Yesterday was odd. I drifted through it.
I did a bit of writing – I’ve been trying to build my daily quota so I can gear up to that a-book-a-day thing I committed to. So far I’m up to 5,113 words a day.
Meh. So much for bragging.
Anyways, I had written so much my fingers were numb, their joints were creaking and they ached. There was fuel in the generator but I didn’t feel like doing anything. I didn’t want to watch anything sef. I was that detached.
There was fuel in the car too – and I was feeling restless; probably a result of cabin fever. It was something towards ten in the pm; and I did what I predictably would.
Jumped in the car and left the house.
Now, what was my purpose in driving out? I don’t know because I really didn’t think about it, but it would be something along the lines of ‘trying to clear my head’ or ‘just driving’. There was no clear-defined purpose; I just wanted to leave the house.
So I get onto the Lagos – Ibadan expressway doing something close to 80/mph. There’s no reason for the hurry, I just felt like it. Around Iyana Oworo, just before Third Mainland Bridge there’s a small commotion on the other side of the highway. Lights were flashing; I think an ambulance was there. It was a small accident but I couldn’t see much of it and I didn’t try to. I just sped on to the bridge and the Island.
Something other than me was steering the wheel; before I made the decision I was tearing down Akin Adesola, VI. Maybe I didn’t have a destination but it seemed as though my subconscious had a place it wanted me to go. So I sat behind the wheel and followed instructions. We – my subconscious and I that is – drove past Eko Hotel, onto Zenith road and up to the traffic light just beside the Dominos Spot. At this point I asked my subconscious for a destination.
The idiot shrugged.
So I turned right back and tore down Zenith road in the opposite direction. When I got to the roundabout I just continued straight instead of left and back past Eko Hotel. I guess I wanted a change of scenery, but what I got was way more than that.
That was where this thing I’m about to tell you happened.
I was just past the first junction; past that club or ‘spot’ or whatever it is on the right when I noticed something red to my left in my headlights. I glanced that way and realized two things. 1) there was a attractive and bosomy girl standing just on the sidewalk and 2) I was looking at her through a curtain of light rain.
It was drizzling.
That was all I saw before I went past – but automatically I slammed my brakes. If you ask what I was thinking, I’d probably tell you I was thinking of being a gentleman and giving her a ride to her destination and getting a grateful chesty hug and probably a kiss on the cheek – something to warm that cold night.
Lustful thoughts entirely out of character. Or maybe not so much.
Anyways I stopped and was about to reverse the vehicle when I realized she had walked up and was now waiting by the passenger side of my car. Lowering the window, I wore what I hoped was an innocent smile and opened my mouth to ask where she was going when she said; ‘Short time or all-night?”
I think cold interferes with my reasoning; else I would have gotten the picture quickly. As it was, I just sat there staring at her while my brain ran around trying to unravel the maze it was in. When I finally understood what she was saying I still didn’t do what I should have. I think I lost touch with my mouth too because of all the things it could have said what it chose was; “How much?”
She looked at me and calmly said, “Twenty thousand.”
I was high on something, clearly. And I say this because the image that came into my head was how many liters of one hundred and forty-five naira fuel I could buy with that money. But even that wasn’t enough to shock my mouth into behaving because the next thing it said was; “Five thousand.”
She stretched a young slender hand through the lowered window, opened the door and got in.
You could have pushed me out of the car with the end of a thin broomstick.
So I sat there, brain rattling around in my skull like the rat in Skinner’s experiment. There were so many things wrong with the picture. One; I couldn’t possibly take her home. Two, I couldn’t possibly give her five grand. Three; I couldn’t just ask her to exit the car.
What to do?
As usual, my mouth was ahead of me. This time it just fell open and said, “Sister, I hope you know that Jesus loves you and really doesn’t want this kind of life for you….”
That was all the opening I needed. At the ‘for you’ my brain kicked into gear and I just transitioned into a school of theology graduate. “…there’s so much better than this, sister,” I continued, confidence putting the bass back in my voice. “See how beautiful you are…”
I was gearing up for my second wind when the sound of a slamming door brought me out of my séance. She had exited the car after hissing like a hungry and frustrated cobra.
I put my gear in D and sped away from that lonely spot, one thought foremost in my head;
Read previous episodes here.
It was Monday.
Five days after she’d asked Dapo out.
Yemisi looked down on Allen Avenue from the office window. It was busy as usual, midday with the sun shining down harshly on tops, human or otherwise.
She wasn’t there though.
What she was actually seeing was a face, a face with sad eyes and lines etched into it. She thought about her best friend and wondered for the billionth time if she had done the right thing. They had spoken over the weekend, but there was some sudden awareness between them, some sort of restraint obvious in both their voices. Their usual banter was gone, in its place some kind of probing, some kind of careful as though their words had more consequences now than ever before.
She was worried. And scared.
‘Have I lost him?’ she asked aloud. Of course, she wasn’t expecting an answer.
A smile tugged the corners of her lips hesitantly; as though it wasn’t sure it belonged there. She thought about her mother’s look when she had stumbled on her daughter smiling brightly after a call with Dapo. The older woman had said nothing, only smiling knowingly as the younger one tried to hide her blushes. Maybe I shouldn’t introduce him till I’m sure…
I need a drink.
The Chi Exotic pack was freezing. Yemisi smiled at the girl behind the Tantalizers counter as she collected the package. “Thank you.”
The girl nodded. “Anything else?”
A subtle tugging; real or imagined reminded Yemisi she hadn’t had anything that morning. “A Scotch egg, a sausage roll and two doughnuts.”
The serving girl’s smile was pretty. “Okay.”
As the girl turned away to start putting the order together, a voice at Yemisi’s elbow announced itself abruptly.
“God knows I love an eating woman – amen!” as a figure plunked itself on the counter beside her. Her brows came together as she tried to look serious before turning to her right.
“Oh really?” she said.
The only reason she was able to finish her statement was because she had told her mouth what to say and it just followed through. Her brain actually froze when her eyes met those of her target.
“Yes, really.” He answered but she wasn’t exactly listening. He looked like an interesting cross between Idris Elba and Denzel Washington with a bit of Nas thrown in.
His looks were arresting.
“Um…yeah…good for you,” she mumbled and turned away from the counter.
“But you haven’t taken your order yet,” the girl behind the counter said. Yemisi mumbled an apology and carried the bags, legs tangling with each other.
“Oh crap! Sorry, give me a moment,” she said as she realized she hadn’t paid yet. She gently set down her purchases on the counter, pulled out her wallet and burst out laughing.
“You must be having fun – are you not?”
The source of her discomfort smiled. “I’m just happy I got your attention,” he grinned. “I’m Remi.”
She took her time, sorting through the bills in her wallet before selecting a one-thousand naira note and placing it flat on the counter before taking the hand he proffered. “Yemisi,” she said.
Five steps away from the counter and it seemed as though he’d just woken up.
“Hey – where are you going?”
She smiled to herself. “Work. Desk, table, computer – you know, that kind of stuff.” She didn’t stop walking as he came up running behind her.
“If you really want to know you’ll find out somehow,” Yemisi threw over her shoulder as he stopped, hands in the air. She smiled at him and then at the guard who was holding the door open.
The heat wave on Allen made her skin shrink – and she hoped he wasn’t following her.
He’s so handsome jare.
She took another bite of her roll as she looked down on Allen from the window – and started guiltily as she remembered what she had been doing the last time she was standing at that window.
She had forgotten about her worries. About Dapo.
He’s the one I’m with – he’s the only one I should be concerned with even if it’s just for three months.
And so, almost wistfully she discarded the image that reminded her of both her favorite actors.
A flash of color pulled her back to what she had been looking at but not seeing – Allen Avenue. It was a jumble at first, and then what attracted her became clear.
A girl wearing a bright red dress was crossing the road. She had her left hand to her left ear and her right hand was waving excitedly. Suddenly a black Sedan came hurtling out of the street beside Alade market, brakes screeching as the driver turned into Allen, not slowing down a bit. The car’s bumper caught the hem of the crossing girl’s dress and with a loud ‘RIP!’ tore a large chunk of it away.
The car did not slow down.
To Yemisi the whole picture was happening in high definition. She saw the girl’s dress get caught, stretch and then tear. She watched as the girl became frozen solid in the middle of Allen Avenue. She heard clearly the curses hurled after the vehicle – watched as a man ran to the girl and hurried her off the road. It all felt like a movie; or an advert – her ears were unconsciously straining; waiting for a yell of ‘CUT!’ or to at least see someone carrying a camera.
No such luck.
She did not know when she moved, but when Yemisi came to herself she was sitting in front of her computer typing something she could not make any sense of – half eaten roll on the table beside her system.
She stopped and looked at her hands. They were shaking.
The jarring buzz of the intercom on her desk was like the breaking of a million plates to overwrought nerves, and she quickly stuffed her fingers into her mouth to stop from screaming. She stood up and walked to the reception, leaving the phone ringing.
“Yes?” she said to Felicia who looked like a child caught stealing meat from the cooking pot. Felicia hastily put the intercom down and faced her. “Yes…yes! This man has a package for you,” she finished, pointing to a man wearing a dispatch rider’s costume.
Yemisi looked at the ugly man and sighed. Probably from one of the clients.
The man was carrying an average-sized box and from the way he was handling it, the box wasn’t too heavy. At her approach he balanced the box on his left hip and pulled a pad from his right chest pocket.
“Why don’t you just set it down?” Yemisi said, taking the pad from him. “Or is it a bomb?”
He smiled and she wondered how she’d ever thought he was ugly. His face had this open, defenseless look that could make a lot of women start feeling like mothers.
It was working on her at least.
“No it’s not o,” the man replied. He set the box down and took the pad Yemisi stretched towards him. Her back creaked as she straightened, lighter-than-expected box in her arms. “Thank you,” she said to the man’s back. He waved and went out of the office.
The office quieted as she came in carrying the box, but nobody said anything. Her colleagues looked on as she set it on her table and examined the box for clues as to who sent it.
But it only bore her name and office address. Nothing more.
“What is it?” Adura asked, walking over.
“We’re all about to find out,” she answered, picking up a box cutter. “Hope you’ve all repented of your sins,” Yemisi continued. “We might be about to meet our Father in heaven.”
The box surrendered easily to the razor-sharpness of the box cutter, and two smaller tightly-packed boxes showed up. She sighed in exasperation.
Is somebody playing a game?
“See anything?” Fred, her nemesis asked.
“Why don’t you come and look yourself?” she retorted. The other guys laughed, but from the silence behind her, she knew nobody was moving. She opened the larger of the two boxes and a frosty cake stared back at her. The lettering on it said ‘for my guy girl’.
She smothered happy laughter and opened the second one, a slim box that had a ribbon and another envelope attached to it. It was a bottle of fruit wine. Footsteps that seemed to be walking on eggs approached as she straightened with the card in her hands, and she waited till the steps were almost immediately behind her and then yelled; ‘RAT!!”
Adura screamed and ran back to the cover of her desk, stumbling on her own legs as she scrambled. The other guys ducked under desks and chairs to avoid the ‘rat’. Yemisi quickly slipped the card in her desk drawer and burst into laughter.
“Oh you,” Adura sulked as she carefully lifted out the larger one and sniffed it, a calculating look in her eyes. “Cake?” she asked Yemisi who nodded. “Hmm hmm.”
Fred tapped Adura on the shoulder. “Don’t you know its impolite to sniff food – especially food meant for a lot of people?”
The cake was on the largest table in the office before Adura replied. “And the ‘a lot of people’ would be who?”
Ignoring the indignant Fred, Adura folded her arms and smiled at Yemisi. “I’m so jealous right now. Can I meet your boyfriend?”
“Boyfriend?!” Fred ejaculated in mock-horror. “This manly woman has a…boyfriend?! The guy must be a hermaphrodite!”
“Soon enough,” Yemisi smiled at Adura, slight tremor in her voice betraying the sting of Fred’s thoughtless remark. She quickly shooed the admirers away from her table and cut a huge chunk of the cake. And then she called Felicia to share whatever was left before retreating to the rest room where she washed her face of tears.
She took her time, delicately opening the card.
I just want to say thank you. For being my friend. For being my girl.
I’ll make you the happiest woman ever.
She had stained the poor card with lip-gloss before she realized she was kissing it. Embarrassed, she hid it behind her back – and then caught herself at the silliness of the act.
There was a huge smile on her face – and not even the thought of Fred’s hurtful comments could dim it.
She wanted to take me out for lunch, and she said so with a hand on the sleeve of my jacket.
I acted like the warmth from her fingers was too slight to make a difference to me and looked everywhere but at her mouth as she spoke. She came to the office at the behest of one of our latest clients – she was the company’s legal adviser.
Normally I wouldn’t be involved in such a meeting – signing official documents and what nots. But in light of several recent events…
I told her no. I didn’t – don’t fraternize with clients and seeing how they were new I’d rather not.
A smile appeared on her too-thin lips and she said she understood.
“I understand,” she said.
I still have a hell of a lot to learn about women.
Many, many many things go bump in the night.
But not all of them are bad.
In the exact same vein, several things go bump during the day.
But not of all them are good.
Take for example.
The first time he bumped into her along the beverage aisle, the first thing that came to his mind was that she was firmly made. They mumbled their apologies and walked in opposite directions.
The second time he bumped into her, it was in the perfume section. It was awkward – but they smiled at each other and he joked about it, a joke she laughed politely to. Her eyes spoke to him where her lips didn’t – they suggested to him that he was lingering so he cleared his throat and took his exit.
When he found himself behind her on the checkout line, he knew he had to do something. He thought about how to get her attention without it appearing as though he was or had been stalking her. As they drew nearer and nearer to the exit, he discarded scenario after scenario, his mind scurrying frantically trying to get out of the uninspired creative maze he found himself in. Nothing came.
And just when he was about to give up, her elbow moved suddenly, knocking the bottle of McDowell’s he was carrying almost negligently from his hand. Her gasp sounded very erotic to him, and he smiled to himself as he stooped to pick up the bottle.
“It’s not broken,” he enthused, grinning into her confused face.
She smiled at him, relieved. He smiled as the relieved look became one of recognition. “Seems I keep bumping into you, or is it you into me?” she asked, guileless eyes shining smoky darts in his direction.
“As long as some bumping’s going on, I don’t care who’s doing it,” he answered. She grinned wickedly.
It was a delight for him to walk behind her, particularly watching the way her hair gently lay on her shoulder. He was sure it was a weave-on, but it was stuck so cleanly to her head he couldn’t see what her own hair looked like – not that it mattered anyway. It gave him a tickle the way the loose strands at the end of the weave stirred and slumped in the air-conditioned atmosphere. It was so erotic, so sensual.
It was the most natural thing in the world to buy her a drink. They sat underneath the area’s mallam drank Ribena and Sprite from cans and spoke about things like Sesame Street, things like Fraggle Rock and Voltron and NTA 2 Channel 5. At the beginning he was constantly looking at the time, but when he noticed she didn’t care he stopped bothering.
Like taking a walk; one foot after the other, so did their conversation advance from safe topics onto ‘dangerous’ ground. He found himself answering her questions about his erotic hot buttons and what nots, found himself paying too much attention to the third button of her blouse – the only obstacle; or so he thought in the cesspool he called a mind, the only obstruction to his discovery of the color of her unmentionables. He didn’t think she observed him observing it – hence his shock when the index finger of her left hand suddenly found itself tangled with that button.
“Will you help me?” she asked him, gamine eyes tickling some parts of him he couldn’t name. He nearly stumbled across the bench to her side – and as he bent over to ‘help’ her, she grabbed the back of his neck and kissed him.
He could swear there was steam rising from his ears as he tried to match her twist for twist – and then suddenly she pushed him away, stood up and grabbed his hand.
“Where are we going?” he asked the moment his lips untangled themselves from his tongue and teeth.
“My house,” she replied firmly in a voice that brooked no argument. Not that he wanted to argue.
And so she led him to her house, fully expecting to have her way with him.
And he followed her willingly, expecting to have his way with her.
Both of them were wrong.
“With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter”
December 2012 I published an e-book titled ‘For Days and A Night’. If you’ve read it, you’ll probably recognize the story that follows. If you want to read it again – please do.
If you have no idea what ‘For Days and A Night’ is about, please read on.
“But Daddy, shebi if this bread was Nigerian made now, shebi people will start saying they are using juju. See how people are plenty on the line.”
“Baby, the bread is Nigerian made. It is made in Nigeria by Nigerians.”
“But Daddy, shebi you said that Shoprite is a South-African supermarket? Shebi that’s what you said.”
Sigh. My wonderful daughter.
The lady standing in line behind us looks like she’s hanging out with Bovi and Basketmouth at some event. I don’t see the joke.
I wonder why my daughter is standing beside me and not running up and down the aisles like most other kids. Isn’t that what kids her age do? Eerily, she looks anything but her age as she stands beside me with silent dignity, looking up at me with an expression of childish curiosity. I sigh and lean over till my face is on the same level as hers.
“Yes indeed, it is South African business. But you don’t expect them to bring bread down here everyday now, do you?”
She looks thoughtful, posing like the thinking man as though she is actually considering what I’d said.
“But how does the bread taste so different from all the ones we’ve been eating?” she asks.
“Because they probably have their own recipe, imported and all. So what they do is to bring a supervisor who mixes the flour and everything…” I pause to see if she is listening.
“Hmm-mmm,” she nods seriously.
“And then he just supervises the baking. That’s most likely why it tastes different from everything else,” I finish and stretch, wincing from a pain in my waist. This is starting to become an inconvenience, I think.
“Thank you for explaining daddy. Mummy says you’re the smartest man she knows,” my baby says.
That makes me sad. If she thinks I am so smart, why did she leave me?
I can’t find an answer.
Twenty-something minutes later it’s our turn to get bread. I dump two hot loaves into our nearly-full basket and head towards the cash register, my little girl skipping ahead of me. She gets to the fruit stand, raises herself on tiptoes and lifts the largest bag of apples she can carry.
Carefully raising it, she shows it to me, asking for my approval. At my smile she bravely tugs it to the least occupied cash register and waits for me to show up. I get there a few minutes later – having stopped to organize a few surprises for her.
Right in front of us is this annoying young couple. They keep touching each other lightly, teasing, smiling and laughing at each other. They are clearly in love; giggling like two monkeys. The way they are carrying on you’d think they were the only ones in Shoprite.
Some old women and men on the line smile indulgently, recognizing it for what it is. I frown because I recognize it for what it is; two people making fools of themselves over something that is not destined to last. From the left edge of my vision I see my little girl looking at me, definitely about to ask another question. I keep my face straight and frown deeper. She leaves me alone.
Finally we get out.
I ask her to wait by our stuff while I go get a cab from outside the parking lot. You should get a car; I tell myself. Definitely makes things easier all around. By the time I return, she is talking with two young girls dressed as though they are headed for a D’Banj video shoot. I politely but firmly shoo them away and load my daughter and our stuff into the cab.
And then we head home.
“Don’t you like women anymore Daddy?”
You would expect that I would be used to my daughter’s curiosity and strange questioning techniques by now. Sorry to let you down.
“Where did that come from?” I ask, reluctantly turning away from the window to look at my daughter’s upturned face. She really is beautiful.
Her brows gather as she concentrates. “Well, we’ve been together for two weeks now and you haven’t said hello to any woman except the cleaning woman and grandma’s friend.” She pauses. “Mummy says you need female attention,” she concludes.
“Mummy should learn to mind her business,” I mumble under my breath. My ex-wife is a model and therefore attention is the order of her life. And while I understand it is not to make me jealous; it was that way even when we were married. I do not like it.
“I just want to spend time with you. You’re the only woman I need right now,” I say. She smiles briefly at that, and then that look appears on her face. Not this time; I think grimly and quickly ward off what I know is coming.
“I have a friend,” I confess, half truthfully. “I would have brought her to meet you but I wanted this time – just you and me. Haven’t you missed me?” I say, acting hurt.
“I have – and you know, Daddy,” she says, sliding across the back seat to hug my arm. “Okay. But when can I meet your friend?”
“She wants to meet you,” I say as I get off the examination table, quickly putting on my shirt again. The belly I’ve grown over the past three months is embarrassing, and I don’t want her seeing more of it than is necessary.
“Your back is bust,” my physician says. “I think you slipped a disc – your hips are slightly bruised. But nothing a couple of injections and medication won’t cure,” she finishes.
I nod, uncharacteristically fidgeting. It is because she has not answered my question, and I understand why. It implies a different level of commitment…one she probably is not ready for. I am not even sure I am ready myself. We have seen each other socially a couple of times, and we are genuinely fond of each other – we agree it’s not serious.
She pushes her glasses back on her nose and smiles. “Why are you hiding your belly? Potbellied men are sexy you know, and haven’t you heard Wasiu’s song, ‘give the money to the man with the belly’?”
I am thankful I do not have water in my mouth. I would have bathed her; the way the laughter is naturally forced out of me.
On my way out after my injections and prescription, she gently lays a hand on my sleeve. “I would love to meet your daughter. When would you want me to come?”
I am proud of my daughter tonight.
Whatever else my ex is, she knows how to raise a daughter. She has done herself proud with ours.
At her first sight of my friend my daughter kneels down to greet her properly. My friend is so overwhelmed, she hugs my baby firmly. When she finally lets go, my daughter asks, “What do I call you?”
My friend is taken aback. She looks at me for help, and when she does not get any she sighs. “Well I don’t stand on ceremony, so you can call me by name. It’s -”
My daughter interrupts. “Mum will kill me if I do that,” she says seriously. “I’ll just call you auntie.”
‘Auntie’ looks over at me, eyebrows raised behind spectacles. I shrug.
Dinner is a huge success. I am the guest.
They get on so well I am amazed. It is as though my little girl is determined to make a point. It is incredible. Finally, after auntie leaves it is just me and my little girl on the couch.
“So…do you like my friend?”
She considers that for a bit, fiddling with the hem of her dress. “That’s not what’s important to me daddy.” She pauses, and then continues, “does she make you happy?”
Slowly, my eyes overflow and tears trickle down my cheeks.
I am crying.
I really hope you enjoyed the story! Download For Days and A Night free here!
Be wonderful as usual!