I was going to say hi.
It was the perfect setup. Me; walking into a fast food spot to pickup some light snacks for when I write later tonight. You; sitting at a table, spooning ice cream between creamy lips and looking damn good doing it. You probably wouldn’t have noticed me; I wouldn’t have seen you – but the door swung open, caught your attention, and something about me held onto it.
And because of that, because you were staring, I saw you.
I would have said hi, for the brilliant smile you gave a complete stranger if nothing else. The kind of smile that makes a guy like me look over his shoulder, wondering who the lucky recipient of that kind smile is. And then, envy turns to disbelief, because he realizes the sun decided to come out and shine – just for him. The kind of smile that makes purposeful strides falter, because – this is not a Rihanna music video where everything is scripted to perfection; you are not the singer from Barbados looking for ‘love’, and I am not the doe-eyed six-packed sexy Don Juan who just walked in the club and caught your eye.
Hell, only last night Dami Ajayi was making fun of my belly.
I should have said hi. But I looked at you, and something about you reminded me of another time, another place, another someone whose smile was just as bright as yours; someone who only wanted to make friends. And I remembered how good intentions have a way of being shot to hell,
How it starts with love, and then EVERYTHING that can go wrong goes wrong.
So I turned away, hurried to the counter and did my purchase and damn near ran out of the joint –
Because I saw someone who reminded me of things best forgotten.
I was on a bus sometime ago, to watch Gal Gadot do her ‘Wonder Babe’ thing.
It was good day; rain fell earlier but it had stopped, leaving everywhere cool and mostly abandoned. I was sitting in front of the bus ferrying me to Yaba, listening to…I honestly don’t remember who I was listening to.
It was sha music, feel-good music.
I almost didn’t notice anything till the door beside me opened. That was when I realized we were at one bus stop like that. Before I could tell which; a pretty something shaped like a lady climbed into the bus and sat beside me.
I don’t talk to women I don’t know – usually. It’s a silent, unspoken rule I have – usually. So I was just going to admire her, do the usual ‘hmm and ha’ and mind my business –
UNTIL I SAW SHE WAS CARRYING A RIBENA BOTTLE.
Ladies and Gentleboys and Wobe Folk, have you heard the one about ‘good intentions’?
All thoughts of Gal Gadot and that leather skirt flew out of the driver’s window, along with the music – pretty much the bus sef. The only thing that still existed was me, her and that Ribena bottle.
Without thinking too much, I pulled my earphones off.
‘Excuse me. I just wanted to say that right up till you entered this bus, I always thought I was the only person above twenty who drank Ribena.”
She turned towards me, smiled blindingly and said, “Oh, don’t worry. You probably still are. You see, I just turned eighteen.”
Gentle people, I turned back to the windscreen and put my earphones back in. And allow me add; I did not look left or right till the bus arrived Sabo.
Yeah yeah. I know they say ‘age is nothing but a number, but it decides on what side of the numeric table you’re on. And frankly, who ‘minor’ epp na?
They called it a ‘huggy’ jacket.
They said if you wore it, you would never feel alone. You would get hugs on demand, as many as you wanted. So you bought it.
And afterwards, you felt like most people do after new purchases; ‘Why didn’t I buy the other-color? What made me choose this one?’
You looked at it in your closet, feeling weird and childish. You wondered why anyone would need a jacket not to feel all alone and unwanted. You wondered how it is you fell for such an obvious scam.
After a while, you stopped wondering and just left the jacket hanging there.
And then, one afternoon, you were feeling down. No more than usual; but you had a bad case of the blues. There was power and all, but you didn’t want to watch anything. You weren’t in the mood for music either. You tried to read your books; at least maybe some line from Ekwensi or Achebe or Soyinka or Iyayi would make you laugh and lift the cloud that seemed to have taken home in your chest. So you started to read, and it was working.
You felt better.
In fact, you were just recovering from a bout of laughter thanks to Pa Achebe, when your glance happened on your ‘hug-me’ jacket. It made you laugh even harder – and then, it occurred to you to wear it. Let’s see if it works sef, you thought.
So you pull it on, enjoying the still-fresh new clothes smell. It fit you properly, just like it did at the store, but somehow much more. It wrapped itself around you like the arms of a baby, and you snuggled into it. It did feel like hugs all over. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all; you thought.
So you started to make your way back to your back and the Achebe novel you were halfway through when you felt something move across your back. You stopped and reached – but didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. You continued on – and then, the jacket you were wearing seemed to come alive. Before you could do more than gasp in shock, fluffy arms tightened themselves around your throat.
Your arms dart up – but in the next moment, the ones around your chest, torso, and trunk all started to tighten. You called out – but your voice died in your throat, much like the spit that suddenly started to flood your mouth. You thought it was a joke – a cruel prank someone was playing on you. You kept thinking any moment now and the pressure would ease off your throat…
Till you heard a loud, wet crack. And insane pain flooded your insides. And although it had never happened to you before then, you had read enough books and seen enough movies to know what happened.
A rib just cracked.
You are going to die; you suddenly realized with intense clarity. You stagger towards the door, intending to get to the kitchen for a knife and hacking –
NEPA choose that moment to take power. You slammed into the bed and to your knees. And then you knew; it wasn’t NEPA at all.
Your sight…everything was turning black.
Pain started at the tips of your fingers; you had torn them open clawing at the polyester arms around your throat. Your last conscious thought is that you had to be dreaming; this couldn’t be how you would end your life…your journey here…
Everything went black.
If you had read the instructions on the inside of the jacket, you would seen a small warning in red on the back of the label;
NOTICE: Be careful. Might become too friendly if neglected for a long time.
Book II is finally out and ready to hit your hands…well, technically, your devices which you hold in your hands!
So…I’m not crazy.
If you’ve been here with me before, thank you. You can buy Lẹ́bẹ́ Book II: Second Strike here: Second Strike.
If this is your first time, WELCOME. Check out Lẹ́bẹ́: The Series here: The Series.
And here’s a small taster from Book II: Second Strike:
“I am Sensei Uloma, the master of this dojo. I hold black belts in four martial arts including Taekwondo, Wing Chun, Aikido, and Kick-Boxing. I am honored to meet you,” she said and bowed. Straightening, she smiled. “I have heard a lot of you from him,” she threw a thumb over her shoulder. “However, I would like to see what you can do.”
She stepped onto the mat. Lanre made to follow – but she held up her left hand, palm facing Lanre. He stopped and she pointed at his feet. Only then did Lanre notice she was barefoot.
The Converse he was wearing put up no protest as he untied the laces, and soon he was standing on the mat in stripped socks. Uloma walked up till they were arms’ length apart and stopped.
“This is a light sparring match, therefore no heavy hits. I’ll be mostly trying to touch your chest, shoulders, and head; you’ll be trying to do the same. No kicks, just hands. I want to see how fast and skilled you are.” She paused. “Understand?”
Lanre frowned and turned to his left. “Oga Kelvin, is this the pessin I come and meet?”
Kelvin nodded. “She just introduced herself – she just told who she is. She is the trainer I’ve been telling you about – “ he stopped because Lanre was shaking his head.
Kelvin frowned. “What is the problem?”
“I not fight girl,” was the muttered answer.
“WHAT?” Kelvin said, rather loudly. “What do you – what are you talking about now?”
Lanre had stepped off the mat and was bending over his shoes. “You say I need training, no wahala. You wan’ me to fight beta, no yawa. But to fight girl?” he shook his head this way and that, speaking in time with the shaking. “No, no, no.”
A hearty chuckle stopped Lanre. Uloma walked forward and stood beside him, silently making him straighten. “I understand how you feel,” she said softly, “I also understand this is important. So this is what we’ll do; we’ll do some light sparring for one minute. If you can hit me five times in that minute, I won’t train you. In fact, it’ll mean you deserve more than I can give you. But if you don’t, then you’ll stay and do whatever I ask of you.”
“This is absurd – “ Kelvin began to say.
“Please,” she implored, facing Kelvin. He nodded and she turned back towards Lanre who was looking at her, arms folded across his chest. “What do you say?”
“Five times in one minute, you say?” At Uloma’s nod, he grinned. “That wan no suppose too hard na.”
“So you accept?” Uloma asked.
Lanre nodded, kicked off the one sneaker he had started to put on and assumed the classic boxer stance; knees slightly bent, one hand defensive, the other offensive. He watched the girl closely and regarded her loose stance with puzzlement. She didn’t look like she was about to fight. In fact –
In fact, she looked just like Tattoo Man did before he kicked his ass*.
I hope you enjoyed that!