Kehinde should have been here by now. Or is he really sick?” she said out loud, worry putting a crease between her otherwise beautiful eyebrows. “I better go check on him,” she resolved, as she hurried back into the house.
And the rain continued to fall…