Heads instantaneously turned towards me as the sound of my goods hitting the ground rang through the market section. The bags gave out on impact, the tear visible for all to see. I was thoroughly embarrassed.
Braving the situation, I called for a bag seller to bring bags and transfer my supplies. Thank God I am a firm believer in canned goods, I’d be cursing myself otherwise.
I noticed she had been smiling since our eyes met, she couldn’t stop laughing, and in a weirdly insane way, I found it erotic and endearing. I knew then that there was no escaping this, the only impedance to our having a ‘thing’ would be that, she was already married.
She strolled over to me when the hullabaloo had calmed and ladies had lost interest in the hapless dude who dropped his goods. Did I say she was prettier than Halle Berry, Beyonce and Zoe Saldana? I did? Well, watching her close the gap between us, striding majestically towards me, it started slowly, but I swear, the musical in Amitabh Bachchan‘s ‘Mard‘ ‘Will you marry me?’ Started replaying in my head. I was a dead man standing.
‘Hello!’ She snapped her fingers to get me out of my reverie. ‘Am I the cause of all these, or are u just dramatizing for me? I don’t believe I have that effect on anyone.’ She was still smiling.
I saw her lips moving, nodded stupidly, hearing but not understanding a word she had said. When she stopped talking, I could only mutter a weak ‘huh’.
She should have gotten irritated, thrown a tantrum or even told me off, yet, she smiled, helped me carry one of my bags to my car. My ego sufficiently dented, I asked for her mobile number just to fulfill all righteousness. She gave it to me and I promised to call.
She smiled walked away and called back to me. ‘When you do call, please do not gawk.’ She disappeared into the market.
I stood there for a while wondering what I would do about her. I finally got in the car and drove home. Then another weird thing happened, I forgot all about her. Apparently, my mind had me for a fool and was playing pranks on me.
It was after a week had elapsed, and I was looking for a friend’s contact that I saw her mobile number sitting quietly on my phone; using up space. I placed a call to her immediately.
‘I’m so sorry I’ve not called all these while, I have no excuse other than, I forgot.’ I said apologetic after the initial ‘who are you’ ritual had been passed.
She laughed. ‘At least you called. I gave you the number because I wanted to see how long it would take you to call, and if you would call at all. A week, not bad, you’re trying to form gangster for me isn’t it?’
Because of her amiable tone, I answered honestly, ‘no, I honestly forgot. I get busy sometimes it makes you wonder. I’m truly sorry.’
‘No problem, all is forgiven, and you finally found your voice, cool.’ Her laughter was melodious to the ear, like a soothing accordion. And like that, we became fast friends, after that, I can’t for the life of me say how we started dating. It was a glorious time in Akure.
The days floated past, the sun shone brighter and displayed colours I had never seen, the rains brought us closer, and the moon chronicled our days and nights. It was a beautiful time.
Then, as abruptly as it had all started, the project was completed, I had spent nine months in all in Akure. Now, it was time to go back home, away from the dreamy life I was living, away from the peace and quiet, the annoyingly hot sunlight and away from Kemi.
I was in a pensive mood when I told her. ‘My work in Ondo is done, I have to go back to Lagos next week.’
She digested my words slowly, did not hastily respond, then after a few minutes had passed, she shut her eyes, then reopened them, exhaled and looked into my eyes. ‘Stay. Stay with me.’ It was a demand, not a request.
I analysed how my life was in Lagos, how I had put it on hold for the past nine months, and though she was the best thing that happened to me in that quiet place, I needed to go back to Lagos. Back to my reality.
She nodded through my presentation. Assenting to every point I raised and sometimes expansiating and explaining it back to me to show she understood, when I was done, she said it again, ‘stay. Stay with me.’ This time it was a request.
I held on to my resolve, I was on my way back home. Lagos had called, and I could not resist. As an afterthought, I asked her to come with me.
She closed her eyes again, then clung onto me as if life was about to end for both of us. When she left me, she silently went into the room and started packing her things. Oh, I forgot! She had been staying with me the last two weeks.
I stood there, transfixed, too dazed to move, or stop her. Quietly, she moved all her things into her box, snapped it shut and looked at me one last time.
I held her gaze.
Then she said the same words the third time. ‘Stay. Stay with me.’
I couldn’t bear it any longer, my resolve broke, I looked away from her, hurting that I did not want her to go, eager to be in Lagos. I was torn within myself.
Dragging the box behind her, she left. It was the sound of her car that got me out of my inertia. At that time it was too late to do anything but stand still and complain to the walls. I waited almost an hour, then I called to know if she got home safe.
She answered on the second ring, answered in the affirmative and asked when I would be leaving Akure. I told her.
The days between were long and lonely, my house screamed for her literally and I found myself talking to my walls in the middle of the nights. Then the day came for me to leave.
She came. I could not have divined it, after the call I placed to her five days earlier, I had been too stubborn to call her again, she didn’t call either. But there she was, smiling like nothing had happened between us, like I had not acted like a royal fool and broken her heart. She was smiling.
When I was about leaving, she came to me and hugged me one last time. Then she bit my left ear playfully as she broke off the long hug. ‘This is how I want you to remember me.’ The smile was fast fading.
‘I’m not…’ I tried to explain.
‘Go.’ She nudged me, ‘I understand.’
I stood there, for a while, our eyes locked, then I got in the car, turned the key and drove out. That time, I left. I failed to see the tears that doubtless flowed down her cheeks. I kept telling myself, our story was not over, she would relocate to Lagos and we would have a glorious life together.
Five hours later, I was at Berger, Lagos was just a stone throw, I wound down my side glass and turned off the Air conditioning system. Time to take in the polluted air that was Lagos into my nostrils. It was a ritual I observed without fail everytime I travelled out of the city.
When I got to Ojota, as usual, I had to join the long queues of cars. Lagos and traffic. I was back where the hustle was and momentarily, I forgot all about Kemi. I called all my boys, I was back. I was jubilant and happy when I drove into my house on top of the world, I was back home.
I got out of the car and strolled majestically towards my apartment, then I got the worst shocker I had gotten in a very long time. Standing outside my apartment, waiting for my return was Trisha!