Just before I kill myself – let me tell you about this guy who I thought wanted to commit suicide.
Driving home. Friday night. If you recall it was a wet and stormy day – it rained throughout and almost all over Nigeria.
So traffic was insane.
If you know me you’d know there’s something about the rain that gets to me – every single time. Me and it have a love-hate relationship. I love it when I’m not in it. When I’m inside my house. All warm and cozy. Underneath fifteen blankets sipping Milo and watching Afro Samurai.
I hate it when I’m inside it. Either in a bus or a cab or a car. Driving or being driven. I hate it when I’m on a bike.
So I’m driving home. Trying to hold on to the steering wheel and my sanity. Fighting to not scream and curse every other driver driving as though they’re the only ones on the road. Driving as if they were cruising in their driveway. Driving as if…
I was cold too.
I could easily have turned the AC off. In fact I know I should have. Only the interior of the car – particularly the windows – would get misty in a hurry and driving in the mad rain was hard enough. And you know in that kind of weather – with that kind of pressure – horns blaring. People screaming. Only one thing can happen.
I felt like – I felt like dying. A crushing blackness had my spirit underneath it and was squeezing the juice out of it. It probably was a combination of several things – but the reality that I was driving in that night’s crazy weather in traffic when I would rather be somewhere else doing something else was key. I started thinking of ramming the SUV in front of me. I started thinking of driving myself off some bridge somewhere…
Anyways I make it all the way to Ikeja unscathed. And then I’m at the traffic light. The one just before Ikeja City Mall – when I see this guy.
It’s important you understand – there was nothing to notice about this guy. He wasn’t exceptionally tall. He wasn’t exceptionally handsome. Of a truth sef, he wasn’t exceptionally anything. He just stood beside the road – like several other people looking for a perfect ‘when’ to cross the road.
Ask me why I noticed him.
He was hopping from foot to foot as though he wanted to wee-wee and he had to soon or he would explode. Just as I drove up I saw him run into the road – and then run back as the howling Mack truck in front me sped past him with the driver screaming curses at the hapless guy.
I drove up – and stopped because I didn’t want to be the one who would commit suicide to and because the light chose that moment to become red again. I slammed my brakes and signaled him to pass.
Rain was running down his face making tracks through the sweat and grime of the day. I could see every little detail thanks to the millions of headlights and that annoyingly huge LED billboard hovering over the road. He jumped in front of my car waving his thanks and hurried to the other side of the road. My eyes followed as I was curious to see how he was going to end his life.
Instead he ran to a woman who I hadn’t noticed – a woman who was heavy-laden twice over. ‘Twice over’ by the Shoprite bags she was carrying and her bulging tummy that looked like a baby was going to burst out any moment. This guy ran to her and hugged her gently and bent over the tummy – touching it with gentle fingers and mumbling something I was too far away to hear. But it had to be something nice because the woman burst out laughing and playfully hit his shoulder.
And then he gently – again – took all the bags she was carrying and kissed her mouth softly. She put her arms around his neck and held on effectively prolonging the kiss and annoying me. And then they started walking off together talking like two friends who had not seen each other in nine years.
I turned my head and watched them go – and then became aware of a very strange feeling growing within my chest and threatening to choke me. I have no idea what the feeling was – I just know it made me want to kill the nondescript fellow and take his place beside her. That should be me I kept thinking.
That should be me.
Horns screamed at me – only then did I realize the light had turned green and vehicles were streaming past. I could see several drivers with windows down screaming some unintelligible things in my direction. Thanks to my wound-up windows I couldn’t hear.
My hands shook as I put the car in gear. My head was a jumble of thoughts – but if I tried to put them down coherently they would come out something like this:
God. I’m so lonely.
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…
It took Chris only three hours to get over the fact that Temi had paid the quarter of a million naira into his account. By that time, he was standing in the roomy foyer of the Lakeside Hotel in Tinapa, waiting for his reservation to be confirmed. He tried not to show his ‘bush’ nature – that is; the fact that hotel foyers like the one he was standing in at the moment were not really his thing. He was more comfortable in Iya Sidi’s amala joint and in BRT buses and in KFC; thanks to Agnes.
He blew the name out of his thoughts and walked to the desk. “Hello,” he said to the fake-smile smiling young man behind the desk. “Hello sir.” was the response.
“I have a reservation – Chris Odum?”
“One moment sir,” the grinning monkey said. He punched some keys on a screen while Chris covertly looked around. His eyes were doing a 360 roam – and then they hit a spot and froze.
Obviously, on that spot was a woman.
But she was one such he hadn’t seen before. She was…she looked like Toolz; minus the roundness. She was tall, stately – she looked like she belong in Lakeside Hotel, Tinapa Calabar.
She looked towards Chris and he averted his eyes quickly, feeling out of place.
It was the Gollum. “You have a room sir. 119; overlooking the pool. Can I have your card sir?”
Chris handed his card over, stealing covert looks at the girl in red. She was still looking at him – but now there was a bored look on her face. He wondered why she was standing in the middle of the room, looking at nothing in particular.
“…card sir,” the Gollum said patiently, smiling all the time. Chris jerked back and collected the proffered object.
“Any luggage, sir?”
Chris shook his head. “All I’m carrying.”
A pleasant looking light-skinned boy of about eighteen ran up. “Yes?”
“Show the gentleman to his room. 119.”
Bayo smiled at Chris. “Let’s go sir.”
Chris nodded his thanks at Gollum, and followed Bayo towards the elevator. A smiling bellhop pushed the elevator button – and as the double doors slid open, Chris looked over his shoulder at the girl.
She was still staring at him.
Her hand writing flows across the pages; kinda like Italics when you do that CTRL+I trick on your keyboard. I see another sign that she truly has beautiful hands.
But she wants me to read her journal – specifically; some pages she has opened for me.
Intrigued, I begin to read.
Hmmm – dinner date with the ex. I don’t know what to wear and I honestly wish I wasn’t feeling so nervous. Turns out he can still see thru me after all. Hateful little man…
“No! Please don’t read that,” she says, giggling in embarrassment.
A bright red fingernail traces down the page and taps a spot emphatically.
“Start from here,” she says.
My client finally decided to give Mina the account. I’m so happy for her. She wants to take me out to celebrate. It would give us a chance to catch up, it has been too long.
I’ve missed her a lot. As we talk through dinner, I realize there’s something else on her mind, something she’s not telling me. Man troubles?
Turns out I am right, not just in the way I expect. There’s this guy at her office who she thinks will interest me. I don’t exactly find that flattering, not immediately. She’s trying to hook me up with her creative team head. Do I look like I need to be match-made?
Mina calms me down. She’s always known how to do that, no wonder they called her my sister on campus even though I am older. She tells me about this guy and how he is quiet and…’somehow’ is the word she used. Somehow?
I am curious in spite of myself. I have not known Mina to be someone who does hook-ups as a trade, neither have I known her to waste her time with some kind of men, the kind that seems to about nowadays. She’s a girl who has a straight head screwed on correctly.
How does she know he’s single? Damn girl says of course she knows, he works for her and winks at me. Can you imagine?
I’m a bit afraid. It didn’t go so well last time and I seem to be enjoying my own space a lot lately. I have been getting to do stuff for myself, things a wrong relationship would get in the way of. I am scared.
Mina hugs me suddenly. She does that sometimes but never at random. She just seems to know when I need one of those. She tells me not to worry; that he will be coming with her to the signing of the agreement and stuff, and I’ll get to meet him
I have to turn the page here.
We’re at home. Her home.
She holds me gently yet firmly, one palm describing lazy circles on my back; the other caressing my ear with one lazy finger. I try not to show exactly what those are doing to me – but I’m lying half on top of her. She can feel it.
She adjusts her lower body and I jerk away – but not fast enough. Some lights…crazy lights go off deep in her eyes. She smiles; that all-knowing smile women have that politely informs you they know what you’re going through, and they are there with you every step of the way.
She kisses the corners of my mouth; one after the other. Her purple lipstick is smeared and smudged after the second time – and I feel my lips stretch in a foolish smile. Thank God there’s no one I’m going home to; I think.
“You were asking something?”
She eases out from underneath me; smiling in my eyes before staining my nose with her lipstick. She walks out of the living room as I turn and lie against the sofa, looking at the wood paneling of the ceiling but not really seeing it.
I’m thinking about my boss and what she would think.
She returns and puts her lips against mine – softly, but she’s mumbling something I do not really get.
Her lips are moving. My hands find their way to her waist and I’m trying to hold her still – but she slips away.
“Read the open pages – the open pages only,” she throws over her shoulder as she glides away. I wonder what she means.
Open pages? Open pages of what?
I look down and there’s a red book in my laps.
Read previous episodes here.
The voice sounded eeriely faint – and Dapo spent a moment wondering if the person calling his name was who he thought it was.
The smile that creased his father’s face was like a child’s scrawl in mud. It lent humanity to what was to easy to mistake for a papier-mâché design. The whole thing looked crazy – with the different wires hanging from all over the place. Dapo knew where to look for his father’s face was because he knew where to look – not because the man’s face stood out distinctly in the midst of all the wires.
“I’m really happy to see you…”
A frown of disapproval materialized on Dapo’s face. “You know you shouldn’t be talking,” he said in a tone that was directly at variance with the look on his face.
You know you sound like a home video character.
You know you should be quiet!
The old man wheezed. “Well, listening to advice and suggestions is not exactly one of the Ojos’ strongest points. You know that,” he finished and then threw his head back gasping for breath. Dapo rubbed his knuckles gently but firmly across the man’s chest, averting his head to avoid the stench of rotting flesh that came from the man’s open mouth.
When his breathing had stabilized, the man nodded and smiled in his son’s direction – and Dapo, for a moment, could see what the man must have looked like forty years ago.
Maybe you’ll understand why your mother fell for him so hard.
All I need do is to look at myself – and that makes all the sense in the world to me –
“There…are some things…you need to know…”
“Dad, they can wait. Please – “
“And how is the patient this morning?”
He looked over his shoulder to see an attractive woman with a stethoscope around her neck walking in from the door. She wasn’t too tall, but she had a full body with black hair that was graying at the temples.
“Disagreeable as always, doctor. He’s been trying to talk all morning.”
Dapo caught a whiff of a perfume he believed was expensive as she swung past him to bend over his father’s chest. The smile that appeared on the old man’s face gleamed.
“Don…don’t mind him, doctor. I can still sweep you…off your…feet.”
The doctor chuckled. “I don’t doubt that, engineer. But I doubt your son’s mother would very well appreciate that.” She turned her head towards Dapo and he caught a glimpse of some purple-frilly something peeking from underneath her blouse. “You’re his son, are you not?”
Dapo grunted. “Is it that obvious?”
“If it was anymore obvious, you’d be identical twins. Does that bother you?”
“Why should it?” he answered a bit too sharply and the doctor’s smile widened. “You tell me,” she responded.
He stood up. “I need…I need some air. I’ll be right back dad,” he said and dashed outside.
What the hell is wrong with that doctor?
What the hell is wrong with you?!
Dapo pulled out his Samsung S4 from his pocket and turned it on.
About time you did that. It’s been two days.
He stared down the hall while the phone loaded, trying not to think about of one man in particular lying a few meters from him at that moment. There was a smiling wheelchair-bound woman being wheeled in his direction, bantering and laughing with the smiling boy who was wheeling her. There was a male nurse discussing passionately with another female doctor who was patiently responding to his rather sharp retorts.
There was a moment in which Dapo wondered; as people are wont to do when they are in places like the one he was in; what the people in the different wards where in there for – and which of them would make it back home alive. He wondered what dying people saw..what they experienced in their last moments. He wondered if they wished they could set things right.
And he thought about his father.
A slight vibrating from his left hand brought his attention back to the moment, and he looked at the phone screen to see he had several text and Whatsapp messages. He sighed, because he could think of who the bulk of the messages were from. He made to open them – and then he changed his mind, instead looking up in time to see the doctor stepping out of his father’s room.
“Excuse me doctor,” he started as he walked towards her. She stopped and turned in his direction, squinting slightly before smiling as she recognized him.
“Handsome man – hope you didn’t take anything I said in there personal…”
Dapo shook his head. “That’s not an issue. How’s he looking?”
The doctor looked serious. “He’s holding up okay; considering. I would say continue praying; but don’t raise your hopes too high. Your sister was the one here yesterday?”
At Dapo’s nod she smiled. “She’s very pretty and quite nice. Also, she loves your dad.”
He grinned. “Mosun loves everybody.”
She grinned at him. “Is that her name?”
Dapo nodded again.
“She’s quite pretty. And you,” she paused, looking him over unabashedly. “Black sheep abi?”
“That’s what they all say,” was his distracted reply. “So…you were saying…”
He liked the way she became all businesslike. “His prognosis is pretty grim – so are his chances, but really it could swing either way.” She patted his shoulder. “Pray.”
He watched as she walked away, looking but not really seeing. And as he snapped back to head into his dad’s room, his phone began to vibrate.
You are going to have to talk with her sooner or later.
He clenched his jaw and slid the circle in the centre of the phone’s screen upwards. “Hello?” he said.
“Dapo…how is daddy doing?”
He closed his eyes, concentrating on the sound of her voice as though he was young Clark in that Man of Steel movie listening to his mother. She was worried.
“Dad is fine – holding up pretty well, as well as can be expected. How are you?”
A sound, something that sounded like a sob mixed with laughter came drifting down the phone. “I’m fine. How are you doing, baby?”
A half-smile appeared on his face. “Honestly, I haven’t had time to think about that. I’m just pretty much in ‘doing’ mode – just doing what I need to do.”
“And mummy? Mosun?”
A pair of heels clicking rapidly on floor tiles made itself known to him, and he turned over his shoulder to see Mosun coming towards him. “She just got here,” he said to Yemisi. “Hold on a bit, please.”
He hugged his sister back, and then leaned away to look into her eyes. “You’re not supposed to be here for at least…” he broke away to look at his left wrist. “…three hours. What are you doing?”
She sniffed at him. “I cannot stay at home doing nothing, worrying about him. And mummy was steadily driving me crazy with her wails and screams. I just…” she shook her braided tresses. “How is he doing?”
“He’s a lot better – the doctor just left sef.” And then he remembered Yemisi was waiting.
“I’m so sorry – “ he began, waving Mosun away.
Yemisi interrupted him. “Hey, it’s okay. Tell her I said hi.” She was quiet for the space of three heartbeats, and then; “when are you coming back?”
“Have Chidi them paid your balance?”
Yemisi snorted again. “Dapo, seriously? Get back here and we’ll talk about that.”
“You do know though – whether my dad dies or not, life goes on, right?”
He chuckled mirthlessly. “Well, I’m not known for my political correctness. And it is true, whether you admit it or not.”
“Whatever. When do you expect…”
He interrupted her. “Saturday most likely. Shade will be arriving tomorrow – and she intends to spend quite some time so…I should be back then – Sunday latest.”
“Okay. I’ll be waiting.”
Some spirit of mischief in him prompted him to ask. “How is Remi?”
“He’s – hey! How am I supposed to know how your cousin is doing?”
Dapo laughed and hung up.
Hope you realize – she’s gone too sha.
Could you be a lot more obvious?
Shoving the phone in his pocket, he walked back into his father’s ward.
Their father looked at peace, laying so still that but for the beeping monitor he would easily have passed for dead. Brother and sister stood side by side and watched the man quietly, lost in their own thoughts.
“I was shocked to see you,” Mosun whispered suddenly. “You and dad are not exactly the best of pals.”
Dapo scoffed. “Yeah maybe – but he is my father isn’t he? There’s nothing he or I can do to change that.”
“I think it’s because you’re like him so much. Mum always says that – “
“Can you guys not hold that over my head? You don’t want me to turn out like him, yet you cannot help reminding me at every opportunity that I am like him. How does that work?”
Mosun smiled sadly. “You know we love you, D. No matter what. You know mum is nuts about you. And me…” she winked at him. “I’m happy you’re my big brother. When I look at you, I see everything dad once was – I see everything he could have been…”
“And that’s why I’m so hard on you – so…so you do not turn out like me.”
The siblings turned towards the voice. Their father was struggling to sit up in spite of all the wires and tubes surrounding him. Dapo rushed over to his side and pushed him down none-too-gently.
“This is not Nollywood, ‘papa’. You’re not dying, you hear? Save all the ‘I’m-sorry-I-meant-well’ speeches for later, okay?” he said roughly.
He turned to his sister, walking away from the bedside towards the door. “It’s true, isn’t it? Abeg!”
The door handle was turning before his hand closed on it – and then the door opened and he was face to face with a very beautiful buxom woman whose lips and cheeks looked like they were made for smiling – even though they were busy with a frown at that moment. And then the golden-brown eyes met his and they expressed themselves, natural warmth lighting the gold.
“My darling!” the woman said happily, and pulled Dapo against her blue-blouse covered chest. He closed his eyes, inhaling the scent of the woman who gave him life; the woman whose love would never leave room for doubt.
“How is the food at the hotel?”
Dapo grunted. “I don’t do hotel food o. Why would I, when Iya Ibrahim is still alive and well?”
“She’s still there? Shey you will take me for lunch – or is it dinner now?” Mosun interjected while their mother rolled her eyes at their antics. Dapo grinned and nodded.
“Of course. Now we should give the wife some time with her husband,” he said as he gently took Mosun’s elbow. “We’ll see you later, maami.”
As they stepped into the corridor, Mosun pulled at his hand. “I saw Muyiwa sef.”
Dapo was surprised. “Muyiwa! Where did you see the mufu?”
“At the airport – said he came to drop his uncle off. He insisted on driving me to the park sef. I had to send the cab guy I’d called away.”
“So how is he doing? I didn’t even know he was in Lagos!”
Mosun poked his side with her elbow. “What do you actually know? He said he’s been asking you for your number – sending you messages on Facebook and so on. No response.”
“He should have tried my Twitter handle,” Dapo grumbled. “What is it that he wants to tell me?”
Mosun chuckled. “Well for one, he did say I should tell you Mope did not get married after all.”
Dapo stopped in his tracks, mouth wide open like the expressway in broad daylight. “What?!”
“Yes o – he also said I should watch when I tell you cos you might just react like that,” she said, pointing a finger at his open mouth. “Why do you find that so shocking? Who’s Mope again?”
His thoughts in a whirl, Dapo kept walking, no longer hearing his sister as she continued speaking. Suddenly it seemed as though there was so much for him to do. He had to clear things up with his parents, get Yemisi and Remi sorted out, catch up with work –
So Mope is not married!
He didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.