I think I’m – no.
I know I’m crazy.
I mean, how else do you explain a grown man who goes to a woman’s house, and sings ‘911’ to her and eight of her co-tenants at after five in the morning?!
I believe the expression is ‘you don kolo’.
But do I care? No. Not yet.
See, if there is an award for skeptics I should win every – in fact, my face will become the face of the award. No kidding. I can rationalize, explain, and question even the most mundane of things. If the explanation is not convincing enough, I’m not buying. So I would be the last person to be drunk on love’s shayo – most especially at ‘first sight’.
But that’s what happened. That’s the only explanation I have – no matter how lame.
See, it was one of those nights when I just wanted to get home. The day had been one drag – petty arguments and confusing reports. Everyone at work was at everyone else’s throat, only common sense prevented what could easily have become a full-fledged shouting contest. Somehow, we all managed to get through it with nothing worse than a few bruised egos and tired bodies. We all knew the following day would be better.
I was one of the first out of the building. I waved goodnight to a couple of my colleagues following, and as I was trying to make up my mind as to whether a Keke Napep or a cab would be in my best interest, I happened to glance over to my left where a First Bank ATM gallery was…
And saw an image that would stay with me till my eyes closed for the last time.
She had just slid her card into the machine and was punching in what I assumed was her PIN. She had her left side to me, right hand on the machine, left hand pushing a lock of her natural hair behind her ear. She was wearing a sleeveless yellow blouse, a dark skirt and easy sandals. I don’t know what made the picture so memorable; I mean I couldn’t see her clearly –
Suddenly she turned and looked at me directly. Now the light from the gallery fell on her face, putting every curve and line on display. It was like I imagined Paul’s features were lit on the road to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to him – only lightning flashing at that moment would have made it more surreal.
It was as if we were posing for pictures.
And then she smiled, one corner of her bright-pink stained lips curving towards the high cheekbone – and for the first time in my life I felt the part of me whose function I had narrowed down to just one; pump blood, I felt it shift within me. I was done.
I don’t remember what happened between thought and inception – but when I could think again, I was right in front of her, looking in her eyes. I could actually see the lines that came together to form a kind of structure for the pupil – I felt like I was looking a constellation…or at a starburst.
Actually saw that once in a movie.
“Please, just listen – you don’t have to say anything. However mad this looks to you, I swear it is not a scam or anything like that. I work right there – “ I said, pointing to the building I just exited. “And I when I left came out a few minutes ago all I was thinking about was just going home. Now? The word just redefined itself. Home now means ‘anywhere you are’.”
Okay. At this point three things occurred to me – all at the same time.
- This is real life,
- Just because it sounds good in my head is no guarantee it would sound good out of it; not like I actually thought about it anyways, and
- The only reason why she wasn’t screaming her head off and running was probably because my colleagues had stopped at a safe distance and were watching
In fact; the only reason I wasn’t screaming my head off and running was probably for the same reason. I stood there, waiting for the typical hiss or the one-word insult, waiting for her to step around me like a pool of muddy water – anything but what she was actually doing.
The smile she had on her face earlier was still there – in fact, if anything it was brighter. Her eyes remained locked with mine, and then she started talking…or rather dew started falling from her lips.
“I think most women like to think they can drive a total stranger out of himself, even though that’s usually not their first reaction. I think I got over that about fifty seconds ago when you came over.”
I stood there, blinking like a goldfish whose bowl was slowly getting hotter. I had absolutely nothing to say. Maybe I really had not expected any response, or maybe the response I got was not the one I was expecting. Or maybe I had been so caught up in the moment I had not thought this far ahead.
“My place or yours?” she asked, smile still in place.
Now my jaw unhinged itself and fell about five feet nine inches to the floor.
And that’s why I was at a woman’s house two days later – at after five in the morning, murdering Wyclef’s 911 with my Gamalin 20 vocals. I stood right in front of her apartment and sang as though my heart would break – or my lungs would explode.
Tell me you wouldn’t do the same.
Fortunately for me, NEPA had decided to be on my side that morning so there were no generators to drown out my vocals – or screeching; as the more honest me would admit.
Soon enough, lights were coming on in different apartments.
“Hey! Hey – oga goo’ morning o! We dey try sleep na!”
The shout came from above my head. I looked up to see a grinning boy scratching his armpit and his crotch at the same time. “Don’t mind me bro,” he continued. “Just playing politically correct jare. Play on player!”
I threw a salute his way and continued my wailing. I noticed he leaned on the railings in front of his apartment and looked down with a huge smile. I felt encouraged.
I was on the chorus for the third time when I heard locks opening in the apartment I was standing in front of. I inhaled nervously because in spite of my bravado, I was actually nervous. I didn’t know if she would appreciate the ‘embarrassment’, didn’t know if she was having visitors – hell, for all I knew she could be married.
Heh. Don’t mind me. After the way we had been carrying on two nights ago she better not be married.
I was on the chorus for the third time when the doors opened and my sweetheart stepped out, looking like Ms. Piggy in Fraggle Rock as she rubbed sleep from her eyes. And then she looked and saw me.
“Hey,” she coughed out. “What are you doing here?”
I was about to respond when another figure stepped from behind her. A figure in t-shirt and boxers. A figure decidedly male.
As everything inside and out of me shrunk, I heard him ask her, “Ine, who is this? What is he doing here – at this time of the day?”
Damn. Or better still…
Even the caged bird sings.
I go over that line again and again, keeping my mind as preoccupied as my hands are, with buttoning my shirt slowly. I don’t want my mind to be idle – because then it’ll become filled with thoughts of you.
Thoughts I know are not good for me. Not right now.
It takes about – I don’t know; some seconds sha for me to realize all the buttons on my shirt are done – my fingers are just fiddling. I also realize they would be twitching like a drug addict’s the moment they have nothing to do, so I shove them in my jean pockets.
And then I turn towards the room, taking in the walls as I have many times on similar nights – knowing there’s nothing new to see but finding it easier to look at them than at you.
And I know you know what I’m thinking – because I feel your eyes bore in my back; I feel the smile lingering on your lips. I see every little detail – right up to your brown thighs uncovered by the shirt with just a button done. My sleep shirt; you call it.
I still don’t look at you.
No. It’s the green grassy veldt outside your bedroom window that has my attention. It’s the view that makes me think of you; the view that reminds me constantly why whenever it gets a little chaotic in my world you’re the one person I seek out.
You’re my peace. My calm. You make me so happy.
So why is it so hard to look at you?
Look at me; I hear you whisper.
My feet drag as I turn – and then the slow flows from my feet to my throat as my eyes arrive and loose themselves in your tangled tresses. I keep the eyes on your hair – your face in general; determined not to look at the light-colored strip of flesh so proudly displayed.
I suck in a shuddering breath. It’s not that easy.
I know you have to go; I don’t need apologies or explanations. It’s okay.
I hear what you’re saying – I just don’t agree. It’s not okay. I swore the last time and the time before that it was going to be the last time. But like a goat with his heart stuck on eating the neighbor’s grass…
…I keep coming back.
And I know it’s selfish of me. I know this – whatever this is – is one-sided. I know it’s about me and my needs – or maybe we should just be honest and call it what it is – my lust; I know this isn’t what you want or even need –
I need this too, you say as though you can hear me think.
I stand beside the window and watch the evening sun bathe you in red; highlighting the black in your hair in some kind of way I don’t exactly understand. I’m not a poet; I don’t know how to put words together in a flowery and sensible manner – but I look at you and realize; God really took His time putting you together.
I know it’s a cliché – but it’s truly true.
You uncurl your legs – legs that seem to go on for days – and stand, rocking softly with the springs of the bed. Bouncing, you make your way to the edge of it and reach towards me with your arms. Smiling and shaking my head, I walk towards you – but I’m barely there before you bounce up once – and then jump off the bed towards me.
Okay. I wasn’t expecting that – but I stay unruffled as I take a huge step and catch your arms. Like the dancer you are, you land lightly – even though most of your weight is on my shoulders. You laugh in my face, brushing the hair out of it before leaning it against mine. We kiss softly – the kisses of comfortable lovers who do not have anything to prove to each other – lovers who have drunk from the water dispenser of love-making and are sated.
For the moment.
The light dances in your eyes as you lean your forehead against mine – and to my chagrin it occurs to me that this is not about me after all; I dare to imagine that you’re actually happy.
That surprises me. You; surprise me.
I’m about to speak – I’m about to go through the motions; say those things comfortable lovers say to each other – things that really mean nothing when they go under the microscope – but we say them anyway.
I’m about to mumble a bunch of sweet-nothings – but your finger silences me. Don’ t apologize; you whisper. Don’t tell me how you wish you hadn’t come back to me with your wahala. This; you are the most happy I have been in a while – and while I wish you were still mine; I’m grateful to have this much.
I inhale through the thickness in my throat. I love you, I say simply.
You smile softly, shaking your head. You don’t have to say that; you remind me.
I love you, I insist. You do not say anything; choosing rather to keep looking at me with those puppy-love eyes. I step backwards, away from you – before turning and heading towards the door. Opening it, I step through and close it behind me – and then lean against it like they do in all those romantic movies.
It overwhelms me – this much feeling. I get to feeling like I’m a character playing out a movie – like all this is beyond my control. Like I’m just fulfilling someone else’s fantasies for me.
But I know I am responsible for my life. I am the liar, the cheat, the impatient lover too much in a hurry for – I don’t even know what it was I was hurrying after – the sucker who all but threw away the best thing ever.
I wonder why you allow me back – even though we both know I’m just around for the sex.
Or maybe that’s another lie I’ve become comfortable with.
It doesn’t really matter. I get my feet under me and push away from the wall, heading to my house – to another woman I call wife; another woman I love.
In the same way, yet very much differently.
Sigh. Such is life.
Or maybe I’m just full of shit.
I never get tired of telling her how beautiful she is.
I won’t lie – sometimes I look at her; I look at her and the images of the past pain come rushing up. Sometimes it gets so violent, I have to close my eyes and hold back the hurt. It’s almost physical at times. Like holding back vomit.
I am so afraid. I feel like; I feel like – how do I know history won’t repeat itself?
How do I know things will work out with her?
I guess that’s why I kept her waiting for so long – why I kept resisting her advances. I was – am afraid.
These are the thoughts I am battling with as I take her hand and help her down from the cab that took us to my eating spot – but I still do not forget to tell her, how beautiful I think she is.
She averts her eyes; imagine a thirty-something year old woman acting shy!
But she smiles and says ‘thank you’.
I feel proud as I walk beside her, beside myself with some emotion rising like the evening tide – except this particular tide is in my chest and is threatening to choke me. My fears are still so present – but I look at her; and I know I want nothing else. Not now.
“Oga ——————, how na? Long time! You no even – ”
I hear her voice – but I am caught up in staring at my companion’s lips and general face. When I do turn to salute the woman, I am surprised.
She is looking at us; at my companion, with such joy in her eyes I am taken aback. You know; it is the kind of look an expectant mother has in her eyes when she sees her child happy. The kind of look that says “Papilo, I knew you would make us proud!”
Or something like that.
Anyways, she looks at my companion with something really close to pride and says, “Is this her?”
I’m not sure what ‘her’ means – but I nod. “Yes, it is.”
She rushes forward – and then halts. “I want to hug you, but my clothes have oil and smoke – ”
And then my companion steals my heart forever – by simply hugging this madam.
Oil, smoke and all.
Read previous episodes here.
Yemisi was nervous; watching the door as she was.
She did not want to call Dapo again; she had called him like fifty times in the past hour – and that wasn’t exactly bringing him any closer.
She had to be patient.
Her cocktail was beginning to warm; she put it down gently after taking a long pull from it and put it down – studying the hand she had carried it with.
It was trembling.
Hastily she put the hand in her lap and wished the whole thing with Dapo and his cousin would just disappear.
In fact; she would like to just disappear.
She hadn’t tried to sort through her feelings; every time she thought about Remi she felt as though she was betraying Dapo – and even though it had always been like that; the feeling was ten times worse now she knew they were related.
What do I do?
“The cocktail can’t be that bad,” a familiar baritone spoke from her elbow making her jump in fright. She laughed in spite of herself.
“Trust you to make an entrance,” she said before standing up and turning slightly to hug the tall figure beaming at her. She let the tension ease away from her shoulders and back, relaxing into his embrace and closing her eyes at his scent. “You smell so good,” she said.
Dapo’s laughter rumbled from his chest. “That’s Mosun’s handiwork. The whole world must know I have a sister who just returned to the country.” He released her but held on to her left hand, standing back to look at her from top to bottom, taking in her blue Ankara gown and brown sandals. “You’re really beautiful tonight,” he said with a straight face.
Yemisi looked down shyly – and then looked up, meeting his eyes. “Thank you. You look good yourself.”
And he did, in a white shirt, blue jeans and brown boat shoes. He smiled and handed her into her seat before sitting himself directly opposite her. “I’m sorry I’m late. Traffic is crazy.”
She nodded. “I’m grateful you still came sef. Didn’t you just return from IB?”
“We have plenty to talk about. How did your send-forth go?”
Yemisi looked away, her eyes filling with tears. “It was just sad. You know, sometimes you never know what you mean to people until it’s too late to do anything about it.” Reaching into her silver purse, she pulled out a white handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. “I laughed plenty too.”
She put her unoccupied hand over his. “I missed you there too. Adura wanted so much to meet you – she was hurt when I told her you weren’t coming. And the boss’ speech?” she shook her head. “It would have been easier if you were there.”
Dapo couldn’t resist. “Me – or Remi?”
He saw a flash of hurt appear in her eyes and wished he had not made that crack. She made to pull her hand away but he quickly covered it with his other one. She shook her head, but she stopped pulling away.
“We need to talk about that, Yemisi.”
“I know, Dapo. But whatever it is I’m feeling, I know the difference between you two. And if I say I miss you; Dapo, I’m talking about you. Understand?”
He nodded solemnly. “I know – and I’m sorry I made such a lame joke.”
Yemisi nodded. “That’s okay. I feel guilty myself – because there are times I have wished I hadn’t started anything with you, and I would just have met Remi and everything would be perfect.”
“That wouldn’t make such a great story,” Dapo interjected. “There’s always something bigger over the horizon.”
“But doesn’t that mean we should all keep chasing straws?”
“‘Bigger’ is relative, Yemisi. When you find your ‘bigger’, you and only you can know it. And besides – there’s always the next thing – ‘bigger’.”
She raised both her hands in mock surrender. “You win!”
Dapo signaled the nearest waiter. “Wouldn’t you rather have some ice with that drink – or would just have a new one?” he asked Yemisi.
“Yes; a new one would be good thank you.”
“I want a huge chapman – she would just have a regular cocktail.” He considered for a bit. “I would like some meats too – something I can chew on as I drink,” he said. The waiter nodded and slid off.
“Did you really think I would set you up to meet Remi like that?” he asked the girl sitting in front of him.
She averted her eyes. “I honestly didn’t know what to think! Seeing him at the wedding like that –“ She sighed. “You’re the one who
always says there’s no such thing as coincidence. Really – what would you have thought?”
Dapo shook his head. “I would have trusted you.”
“Don’t be so hard on me, Dapo – “ she broke off as the waiter appeared with their drinks, and sat silently as Dapo carried her drink off the tray and placed it in front of her before carrying his. The waiter bent over and whispered something in his ear. He nodded.
“Meats will be done in a moment,” he said as the waiter slid off again. “Why he thought it necessary to whisper will forever baffle me.” He lifted his drink and took a long pull. “You were asking me not to be hard on you – should we use your actions as a benchmark?”
Yemisi sighed. Dapo was on the warpath – there was no stopping him. In fact, if anything she could expect it to get worse. She looked at the smile playing around his lips and thought to herself how someone so – could be so –
“Don’t mind me – I’m just having myself a bit of fun at your expense.” He stirred his drink with the straw he was holding but he wasn’t looking at it. Instead, his eyes were on her face.
“You know one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you since that awkward moment?”
At her nod he continued. “I was wondering – were you that upset because you thought I had something to do with your meeting with Remi; or was it just guilt?”
Yemisi started from her seat; mouth half-open in denial – and then she slumped back, wrapping her arms around shoulders that suddenly felt really cold.
“You know,” she sounded like a turned-down radio set. “That’s one question I have been asking myself – but I haven’t been willing to look too closely at the answer. ‘Why was I so hard on you’? I knew; deep down you couldn’t have done anything that elaborate; too many parts of it depended on coincidence – which you and I know you’re not exactly a fan of –“
She broke off as Dapo pointed at her drink. The ice was a lot less than she remembered; so she lifted it and took a sip, enjoying the cold liquid as it streamed down her throat and seemed to make fluttering nerves somewhat steadier. She watched as the same waiter set a steaming plate of meat in front of her; and set her drink down before reaching for one.
“Don’t look so serious – it’s not that serious.”
Yemisi slowly bit into the piece of meat, enjoying the sticky warmth of various seasonings as they flooded her mouth. “Hmmm hmm,” she moaned out loud, looking at Dapo through half-closed lids. “This is really good!”
He smiled in response. “They should feel complimented – a top chef just approved their cooking!”
She looked at Dapo with shinny, grateful eyes; “It is true isn’t it?”
He nodded wisely, understanding what she meant. “Yes indeed it is. How does it feel?”
“It feels – surreal. I still wake up feeling like I should get going else I’ll be stuck in early-morning traffic; and then I remember I’m self-employed. An entrepreneur.”
Dapo raised his glass. “Hear hear!” and drained it, sucking away at the straw long after the glass was empty. Yemisi could barely contain her laughter.
“So what’s next, CEO?” he asked after their laughter had subsided.
“Well, I feel some self-development is in order so I registered for some cooking courses; immediately after which I’ll be headed to Poise for some on grooming too.”
Dapo nodded. “I like that. Maybe you’ll show up a judge on the next Knorr Taste Quest.”
Yemisi smiled. “Who knows?”
Dapo nodded and for the next few moments the only sounds from their table were clinking glasses and chewing jaws. Yemisi raised her drink to her lips and eyed Dapo over the rim of the glass.
“I like it when you smile, you know. Your face relaxes – and you look so young.”
He looked away from her piercing gaze in embarrassment. “Well ah – thank you. It’s really nice to hear that.”
She slowly lowered her glass and shifted uncomfortably. “You know, I’m really fond of you – I really care and worry; which is what prompted me to ask you out in the first place.”
“I know that,” Dapo said quietly.
“It did hurt when you said what you said – about saying yes to me when you could have said no. It made me feel as though you were…as though you said yes only because you felt sorry for me.”
“Yeah. That was a really thoughtless thing to say – and I really didn’t mean it. I agreed because I wanted to date you too; that and no other reason. I’m really sorry.”
Yemisi pressed his hand briefly. “It’s okay,” she sighed. “It’s okay. I have grown so much between then and now – I mean, I now have my own business to say the least.” She looked at him, her heart in her eyes. “Dapo, the time we spent together was…it redefined all of my ideas concerning what a relationship should be like – should be about. I learned a lot about myself, about guys and stuff – and it made me a better person because as timid as I was, as insecure as I used to be, I saw something I wanted – something I wanted so much I did not consider the consequences. I just went for it. And boy – am I glad I did.” She looked away, an intimate smile caressing her lips.
Dapo had never seen her look any more beautiful.
“I love you, Dapo. I always have and I always will. There’s this – there’s this kind of steadfastness you have; a kind of ‘always there’ presence that I have come to rely on. I know I don’t have to look too far to find you; I know you’re always somewhere around me. I have come to love that – about you, I mean.”
Her light skin darkened around her cheeks and she lowered her eyes briefly before facing him again. “I love you. Maybe not the want-to-jump-on-you-and-rip-your-clothes-off type, but the I-feel-safe-in-your-arms type.”
Dapo cleared his throat. “Gee thanks. That’s really encouraging – I’m only good enough for brotherly hugs!”
But he smiled at her brightly and held onto her hand.
“I’d rather have brotherly hugs than none.” He inhaled sharply. “Yemisi, I know how you feel about me. And it’s okay. We did find something – in fact; we found plenty things. Don’t you know how easy it is to forget people who matter? This whole thing has made me and you closer – I have rediscovered a friendship of life; for life. I’m thankful for that.”
Yemisi’s eyes watered. “Are we breaking up?”
A throaty chuckled emanated from Dapo’s chest. “Do friends – do siblings break up?”
The car taking Remi to the airport was quiet. The occupants were lost in thoughts of various variations.
Dapo, behind the steering wheel was thinking about that night three weeks ago – the night he returned from Ibadan and saw Yemisi.
It went well – all things considered.
Yeah. That it did.
I think it was particularly thoughtful we did not mention that Mope is still single.
Yeah. That would have been a bad idea. Even if it wasn’t meant to be, no woman likes the idea that another is preferred to her.
That – is correct.
So – I would expect that after so many dates Yemi and Remi would have plenty to say to each other.
We expect that too.
Or maybe they’ve said everything.
Maybe that too.
Remi; sitting beside Dapo was softly caressing the hand in his grip and thinking about the owner of the hand.
This is crazy. This is stupid. How can I be this in love with this girl?
She’s so sweat, so calm, so kind, so considerate. All soft and firm at once.
I wish I didn’t have to return so early. I wish I could just tell her how I feel – but I’m worried she might start to feel like some
family heirloom. Like family hand-me-downs.
However did Dapo let her go so easily?
Who cares? My luck.
But Dapo na one kain guy sha o! And wait…
Is she over him sef?
Yemisi; seated behind the two of them was also lost in thoughts of her own.
She was thinking about the guy rubbing her hand.
What does this guy want sef?
Just rubbing my hand as if it’s an ATM card.
She chuckled quietly at her own joke.
And became thoughtful again.
But what does he want?
Takes me to the cinema – and spends the whole movie holding my hand. Na hand-hold I wan chop?!
At least make a move. Or say something. Or say something more.
He keeps looking in my eyes and sighing.
Would have grabbed and kissed him too – the way the butterflies were misbehaving.
I had a rethink in time though – and I concluded it’ll be wise to wait. Let someone else do the asking for a change.
She looked up and met Dapo’s eyes in the rearview mirror. He smiled and winked at her.
“So why are you guys quiet?”
Remi jumped and let go of the hand he had been holding on the far side of his seat as though it was red hot. Dapo smiled as Yemisi
blushed and looked out of the window. He adjusted the rear-view mirror and cleared his throat.
“I suggest the two of you go check in – or at least Yemisi help Remi check in while I look for a place to park.”
Yemisi looked around, startled. They were in front of the departure area of Murtala International.
Aware of some trembling in her thighs, she shot Dapo a grateful look through the mirror before scrambling out of the car on Remi’s
They both stood and watched their cupid drive off and then walked towards the entrance; Yemisi grabbing her companion’s hand.
“I still can’t over the fact that you’re traveling with a backpack,” she stated as they cleared the policemen at the entrance.
Remi shrugged. “I wasn’t planning to stay for long – this long sef.”
“What changed your mind?”
He eyed her from his ‘Idris Elba’ height. “You really think you need to ask that?”
She nodded – and then they were at the Arik checking-in section. “I’ll be right back,” He said as he walked towards the pretty attendant who was grinning, leaving a disgruntled Yemisi standing at the line, arms folded against her chest.
“When is he going to kiss you? Shall I ask him?”
Yemisi tried to look stern but failed miserably, smiling up at Dapo as he materialized beside her. “Who send you message?” she asked.
“I want to know – that’s all. Can’t I ask?”
“No you can’t,” Yemisi answered, hugging his arm. “He should take his time – all the time he wants or needs so it won’t as though someone helped him make up his mind or coerced him into something he’d rather not be doing.”
Dapo eyed her. “All of a sudden you’re so smart.”
She chuckled. “That’s what saving Dapo did for this woman. Made her wiser and stronger – more mature.”
“Saving Dapo? What’s that – a Nollywood movie?”
Yemisi punched his shoulder lightly. “You never know.”
She rested her head against his shoulder and watched as Remi walked over.
“What happens now?”
Remi looked everywhere but at Yemisi. “Now I’m supposed to – “
Yemisi; who was hanging onto every word Remi was saying did not see the almost imperceptible nod Dapo gave over her head. The only thing she knew was that Remi stopped talking and gently took her hand.
But he was already walking away from them.
Remi looked at Yemisi. “I guess maybe I didn’t know what to say to you, Yemisi. You have to admit this is one helluva strange
He scratched his jaw. “Yeah – I mean, who would have thought I would run into a girl in an eatery, fall in love with her – only to find that she’s my cousin’s girl?”
“Yeah! I mean – waitaminute,” Yemisi interrupted herself. “What did you say?”
“I said who would have thought…”
She waved her hand impatiently. “I heard all that. I mean the almost-last part.”
Remi grinned. “Hmm…it went something like…” he leaned closer to her and whispered; “I have fallen in love with you, Yemisi. Totally, completely…”
She shook away his hand. “That’s what you should said since, you idiot!” She said as she slowly slipped her arms around his neck. Remi laughed as they kissed.
And Dapo, who was watching from the confectionary stands shook his head, grabbed the Bounty chocolate bar he had been struggling with for the past minute and walked away.
He was not smiling.
Yemisi snuggled in Remi’s arms, heart tripping a mile a minute. “So how long are you leaving me for?”
“It won’t be too long – maybe five months at most,” Remi winced as he saw the hurt that flashed in her eyes. Maybe he should have given her a non-committal answer.
“At least I have something to look forward to,” she answered, tangling her fingers with his. “Remi, I love you too. You know, sometimes those words sound like clichés and repeated phrases – but they are true sometimes too – and they have never been
truer for me than now.”
He bent his head slightly and kissed her, and did not stop till it seemed as though she was catching a bad case of vertigo. “Wait for me, Yemi. Wait.”
Remi smiled and looked over her head for his cousin. “Where is this bullheaded – “
“I think it’s time,” Yemisi said in a trembling voice – and pointed to a couple who were scrambling towards the departure point.
They had been ahead of Remi on the check-in line.
“Time to go, cousin.” Dapo spoke from Yemisi’s elbow making her jump.
“What is wrong with you sef?” she freed her right hand from Remi’s embrace and hit Dapo in the chest with it. “Just be disappearing and reappearing like one thief!”
He chuckled dryly. “I have been standing behind the two of you since – your romance has been turning my belly is why I kept quite.” He winked at Yemisi. “Time to go, cousin,” he said again.
Remi nodded. “I know. Okay.” He bent at the waist and planted a soft kiss on Yemisi’s lips.
Remi broke off and pulled his cousin in a hug. “You don’t have to tell me anything;” Dapo said. “You don’t tell me to take care of my friend. You behave yourself.”
Remi pulled away from the hug, intending to swing away but Dapo pulled him back. “Behave yourself,” he said again.
“Why are you repeating yourself again and again?” Yemisi asked, pushing herself into Remi’s arms.
“Because he does not hear anything once,” Dapo answered, scowl marring his otherwise smooth forehead. “I’ll be waiting for you over there,” he told Yemisi and walked off.
Standing as he was, thinking about Mope as he was, Dapo did not notice Yemisi till he felt a hand pull his sleeve. He turned and there she was.
“Hey, you – “
He broke off the moment his eyes met hers.
She looked like she ought to look – tears in her eyes, smudged lipstick and all; but there was something more – something that
made her eyes shine like stars.
She looked like she was seeing things.
“Hey…are you okay?”
She swallowed and nodded repeatedly for a few seconds before she could frame an answer.
“Yes…em…yes. I’m okay.” She paused. “At least I think so.” She looked up at Dapo, smiling brightly as tears slowly started trickling down her cheeks. “Your cousin just asked me to marry him.”
Thank you so much for staying with us through this journey!
We hope you won’t leave!
Have an amazing week.
Read Episode I here
Read Episode II here
Read Episode III here
Read Episode IV here
No o. Dapo wasn’t shocked, not in the slightest. Yemisi was crazy; he knew.
But he hadn’t seen that coming.
“What?” he said, staring at his closest friend like she was naked. He had not seen her naked before.
She smiled. “Hear me out. I know how it must sound to you – but let me have my day in court before you shut me down, okay?
“We’ve been friends forever, and allow me brag and say I’m the closest thing to a soul-mate you have – if there’s such a thing. That’s one.
“Two; I want to be right there with you – more than you’ve allowed me be in the past. I want to mean more to you.
“Three; you’ve been single for too long; and I’m not talking about those half-hearted attempt at relationships. I’m talking about how long it’s been since you allowed someone into that – that sore heart of yours. The last girl was that one you met on Facebook….what’s her name again?”
“Diana,” Dapo replied mechanically.
“Yes, her. And how long were you together for?”
“You’ve made your point,” Dapo said, allowing a tinge of irritation creep into his voice. Yemisi chuckled – and then retained her serious mien.
“So I’m saying – go out with me. Let’s date each other for a while – see if two lonely hurting people can find with each other what they can’t with the rest of the world.”
“What if it doesn’t work?” Dapo interjected. “Are you willing to throw this away for something unknown – something that might be the worst thing ever? We’re not young anymore, you know. The time for trial by error is long past –“
“I can’t believe this. Are you trying to ‘friend-zone’ me?” Yemisi cut in, mouth and eyes wider open than usual.
“That’s our line, Dapo,” she said before starting to speak with an irritating whine, “I’m hurt and disappointed! We’ve been friends for years – you’re like my brother!” She stuck her tongue out at him. “That’s so old!”
Dapo said nothing.
Yemisi threw her head slightly towards the left, indicating something over her shoulder. Dapo’s eyes followed the movement and saw a girl watching him. As she caught his glance, she looked away, crimson creeping up her light-skinned neck and down her cleavage – what the white off-shoulder blouse allowed him see of it anyway. Her hair was done in a Brazilian weave, throwing the planes of her make-up bare face in sharp relief. He turned back to Yemisi.
“Your point is…?” he asked.
“If you were here by yourself and you noticed her staring, you’d have walked over to ask why abi?”
“Anyone would na,” Dapo retorted.
“But there’s no guarantee – none that she would answer you, is there?”
Dapo looked at his friend. “You’re annoying,” he said fondly.
“I know. Isn’t it cool? Look, you would have anyway. So what were the chances that it would have worked with any of the other two-and-a-half million women you’ve tried with?”
Yemisi chuckled as Dapo jumped. “You didn’t know how it was going to work out and yet you went ahead to make it happen. I’m saying we have a higher – way higher ratio of succeeding.”
Dapo clasped his hands together to hide their trembling. “You don’t know what you’re saying. This has more consequences than any other relationship I’ve been in. If it does not work, we can’t just walk away –“
“Says who? How many fights have we had over the past years? How many times have we walked away – only to call each other first thing the following day?”
“Okay,” Dapo muttered, “I want to know sha – what’s in it for you?” He looked at Yemisi with curiosity and some suspicion.
“As much as I’d like to say I’m doing this out of the goodness in my heart I’m really being selfish. There’s the fact that I’m lonely and it has been a while since I had someone to call mine, someone to be mushy and cuddly with,” she paused and then rushed on as though embarrassed. “Someone who makes it okay to be vulnerable. There’s the fact that you’re a great guy with a lot to offer any woman and I’ll be damned if I don’t want some of that, and then there’s also the fact that my mother is in my house right now, refusing to leave until I bring a man home.”
Yemisi covered her face.
Unrestrained laughter burst from Dapo’s guts, startling the other people. This has to be the craziest thing ever, he thought. But what am I afraid of? She’s kidding, I’m sure.
A look at the scared but determined face in front of him put paid to that assumption.
“Are you serious?” Dapo asked. Yemisi nodded enthusiastically.
Dapo drummed his fingers on the table. “Do you remember The Proposal? That movie with Sandra Bullock and Ryan…one-thing like that?”
“Ryan Reynolds. Sure I remember. And you’ve started again o, using movies to illustrate what you can just say,” she said, biting her lip.
“Calm down. Do you remember what Ryan asked Sandra to do after she blackmailed him?”
Yemisi remembered. “Uh oh,” she said half-aloud.
Dapo nodded, teeth flashing. “Uh huh. I mean, how far would you go to have some…” He stopped, stunned as she stood up, came beside him and knelt down. “Hey,” he began hurriedly, “I was only…”
Yemisi, looking like she wanted to run away said loudly, “Oladapo Ojo, my best friend and personal pessin, who means more to me than I can say, will you go out with me?”
Oh dear Lord, Dapo thought. She’s serious.
As one, Yemisi and everyone in the Ozone cinema lobby waited for Dapo’s answer.
Feeling silly, Dapo got off his seat and knelt down in front of her. “Yes,” he answered, “I would very much love to.”
Amidst roars of approval, applause and laughter, the two friends hugged each other for the first time.
“Can you stop these people from buying me drinks?! It stopped being fun about ten minutes ago!”
Dapo grinned at her. “What are you complaining about now? You broke it, you bought it.” At his companion’s scowl he rubbed her hand. “They’re just having fun, Yemisi. They mean nothing by it.”
He waved off a couple of other guys bearing drinks and popcorn towards them, and then saluted as the guys stopped, looking disappointed like they just missed the movie they came to see. “But you’re crazy,” he said, respect lifting his voice several octaves higher. “I thought you would back down.”
He opened one of the several cans of Schweppes and drank. “Of course you know there has to be rules –“ he began as he lowered the can.
Her phone rang suddenly.
She waved Dapo on, ignoring the shrill scream her phone was emitting. Dapo shook his head and held his right hand to his head in the universal sign for ‘phone’. Looking like a petulant child, she pulled the noisemaking device from her pocket and eyed the screen.
It was a number she did not recognize.
“Hello?” she asked.
It was Priye. At the worst possible time ever.
Air left her lungs as she exhaled in an attempt to calm down. “I told you not to call me that,” she answered.
“Whatever. I’m in town – so when are we seeing?”
Of all the – !
She let out all the resentment she had bottled up in her response.
“Listen – clearly; I don’t want to see you now or forever,” she said, relying on emphasis rather volume to get her point across, “you hear me?”
Sensing rather than seeing Dapo move, she signaled at him to calm down – and then she saw the only thing he had done since she started talking was to open the movie pamphlet in front of him.
“But…Princ…I mean Yemisi, it’s me o, Priye! What are you saying?”
“I don’t want to see you. Not now, not ever. So please, do not call me again.” She took a deep breath. “Feel free to hang up.”
Placing her phone on the table, Yemisi leaned back and sighed. Imagine that… she clenched her hands, physically restraining herself from going too far.
For the moment, she forgot everything and everyone.
Closing her eyes, she thought about Priye and how she had given him everything – only to go looking for him one time and finding out he’d traveled the day before – traveled to Germany.
She thought about his eleven-month silence – and how he had suddenly called her to say he was coming back and wanted to see her. She thought about all the things she had taken from him, endured from his friends –
I never want to go through a relationship like that again. Ever.
She opened her eyes to see Dapo observing her seriously. A smile – a real one, appeared on her face and she grabbed his hand, thankful that they had that moment.
She nodded firmly. “Very much so,” and rubbed his hand.
Dapo shrugged. “I was talking about rules…”
Yemisi interrupted. “But of course. We date for three months, after which we agree it’s either working or it’s not. During the three months, we must see each other at least twice a week and once on weekends except when absolutely impossible. For those three months, we see each other exclusively. No hook-ups, no back-ups, side runs or one night stands for that matter.” She looked at Dapo accusingly.
“Sure,” he answered, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.
She grabbed Dapo’s can and drank. “We agree to be completely honest with each other – no matter what. For three months, no less. Most importantly, this is not intervention or ‘salvation’ – as your ever-present sarcasm would like to call it. It is a real, romantic relationship.”
Dapo sat in silence, fingertips drumming lightly on the table. And then; “you’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”
Yemisi responded with the universal sign for ‘yes’. “I have, every night for the past week.”
“How about sex?” he suddenly asked.
Her throat jumped up and down as she swallowed. “Wha…what about it?”
“What’s the plan? Go there, don’t go there, watch and see what happens? What?”
“Er…I didn’t think about that one jo! Figure it out. Are you not the man?”
“Hmm. You’re asking for trouble o. Anyways…”
Yemisi held up her hand.
“Sorry to interrupt, but can I ask you to stop drinking – at least for the three months?”
Dapo gaped. “How realistic is that? You know that’s not a sustainable solution.”
She nodded in agreement. “That’s why I said ‘three months’ – just for the time we’re together. I ask as your new girl. Please, Dapo,” she said quietly, rubbing the back of his hand and looking into his eyes with her always-wet ones.
This is crazy. I’ve never actually looked into her eyes before.
This changes everything. Just know that.
“Can I still watch porn?”
“You watch porn?” Yemisi ejaculated in surprise.
Dapo shrugged. “Everybody watches porn,” he said.
She shook her head. “I don’t. And from now on, neither do you. I’m not even going to beg for that one!”
This really changes everything.
I’m not complaining. Not really.
There’s just a certain kind of mood that comes on me at certain times of the year. You know, those nights when it seems all you can do is look over the neighbor’s roofs at the lights winking in the distance and wonder what exactly is happening on the other side of where you are.
The times; oh those oh-ah times you remember a face, a smile…a name (if you’re so lucky), and smile wistful smiles that are beautiful in a sad way. Smiles that suddenly take you from the ‘now‘ back to the ‘then‘ – and you beat your head; actually pound it a few times better than your momma ever could.
And you ask yourself why you left.
Have you ever noticed how more often than not, the reasons don’t sound as convincing as they used to?
Those nights you cannot help but wonder if there’s someone else somewhere else, someone so far yet so close – someone you’ve never met yet someone you know almost as well as your mother (we all have mothers; no?), someone who – at that exact moment, you feel one with?
So many people have come; so many have gone. So many people will still do both. I realize that a lot of times, in trying to hold on too hard you lose. And sometimes, letting go is not the best thing. Because what you think and what actually is are hardly ever the same.
The trick is finding that delicate balance.
Another February 14 looms, and I am caught back in that loom; that unstopping machine weaving the fine fabrics of time and events. So many questions. So little answers. I stand at my window and look over the horizon at the winking lights in the sky.
And then…I feel a lightening of my spirit.
Maybe someone just wrote a letter in a bottle and dropped it in the ocean – and it’s headed my way. Maybe someone on the other end of my position just read a text I sent some years ago in the heat of one of those moments, and laughed happily. Maybe someone just thought about me – thought about ME; and smiled. Maybe God just put my face to the image of a husband someone has been asking Him for.
Maybe ‘it’s time’. Who knows?
I’m not so alone after all.