ONE FOOT

As I floated up, out of the embrace of sleep, I became conscious of a softness against my back. I froze, confused.

It was warm against my bare skin, and it moved. I relaxed as memories of last night flooded my mind, my lips curved in a smile.

Sheets rustled as I slid out of bed and padded, barefoot, to the bathroom. At the sink I looked at the face looking back at me in the mirror.

What in the world got into us last night?

The running water did not hide the creak of the bedroom door opening, or the soft click as it closed.

At training that day Rolayo was her usual self. Nothing in her demeanour let on that things had changed between us. I was happy to play along.

 

After the first night she came to my room, Rolayo slept in my bed every night.

If I wasn’t walking a razor’s edge, it would be funny: wake up to the sound of Rolayo leaving, spending the day in training with her, spending the evening with Cynthia, and going back to Rolayo in my bed.

***

“Earth to Bobo, come in Bobo.”

The voice snapped me out of my reverie.

“Sorry,” I gave a sheepish smile. It would have been more than a little embarrassing explaining how I was with one lady, but was thinking of another. Especially since the lady I was with was the one I would rather be with if it came down to choosing.

“I asked if you weren’t going to take your call.”

My evenings with Cynthia consisted of a meet up at the mall where we then decided on what to do for the evening.

Because it was Friday, my last night in Abuja, and new movie cycles started on Fridays, we decided on the cinema.

I set my phone to “silent” at the movies, and had forgotten to change it right back after the movie, so I didn’t hear it ring, but Cynthia had seen the screen light up when the call came in.

“Thanks babe,” I said and picked the call. “Hello?” I frowned. I didn’t recognise the number.

“Hello, is this Bobo?”

“It depends on who’s asking.”

“It’s Ronke,” she said.

Ronke? Ronke…

“Sly’s wife. I got your number from Keme. I hope you don’t mind.”

Keme.

I felt that now familiar quickening of my heartbeat.

“Nah, it’s alright. What’s up?”

“It’s Sly o,” my heartbeat spiked again as I braced myself for some bad news. “I’ve been trying to reach him but he’s not picking my calls. Is he with you?”

I let myself breathe again.

“Sorry, what was that? Hello… He.. can… hear…” I waved the phone across my mouth to simulate a bad connection before ending the call, then I dialled Sly’s number and listened to it ring.

He didn’t answer the call.

– Dude pick your phone. Talk to me first!

Ping!

I called his number again, checked the time, and then called Wale.

He picked on the first ring.

“Guy what’s up?” he asked.

“Is Sly there with you?” I didn’t bother with pleasantries.

“Yes, anything? ”

“Give the idiot the phone.”

“Okay.”

“Bobo wants to talk with you,” I heard him say before Sly’s voice came on the line.

“Hello?”

“Dude where’s your phone?” I asked him.

“It’s charging in the corner.”

“Ronke’s been trying to reach you…”

“Shit!”

“Exactly. She had to get my number. Call her back. Oh, and tell her we’re together. Talk later.” I hung up.

“Wow,” Cynthia applauded from where she sat, “I’d heard guys cover for themselves, but I’d never seen it before today.”

“I wasn’t covering for him,” I smiled. “It’s just that it’ll be suspicious that he suddenly saw her calls after not answering them earlier.”

“Did you consider the truth though?”

“What truth? Women say they want truth and openness, but in my experience, not a lot of people can handle truth.”

“Maybe you have a point there,” she said.

“Maybe? Really?” I raised an eyebrow and waved her away.

“Why are you sulking?” she got out of her sofa and walked towards me. She stopped where I was sitting, and lowered herself onto my knees.

“Whatever it is you plan to do, just know that I have plans of my own too,” I tried not squirm. “Also, let down your hair, I like the way it frames your face and brushes against your shoulder.”

“Lines,” she teased even as she reached up and pulled at the black elastic band and her locs came tumbling down. She leaned forward and kissed my lips with a loud smack.

“Hmmm,” she licked her lips, “your lips taste funny.”

“I was just going to say the same,” I said with a wide grin.

She leaned in again, and this time the kiss was longer and less noisy.

I felt her warm moist breath on my upper lip and my eyes closed. My hands travelled up her back to caress her neck before getting lost in the thicket that was her hair.

We we broke the kiss our breathing was ragged, and I could not see too clearly out of one eye.

“How was…” my voice was thick, the rest of my question got swallowed by her lips which had returned to mine. I pulled her closer against me, and the kiss deepened.

I reached beneath the loose t-shirt she was wearing and the heat from her skin seared my palms. She did not try to stop me. Instead she tugged at my shirt and I moved this way and that to aid the freeing of the shirt from my trouser band.

Her palm was cool against my feverish skin she raked her nails down my spine and I shivered.

I heard my belt buckle clink from a distance, and I took my hands from under her blouse to cover her hands where they were on my belt.

She broke the kiss and her eyes questioned me.

I shook my head without saying a word.

Her eyes widened, and I shook my head again. In silence she struggled to free her hands, but I held them trapped in my bigger ones.

Her shoulder drooped and her body relaxed, and when I let go of her hands, she made to get up. I held her down.

“I’m not going to apologise,” she said.

“I’d have it no other way.”

“What is your hang up?” she asked.

Images of Rolayo, Keme and the other girls whose names I couldn’t be bothered to remember danced before my eyes.

SLEEP OVER

It feels like years since my last post. Work has got me in a choke hold. I’ve finally come up for air.

***

I sat there a moment looking at the message, going through excuses in my head.

– Hey! Hectic last two days, you don’t even wanna know about it. I got in last night after a horribly delayed flight and literally passed out. I’m good now sha.

– Sorry. What airline? They’re all the same.

– Thanks. How’ve you been? What’s your week like?

– Work, then home for the most part.

– Fine, I’ll find out what the rest of my schedule is and I’ll let you know so we can see. I’m ecited.

– *exired

– *excited

– lol. I’m excited too, she typed.

– I’m super knackkered, I can’t even spellll straight, I wrote. There was a knock at the door.

“One sec,” I called out.

Let’s talk in the morning.

– Okay. Get some rest o.

I set the phone down and went to get the door.

As the door swung in, a smell of flowers and something else, something fresh, hit my nose.

“Hey you.” I said.

She stood there a moment, her features cast in shadow by the light from the hallway. She clutched a laptop to her chest.

“Do come in,” I stepped aside to let her pass.

She was wearing a nightshirt that reached just above her knees.

She made straight for the bed where she sat cross-legged. I averted my eyes while she arranged herself in the middle of the bed. She powered up the computer and her face was eerily lit up by the glow of the monitor.

“Oya,” she said, “what movies do you have?”

I pulled out my laptop from the backpack on one of the chairs in the room and slid it to her where she sat.

“It’s not passworded. Check on the desktop for Bobo’s New.”

I went and stood by the window, hip against the sill, hands in my pocket, legs crossed at the ankles.

“So you’ll just stand there like soja Idumota?” she asked.

I shrugged.

Wo come and show me what movies make sense, and stop creeping me out.”

I plopped down on the bed beside her.

“I see you have a lot of animation…”

“I love cartoons,” I said.

“Me too. I’ve seen most of these though.”

“Have you seen Rio 2?” I asked.

“Nope. How about we watch that?” she asked.

I looked at the time on the computer, 22:32.

“Why not?”

Halfway through the film she yawned and rubbed her eyes.

“Mehn, I’m sleepy.” se said.

“Want me to walk you to your room?” I asked.

“Ahn ahn, are you driving me?”

“Sorry,” I apologised.

“I’ve already warmed this side of your bed, why should I go to a cold bed in my room?”

“No reason at all,” I agreed.

“Could you be so kind as to turn off the lights?” she asked, worming her way under the covers.

“As soon as I’m done shutting down the laptops.” I said.

I returned my laptop to my backpack, and set Rolayo’s on the table. I turned off the lights before slipping under the covers myself.

I lay there for minutes, face up, listening to her breathing. They were even and peaceful. I was drifting off to sleep, lulled by the rhythm of her breathing when I heard my name.

“Bobo?”

“Uh-huh?”

“Won’t you hold me?”

The sheets rustled as I turned on my side to hold her. I felt myself begin to harden as she burrowed into me, her soft flesh pressing against my not-so-soft one.

I moved my hip back just enough to tuck my manhood between my thighs.

She wriggled some more and then stopped. I could have sworn I hear her chuckle, but between the sound of blood rushing in my ears and my heartbeat I was sure could be heard three doors down, I couldn’t be certain.

I slid my hand beneath her arm and she moved it to allow me cup a breast.

My last thoughts as I drifted off was what Cynthia would think of this, all of this, if she found out…

TEASE

We went down the spiral stairs to Shoprite.

“How about you grab the wine and I’ll get some smoked chicken?” Cynthia asked.

“Okay. Meet you at the checkout counter?”

“Sure thing.” She smiled and turned away. I lingered a moment watching her walk down the aisle and turn left, away from my view.

I walked to the wine section and read labels, checking grape, region and year. I had a bottle of Riesling and a bottle of Merlot in each hand trying to decide when I heard “Take the white, drop the red.”

I almost dropped both bottles; I didn’t hear her walk up behind me.

“It’s an excellent wine, to be sure, but I’m not sure the woody bouquet will sit well with the smoked chicken.”

I turned to look at her as if for the first time, impressed.

“What do you not know?”

“If this night doesn’t go too well, you may never find out,” she winked. “No pressure.”

“Please feel at home,” she said when we got to her place before disappearing through a door. I set the bottle down on the glass-topped coffee table and skirted the bean bag, settling instead for the cane chair facing the entrance door.

The door she went through was to my left, and through it I could make out another door to the right that opened into the kitchen.

“I’ll be with you in a minute,” she called from what I suspected was the bedroom.

I heard fabric rustle, and then she came from opposite the kitchen and stood momentarily framed in the doorway. She had changed out of her dress and was now wearing very short shorts and a yellow tank top. Her glasses were back, round and thick.

She took the bottle of wine and popped it in the fridge.

“Dinner should be ready in forty minutes or less, that should be enough time to chill the wine. Meanwhile, that remote control there is for the tv, the other,” she pointed, “is for the DStv. Please feel at home.” And she was gone, through the door to the kitchen.

I loosened the top two buttons of my shirt, rolled up my sleeves, crossed my feet and leaned back in the chair. I flicked on the tv, and while the decoder was scanning, I followed her movements in the kitchen.

How did I get here? What am I doing here?

After a while I went and leaned against the kitchen door post. We talked while she worked; we talked about everything.

Well, she talked while I fought the urge to wrap my arms around her slim waist…

And do what?

Dinner was soon ready. She dished the meals onto separate plates, asking how much I wanted. I got the wine from the freezer.

“Where’s the corkscrew?” I asked.

“In the drawer over there,” she pointed with her chin.

She sat in the bean bag, her legs tucked beneath her. We talked as we ate, and after I had shovelled the last spoon of rice into my mouth I sat back to enjoy the wine.

It was just the right amount of sweet, and chill. The room was lit only by the bluish white light from the tv.

We sat for long moments in silence, not the awkward kind, but a comfortable one.

“How are the knots in your neck?” I asked.

“Still there o. And not just my neck, my back as well.”

“Pele.”

We lapsed into silence, the flickering images from the tv bathing us in sometimes grotesque patterns.

“I’ll soon be leaving,” I said, my voice thick.

“What’s your hurry?” she was looking at me over the rim of her wine glass.

“Hurry? No hurry. It’s just that I have a test to prepare for tomorrow.”

It’s just that I don’t trust myself with you like this.

“Test?” she cocked an eyebrow. “I thought it’s a training.”

“Ye.. yes,” I stuttered, “the facilitator said something about testing our understanding of what we did today.”

I could see she didn’t believe me.

“Okay,” she said after what seemed like an eternity. “Would you like me to call you a cab?”

“Haba, are you chasing me?” I felt a shift and I tried to recover. “I’m not leaving immediately.” I looked at my watch. “I’m still here for another thirty minutes, if you’ll have me.”

She held my gaze a moment before she smiled. The shift was gone. I smiled back.

“Will I see you again?” she asked before I got into the cab.

“Tomorrow okay by you?” I asked?

“Tomorrow works just fine,” she said. “You still owe me a massage.”

I made to give her a quick hug, but she leaned in and brushed her lips against my left cheek. Soft lips gave a feathery caress that left my cheek burning where they touched.

I almost paid off the cab, but common sense prevailed.

***

The red light on my room phone was flashing, the only light in the darkness as I walked in. I inserted my key card in the slot against the wall and white light flooded the room.

“Hi Bobo this is Rolayo, call me when you get in. No, it doesn’t matter what time you get in, just please call me…”

There was a pause at the end like she was going to say something else, thought better of it and hung up.

I checked the time, 21:57. I didn’t know Rolayo’s room number – she told me at lunch and I promptly forgot it.

I was stepping out of the shower when the phone rang.

“Hello,” I said, cradling the handset against my cheek while rubbing my hair dry.

“I told you to call me when you got back, why didn’t you?”

I couldn’t tell her I forgot her room number.

“I only just got back and then took a shower. I’m actually fresh from the shower…”

“See? If you’d called me when you came in maybe I would have helped you soap your back.”

“Maybe next time,” I chuckled.

“Maybe. Meanwhile, you got any new movies on your laptop?”

“Errr… a few, why?”

“Okay, I’m coming to copy them. Can’t sleep.”

She hung up before I could protest.

I was struggling into a pair of joggers when I heard my mobile phone vibrate.

– Hey sweetie, did you still make it to Abuja?

Shit.


 

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LIVING IN THE MOMENT

My flight landed very late that night, and I was just grateful we arrived Abuja safely.

As soon as I turned on my phone before leaving the aircraft, messages flooded my phone, most of them from Cynthia. I was in the middle of reading the messages when her first call came through.

“Hey you,” her now familiar breathlessness in my ear. “I was a little worried about you. Just wanted to make sure you got in okay. I see you did.”

“I’m good o, just landed and still taxiing. What are you doing up? It’s already past 10pm.”

“I could claim to have stayed up waiting for your flight to arrive, but I won’t.” She chuckled. “I have a tomorrow morning deadline and I’m working hard at it.”

“You poor thing,” I cooed, “I bet you’re bent over your laptop.”

“How did you know? my neck hurts bad,” she groaned and I imagined her stretching.

“I could give you a massage, knead away all the knots, but I’m here on this plane waiting to get off…” I let that hang between us. I didn’t know how she’d take that type of talk between us, but this was harmless enough for me to do the moonwalk if I heard e en the faintest hint of disapproval.

“You give massages? Don’t play with me Bobo, I could do with one and my heart won’t be able to take it if you’re just teasing.”

Score!

“Why would I wanna do that? You got any massage oils?”

Cynthia stayed on the phone with me until I was in a cab, and she stayed on the phone until she ran out of air time then we resumed chatting.

– At the hotel now.

– Good. I’m about done here too. See you tomorrow 😀

– Yup! I get to see you again. I’m excited!

– Me too. Goodnight Bobo.

– :*

The next day I walked the three minutes from my hotel to the training centre, and after taking directions from one of the security men, I located the room we would be using.

I pushed the door open and walked into the cool embrace of the room.

Although it was 8:10am, the weather outside was warm enough to start me sweating in the time it took me to walk from the hotel, and I was grateful for the air-conditioner.

Ten chairs were set in a semi-circle in the middle of the room, facing a projector slide already pulled down – the projector itself was suspended overhead at the back of the room. A flip-chart stand with an open flip-chart stood to the left of the slide. At the back of the class a table was set up with teacups, saucers, teaspoon and dry stores for beverages with a water dispenser next to the table.

The chairs were a combination seat and desk top, and on the tops were neatly arranged hard cover notebooks, two colour pens – blue and black – and a selection of sweets.

I took a chair close to the wall and pulled it against the wall. I had just sat down when the door opened and in walked the last person I expected to see there.

“I bet myself you would be the first to arrive,” Rolayo said, she seemed very happy to see me.

After the talks of working under her and the silliness that led up to my break up with Keme, I hadn’t seen Rolayo. The move to the airport kiosk made sure of that.

“Hey you,” I grinned, my chair scrapping the floor. She walked into my open arms. “It’s so good to see a familiar face,” I sniffed her hair, “and feel a familiar body.” I whispered in her ear.

“Yeye boy,” she pushed me back then. “What have you been doing with yourself?” she asked.

“Nothing o, just facing my work…”

“And breaking girls’ hearts abi?”

“Hearts are always there to break,” I said. “Me, I’m just the unwitting vessel.” I shrugged.

Rolayo took the seat next to mine. The rest of the class stared arriving and soon, the training was underway.

We had participants from four regions, and I was one of two guys to attend.

It was a customer appreciation training and since we all had experience in that field, the class was mostly interactive.

During lunch I took a table at a corner of the restaurant and Rolayo came to join me. We played catch up while we ate, and just before we left the restaurant she asked what my plans were for the rest of the day.

“I plan to go see a movie with a friend,” I said.

“I bet she’s female.”

“That goes without saying, no?” I smiled.

“What do you plan to see?”

“Depends on what’s showing when we get there.”

***

– Hey you, how’s your training going?

– Just finished actually. How’s your day been?

– Hectic, but it could have been worse.

– Pele. How so?

– Let’s just say it’s a good thing I got the work in last night.

– Goodie. We still seeing today?

– You betcha. Will get off in a bit, then home for a quick shower and change, then out to meet you.

– Sounds like a plan. How about we meet up at 6?

– 6 is fine. See you then 😀

– Cheers!

At fourteen minutes before 6pm I walked through the glass doors of the Silverbird building. I passed my phones around the side and walked through the metal detector without setting it off. I wondered if it even worked.

– I’m here. Where are you?

– I’m sorry, five minutes out. See you in a bit.

– should I go ahead and buy the movie tickets? Or should I wait till you get here?

– Why don’t I get there first? Let’s decide on what to see – or do *wink* – after I get there.

Hmmm…

– Fair enough.

– Ok

Three minutes later I felt my phone vibrate.

– I’m here too, where are you?

– I’m up on the 3rd floor, you?

– Just walking in the door.

– Okay, I’ll be waiting by the stairs.

I was standing by the head of the stairs when she came round the bend.

My God, she’s beautiful.

Her locs were pulled back off her face and done up in a bun, the black locks interspersed with blond. Gone were her owlish glasses, and she wore make-up. The gown she wore followed the contours of her body, the plunging neckline revealing a flash of cleavage.

She smiled when she saw me, full lips parting to show pearly teeth.

I smiled back and offered my right hand which she took. I helped her up the last step. Still holding her hand I twirled her, admiring her curves for myself, and letting my eyes pay her the compliments when she looked in them.

“You have to stop,” she said mock severely, the smile on her face giving her away.

“If you say so,” I said. “Decided on what you wanna see?” I asked.

“I have already seen who I came to see,” she looked at me without any attempts at being coy, “how about we grab a bottle of something downstairs from Shoprite, and we’ll go to my place where I can make dinner, you’ll give me that massage you offered, and then we can watch whatever you feel like off my computer?”

HEDGING BETS

Block Brown Sugar? Blocked contacts will no longer be able to call or send you messages.

I hesitated.

Cancel.

– There’s a program in Lagos for single professionals that you may like. Here’s the link, see if it’s something you’ll like to attend.

I attached a link to ProConnect, hit send, and then blocked her.

The next morning at work my phone rang. The number didn’t look familiar, and neither did the caller’s voice.

“Hello, good morning ma’am.”

“It’s me.”

“Sorry?”

“Bobo, it’s me.”

She didn’t have to say her name. Brown Sugar.

“Hey, how’re you?”

“I just read your blog.”

Oh shit.

“So you used our conversation, everything I told you, in your blog?”

“It’s not my blog, it’s a friend’s blog and I write for her.” I said, as if the technicality mattered.

“Because what I write about is basically my life, my friends find themselves subjects of my research.”

Stop talking.

“You’re a horrible person, and I don’t want to talk to you ever again.”

“See…” I heard a click, and she was gone.

I slumped back in my seat, dragging my hands down my face.

“What is it again Bobo?” Osime asked.

Again?” I asked. “If someone hears you now they’ll think my wahala is plenty,” I smiled at her.

“Sorry oh.”

“It’s woman palaver, but I’ll be fine.”

“If you say so.”

– Guys, you won’t believe what just happened. So I sent Brown Sugar a link to ProConnect yesterday. The plan was for her to go on the blog and check out the details, hopefully she’d find a guy there. What I didn’t factor in was that she would read beyond the post the link took her too. Worst part – or best part – depending, is that I published a post yesterday evening and I clean forgot.

– See gbege! Wale said.

– Gbege no be small. She called me this morning and said she didn’t want to talk to me ever again.

– That works for you nau, Scar said. I think I should start a blog purely for burning bridges.

– Why are you foolitch like this? I asked him.

– Bobo that means you’re a marked man. When we go out I’ll remember to stand far from you.

– What? I was confused.

– Ah, I should stand with you so that when she fingers you to her boys, I’ll chop beating with you?

– Fingers? Hmmm… *phases out of chatroom* Phantom said.

– *smh* better come back here.

– Bobo you know she will come back for you, right? Wale asked.

– Nah men, bridge successfully burned.

– You think? Let’s wait and see.

– She either wants you so much more now, or she completely hates you. Both extremes of emotion that need to be expressed and can land her in your bed sometime in the future.

– The grey areas, Scar said.

– Grey’s anatomy -__-

Before I closed for work, I got a mail notifying me of a training in Abuja scheduled for the next week.

“Hey Osime, see this mail I got about a training in Abuja, did you get it too?” I asked.

“What mail? Let me see… Nah,” she said, “I’m not scheduled for it.”

“Okay. I was hoping we’d be going together, but don’t worry, I’ll have enough fun for both of us, and tell you about it.”

“Bobo the training isn’t till Monday…”

“Ehn, but I’ll be leaving town on Sunday.”

“You still have two working days till then. I’ll make sure you do more than your share of work before you leave.”

“Na so.”

***

– Hey you

– Hello stranger

– You still in Abuja?

– Yea

– How’ve you been?

– So so

– Maybe I’ll finally see you next week. A movie perhaps.

– You in Abuja?

– Should be by Monday.

– Cool

– I’ll keep you posted

– Alright then.

***

Brrr… Brrr…

I listened to the phone ring.

“Hello?” an out of breath voice answered.

“I love your new tips.”

“Do you really?”

“I loooove them. Blonde tips suit you.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere.”

“Guess where it’s bringing me?”

“Please say Abuja.”

“As long as I live to see Monday, I should wake up in Abuja.”

“When do you arrive?”

“Sunday evening.”

“Yay. I’m super excited. What are you coming to Abuja for? How long will you be in town? Have you made plans for your trip?”

“I’ll confirm all of that to you as soon as I get the full details, but I should be in Abuja for a week.”

***

– Hey, I see you have the same struggle as me

– huh?

– Your DP. These days I’m stuck on what to write.

– Ah, you and me both.

– How’ve you been tho?

– I’ve stopped referring to myself as a writer. The writer’s block has been going on for too long.

– How are you dealing with the fuel situation?

– I think it’s a little more severe in Lagos.

– Lucky y’all.

– I’ll be in Abuja in a couple days, maybe I’ll see you then.

– Let me know when you get in and we’ll work out whatever.

– Cool.

With three possible dates lined up, I knew my stay in Abuja was not going to be boring. Sunday could not come soon enough.

My flight was for 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, but I was at the airport by 11:30. I walked to the check-in counter, my mind already in Abuja. When the check-in agent told me my flight had been cancelled, it took me a moment to understand what she was saying.

“No,” I told her, “I’m on the 2pm flight.”

“Yes sir, the flight has been cancelled.”

“What time is your next flight?”

“Go up there,” she pointed to their ticket desk, “and reschedule your flight.”

– Flight’s a little delayed. Let you know when I get in.

When the aircraft door finally shut at 8:52pm, I was too exhausted to fret. I just wanted to get to the hotel and sleep.


 

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RAMBLINGS

I’m sorry, but who is this?

I read the message again, composing and rejecting replies in my head.

– I’m sorry, message sent in error.

– lol. Bobo you are so cute; sometimes. I was just teasing you.

Of course I know it’s you. Even if I deleted it, I doubt I’ll forget your number anytime soon.

The contrast between how gutted I felt only moments before, and the way my heart leapt, in that instance told me everything I needed to know: I had to let Keme go.

My stomach was not built for this ping-pong of emotions. If I carried on like this, I was sure to get ulcers.

I have to free Keme. Just not yet.

– I don’t know why I’m doing this, but I just thought of you this morning. No, not just this morning.

I think about you a lot. Should I be telling you this?

What is wrong with me?

– lol. Like I told you, you’re cute.

***

“Woah,” Phantom exclaimed, “you go fear nau.”

Scar pursed his lips and whistled.

It was evening and we were at Wale’s place for some FIFA 15. I told them about my day and the conversations I had with Brown Sugar and Keme, I even showed them the chats.

When Wale read out “Like I told you, you’re cute”, they erupted in laughter. I managed a tight smile.

“Make una see my life o.” I said.

“Personally,” Sly said, “I think you’re going about it all wrong.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You have no business still talking with what’s-her-face, and you had absolutely no business messaging Keme. Not after she told you not to…”

“But she messaged me two w…”

“In a moment of emotional weakness to tell you of a death.”

“Ehn, this was my own moment of weakness nau.”

“The reason why you’re ‘so cute’.”

“Fuck you.”

“Touchy, are we?” Wale guffawed.

They were right. I knew they were right, but it irked to hear them treating my fuck up.

“Waka.” I splayed the fingers of my right hand in his face.

We all laughed. The moment passed.

“But guy leave play,” Sly said, “all these girls wey you dey track…”

“Na dem dey track me…”

“…wey you dey track up and down. these days, wetin be your plans?”

“How do you mean?”

“See you have to, at some point, decide what you want in a woman.”

“Mehn, relationships are hard; being single is harder sha.” I said.

“I tell you,” Scar said. “Sometimes I imagine a relationship based on love, respect and what have you, but then I meet a girl and I am reminded how devilish they are.”

“Some are more devilish than others.” Wale said. “It’s just to hope that when you enter a relationship it’s with someone whose devil you can tolerate in average doses.”

“There is such a one?” Scar raised his brow.

“I once knew a girl who was the gentlest soul I ever met…” Wale said.

“So how come you’re not with her?” Scar cut him short.

“Guy calm down nau. She was divorced, well, separated at the time. And with a kid. We got serious and everything, and I didn’t mind that she had a kid. The boy and I bonded well. That’s how after a year the girl threatened to slit her wrists.”

“I know this story!” I interjected. “I remember her.”

“Correct,” Wale gave me a thumbs up, “exactly. Her. So, as I was talking go, she threatened to slit her wrists. Why? That I wasn’t jealous enough about her, so I didn’t love her.”

“Ehn?” Scar asked.

Phantom and Sly who had returned to their game of football set their pads down and turned towards Wale.

“She said that when she went out for hours I didn’t call to ask where she was and what she was up to. And that when boys called her phone, I didn’t display any signs of envy.”

“Wait first,” Sly said, “and if she kill herself wetin go happen?”

“She say e mean say I no love her and if I no love her, she no fit continue this life. Guys, una for see me that day.”

“Una dey see craze person?” Sly asked no one in particular.

“Any idea where we were when she threatened to take her life? My house!”

“Omo mehn, police for carry you your leg no go touch ground.” Phantom said.

“I sofry beg her, pet her until she gree go back her papa house naim I call her brother report am. Na dia relationship end.” Wale said.

“And this was a girl that, until this happened, I kicked myself for not making a move on the day Wale and I saw her.” I said.

“Wo, this thing called relationship is try-your-luck,” Sly said. “I just thank god for my wife. For now.”

“Maybe her own craze still dey boot,” I said and we all laughed.

My phone beeped, it was a message from Brown Sugar.

– Hey Bobo

I rolled my eyes.

“Guess who just remembered me?” I asked them. “Brown Sugar,” I said without waiting for answers.

– Hey, what’s up?

– Hw r u? I’m ok. Jst hr

– I’m good o.

– Wat r u up to?

– Not a lot. Hanging with my boys

– Ur bz?

– What are you up to?

– Grt tanx. U dnt want me to c u, oya introduce me to a fine/nice frend of urs. Cus I knw it’s cus ur dating.

“Shey you see what I was telling you about the type of girls you attract?” Sly asked after reading the message.

“Abi your head dey touch? No be here we dey person send me message?”

– Are you back in Lagos? I asked her.

– If I am will u c me? Last tym u dodged.

– Looooooooooooool! I dodged? Oh my days.

– Yea u dodged.

“Dude, end this chat and block her. You’re the one encouraging this… this… I dunno sef.” Even Wale was irritated.

“Remember that video of DJ Khalid? Girl you smart?” Phantom asked.

“Yeah?”

“When I saw it I thought the guy was just an asshole. Like, is it supposed to be a breakthrough to find a smart girl? But lately, after meeting a certain girl, I realised that could actually be the case.” He threw his hands up in the air. “This particular girl was only interested in music videos and Coldstone ice cream.”

“Hmph,” Sly sighed.

“She struggles at every other common sense thing besides watching music videos and eating ice-cream from Coldstone.”

“There are girls like that nau,” Wale said. “There are certain girls a common friend met when he was serving in Uyo…”

That was met with coughing and cat calls.

“… all those girls were interested in were indomie and dick. According to our common friend, that is.”

“Before nko?” Scar asked.

“Is that worse?” I asked.

“Actually, no difference. Na like custard and pap.” Wale said.

“Shebi you people have one ProConnect something the blog you write for is doing? Guy register, at least you might find a single professional…” Sly said with a wink.

“Or a professional single.” Scar finished.

“Una no well.” I scrolled through the options menu and selected Block contact.


instagram _ proconnect _ single in gidi _ mona bellucci

 

CURIOUS

– What’s the job?

– It’s a marketing position.

That gave me pause. I guess I could do some marketing, but I wasn’t one to do the song and dance required to convince someone they wanted my product or service, so on principle, I shied away from applying for such jobs.

– I don’t think I’m cut out for marketing, tbh. I’m a customer service person.

– But there’s nothing to it. I work for an oil servicing company and what I do isn’t much different from what you do.

– But I don’t even know the first thing about oil and gas.

– I see you’re set on being a Debbie Downer, don’t let me stop you.

– It’s not like that…

– It’s alright Bobo, I just thought you could use the job, its perks and the change of scenery.

– Wait, what? Change of scenery?

– Yea, it’s an Abuja based opening and you’d be required to move to Abuja.

– Whoa! I hadn’t even considered that. When is the interview?

– It’s tomorrow. If you’re interested I could talk to my boss and squeeze you in.

– It’s short notice 😦

I have to ask for time off work, book my flights and sort out accommodation in Abuja,

– You could stay with me, you know?

I didn’t know. Hell, I don’t even know you.

– And tell your boyfriend what?

I fished.

– Pffft. He’ll understand.

Wait. So there is a boyfriend?

– Oh well, maybe I’ll just pass up this one. Next time perhaps.

– Okay then.

***

– Hi Bobo

– Hey

I was chatting with a couple of people and, as chats sometimes went, there were lapses between chats so that when a new message came in, I either responded off the cuff, or read previous chats for background.

I woke up to messages from Brown Sugar, seemingly out of the blue. We exchanged a few messages while I chatted with Cynthia, my brother and the guys from Camelot.

– Do u hav a frend in Abj dear?

– Two or three, why?

– Single?

I checked to confirm who the message was. Even though with the shortened words I had a vague idea, the reference to Abuja confused me a little.

– The guys are married. The lady isn’t.

I was immediately wary.

– Ok tnx

No sistah, you’re not getting off that easily.

– Why do you ask?

– Wud hv loved to meet 1. I nid to b laid dear.

Bobo you had to chase that nut down the burrow.

– I’m sori, I wasn’t tinkin.

I won’t judge.

I waited till I got to work before replying her.

– I can imagine. Really, I can. I get those urges too.

– Ur 1 guy I really want 2 hav.

I pulled at my collar, heat creeping up my neck. I looked round The Shop, tilting my phone close to my chest as if to shield the conversation from prying eyes.

Osime sat there at her station punching keys. The clack of her keyboard and the soft hum of the air-conditioner the only sounds in The Shop.

– Let me hav u soon pls, Brown Sugar typed.

How did we get from wanting to meet my friends to wanting to shag me? And so quickly too. I’ve got to end this convo. But which kain half gist will I now be taking to the guys?

– We have to be in the same city first

– Am in Abj now, cum to mii

Just like that? I almost laughed out.

– Gotta sort out the logistics of it.

– Hmm… u dnt want me ryt?

– How could you even say that?

– It’s tru. Look at last tym.

Last time haunts me on some nights.

– I’m offering my body to u, y dnt u take it

That triggered a P-Square song in my head.

Take eet, take eet, alhaji

– Bobo

– Wats wrong wit u?

– Y do u do mi lyk dis?

– How? I finally answered.

– U abandon me in bw chats

– I’m at work!!! I paused before hitting the send button and deleted the exclamation marks.

– I run away frm guys, I’m on to u n ur messing me up?

I scrolled back up to the start of the chat to work out how we got here.

I’m sorry if I led you on. If? Really? But I think we both want different things. Time was when all of this might have been cool, but I’m over that now. I’m looking for a focused relationship, something you may not be prepared or equipped (yet) to give. How about we try for friendship?

– Wat? Ur not serious. Just lemme stay here. I regret nowin u Bobo. Gudby!!!!

“Gudby”? Bridge burned.

I set my phone down, leaned back in my chair and let the sigh out slowly.

“Bobo is everything okay?” Osime asked me.

“Why would you ask?”

“There’s just something about you since the last customer left.”

“Let’s just say I have rounded a corner and come face to face with something I’ve always known I’d have to do.”

“Care to share?” she asked?

“Don’t you have a report to prepare?”

“Sorry o.” she raised her hands in the air and released a long drawn out hiss.

I rubbed my palms, reached for my phone and scrolled through my contacts list. I stopped when I got to ‘K’.

I composed and deleted a couple of messages before settling on this one.

– Hey, just thought about you and decided to say hi.

– I’m sorry, but who is this?

I blinked. Hard.

Didn’t she just message me two weeks ago? Why would Keme ask “who is this?”


 

proconnect _ single in gidi _ mona bellucci

Headhunter

Hello beautiful…

I wanted to walk over and introduce myself, but I did not want to be referred to or remembered as “that guy from the cemetery”.

She was one of a small group walking with the bereaved. Her black t-shirt was different from mine and had the company logo at the bottom. Her braids were pulled back from her prominent forehead  and done up in a bun.

Forehead gang. Kimon.

I threw a mental peace sign at the thought, careful not to laugh out loud – I remembered how much we ribbed children with such “opon” growing up. Look at us now, it has become so cool and stuff.

Her eyes slanted upwards at the corners.

I ran my eyes down, taking in her deep blue jeans that hugged her hips.

I considered letting them pass so I could get a back view, but I decided against it. I may never see her again, so why bother? And she may even be married, or something.

At the car I checked my phone for messages – I left it charging in the car.

138 messages.

I checked the whatsapp messages and saw they were mostly chatter from the guys in Camelot. We had moved the group off bbm to whatsapp.

Mehn, una dey chat sha, I thought as I read through. They were discussing the latest Avengers movie. I had a few thoughts I would share later.

There were two messages from a girl I had dated during NYSC. I had not spoken with her in three years.

I frowned.

– Hi.

  How’re you?

– I’m good o, you? I replied.

There was one from a number I had saved as Cynthia_Abuja.

My heart bucked. Cynthia was the last person I expected to hear from. Our meeting had been brief.

I still felt a tinge of embarrassment, and some resentment, to think that I had gone against my grain and sent her a message first. A message which she had not bothered to reply.

– Hiiii! How are you? I’m sure you’ll be wondering where I’ve been. It’s work o. I’ve been swamped. How are you sha? I hope you’re keeping okay. Just thot to check on you. Bye.

– Oh, remember our talk about what you do? There’s an opening at my office that I think might suit you. Only thing is, it’s an Abuja opening. Let me know if you’re interested. Toodles.

I smiled; all was forgiven.

I could almost hear her in the message; she typed the way she talked: unrestrained.

When Cynthia walked into the shop that day, I had my back to the door.

‘Hi, do you work here?’ a voice said behind me in a rush, like the speaker wanted to get the question out-of-the-way.

I turned and the first thing I saw were the glasses. Round, thick lenses in a thin frame perched on a narrow nose. Above the glasses was a mass of curly dreadlocks dyed blue at the tips.

If the aim was to shock, she couldn’t have done a better job.

I blinked hard a couple of times and she leaned in, squinting. I took an involuntary step back.

‘Bobo,’ she said reading my name off the badge on my chest, ‘what sort of name is that?’

‘My parents had a sense of humour,’ I gave my standard reply with a nervous chuckle.

I don’t think she heard my response.

‘So, I have a problem,’ she rushed on. ‘Last month I loaded my phone with 4k and this morning I got an sms for bonus airtime below what I was expecting.’

‘I’m sorry about that madam,’ I said returning to my desk, ‘what’s your number so I. Can run a check for you?’

‘Cynthia.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘My name is Cynthia, not madam.’

‘Okay Cynthia, your number please…’

I ran a check and realised that, in addition to the four thousand naira, she had also loaded two thousand naira but she only got bonus airtime on the two thousand naira. The reason was that the four thousand naira was directly as data credit, not call credit which was later converted to data, so the system only recognised and rewarded the two thousand loaded as call credit.

I explained this to her and, although she said that was bullshit, she seemed to take it well.

‘Why wasn’t I advised of this by your colleague when I asked for airtime?’

‘I apologise ma… Cynthia.’

She waved my apology away.

‘Do you like your job?’

‘What?’

‘I asked if you like this job.’

A lot of thoughts chased themselves around in my mind. I considered the 5ft 5 or 6 or 7 – I’m rubbish with gauging heights – dreadlocked woman in the baggy t-shirt and owlish glasses, and I smiled.

‘I do actually. I love my job.’

‘Bullshit.’

Her favourite word.

‘First, I love meeting people, which this job allows me. I’m not much of a paper-pusher, and I really do like being able to help.’

‘When you put it like that,’ she tilted her head left, ‘I see it.’

‘Is there any other way I may be of assistance Cynthia?’ It was the standard how to close a transaction line, but for some reason it sounded different to me. More.

She looked me in the eyes and held the look for maybe a heartbeat, and then smiled a wide toothy smile. It did not reach her eyes.

‘You have my number, send me a message before today ends, and maybe I will be the one to be of assistance.’

I swallowed. Nothing, my throat was dry.

She pushed the glass door and was gone.

I sent her an sms to ask how her flight went and if she got to Abuja okay. She didn’t acknowledge the message, or send me one of her own. For three weeks.

I read her message again before replying.

 


cropped-proconnect_ig.png

HELLO

When tomorrow starts without me

And I’m not here to see

If the sun should rise and find your eyes

All filled with tears for me…”

 

‘Hi.’

I tried to place the face of the lady who had just greeted me, but drew a blank.

Maybe she’s not talking to me.

I stopped my right hand that was already rising to strike me chest, and refrained from looking over my shoulder to see if she was saluting someone behind me.

‘Hello,’ I mouthed back with a smile.

She was sitting to my right two pews in front.

I was in church for the funeral, and while we waited for Mass to start, I looked round, taking in the stained glass portraits. I had been to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Victoria Island twice before, they still felt like the first time to me.

People drifted in sombre and solemn, most in one of the two black t-shirts made for the occasion. I did not know shirts would be made, and even if I did, I would not know who to meet for one. I was dressed in a plain navy blue t-shirt over blue jeans.

‘Would you like a shirt?’ she asked.

‘Yes please,’ I wondered what the shirt was going to cost.

‘I’m coming,’ she raised her right palm.

She looked around before sliding along her pew to where I was and handing me a shirt. No charge.

‘Thank you very much,’ I said. I went out to the men’s room where I donned the shirt.

“Classic Radio King of Hip-Hop Lives on”

“I wish you wouldn’t cry

The way that you did today

While thinking of the many things

We did not get to say…”

When I returned everyone was outside the church; the service was about to begin.

I looked across the entrance to where his wife, stood. She was wearing a stylish black gown and a black hat angled to shield her face. Most of it. She looked up in that instant and I nodded to her. She returned the nod and a moment later we all filed into church.

Proceedings were solemn, very so, and throughout the sermon my eyes kept straying to the casket laid out in the aisle, the wreath on it, its foot pointing to the altar, and I thought about the meaning of life. The mystery of death. The promise of eternal life.

“I know how much you love me

As much as I love you

Each time that you think of me

I know you will miss me too…”

After Holy communion the priest invited us to listed to a few words from her.

The church fell quiet as she made her way to the altar, her steps determined.

I wondered if it was a good idea to let her go by herself, if someone shouldn’t have gone with her, but I realised that, like a lot of things going forward, this was one thing she had to do by herself.

She was going to share a poem with us, for Sly.

“When tomorrow starts without me

Please try to understand

That an angel came and called my name…”

Her voice broke. She paused to collect herself, the breath she took amplified by the microphone.

I heard a few sniffles, and a guy on the pew to my left moaned. I felt tears sting my eyelids, but I blinked them back. Crying just won’t do; I had to be strong for my kiddo.

“… And took me by the hand

The angel said my place was ready

In heaven far above

And that I would have to leave behind

All those I dearly love…”

The sobbing of the congregation grew louder, but she ploughed on.

She is a strong one, my kiddo.

I smiled.

Her voice broke twice more before she got to the end of the poem and when she was done, I wanted to walk over and tell her how proud of her I was, and hug her and cede my strength to her.

Behave, before people will ask what is your own there.

When it was time to leave, the pall bearers lifted the casket onto their shoulders and we all filed out behind them.

The guy on my right was now bawling loudly and someone put a hand over his shoulder to comfort him.

 

“But when I walked through Heaven’s Gates

I felt so much at home

When GOD looked down and smiled at me

From his golden throne…”

 

There was some confusion about the cemetery which was quickly sorted out, and we all trooped to Vaults and Gardens.

Walking along the path leading to the graveside I was amused by the distinction that was made even among the dead by the living: Moslems were buried to the left, and Christians to the right.

As if the dead really cared about this.

 

“He said this is eternity

And all I promised you today

For life on earth is done

But here it starts anew…”

 

We crowded round the graveside, family, friends, colleagues, maybe a few curios as the priest said the prayers and the casket was lowered into the recently dug grave.

He called for a shovel, and some earth was thrown in the grave, followed by flowers from family and colleagues.

 

“I promise no tomorrow

For today will always last

And since each day’s the exact same way

There is no longing for the past…”

 

Done, the grave diggers shovelled more earth into the grave. For them it was just a job, but not so the people gathered there.

The seeming finality of their actions set more people to crying, and when they manoeuvred the pre-cast slabs onto vault, a lady who was standing to my right crouched, her left hand wrapped around her mid-section, her right over her mouth. The lady next to her, I noticed, had not moved since we arrived there. She just stood with tears running down her cheeks.

People leaned on other people, or folded into themselves.

 

“So when tomorrow starts without me

Do not think we’re apart

For every time you think of me

Remember I am right here in your heart.”

 

I was amongst the first to leave the graveside and head for the exit. I wanted to reach her and let her know I was in her corner.

When I eventually walked up to where she was I heard her joke about something and her friends with her laughed.

She had just laid the love of her life to rest, and while she could have milked the attention and concern being shown her – no one would be impatient with her if she chose to do so – she wanted them to know she was okay. She would be okay.

I looked sideways at her and her friends, and the world receded.

 


 

cropped-proconnect_ig.png

GONE

For days I toyed with the idea of sending Kalakuta Princess a message.

‘And say what?’

That always stopped me. There had been no words exchanged between us for some time now so I didn’t have to implement the bridge burning protocol. Perhaps it was best I left things as they were.

I woke up the other morning, reached for my phone and saw the red blinker was going. I swiped my finger across the screen and my heart skipped a beat. I told myself I shouldn’t feel the happiness slowly creeping up my insides, nor the apprehension slithering alongside it, but that didn’t stop me.

The message was from Keme.

I tapped the message icon to read the message and I sat up. If I wasn’t awake before, all traces of sleep was now gone.

– Just saw bad news on the TL. Sly.

– Huh?

That was all my brain could come up with. I went quickly over to twitter and scrolled through my timeline, unsure what I would find. And then I saw Jimi Disu’s tweet. I’m speechless with the link following. I clicked on the link.

The numbness was instant.

I set my phone down and pressed the heel of my hands to my temple.

I picked the phone back up and saw Keme had sent another message.

– Sly died.

– I just saw. I’m just tired.

While I saw it wasn’t my Sly who had only recently gotten married, it was still my Sly.

I searched for his wife’s name on my bbm contacts list and sent her “hey kiddo,” followed by three hugs.

– Thanks pops

The first time I met Sly, he had come to drop off his wife who worked as a Cabin crew at the time.

She was my friend and a scatter brain, and I’d often wondered how much work she must be for the man who married her.

‘Bobo meet Sly, my husband.’ She introduced us that day. They hand swung by on their way through the food court.

Husband?’

He was wearing a t-shirt that accentuated his buff upper body over a pair of jeans, a rosary dangling from around his neck.

‘Maybe one of those hip-hop heads that use it as accessory.’

We nodded at each other, the way guys sometimes do.

The next time I saw him, they were together again. I saw them walk onto the food court from the 2nd level car park at the airport, holding hands like two teenagers in love – he had on another tee-shirt over jeans, the rosary around his neck.

One morning, driving to work, I was surfing stations on the radio when I heard a voice that sounded familiar. When he said “this is Sly and with me is…” I listened that morning and almost every morning since.

I had, on occasion in the past, listened to Classic fm, but Sly gave me a reason to religiously listen.

Driving to work was made bearable listening to him and the rest of the crew, and Front Page news and analysis became one of my favourite programs, especially on the days Jimi Disu was in the studio.

They shared an easy banter of friends, despite their obvious difference in age, with Jimi taking one position and Sly playing Devil’s advocate most times. Anything to not be a ‘yes man.’ They would keep score of who had gotten one over whom, and argue over whether coffee was offered or available or declined. Or whether Jimi don drink am clean mouth.

I remember when they reviewed the news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning, it was on that episode Jimi dubbed him Fr. Sly.

The episode of “open the door dahn”, was funny, “where is our money?” and the excel spreadsheet was a barrel of laughs.

Jimi teased him incessantly about giving him “one of our daughters” to marry, and he would laugh the Sly laugh.

“Sly ma se bayii” Jimi Disu said to him the day they reviewed the bird flu story and Sly was saying if the chicken was cooked at Nigerian temperatures (well done) maybe the pathogens would be killed or reduced.

They gave me laughs. Sly gave me laughs. And he proved to be a hip-hop head.

Saturday mornings with Rap and Hip-Hop classics were always tinged with more than a little nostalgia.

Because of Sly I listened to Classic fm more and fell in love with a lot of their programs and on air personalities.

The last time I saw him was at a friend’s 50th birthday. Her friends had thrown her a surprise party and Sly had come with his wife.

While she danced and horsed around with the rest of us, Sly just sat there with a smile playing on his lips.

‘Una no get work,’ he said after a while.

When their second kid was born, I promised his wife I would come and visit. Eighteen months later I made the visit, but for the last reason I would have thought.

I walked up four flights of stairs to where the condolence register was. I signed my name, then stood there unable to write another word, my chest heavy. Pain reached in and took a hold of my heart, and squeezed. Tight.

His wife, my daughter, got up when I walked in and I wrapped my arms around her and just stood there, hoping that my embrace would tell her all the things I couldn’t find the words to tell her. It wasn’t until she sat down that I read the inscription on the tee-shirt she was wearing.

I used up all my sick days so I called in dead.

I recognised it as Sly’s.

Her face was shiny from sweat and grease, the fan did little to dispel the heat. Her eyes were over-bright and it bothered me.

Her colleagues and friends were there too and we all sat around wearing sombre looks. The silence awkward.

‘Why are you quiet? Why is everyone looking at me as if I’m going to commit suicide or something because I’m not crying?’ She asked. And then turning to me she said, ‘You know you have to write now, right?’

That broke me.

‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘We gotta keep you occupied. I have my work cut out for me.’

Before I left she showed me a message someone had sent her. A condolence message that ended “God will see you true.”

‘Pops,’ she said, ‘that right there is material.’

We had a laugh about it, but I share the sender’s sentiments.

Sly is gone and will be missed, at some point she will let herself grieve, and when that happens, I’m thankful for the support structure she has. In the end, for sure, God will comfort and strengthen her, and see her through.

You will be missed. Terribly. Rest in peace Sylvester Ojigbede.