EDEN

‘Hello stranger.’

The drawl made me pause – I was regaling some friends with stories from my airport office. The voice could only be one person.

‘Hey you,’ I turned round and hugged Rolayo, brushing my lips across her cheek. She hugged back, held the embrace a little long and rubbed my back like I was some child she was reassuring – I hated it when people did that – but I didn’t mind; it was Rolayo.

We broke the embrace, leaned back and regarded each other before hugging again. This time a short one.

We were at a colleague’s wedding reception. I almost didn’t make it because Keme, my girlfriend, was held up at work. She worked in the accounts department of a beverage company and it was the end of their fiscal year so her department had to work over the weekend. It was a choice of Saturday or Sunday and she chose Saturday so we could have Sunday home alone together. She didn’t see the point in taking Saturday off only so we could share it with friends, acquaintances and random people.

‘Go Bobo,’ she said when I told her I didn’t feel like the wedding without her. ‘You better go before your guys will say Ijaw woman has washed put for you and turned you into a mindless zombie.’

‘Wash put? I need you to wash put? Is it not the same place I dive into every chance I ge…’

Why are you like this?’ she tossed her damp towel in my direction. ‘Abeg make I ready go work. We’ll see when we get back, okay?

And so I had gone to the wedding. Alone.

From the moment I saw Rolayo, I didn’t leave her side for the rest of that day. We played catch up: she told me about her daughter – small madam, she called her – and how she would boss everybody about at home, her grandmother more indulgent than Rolayo remembered from her own childhood.

About her love life there was nothing to say. She was dating a certain someone who was based in Ghana.

‘You would think that Ghana is close and that we would see more often, but I was lucky if I saw him for one weekend in two months.’ Her smile was sad, but it cleared up quickly. ‘So Bobo, tell me about your adventures,’ she said perking up. ‘And don’t leave any details out.’ She wagged a finger at me.

I sighed.

‘There’s not a lot to tell,’ I started.

‘Don’t tell me that jare, abi you want to hoard gist?’

‘You won’t believe it, but after you offered to be my Sugar mommy…’

‘What was that?’ she cut in.

‘Sugar mommy, remember? No? Never mind.’ I said. ‘Anyway,’ I dragged the first syllable, ‘after I got posted to the airport I met this girl, crazy girl I tell you, but an amazing person. We’ve been dating since then.’ I tried not to smirk.

‘I don’t understand.’ She held up a hand. ‘You mean to tell me you’ve been pussy-whipped? Excuse my language.’

One of the things I liked and didn’t like about Rolayo was her attempts at ladylike behaviour. She would say “fuck” or “prick” and follow with “excuse my language”, or say something she considered negative about someone – which usually was a statement of fact – and follow with “I’m sorry to say.”

‘No jo,‘ I waved her away. ‘It’s not like that. She’s a really good person.’ I paused to sift through the torrent of adjectives with which to qualify Keme. ‘She gets me.’

‘Hmmm… I never thought I would see the day.’ She shook her head. ‘If she makes you happy Bobo, then that’s all that matters.’

We were silent for a moment to let the damp and fog that had settled on our sunny pass. Soon enough it was warm and bright again.

By the end of the evening I promised to stay in touch and made her promise to do same. We exchanged BlackBerry pins as I walked her to her car. I kissed her cheek before holding open the door for her. She waved as she drove off and I stood there watching her tail lights disappear in the gathering dusk.

I felt a vibration in my pocket and took out my phone. There was a pending request. I frowned.

‘Royal? Who is Royal?’

I clicked accept, meaning to delete and block the person if it turned out to be someone I didn’t know.

Royal is now a contact.

Royal changed display picture.

I clicked on the photo and smiled when I realised Royal was Rolayo.

 

GIRLFRIEND

I arrived the cinema thirty minutes before the movie was billed to start and she followed two minutes later. That rarely happened.

I was used to being kept waiting, sometimes till the movie had started before a breathless but unapologetic date showed up wanting popcorn and drinks.

This kind of punctuality was strange to me.

We made our way up to the last row of seats – she was walking in front. She stopped at the top of the steps and I almost crashed into her. I had been following the rhythmic roll of her buttocks and when she stopped, it took a fraction if a second to register.

‘Everything okay?’

‘Where will you have us sit?’ she asked waving her flattened palm left and right.

I smiled. This was clearly a test: left to the two seats in the corner would imply a little more privacy and an opportunity to grope her. I pointed right. I couldn’t see her face, but I was almost certain she smiled.

The movie was fantasy and the way she leaned forward in her seat, barely eating her popcorn, her grasp of mythology and the progression of the story impressed me further.

After the movie we strolled around the Yaba area, neither one wanting the evening to end. When I finally put her in a cab, I slipped the driver the fare when she was getting in.

I walked back to my car and drove home, windows down and the warm evening breeze on my face. I knew I was going to see her again.

We hung out five more times before I invited her over to my place.

I spent the morning of her visiting cleaning house; I had walked through the house that day looking at my apartment through a stranger’s eyes.

I gave her a tour of the place and she seemed genuinely impressed. Back in the living room she sat down on the carpet and I laid out the food I ordered from The Place.

When she saw the bottle of wine she joked if I planned on taking advantage of an inebriated woman. We laughed, but there was a look on her face that made me wonder if the joke was on me.

‘Are you afraid I’ll jump you?’ she cut into my thoughts.

‘What?’

‘I don’t bite jare. Abi what are you doing all the way over there?’ she waved with her glass, the contents sloshing about.

She had only taken a few sips and was nursing her first glass, so I was sure it wasn’t alcohol talking. I, on the other hand, was on my third glass. I wasn’t a lightweight, but still I wondered if that was alcohol hearing.

I cleared the plates and sat next to her. We sat there, our backs against the sofa, bare arms and clothed sides touching. Me focusing hard on the TV, her doing what I don’t know.

‘Thanks for having me over,’ she said not looking at me.

‘Leaving already?’ I was embarrassed by the disappointment I heard in my voice.

‘Sadly yes, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.’ She said. ‘Maybe next time you’ll be less stiff… or not.’ She turned to look at me then and I felt a warmth creep up my neck.

After that, we spent whatever day of the weekend I was off work at mine – we would sometimes sit side by side or facing each other and talk while listening to music, or she would lie in my arms on the carpet as we watched a movie.

On one of those visits, emboldened by how things had progressed, I leaned in and kissed her. I was aiming for her lips, but she moved her head at the last moment so my lips grazed her cheek.

‘Bobo,’ she said, ‘there’s no stealing kisses with me. You’ll have to ask me out first.’

I heard her, through the loud hammering of my heart, as though from a far off place.

‘Don’t do it. Don’t fall for it.’ But even as I warned myself, I knew it was too late.

I heard a voice ask her to be its girlfriend, and it took a moment to realise the raspy voice was mine.

Stalker Alert

‘Do you like what you do?’

Confused, I looked round to see if anyone else heard the question. When nobody reacted, I turned back to the customer in front of me.

‘There’s a reason I asked,’ she smiled.

‘You’re damn right there has to be a reason why you’d come to the place where I work and ask me that question in front of all these other customers and my colleagues.’

I smiled back.

‘I love what I do.’ I replied.

‘What do you love about your job?’ she asked.

‘Hian. Which kain ting be this?’

‘I love that I don’t work 8 to whenever, that my job’s done in shifts. Above that, I love dealing with people, resolving their difficulties.’

‘It shows,’ she nodded. ‘You used to be at your E-Centre office, right? I recognised you as soon as I walked in here.’

I work with a telecoms company, and during my GT program I worked in the call centre at HQ. Six months ago I got transferred to our office at the E-Centre, Yaba where I worked for five months before being moved again to our office at the Domestic Airport.

The first transfer happened within weeks of my brushing Rolayo’s Sugar mommy offer to one side. She did not take it to heart, making me wonder if she ever really meant it.

So there I was at the airport office attending to customers when this lady walked in. I raised my head to see who made the bell above the door tinkle, and then I returned to the customer whose query I was dealing with.

The new customer walked slowly round our phone display rack, lingering at a phone for a minute or two before moving on.

When I was done serving the customer in front of me, she came and took his place.

‘Good afternoon ma, how may I be of service?’

When she said she recognised me from the E-Centre office I apologised for not recognising her too.

‘I hope I wasn’t rude to you then.’ I said in mock horror.

‘Far from it. I was confused about the different plans you guys offered and you took your time to explain them to me. I would have thought it was my fine girl charms,’ she fanned herself and drew a laugh from me. ‘But you had done the same with the customer before me. And just now see how you attended to that man as if he was the only person in this shop. That’s very good, keep it up.’

I didn’t know how to take the compliment, especially coming from her.

“Keep it up.” I smiled and thanked her retreating figure. She was gone before I realised she hadn’t told me what her complaint was.

‘Oh well.’ I shrugged.

Two weeks later she came into the shop. We exchanged pleasantries and she stood at my desk to talk with me for a while. Before she left she slid a business card across to me. I didn’t even see it palmed in her hand all the while we spoke. The move was so smooth, I was sure she had practice.

Ene, my colleague saw and teased me no end.

‘Will you call her?’ she asked.

‘Nope.’

‘Why not?’

‘I dunno. Just no.’

‘Pride.’

‘Stop it. It’s not pride, it’s just somehow.’ I said defensively.

When my phone rang a few days later, I picked it up without checking the caller ID.

‘Hello Bobo,’ a could hear the smile in the voice.

‘Hi,’ my response was hesitant.

‘When you’re not dealing with customer complaints or ignoring a fine girl’s come-on, what do you do for fun?’

I knew who it was without asking and I could see her behind my closed eyelids, head thrown back, hair cascading down long neck. Her throaty laugh did things for me.

‘Not a lot,’ I said. ‘You, when you’re not stalking… wait, is this you stalking me?’ I asked.

‘Of course. Know how I got your number?’

‘I have a rough idea.’

‘Good. So, about fun things to do,’ she said, ‘wanna go see a movie with me?’

She wasn’t like any girl I’d met. I liked her confidence, and her wit.

‘Sure, why not?’

From Clap to Dance

It all started as a joke.

I was one of a set of graduate trainees, or GTs as we were more commonly referred to. Fresh from the classrooms of a secondary school in Northern Nigeria thanks to NYSC, I did not know what to expect on the job.

Fifty-four of us got in and, for the first few days of our orientation, the other GTs were a blur of brown skin, formal clothes and a muddle of voices each trying to assert themselves.

By the next week cliques were formed and the rumour mills started.

I heard of Rolayo before I met her.

I was at lunch, at a table with three of the GTs. I had earphones on to discourage conversation, but no music was playing.

‘See her,’ one of the girls at the table pointed her chin at someone behind me. I almost turned. The other two did. ‘She will be carrying body as if no o, she’s better than everyone else here. I heard she’s a single mom. She has a daughter.’

I buried my face into my plate of spaghetti.

‘Stop it.’ The guy to my right chided her. ‘Daughter? How?’

‘I don’t know sha, I just heard that it’s as if she doesn’t know the father of the baby.’

‘No!’

‘I’m telling you.’ Miss Information insisted.

Single parent.

That was the first thing I learnt about Rolayo. During the course of the program we worked in different departments, but our paths crossed a few times, and the more I spoke with her, the more I realised there was to her. As for her daughter, the father’s family did not approve of Rolayo and he was tied to his mother’s apron strings – or maybe the father’s purse string.

I am not one to judge, but I felt he must have been crazy to walk away from her.

Rolayo is one of those people who, once you let them in your life, want to take over and mother you – usually without your permission. I always teased her that she was created to be a mother of many nations. Her full breasts and wide hips did not hurt. I had seen people’s eyes glaze over, their mouths hanging open only closing when they swallowed; seen throats bob and heard sentences cut short because Rolayo walked into a room or walked past. Men or women, it did not matter.

The years passed and we became pretty close in the way I get close to people – in cycles. Best friend and chat buddy today, spells of silence, and then best buddies again.

It was during one of our best buddies phase that she sprung it on me.

I had just come out of a relationship, my second or third in the two years I had known Rolayo. We were at lunch and she was sitting opposite me, listening as I gave her the details of this break up.

‘Bobo,’ she said not looking at me, ‘let me be your Sugar mommy.’

I almost swallowed the spoon in my mouth.

‘What?’ I asked when my choking subsided.

‘I said let me be your Sugar mommy, you’re acting brand new.’ a smile played around her lips, in her ayes though, there was a faraway look.

It’s not that I had never thought of Rolayo that way, it was impossible not to. It’s just that she’s out of my league, way out of my league.

On some Mondays when she regaled me with stories of owambes that she attended during the weekend, her narrative was usually peppered with names of people I only saw on tv or in society gossip magazines – not that I read those – and not the new money names. No.

She didn’t name them the way one would if dropping names for effect, she said them in a by-the way manner.

Her ensemble at these parties could pay my house.

So, as I sat across from her in the office canteen, I realised that, despite our closeness in age, she probably could very easily be my benefactor in the way that Sugar Mommies are rumoured to be.

But still, it was Rolayo.

Too Many Crazies

I listened in horror as Max gave out my number on air.

‘So ladies,’ she said, ‘if you’re ready for a roller coaster ride, give Mr. Bond a call.’

What did you just do? I asked her.

Relax. Came her reply. It’s just something to take your mind off your situation.

‘Perhaps not a lot of people listen to the program.’ I told myself. ‘Definitely not a lot of people take these things too seriou…’

My thoughts were broken by notification sounds as messages came flooding onto my phone. The text messages were coming in faster than I could read them. And there were a few phone calls and some flashes too.

‘Who flashes with a strange number? Am I supposed to call back? Na wa o.’

The nervousness I felt with the first few messages soon gave way to some excitement, but that soon changed to apprehension when I read some of the messages.

Hi Mr. Bond. My name is Ada n am 28yrs. I wnt go on ur rolacosta. Pick me.

Mr. Bond, am a real vampire. Come let me tak u 2 our leaders so u can bcom 1 of us.

Hi Mr. Bond, I listened to your profile by Maxine and I think I’m the girl for you. Can I call you?

I like blood and danger and adventure. Can you assure me of these things?

‘sup. I tink am the woman for u. Where can we mt up?

Different variations of those messages came pouring in. At some point I set my message notifications to silent, but the red light kept flashing, calling me back from the brink of sleep to the phone.

Hey Max, see set up! I didn’t think people took these things seriously. My phone battery is almost flat and the phone is hot, and still the messages are coming in.

Honi, enjoy it. Too many single and lonely people out there.

Too many crazy people you mean. Some people have promised to take me to the bottom of the Atlantic to meet their queen. Even guys have called and sms’d me. Too many crazy people, I tell you Max.

LMFAO

-__-

I woke up the next day to find thirty-four text messages and more missed calls. A groan passed my lips.

I was going through the messages when I noticed a WhatsApp message.

‘Sup. Are you there? Or on your way to work?

I didn’t recognise the number, but there was a familiar quality to the message so I replied.

Hey. I’m still home. Should leave in a bit. You?

I’m okay. Are you in Lagos?

I didn’t think anything of this because I had recently come back from a trip out-of-town.

Yes, I am. How’re you and work?

Work? I do business. Work has plenty wahala. Where do you leave?

That question woke me up, not just because of the misuse of leave. I tried to view her avi but I had to save her number first. Damned WhatsApp. I didn’t recognise the lady in the picture.

Lagos. You?

Lekki.

I’m sorry, but how do I know you? I asked.

U don’t know me. Maybe I should send u photo?

I was still contemplating the question when I received two pictures. One was of a girl walking down some steps holding the balustrade, the other was of the same girl lying in bed face down. The picture was taken to accentuate her curves and there was something feline about her lying like that.

I didn’t recognise her from the photos and I told her so.

Are u save with me now? So, where do u leave?

Are you familiar with Lagos? I asked.

Yea.

And I told her.

So do u want me 2 come?

Come? You don’t even know if I’m a serial killer 😮 I joked.

 I can come holy if u can Driver to down to my place o. Not mainland. Lekki.

Sorry?

I kill pple too, so stay where u are.

Really?

Yeah

I closed the chat. At least I could not say she did not warn me.

‘Too many crazy people in this town.’

I opened the next message, saw who it was from and my breath caught in my throat.

Royal…

Call me Mr. Bond

Source: Esquire UK

When I was ten my mother took me to see an evangelist. She was having this recurring dreams where bad things happened to me, and when she told her brother, he directed her to this man of God.

‘Brother Jerome please I want you to pray for my son.’ She flashed him a smile, the plea in her voice and her eyes and in the way she held out both hands towards him.

‘Who? This asewo?’ he flicked his fingers in my direction without looking at me.

My mother gave a nervous chuckle and cold dread came over me. The rest of what they said was lost to me. I had been found out.

‘How did he know? Did he really have powers? Surely he must, or else how would he know about Angelina in school? Or Amaka from Legion? Or that girl in the choir?’

I went through my list of crushes, girls I was too shy to talk to. My heart raced and my body tensed for the sting of mom’s slap that was sure to follow his revelation.

The slap never came. If anything, it seemed mom did not take his words seriously. Or she was more interested in getting me the prayer I needed.

Eight years later, standing in the sacristy dressed in my vestments and waiting with the other Altar Servers to go out in procession, the officiating priest who was visiting my parish turned to us and asked me.

‘Have you ever considered the priesthood?’

I looked at Fr. O’Leary like he had sprung two heads.

‘Sorry Father, what?’

‘The priesthood,’ he repeated with a smile.

‘Ermm, no Father.’ I stuttered. ‘I mean, God has not called me, Father.’

‘What if I tell you that this is God calling you?’ his eyes never left my face.

I squirmed and looked around at the other Servers. They would not meet my eyes.

‘Father,’ I said, ‘God would have to talk to me personally. Whisper in my ears, Father.’

His smile faltered.

‘I take it you have many girlfriends then,’ he said and I heard the other boys giggle while my cheeks burned.

I did not have a girlfriend, let alone many girlfriends, but girls held a fascination for me and I already knew that my vocation was a fatherly one, just not a Reverend Fatherly vocation.

There were girls in school and at church that I could have dated, but I believed such relationships must end in marriage and I could not guarantee that so I went through Secondary School single.

I went on to university where I started dating, but found that I could never keep a girl for longer than two semesters. A pattern I continued for most of my life as a serial monogamist until I met Keme two years ago.

We had been together for two years – a personal record – and now, because I forgot to clear my chats, even that was over.

***

Hey Max, she just left me.

It was about 10pm and I was lying in bed listening to my friend on radio. Maxine and I have been friends for over ten years and she hosted a dating program on radio. When I could, I listened in.

I listened in for the music, and during the show I would send her messages to tell her what I thought, or take a trip down memory lane with her, trips inspired by the song she was playing at the time.

That night I was trying to wrap my head around how one could go from in a relationship to single again when she came on air. I listened for a bit before sending her that message, and then I waited.

What? Came her reply minutes later. How are you feeling?

Like crap. I sent her. There’s an emptiness here. I touched my stomach as if she could see me.

Aww, you poor dear. She replied. Hold on, I got an idea.

‘Guys, and by guys I mean ladies.’ I heard her saying on air. ‘I have this friend, let’s call him Bond. So my friend Bond recently became single and I’m looking to hook him up because that’s what I do…’

BACK ON THE SHELF: THIS IS NOT AN INTERVENTION

backontheshelf1

Will you eat yam for lunch?

I looked at my phone and smiled.

Yes please, I replied.

K. Just let me know when you head home so I’ll put it on the fire.

I just have this meeting with Royal and I’ll be heading home.

I scrolled through my last dialled numbers, touched the phone screen and waited for the call to connect.

‘Hello,’ the voice on the other end of the line said.

‘How far? I’m at Maryland now, where are you?’ I asked.

‘I’m in the GRA, shey we should meet up there?’

‘Cool. Where there?’

‘Let’s meet at Spurs. You know Spurs right?’

I thought about that for a second. ‘On Isaac John, abi?’

‘Yes, Isaac John. Just opposite The Place.’

‘Okay, I’ll see you there.’ I said then hung up. I watched the speedometer needle climb from 30km/hr through 40, 50 and come to rest on 60km/hr before I eased off the accelerator, P-Square’s ‘MMS’ playing in the car.

I arrived at Spurs, parked and called again.

‘How far, where are you?’ I asked.

‘I’m just driving into Spurs.’ I looked up to see a red Range Rover sport drive through the gates, the driver drove one-handed – the other hand was held to the side of the driver’s face.

The car parked behind me, the driver side door open and the driver alighted.

I sat in my car a moment longer, watching slim high-heeled legs swing out and touch the concrete. She smoothed down her gown which stopped just above her knees. Her signature cornrow braids fell to her shoulders and the ends bobbed about when she moved her head.

I was out of my car and walking towards her when she slammed her car door.

‘Hey you,’ she beamed.

‘How’ve you been?’ The hug was a little over long, but she didn’t seem to mind.

We walked into the restaurant, took a table by the window and she told me what it was she wanted me to do for her: a friend of hers wanted to open a bank account and she hoped I would be happy to sign a referral for him.

‘Why not?’

Then we ordered lunch.

By the time we were done with lunch, lunch we couldn’t finish, I felt like a stuffed bird.

On my way home. I messaged the girlfriend.

Okay bae. See you soon.

I hope you haven’t boiled the yam. I had lunch with Royal.

I saw the message go from D to R and still had to wait fifteen minutes before I got a reply.

I did, but it’s okay.

I knew it wasn’t okay, but there was nothing for it but to go home and face whatever awaited me.

This happened yesterday afternoon. This morning I woke up and reflexively reached for my phone where I left it beside my pillow to check the time. My searching hand met with cool sheet. I opened my eyes to see my girlfriend sitting by my head. She was dressed for work, my phone in her hand.

Something cold clutched hold of my stomach, inside, and squeezed. My senses came instantly awake, but I lay there trying not to give anything away.

‘Hey,’ I whispered in a pretend sleep-filled voice. ‘What time is it?’

‘5:02.’ She answered.

‘Set for work?’

‘Yes, but just waiting till it’s quarter past, then I’ll head out.’

‘Okay,’ I said even though what I really wanted was my phone back. ‘Let me know when you’re heading out.’ I closed my eyes, but the wheels in my brain were working overtime.

‘What has she seen? What is she even doing with my phone? Should I ask her? Or wait for her to ask me? Did I delete my chats from last night? I think I did. Wait, maybe I didn’t. See why I prefer older generation BlackBerrys? Close chat and the chat disappears. This dirty BlackBerry10 will just continue the chat. Wait, what has she seen?’

She left for work a few minutes later. I went out to move my car so she could drive out.

Drive safe… I messaged her about thirty minutes later to test the waters.

Bobo I am not stupid. Came her reply.

Mehn, things escalated pretty quickly from there on. Before 7 o’ clock I was single. Again.

My name is Bobo Nkiti, and I am back on the shelf.

***************************************************************************

Well Hello there!  

Allow me to introduce to you the newest member to the SIG team,  Bobo Nkiti (yayyy!!!)

Back on the Shelf (BOTS) is Bobo Nkiti’s account of being single in Lagos, which will be exclusive to the SIG blog. His posts will be up every Wednesday so make sure to check the blog for gist and a lot more, also feel free to follow him on twitter @_BoboNkiti 

So please show Bobo Nkiti some love by leaving a comment below. 

Love,