THE NOISY THIRD PARTIES WE LOVE SO MUCH

They are like the ants Chasing drops of cookies They enclose it and stick on Not leaving till it empties out

They are like waterfalls Dropping constantly on the stone edge Not stopping but cleaning  out A spot to brighten its path

They are those you don’t want But let stay They make pies and tell lies In trusting distrust Remaining only for love

JEREMIAH

What happens in every relationship is that at some point your lives start to intersect. First you are two separate people with two separate lives that are running parallel to each other, not even aware the other person exists and then you meet and like octopuses your lives start wrapping around each other, one strong tentacle at a time.

Leg one, that’s the family wrapping around you, getting to know you. Leg two, that’s the sharing of your work concerns and all of a sudden they are the shoulder you lean on. Leg three, that’s your friends becoming their friends. Once you were two groups, and now you’re one big, boisterous, increasingly incestuous entity (once your friends start dating their friends). Leg four, that’s life- stories from their childhood, teenage crushes, village drama, hopes and dreams- all of these things about someone else that suddenly becomes part of your own mental timeline, until you two are now kind of one except in the biblical sense.

You see where I am going right? It’s a lot. It’s exhausting. It’s a distraction. I try to avoid it and I’ve pretty much succeeded in doing so these past 28 years. Don’t get me wrong, my problem has never been with the women. It’s with everything outside of them. I am a one woman, one man, type of man. That means, no family, no friends, no pets. I just want to get into a ‘You and me’ bubble and enjoy that. Not so bad, right? At this point, I’m sure the shrinks in the room will try to connect this to my family. Child of divorce avoids entanglements. Blah blah blah. I am just going to lean back and smile at that one. I wish I was that deep.

With Sarah, it’s different. I should have expected that. You guys saw it coming, right? She’s different so it follows that everything else is different and doesn’t work out so easily.

She is at my door, looking hot in ripped jeans and an orange t-shirt that says ‘call me pretty one more time.’ I’m standing in the doorway, acutely aware that behind me, Timu and Lanre are trying to get a good look at her. I wish I had called to cancel. But the truth is I didn’t want to. I wanted to see her. A month and a half in and I like seeing her. I like all these layers I’m pulling off one by one. If that means I have to suffer through her meeting these idiot, toh.

“Am I standing outside? Is there a side chick inside wearing your shirt and no underwear?” She asks.

I laugh. Random thought: she should wear glasses. I can see it now. Twenty years from now she will wear glasses, silver streaks in her hair, mom weight, she’ll be beautiful.

“She might be the main chick,” I say. The beginning of a frown creases her forehead. Not funny? Okay, time to move on quickly.

“My friends are here. They went to the club last night and came here to crash.”

“Oookay,” she says, her eyes flitting behind me. “Should I go?”

“I’m just warning you. They have issues.”

She smiles as if she is equipped to handle all issues. I step aside and let her into the dimly lit living room. The curtains are closed. The lights are off. The guys are lying on the two sofas in front and to the side of the TV which they were watching at high volume. Now they’re looking at her like idiots with no home training.

I eye them from behind her and Lanre reduces the TV volume and sits up on the chair.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” she replies. Her voice has gone kind of low. I move to her side. She’s making a small attempt at a friendly smile. Oh my goodness, is she shy?

She doesn’t really have to say much – What’s up? Nice to meet you. Oh, you’re watching the most recent season of Game of Thrones, that’s cool- and they are both looking impressed at how pretty she is. It’s a nice pretty, but there’s more to her than that.

We drift away from them to the second room in the house. My reason for getting her here. She looks at the empty space I told her I’d like her to paint. I doubt I’ll ever actually use this room. I’m barely in my bedroom, talk less of this one, but sometimes you just want a conversation with a girl in a quiet place without food or a gigantic movie screen. If she has to paint this place for me to get it, I’m good with that.

“I don’t know why they paint rooms this ugly blue colour. It’s so depressing,” she squeezes her nose in distaste.

I nod, watching her look around, and try to imagine how an artist sees this place. Wawu. Saying artist always make you sound pretentious… As pretentious as when I tell people I’m a chef. A chef and an artist…. how epic is that combination?

“Are you sure you can paint this place without the landlord’s approval?” she asks.

I nod. “I’ll just repaint it when I’m leaving.”

She looks at me. “I haven’t painted a grown up’s place in a long time.”

“You can paint cartoons. I won’t complain.”

She smiles. “You were born in the 80’s right? Simpsons, Tom and Jerry, Sesame Street.”

“I think I’d prefer Barbie. Just get her proportions right.”

She laughs and throws a balled up tissue at me. Hmm. I wonder where that came from… what do I care, it’s from Sarah.

We talk for a long time, sitting on the bare floor in the room. I think she’s expecting me to make a move on her, but I don’t.  We make our way back out to the parlour eventually and she sits with the boys.

“Guy, we’re hungry,” Timu says.

That’s my cue. I leave them.

SARAH

This is a list of things that this day was not:

An excuse to get me to his house to “further the relationship.” Ehem.

What I expected. I obsessed about this last night until I had a headache (is this innocent or is this something else, cue side eye). What I didn’t expect was that there would be other people when I arrived. If I did, I might have tried to look cuter.

Comfortable. His friends stared for Africa. One of them checked out my ass as I left the room… or maybe the remote really fell and he was twisting his neck looking for it.

Again, comfortable.  In the parlour, when Jeremiah went to cook, his friends became bad cop and good cop. Timu peppered me with all kinds of questions; Where do I stay? My job, do I make a lot of money? Like how much exactly? Where am I from? What’s my surname? Am I those Aniekans? What kind of music and movies do I like? By the time he was done it felt like the prison scenes in American movies, where they probe them anally. At this point we have to get married or my bride price will reduce. The other one, Lanre, was just exceptionally polite. He asked if I wanted anything. If I wanted to watch something different. If I would like to play cards. He’s like the village wife to jerk city rich guy.

Bad. I had errands afterwards that kept me in the sun most of the day, but I hummed through it all. You know it’s a good day when you’re humming.

 

SARAH

I tried to keep the worlds from colliding for as long as possible. I thrive in chaos. Everything chaotic, messy, smudged together like a painting, glorious and beautiful because they are free and devoid of limitations. But in this case I wanted to keep the worlds separate for as long as possible. Just Jeremiah and I, away from everyone and every other part of my life before they inevitably connect and all the crap from the other area start to seep into this one, staining us and giving us baggage.

I’m not exactly sure how we ended up here. It started with me and my sister, Sandra, sitting at a table by the pool of a hotel where her boyfriend works; her eating a burger and me eating chips and fish. She is once again trying to get me to get a ‘proper’ job. It is coming out of her mouth but it is really Ma’s words. Ma has shoved her hand through the back of her head and is moving her mouth like a puppet.

We are complete opposites. She is wearing a black skirt suit and heels and looks so serious she could be a widow, and I am here in my sandals and strapless dress, looking like her younger sister and not the older one. I don’t know when I became such a disappointment. I really don’t.

I’m texting Jennifer and Efe who are not too far away from the hotel. I beg them, “Because of God, please show up like it’s a coincidence so she can stop talking.”

They’re good friends so twenty minutes later they show up, exclaim in surprise, put their hands on their chests, hug my sis as if they love her, and join us at the table.

As I hoped, my sister changes the subject to something less heavy. With other people around she is actually quite funny. We eat and laugh. I’m trying to cram the last fork of chips into my mouth when someone appears by my side. I look up, mouth still too full and chewing, and see Jeremiah. I won’t lie. It feels like karma. I asked these girls to show up like it’s a coincidence and God sends me this one by coincidence as a punishment.

I choke down the food in my mouth. Smile like I am happy to see him. Introduce him to everyone at the table who are looking up at him extremely curious. My sister especially. She has that look that says, ‘den den den, I will tell mommy for you.’ All the while I am thinking, can you feel that? Hear that?

That’s the sound of carnage as the worlds collide.

We all end up sitting together, four girls and one him. He is laid back in his chair, he laughs easily, but I can sense he is a little bit uncomfortable. He endures their questions about what he does. Their exclamations about knowing his workplace. Their dumb jokes about him not needing a wife because he can cook -with that one I see the corner of his eyes tighten and his nose scrunch. “Oh well, I’m not marrying because I need a cook.”

They ask him why he would marry, what qualities he’s looking for (spec), if his family won’t have any objections to him marrying someone from a different tribe. I keep trying to step in and steer the conversation in another direction, but these witches refuse to be thwarted. I give up and let this play out.

Eventually, his phone rings and he answers it. When he hangs up, he looks at us, “My friend is here.” I nod. They all make a fuss about how it was nice to meet him. He reaches out and squeezes my hand and kind of holds it, looking at me. I am smiling at him. I know these girls are watching us with stupid grins. He leaves us and only after he’s gone do I realize how tense I was. I relax into the chair. Look around until my gaze meets my sister’s.

“He’s nice,” she says.

“Yeah,” I say, attempting to sound nonchalant, as if I don’t care about her or anyone else’s opinion. I will do what I want to do. But deep down I know that’s not quite true. It’s the same reason I don’t read movie reviews. Because as much as we would all like to think we are strong, unshakeable entities, all it really takes is one voice in our heads to make us question ourselves.

JEREMIAH

Here’s a list of things that today was:

Uncomfortable. That’s all.

 

STEP FOUR: NOW THAT THE FIRST DATE IS OVER, WE…

Roses are red Violets are blue

It is rare to know what exactly to do

 

JEREMIAH

I wake up happy. I go from asleep to awake in .001 seconds. My eyes are open, I am clear and smiling because it’s a beautiful morning and I just had a good night. Is it corny? Yes. But be grateful I didn’t say I woke up feeling like I can fly. Like it is a sunny, breezy day and I am whistling, in my own music video about to break into the moonwalk.

It’s 4:00am. It’s still dark. It’s deathly quiet. The unholy kind that makes you think about all the witch stories you heard as a child. I hate mornings. Most days I sleep exactly four and a half hours and if that isn’t an ungodly number of hours, I don’t know what is.

Again, I hate mornings. So why am I awake every day at this time?  Because the traffic in this city is hell and if I want to make it to the fish market for the herring and trout I need for the day’s menu, or run errands or visit with people before I report to the kitchen where everything else disappears until closing time, then I have to be up now. (I am the annoying friend who shows up at 7:00am when you’re trying to get ready for work, and your baby is screaming its head off, without calling first, just to say hi. I spend so much time at work, I have to do this to convince myself I am still human).

I do the mundane things. I get out of bed. I take a bath. I get dressed. I douse myself in perfume until I smell like a god. I pick up my phone. I am tempted to message Sarah except for two things. First, it’s way too early in the morning- no need to bring her into my hell. Second, it’s too soon after the date.

“Let’s not get desperate Jer. That’s how men get friendzoned.”

It turns into one of those days. There are a million things to do. People flood the restaurant. It is complete chaos. My staff keep making blunders. A mistake is made and everyone quiets waiting for me to blow up. I ignore them. Not today. Today I’m in too good a mood to care.

Around closing, my friends Lanre and Timu show up. What happens when you’re a chef is your friends randomly come around like orphans wanting you to feed them. We sit at a table for four near the wall. While they eat they talk about work and gossip like girls. I listen, absent-minded.

“Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm.” I reply. I wait until there is a lull in the conversation, to make it look like I have not been itching to talk about this since they sat down, and casually slip it in about Sarah. I think I am very smooth, but apparently I’m not.

“This is what happens when you stay in the kitchen too long. You meet a chick and start sounding like you want to cry,” Lanre says laughing.

They have all kinds of important questions about her.

“Is she fine?”

“Can she cook?”

“Yes, yes, I can nau.”

“Look how he is. Enjoy it,” Timu, the married one says. “It will pass.”

“No, it won’t,” I say firmly…or maybe stubbornly.

“Enjoy it se,” he says, absolutely sure of himself like he is a morbid fortune teller. “It will pass.”

He’s wrong, I know, but still I feel the thought burrowing into the back of my mind.

 

SARAH

I wake up languid and stretching, feeling like I do when I have the dream that I just painted the room of the President’s secret love child from his favourite side chick and they just paid me a couple of millions to keep it quiet.

I think of last night and I smile even more. It was a good night, right? They say you can tell a lot from first impressions and this one has me thinking I might never go on another first date again. Hallelujah!

I smile and stretch and open my eyes, and almost scream. My mother is sitting on the edge of the bed watching me grimly.

“Maaaa,” I complain, my heart is hammering like I am about to die. “STOP doing this.”

Am I the only one whose mother likes early morning lectures? I guess I shouldn’t complain. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and see her standing over me, just waiting for me to sense her presence and wake up so she can tell me to be careful with men on Facebook. When I complained she’d say, “But I didn’t wake you. I was just standing.”

“You came home late,” she says.

Oh God, I know where this is going.

“Sorry,” I mumble. I am 28 years old and still I have a curfew.

“Where did you go?’

“I just went to eat.”

“With who?”

I have two choices. I can tell her about Jeremiah which I really, really want to do, just because all of a sudden my mouth is running and I want to tell everyone, or I can keep it to myself, because if I do, she will start picking aseobi and I am not about that life.

“No one,” I mumble.

I fall onto my back and cover my eyes with my left arm.

“You went by yourself?”

“With a friend.”

“He doesn’t have a name?”

“I didn’t say it was a man.”

“Humph.”

It is an irritated ‘humph.’ A ‘you are getting older’ humph. ‘Why can’t you be like your sisters?’ ‘You’re older so why can’t you set a good example?’ I’ve heard it all before. Still stings.

Nature calls. I get out of bed to attend to it. I check my phone a million times. Shouldn’t he have texted by now?

I leave home for work around 9:00am after traffic has eased.  I generally work two to three jobs at a time. Now I’m working on Joshua’s room and a Princess wall for a three year old girl. Her parents are not the good kind. Her father is a rich something at a bank and he wears it like an announcement. He insists I work on weekends so he can be there to supervise the progress. He stalks around the room behind me as I work, as if this is a test and he is an olden day’s school teacher standing over my desk, watching me write.

Today he tries to intrude. He appears at my side and points to the smaller frogs behind the Frog Prince looking up at Princess Tiana. “I don’t like those ones.”

I ignore him. I am in the centre of my zone. If he draws me out it will take forever to get back in.

“Did you hear me?”

Internally I take a deep breath. I forfeit my zone.

“I haven’t finished it yet. Sir.”

“Oh,” he says. “Okay.” As he turns to leave, he brushes my ass slyly like it is a mistake. But I know it’s not a mistake.

Without having to think about it, I drop the brush in my hand, swivel and slap his hand so hard it hurts me.

I don’t even know where the words come from but they are spewing from me in a fluid stream.

“Don’t you ever, freaking ever, touch me again.”

I go on for a minute until his wife appears in the door way and I look up at her staring at us suspiciously. No, she is staring at me suspiciously. Why do women always blame women? I jump off the ladder and start shoving my brushes into the bag, dirty. I gather my things together. Collapse my ladder and secure it under my arm and leave them in the room. They can keep their half painted wall.

I dump the stuff in the back of the car and stew in silence. The customer is always right ke? You touch me, you get what’s coming to you. But by the time I start to calm down, I start to think I overreacted. I work on referrals. I need to become successful and accomplished so my entire family can feel bad that they doubted me.  My mood is plummeting quickly.

My phone beeps and I dig it out of my pocket. It’s a message from Jeremiah. Life still sucks, but I can’t help but smile.

 

JEREMIAH

Every weekend I like to go to different places, tasting other people’s food. I don’t discriminate. Sometimes it’s Iya-Basira with wooden benches and rubber bowls for you to wash your hands in, and other times it is big name restaurants that have waiters in uniform who bring you bills you’ll regret tomorrow.

This weekend it’s a sports bar in a corner of town. I go alone, always. Other people are a distraction. They want to talk and make conversation when I really just want to eat.

It is loud and rowdy. It’s Saturday night so the place is full of people watching a football match. I like football as much as the next guy, but I don’t have the same fascination as most people. I have my teams. I have the jerseys. But I don’t have the time to follow every league in Christendom. This one is a minor match between minor teams no one should care about.

I sit at the bar and order my food- their most popular item; a burger and a spicy chicken salad. After I order I put on my timer and wait to see how long it will take. 26 minutes. Too long.  I approach the food seriously. I drink water to clear my palate. Take a bite. Chew it slowly, trying to place the ingredients and decide whether I like it or not. First impressions. If you don’t like it with the first bite, you don’t like it. This one is just okay.

I am eating and texting back and forth with Sarah- she has a great sense of humour- and Lanre at the same time.  Someone taps lightly on my shoulder. I half turn in the direction and see a face I haven’t seen since University days and inside me, I harden.

Nene.

She is pretty and since we’re both being polite, ‘generously endowed’. That was always my type back then.

She is all smiles. She seems genuinely pleased to see me. She’s going on…

“Long time. You look good. What are you up to?”

Nothing in her says, ‘I feel guilty I screwed your father for a little bit.’

But then I don’t think she knows that I know. And really, there is no need to be unfair to her, who didn’t he chase?

I look down at my food. I’ve lost my appetite. You know all those old, dark questions about yourself you like to pretend are not there? They start to rise again, about the type of person I am; about the possible things our childhoods have programmed into us. Things that may be lying under the surface, waiting for the right moment to pop out and mess us up. People have always said I am a lot like him, I mean like father, like son. I’m never comfortable when they say that.

She finally notices my lack of interest in this conversation and rises to leave. Now that she has successfully ruined my mood. I push the food aside.

I doubt I could taste it now anyway.

Story brought to you by sleeicktales.wordpress.com

 

LETTER TO MY NEXT…

PhotoGrid_1499975973989.jpgHey ‘boyfriend in five years to come ‘, I hope you’re doing great?

Let me introduce myself: Sharon, 5’ 4″, a little fair; kinda chocolate but not exactly like these perfect brown skinned sugar coloured girls… My complexion is kinda confused. You know: not fair, not dark, just ermm…just fine. Tiny pimples and spots here and there but not scary at all, nothing to worry about plus a good powder does well to cover them up.

You see, it’s quite important you know some of these things so you’ll have a slight picture who you’re about to meet. I’m not the most beautiful girl you’ll ever see on Earth ‘cos I’m not even the most beautiful girl in the neighborhood *rolls eyes*. I mean, I knew that since I was seven. There is this girl, Bunmi who lives behind our house. We were good friends and I liked her. I thought we were both the coolest kids on the block.

Low key, I used to feel I was more beautiful than she was but we were both cool anyways. You know, the girls who do the ‘telephone wire weave-on’ hair style every Christmas and mind you, not just the normal black coloured ‘telephone wire’ but the tinted one, at age seven! Boy, we were the finest girls in Pipeline! (that’s the name of my neighborhood)

Back then I had a neighborhood crush, Toye; one light skinned, fine boy like that.

You see, every girl liked Toye. No matter how much we played together, we all knew we were rivals in that aspect:

TOYE!

Toye the finest boy; Toye whose father was the richest in the neighbourhood; Toye whose mother will not allow him play football with the rest of the boys. He was neat and we rarely saw him outside which just heightened our fantasies.

We were all rivals but never admitted it. Then guess what!?

He showed interest in Bunmi! I mean, he liked Bunmi!

How could he! I was devastated! Heart broken! Torn apart!

It was then I knew Bunmi had also seen me as a rival or more of an enemy. She told the other girls in the neighborhood that she had always known she is more beautiful than I am. It was painful but there was nothing I could do about it because she had proof!

Toye liked her and not me!

But hey, girls over bros!

I just had to let it go, all the ‘soft- soft’ signals I had been giving Toye which he had not seen had to be stopped, with immediate effect ‘cos you know, one musn’t sly a fellow sister.

I accepted defeat: I am not the finest girl in the neighborhood, Bunmi is.

And you know, perhaps that’s the reason I still do not like guys who are light skinned. They often think they are so fine and then, it gets into their head and they end up being unreasonably proud boys who cannot make right decisions. Call me biased ‘cos of what happened with Toye when I was younger but well…I just really hope you, dear next boyfriend are not light skinned.

This brings me to the next point, many times I wonder if you’re around already. You know, in Yoruba, they say what you’re looking for in Sokoto might just be right there in your sokoto.

P.S.  ‘Sokoto’ is a far away city in Nigeria (I’m explaining ‘cos you know, you might be based abroad: in California or something😂, you can’t stop a girl from hoping😂)The second ‘sokoto’ means your dress pocket. The proverb then means the miracle you are expecting from far away might be so near and you just didn’t know it.

So at times, I wonder if you know me already. Perhaps you’re a friend and I’m the one who has not been noticing you or vice versa. Now that’s the reason for this letter, let’s discuss the problem,

Why haven’t I been noticing you?

ARE YOU LIGHT SKINNED!!!! *Freaks out*

That must be it! That must be it! Oh no!

*Breathes in and out*

Okay, Sharon calm down.

we can work something out, we really can. You guys are human after all, right!?

So we can do some damage control, which includes:

1. Keep your beards! This is extremely important my dear!

‘If you’re black, white, yellow, even chocolate brown’ *singing*, the beard is absolutely necessary.

You do not have to be worried about your height. You see, I’m a short girl (people say it a lot) so I believe no guy is, or rather should be shorter than I am.

I mean, if a guy is shorter than I am, then it has become something else. Kilode!

Now, they say there is an element of seriousness in every joke and you must know, all I’ve written above are jokes but if any form of seriousness wants to be squeezed out of it, then it is this:

DO NOT BE LIGHT SKINNED, please honey. Do not be!

Lastly, there are times I’m a bit apprehensive. Sometimes, when I hear a particular message or gain a particular knowledge, I always wish you were here with me to hear it too because I know these knowledge will be of value to my relationship in the future, my relationship with you.

For example, when I learn about love and it’s thoroughness; how to be a better person which will definitely translate into being a better wife to you every day of our lives. I’m learning baby, not even for you but for God. He teaches me simple etiquettes and manner of behaviors like how to handle my emotions; how not to be rude no matter how annoyed I am with a person (A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger- Proverbs 15:1); how not to allow people (not even you) lord over my emotions and reactions for he alone is Lord, literally (If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved- Romans 10:9).

When people hurt me now, I run to the secret place, God. It makes me not want to hurt them back with harsh responses or by keeping malice.  I just let it all go at the secret place. I’m growing to be a strong woman. You will be proud of me baby and in all truth, I am not scared. I am not scared you will not be as great as I have always thought you will be.

Before now, I used to wonder what it will be like if after working hard at being a better person, then I meet you and realize you are not even worth it but it actually isn’t possible for if you’re not the man who will lead me, then you will never find me; we will never happen. (He who finds a wife, finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord- Proverbs 18:22)

For I believe, we choose who we want to be with; ordained by God but our very choice.

So I believe you will find me, you! Yes you, who believes in God; You, who believes in him so much you allow him take over your words, actions and reactions; You who have a relationship with God.

People say stuff like ‘there is no boy like this any more, you girls should stop ‘fantasizing’ and  just forget it’ but hey, ‘is it their wait!?’.😁

If you do not come by, then I’ll gladly remain single (I sign this with my own hands) for it is better to be single than be forever mismatched, unequally yoked.

Till we meet, I am your future girlfriend.

P.S. When you meet me, you will understand why it took so long. I’m Gold and Gucci baby *winks*

Another P.S. I think I might slap you the day I finally know it’s you. I mean like, Where the heck have you been!

Love you xo xo.

 

STEP THREE: THE SOMEWHAT AWKWARD YET ALMOST PERFECT FIRST DATE

Several times, I have been on love’s other side

Now I’m here with a fresh slate

Making moves to start in a better place

My plans are steeped in researchable slides

Making sure your night is filled with smiles

Unearthing frontiers I present

To ensure, you don’t resent.

 

Several times, I have been on love’s other side

Now I’m here with a fresh slate

Making moves to start in a better place

My plans are sure for others will know

Wine and dine; slow and slow

Laugh at jokes made for show

Unwind and relax, focus on you

 

Several times, I have been on love’s other side

Now I’m here with a fresh slate

Making moves to start in a better place

Compliments are thrown, unabashedly so.

Never relent in moves that work

Cos now I’m sure that this will work

Striding in steps and hoping to hop.

 

SARAH

Pink halter neck top on dark blue denim jeans. Nope! Too desperate. Okay, red off-shoulder gown with the stones in front… argghh, makes my ankles look fat. Yes, finally, my little black dress – every fashionistas go-to dress… too… arrrgghhhh!!

I scream, throwing my hands up in the air.

Come on, Sarah you’re an artist, you fuse colours. You can do this, just think colours. Okay, blue cropped top on grey peplum skirt. Not working.

Giving up, I plop down on my bed wishing the ocean would just overflow and cover all of Lagos. That way everyone will stay in their houses and this date would never happen.

I catch myself smiling remembering how gawky Jeremiah sounded when he asked me out. “Um so, I was thinking… maybe we should… kinda you know, just, you know… meet for like a bite, kind of a date-like kind of thing… Or not a date. I’d cook so it’s kinda like work,” he had mumbled. Repressing a chuckle, I’d put him out of his misery and said yes. Although not as eagerly as it was ringing in my head, thank God!

Now I’m standing here in my Victoria Secrets underwear wishing I’d just said no. I want to go out with him, but I really hate dressing up.

My phone beeps. Oh, jeez it’s Jeremiah. He’s asking if I’m ready yet. Come on, Sarah tell him something. Tell him you have wardrobe crisis. Yeah right, like women ever did that. Men are judgmental. He’ll think I’m indecisive. Lie to him then, tell him you have herpes. Wait what?  Tell him your dog died. Okay, now you’re just being crazy Sarah. Fine, menstrual cramps it is – that excuse though, helping women since 1984.

I give my wardrobe one last perusal before closing it. The four compartments are full to overflowing with clothes of diverse colours, yet I don’t have anything to wear. I shake my head.  Men are so lucky, with only three shirts and one pair of jeans, they are set for the week.

 

JEREMIAH

Standing now in my Tommy Hilfiger boxers gazing from my empty wardrobe to my bed piled high with clothes, I cannot help but realize how hopeless the situation is. I have nothing to wear. I know I sound like a woman right now but the truth is I have tried on everything, literally everything in my wardrobe including an agbada and nothing seems perfect enough for the date.

I’m usually very put together. Laura says I dress the way I arrange my kitchen. Meticulously. Anyways, my point is I’m never lacking in the outfit department, even if I spend most of my days in chef’s white and a toque Blanche I’m still dapper underneath.

So why is it so difficult to come up with something to wear?

My phone buzzes. Geez, she’s not one of the tardy ones. I drop onto my bed, my clothes flying around as I do. I find my phone and it’s my mom. “So I heard you have a date, how is it going?”

Arrgh! I’m going to kill Laura… Okay, forget about Laura. It’s Sarah. She texted.

Hi, still coming, but I might be like five minutes late.

I chuckle, “Women’s #2 Favourite Lie.” No woman can ever be just five minutes late. I have a mother and sister… I know.

 

SARAH

Beautiful, enthralling, amazing… those words do not begin to describe the interior of the Marigold restaurant. The moment I step through the revolving doors I am rooted to the spot, awestruck.

The place is empty now, closed for the night yet open for my benefit. My eyes are everywhere, on the arcs and the domes with their intrinsic patterns. Don’t even get me started on the colour fusion –this painter must have invented a technique that even fusing colour pundits would argue doesn’t exist …there is topaz, mikado, coquelicot, fuchsia, and some I can’t name. Hmmm there’s also Marigold… touché. The art is breath-taking. I recognize a few by my favourite painters, even a hyper-realistic one by Oresegun Olumide.

I’m lost in staring when Jeremiah says, “Hi.”

How long has he been watching me gawk? I turn to look at him and he is so very handsome, it’s like he has grown fairer and his beard is super chiselled, reminding me of Trey Songz. He’s looking all official in a chef’s uniform. Officially sexy.

“Hi.” My voice comes out low. My hands are busy fumbling with the hem of my red A-line gown.

He smiles, a million dollar one and as if he hears my thought, he starts taking off his uniform. Again, I say SEXY!!! Underneath he is wearing a long sleeved grey and black striped shirt by Zara. I know this because… Okay, Sarah please don’t laugh. Look at his trousers; a custardy yellow colour- bold choice- and the denim loafers just complete the look.

My eyes are back on his face again and he is giving me one of those lingering looks that can make a girl feel sexy, or wait, is he is judging my gown? Well, Sandra’s gown- when in doubt check your sister’s wardrobe. The gown is a little tight.

 

JEREMIAH

Okay Jer, you have to stop staring and say something or she’s going to think you’re a boring perv. She’s pretty no doubt… A cross between Aishwarya Rai and Agbani Darego. Too much? Yeah, whatever. It’s true. And those curves…

Okay time to talk.

“Welcome to Marigold,” I say at the same time she says, “This place is lovely.” We both pause waiting for the other to continue and then just like that we start laughing in sync. The ice is officially broken.

She offers me her hand, elegantly if I must add, and I take her around the restaurant, pointing out the African art, the pier, and then, my favourite place- the kitchen. We finally arrive at the focal rendezvous for the night, my office – furnished to host a candlelit dinner. Everything looks perfect, like a scene from a high budget movie, although I can’t help but feel I went overboard by dimming the lights. She might think I’m trying to make a move on her. Aren’t you Jer? Oh, please shut up head.

I pull out a chair and she gives me a weird look before sitting. Got it! She’s not a fan of the gentleman act.

Excusing myself, I dash to the kitchen to dish up the first course.

“Fettuccine,” I say as I open the stainless lid. But she gives me a funny look. “It’s Italian.” Yay, she’s smiling now.

The aroma of the food fills the room with its thick, cheesy smell. And the taste is sublime, one look at Sarah’s pretty face and I can tell. We eat in silence mostly, only throwing in banal praises to Italy for their culinary foresight. She is so brilliant. The next course is Chicken Chimichangas with sour cream sauce and she makes a joke in a Mexican accent. We laugh as I crack open another bottle of Dom Perignon. For the third course I bring her home with two wraps of Jer’s special moi-moi. I can give any Mama Put a run for her money with this one, Sarah confirms that.

After we are done, I rise to clear the dishes and this time she stands up to assist me. I try to protest but she is adamant so I leave her. She carries the plates to the sink and starts washing them. Oshey! Wife material toh sure! Although from the way she’s washing I can tell she grew up surrounded by helps, both in human and machine form. But she is determined to wash, so I leave her.

Now we’re back in the office drinking our wine and staring into the night. It’s not awkward. It’s perfect. She walks up to my small stereo and presses the play button. Lionel Richie’s ‘Say you say me’ fills the air. Oh geez, now she is definitely going to think I’m a perv setting the mood. I could have as well just put a bed in the middle.

She’s laughing now, heartily, and then she starts singing along, announcing that Lionel Richie is her favourite. ME TOO! She invites me to sway with her.

MOOD SET!

 

SARAH

Everything is perfect …really perfect…we talk about everything, from politics, to traffic, to our personal lives… He tells the story of how he had gone to the University of Abaraka to read computer science for his father’s benefit, but had dropped out to go to catering school. He’s a Scorpio, and although I’m a Taurus and they say our signs are incompatible when it comes to love, I don’t care… Hmm, see me talking about love already.

I notice one thing though, he is a perfectionist, although he tries to counter when I say so by saying, “I like things done a certain way.”

I strike up a scenario, “Okay, imagine someone puts thyme in your egusi soup, will you make it work or will you throw the entire pot away?” He can’t even answer the question. It seems to have scared him… The latter it is then… But egusi with thyme, though, eww.

He has a comeback, “if you’re painting a red rose and someone smears black paint on it…”

I answer immediately, “I’d work around it, or make it a black rose, or a purple rose, although an oxblood coloured rose wouldn’t be bad, I could even….” Now I’m entering that zone, come out Sarah! He is looking at me like I’m a newly found treasure. Aww.

We are sitting and facing each other on the ground now, laughing our faces off at some knock knock jokes. ‘Akan who?’ ‘Akanbi your hero baby!’ Hehehe! My hair is a mess now and I’m sure my red lipstick is gone, I don’t even care. Our shoes are everywhere, the left leg of my nude heel is outside the door. How did that even happen?

I wish I don’t have to go. One question though, do we kiss goodbye or do we not? He leans in and I think he’s going to. Do it. Do it. Do it. I’m puckering my mouth already. He leans over and picks up his phone behind me. My eyes drift shut in embarrassment. Why are you like this, Sarah?

 

JEREMIAH

Entering my apartment, I can’t help but smile at how lucky I got. Sarah is perfect. She’s it.

I think about how great tonight was as I lean back on the door like a lovesick teenager. I can’t wait to see her again.

For now though, time to go to bed. Tomorrow is Monday. Standing in front of the mirror I admire my appearance. Stopping at Twice as Nice to get the shirt was a good call.

Wait a second…OH. MY. GOD. Please tell me that label has not been dangling on the shirt all evening!

 

STEPS OF FALLING IN LOVE

STEP 1: LIKE AT FIRST SIGHT

On the day we met, I saw my life

In one sweep, I saw reason,

Wrapped in a 36 pounds, big eyed girl.

On the day we met, I saw our victories

I read the lines behind your eyes and felt my heartbeat soar,

Trapped and stuck in my emotions looking to find a fault.

Suddenly I leapt, starting my life as I would know it.

JEREMIAH

This is how it works.

You spend Monday to Sunday working over a hot stove giving marching orders to your staff,

too much salt, not enough spice, is it supposed to be this bland!?, do you even have taste buds!?’

throwing pans around, barking out requests coming in from the restaurant, tasting the food once again, chopping, dicing, sweating, feeling like you’re the freaking Master Chef, basking in the chaos and loving every minute of it, all the way from 10:00am to 9:00pm.

Then all of a sudden, it all goes quiet and you’re alone. Everyone else is gone.

You are left standing like the lone survivor of a zombie apocalypse in the kitchen you love like a wife, A hot wife. Hahahaha. See what I did there? Nah? Okay, forget it.

It’s perfect. She’s perfect. But then people have started to mention that you spend way too much time with her, the kitchen. Maybe they’re right, It is starting to get kind of awful quiet here in the dead of the night. Was that a noise coming from the pantry? Yes? No? Okay, time to go home.

SARAH

This is how it works.

Referrals baby! Your one gypsy friend sees the pattern you painted on your room wall in school, it’s a cipher within a cipher; rich blues, greens and yellows that bring out the deep blue wall. The cipher is a math problem you saw somewhere. It’s supposed to be unsolvable. It’s kind of beautiful, the unsolvability, like art. Numbers that just remain there; stagnant, unchanging, immortalized, until one person comes along and sees through it  and starts swishing figures: here, there, here, there and boom! It’s solved and pretty Not beautiful anymore, but still pretty.

Anyway, I digress. This friend of yours sees the pattern and wants you to do the same for her, which you do for free. And then her friend sees it and wants the same thing done for her, then another sees it and wants the same done for her. At some point, Gypsy suggests it’s time you start charging for it. It’s a good thing she does or it probably would never have occurred to you. It feels odd charging for something you love so much. But you do it anyway… your mother didn’t raise a fool.

While other people are applying for jobs, you’re painting. While they are partying, you’re painting. While they are going on dates, you’re painting. And the more you paint, you know what you realize? It’s lovely, this thing that you’re doing, but it isn’t what you really want.

Where’s the magic? Where’s the mysticism? Where are the fairies and dragons and Mary’s lamb? Where are the things that make people dream?

You have to stop talking like this. This is why people call you weird. Luckily, everyone and their brother is getting married these days. Opens up the market. You stop painting friends places and start offering to paint their children’s rooms instead. There it is, the humming in your blood is going again. It’s a fun transition. You stop meeting people you’ve known your whole life and start meeting new people, interesting people, terrible people, normal people, creative people… and sometimes, unexpected people.

JEREMIAH

My sister has one of those bourgeois houses in a bourgeois estate bought by her bourgeois husband. He’s rich, As in rich, rich. The kind of rich that makes the rest of us look bad. We live in the same city but she has to force me to come and visit. Don’t get me wrong, she’s fam, I love her. I would just prefer it if she came to see me in the kitchen and she talked while I cooked.

It feels strange doing nothing. It’s Sunday. I’m stretched out on one of those white lawn chairs you see by pools or the beach, but this one is laid out on the balcony upstairs, facing out at the ocean which is their backyard. Mtcheew. Too freaking rich. There’s a matching lawn chair beside me. My mind immediately pairs them as his and her chairs, and wonders:

A. Whose chair am I sitting on?

B. What on earth do they do on these chairs? the hell did I have to picture my sister in any romantic scenario?

As you can imagine, I find it hard to relax on them now.

It’s a nice cool day. Not hot, just sun-behind-the-clouds breezy. The air smells like ocean. You can hear the water. It is probably scary when there is a storm; water churning like the devil is stirring it. But right now it is lapping peacefully, in and out.

The glass sliding door behind me pulls open, I crane my neck around the side of the chair. My sister, Laura, pulls it shut behind her, carrying a red, fruity drink in a sweaty glass on a small tray. She appears at my side, liberates a coaster from the tray, places it on a dainty lawn table and sets the drink down on it smoothly. Our mother would be proud.

I pick it up. Ice cubes jiggle around inside, “Where is your servant?”

She sits in the other chair. Her chair? Shut up brain, “My house helps are downstairs.”

I laugh. “You can’t act high and mighty when you just said house helps, plural.”

She chuckles.

Look at us. The Okaro children. Who would have thought? We’ve come far.

Laura and I look a lot alike. Both tall, both fair, both have lots of hair- for her it hangs to her collarbone in fat, natural twists girls like these days. For me, it is hair that is ruthlessly and frequently styled in a crew cut, and a full beard I’ve had long before beard gang became a thing.

“So Jerry, why are you here today?”, Usually I have to bribe you to come over.”

“It’s not my fault your house is a journey, and don’t call me Jerry. You know it sounds like that stupid MTN ad.”

“I love that ad,” she exclaims.

She changes her tone to mimic the love struck girl in the ad. “Oh, Jeeerry.”

Urgh.

She trills with laughter. I slide further down onto the chair. Laura chatters on about… about what? Our parents? Her friends who are all trying to sleep with her rich husband or her hot brother? Both? I know they just want a man. Her new dream to be a fashion designer?

Does it matter? She talks. I listen to the waves. They come in and out, in and out. I close my eyes. I feel the wind. My phone buzzes in my pocket. I ignore it. Probably my mum, Again. Now I’m languid, floating somewhere in my mind. So this is what rest and family feels like, It’s not bad.

SARAH

I listen to Rihanna’s ‘Work’ as I sit in traffic on my way to work. Work for work. The symmetry; I love it.

“Sambianna work, work, work, work, work. Sambianna, work, work, work, work, work.”

I sing with the music loud and the windows down, conserving fuel in a crappy economy. As I bob to the music my singing catches the attention of the two young guys in the next car. They exchange amused glances. I ignore them and keep singing like it’s the last day on earth and this is the criteria for survival. Yes, guys, I don’t know the words.

They are in a Peugeot 407. One of them, front passenger seat, smiles at me. He winds down the window. He’s okay, not a head turner but your children wouldn’t be ugly either. His smile takes a turn. You know that leery look that comes over guys; the slow smile, the rubbing of the chin, the shifting of their eyes from your face to your body. Oh God! it looks like he’s about to make traffic conversation.  Eww! I wind up quickly and pretend not to notice him waving at me.

Already my mind is forgetting and refocusing on work. I am mentally picturing unfinished patterns on baby Joshua’s wall. I hate unfinished drawings. They sit under my skin like a safety pin pushed just under the first layer, being moved from left to right. I am picturing an animal farm that covers one entire wall. All those colours. All those shapes to fill in. I cannot wait to be laboring over it again.

His mother is one of the good ones. She doesn’t micro-manage. I’ve been working on it for two weeks and she lets me come in, paint, put on my music and forget where I am until it’s time to leave. No rich-witch syndrome! But then her husband is like a million years old. I did hear a story about the rich old guy marrying the middle class pretty young thing. I believe there were memes about it. Like the twist on Iyanya’s Mr. Oreo lyrics that turned it from a love song to; She no come for the body, she come for the money. Hahahahahaha. I have to admit, it is a little funny.

Do I believe it? No! Do I care? No! I don’t see these people outside the commissions they give me. They are a means to an end. I get to paint and I don’t starve. See? The end.

JEREMIAH

My nephew, Joshua, is chubby and cute. He smells like powder and something you can’t put your finger on but it makes you want to smile. I lug him around, balanced on one arm, telling him what it is like being alive at this point in history.

“Now weird people can become President. When I was a child they used to tell us that if we worked hard we could be President- not in Nigeria, in some other country, but now anyone can be.”

Joshua laughs at that. Even he thinks it’s funny.

I walk down a long hallway in this bastardly big house. I am supposed to be walking him so he doesn’t cry, so far it has been forty-five minutes. We have seen the sea, the kitchen, the living room where my sister is lounging, enjoying her break, and now we are becoming brave, venturing into the innermost parts of the house. If the rumours are to be believed, my brother in law has a secret room where he keeps his secret money calabash. We might soon find it.

I am pretty sure I am lost. I refuse to call my sister for help. That would be too demeaning. I round a corner and hear music coming from one of the rooms further down. What is that? Taylor Swift? My sister’s servants listen to Taylor Swift now?

I follow the music to the room, the door is shut. Somehow it feels like I’m intruding. I stand outside it for a moment and decide, what do I care? If I see something I shouldn’t – like a secret mistress my brother-in-law keeps hidden in this ginormous house – I’m going home in an hour anyway.

Quietly and slowly, I push open the door. Joshua is quiet too. I think he’s as fascinated as I am. There, inside the room is a woman. She is standing on a long, low table, painting the top part of the wall at the far end of the room. She’s wearing faded blue jeans and the tightest white top in the world. It stretches across a small back.

I think Laura told me about this. A children’s scene painter for Joshua’s playroom. It sounded like one of those rich people’s thing, but looking at it now I have to admit, it’s pretty freaking cool. The wall looks like a scene lifted from an animated movie.

I walk further into the room. She still hasn’t noticed me. She is slightly bent, delicately painting a tiny detail I can’t see from behind her, paws maybe.

“Hello,” I say. I expect her to start, but she keeps on what she is doing for a moment then slowly uncurls. Yes, that’s what she does, uncurls, from her position and turns to me.

Wow.

I kind of want to swear right now. She is that pretty and I was right. That is the tightest top in the world. It’s splattered with all kinds of paint, her jeans too.

She’s kind of chocolatey, like Twix. Slim face, big eyes, braids that are packed loosely. She’s wearing glasses, but she removes them as if in some strange reverse order, she can look at me better without them.

I want to hear her voice. You know how you have to hear someone talk to know whether or not they are the complete package. Speak, I mentally command.

“Hi,” she says.

Oh jah! She has one of those trembles in her voice, like Willow Smith. No, Willow Smith is a kid, that’s creepy. Like Rihanna when she sings. And she sounds smart. I am obligated to say that or I sound shallow.

We kind of stare at each other. I guess it’s my turn to speak.

Joshua cuts in before me. He spews a load of baby talk. I can’t blame him. I would chance my Uncle for her too.

SARAH

He is cute. He’s taller than me. He has a nice voice. He is carrying Joshua. What is it about men with babies that goes straight to your ovaries?! It’s biological, definitely. Our animal instincts are too busy looking for potential fathers to shut up and let us be great.

We are kind of staring at each other. Me, because I genuinely do not know what to say. He looks a lot like Joshua’s mother, so I’m guessing this is her brother. Older? Younger? It might be my ovaries talking but I seriously hope he is older.

“Hi,” he says again. “I’m Jeremiah.”

Nice name. “Sarah.”

“Nice name.”

I smile. So does he. My my, he is really cute. He is one of those specimen God must be really proud of. Oh, yes, definitely a child of God.

He moves closer, looking at the wall behind me. I follow his gaze. “You’re the painter? My sister told me about you. You are really good.”

He sounds impressed. If someone thinking your art is amazing doesn’t endear you to them, I don’t know what will.

“Thank you.”

We talk for like thirty minutes. He tells me he is a chef. It sparks my interest. I ask all kinds of questions about it. His restaurant, where is it? I recognize the name. It’s really big. He looks kind of smug about it.

After about minute thirty, I start to itch to get back to work. My mind starts to wander. I can feel the dry paint on my palms, caking.

“You want to continue working?”

I jerk in surprise. I can’t believe he noticed. So few people do. I feel kind of warm now. On the inside. On the outside. Must be the humidity.

“Yes, I do,” I say honestly.

“Not a problem. Let me leave you. This child’s weight is scary.” He lingers a bit. Dramatic effect?

His gaze is on me. “Can I have your number?”

I eye him for a minute. Oh yeah.

“080…”

STEP TWO: GOING BEYOND THE FRIENDZONE

It’s time!

The ever thumping sound of your heartbeat tump

Recognizes the moment you have tried to neglect

Your words are calculated, everything must be perfect

It’s time!

Your mind is in turmoil

Fixated on all your practiced sayings

Others disappear from your rear view

Because you just realized how to say it.

It’s time!

For the final slur of mismatches

For the final out breath from all in breath

Now you are sure

It’s time!

To gather all day’s work.

Make a way to your highlight

And make a path to your genesis

For, it’s finally time.

JEREMIAH

So I’m slicing an onion with the dexterity of a ninja, like Samurai X. It falls in perfect rings on the cutting board, like the knife is an extension of me. This should make me proud of myself, right? But I’m not. I’m boiling with anger. Slicing the onion had been the duty of one of my junior staff, Tamuno the thin one, but one look at the amoeba shaped slices and I’d had to drag the knife from her.

The Marigold Restaurant, where I’m the head chef, is oftentimes referred to as the Hilton of Nigeria. It’s not as well-known as Sheraton or as fancy as Intercontinental, but all the same it is fast rising. So you can imagine the pressure. I’m to nurse the taste buds of the high and mighty, making sure that as they saunter out of those revolving doors in their thousand dollar heels and custom made Italian shoes, they’re highly satisfied. Five years I have been doing it, and in five more years I’m pretty sure I’ll have people asking, ‘what is Sheraton?’

A loud clank rends the air, breaking into my reverie. I raise my head to meet the shaky eyes of the culprit – Jide the jittery one. All around him stainless trays wobble noisily on the tiled floor. See what I have to deal with? My scowl travels from the service boy to the other staff standing like contestants for a mannequin challenge, staring at me as if expecting me to shout. Aahhh! I scream inside, while gifting them with an angry eye roll. My face is red now I know, so I return to slicing the onion, allowing myself to be soothed by the soft sound of steel meeting wet vegetable. I’m trying to get lost in the sting of the onion, something that makes others teary eyed, but seems to have no effect on me. When last did I even cry while slicing an onion?

But it doesn’t distract me, and now my mind is going back to the lagging workers all around me. “Amateurs” I hiss before I can stop myself. My inner man is telling me to give them a break, “they are all beginners”, he’s says. But the perfectionist side of me, the dominant side, just can’t justify their incompetence. He doesn’t understand the word beginner. I don’t blame him though because I have never been one. I’d known exactly what to do with food the moment I was privy to the knowledge that food should be cooked and not eaten raw and I’d taken to cooking the first day I tried my hands at it. That tale is courtesy of my mom by the way.

“Sir, your phone is ringing”, I hear a tiny voice say beside me. They can’t allow someone soliloquize in peace in this place. I follow the direction of the voice to see one of the dish washers, Mary the slow one, holding my phone up and on it is a smiling picture of my mother as the iPhone ringtone plays. The tune immediately reminds me of a skit by CrazeClown and Ade. Hehehe!

My mother is not one to be ignored. Still I watch my phone ring till it stops and the screen changes to reveal 14 missed calls. I roll my eyes at it, dismissing the girl with a wave. Yeah, head chefs have the power to do that. Look it up.

My mother has been disturbing me with messages. She has systematically made her way through every social media, sending me messages. I blame myself. She joined them when I changed her phone from Nokia torchlight to a Techno Phantom 6. If I had just listened to my instincts then, none of this would be happening.

The thing is, I don’t even have to pick up to know what she wants to talk about. It’s another girl she has only just heard about but is convinced is my soul mate.

As if.

Without meaning to, the second I think soul mate, my mind starts to drift off to the lady I just met but is already taking up residence in my mind. Sarah.

Sarah, the pretty. Sarah, the artsy. Sarah the…

Okay no, this can’t happen. At least not now. I really need a distraction. Raising my head, I immediately find one in the person of Emeka the lazy one.

“Please tell me you have diced the Ugwu?” I demand, prompting him to cut short whatever he was discussing with two others. He nods and I continue, “Long thin vertical stripes?”

Okay, now Emeka looks unsure, although he says a yes.

“Did you cut it before washing, or wash it before cutting?”

Now Emeka looks guilty, and he starts to stammer.

Typical Emeka, I sigh, “Just go.”

SARAH

Okay, so my mouth is pushing to break into a Sound of Music song. Please don’t be weird mouth. Hold it in until we get into the car and I promise to whip out the album for a sing along session.

It falls for it, so I watch in silence, as sublime joy transforms my client’s faces. The five year old boy is bouncing up and down in his tiny Timberlands yelling, “I love it I love it I love it” while his parents are smiling and nodding in approval.

This, this is why I love my job.

The parents on the bidding of their child had asked for a Ben10 meets FC Barcelona themed paint job. Although it had taken a lot of brain racking trying to fuse the Ben10 green with the blue, maroon and red of FC Barcelona, I cannot be more proud of myself. Even the Omnitrix symbol looks perfect in the middle of the 6×4 space. Okay so I’m not a tears of joy person, but it’s all so beautiful. Still I’m not a tears of joy person so… sniff.

If only my parents had been liberal enough to paint my room anything but white and pink maybe I wouldn’t have been so depressed as a kid. But that’s another story for another time.

Little Billy is too eager to cross the yellow tapes to touch the still wet wall – yes I’m that kind of painter who uses a yellow police-style tape to guard my opus. Parents give me the weird look for that. Hahaha! Wait till it’s all said and done and then that look will be replaced with contentment.

Mr. Onoja is super impressed, “This is a really great job, Sara.” One hand is over his wife’s shoulder, the other holding Billy back from crossing the yellow tape. Awww love. Okay did he just say Sara again?

“Um, it’s Sarah,” I hear myself correcting him for the seventeenth time, pronouncing it Say-rah and not Seh-ra. “But it’s okay.” I add, even though it’s a lie.

“Yes, this is great, wow.” His wife agrees.

“I want Ninjago on my bathroom wall.” His tiny voice rings in my ears as his tiny feet thuds the hard wood floor.

Everyone is laughing and I join in … but wait oh that’s five ninjas on the tiny bathroom tiles. Chai!!

Okay don’t change the topic, let’s talk about my money. “Erm…so I hope this would move you to pay the amount we agreed o,” I say and Mr. Onoja laughs. He must think I’m Basketmouth.

“Haba…Sarah, in this Buhari regime,” he says.

I can’t help but roll my eye, fast and unnoticed though. It is so annoying how clients can easily go from ‘wow, so great’ to ‘in this Buhari regime?’

“Mr. Onoja, me too I live in this Buhrai regime o,” and they both laugh. Anhanh!

“Oya we’ll see what we can do,” Mr.Onoja says, leading the family out.

That is never a good answer.

JEREMIAH

Whew! After eight hours of culinary marathon, I retreat to my office feeling fulfilled. The little space is at the far end of the busy kitchen, lavishly furnished. As cool as it is, the office is just a waste, another attempt to glorify my position as head chef. As if that was necessary – I’m head chef and that alone says something with a wink. I hardly ever even use the office, so most of the furniture still have their factory wraps on.

My reclining chair makes a nylony sound when I drop into it. I feast my eyes on the best thing about the office, the view outside the east window. The sun is setting behind the sea, casting an orange glow on the surface, rippled now and then by the subtle wind. I love how the view changes from time to time. While it isn’t a picturesque scenery worthy of a million dollar canvas, it is a scene of filthy rich men docking their yachts to throw the most extravagant party of all time, or – my personal favourite – lovely couples relishing their meal at the outdoor tables – my handiwork- as the light fades.

Okay, now stop stalling Jer, pick up your phone and answer your mother.

Chimo! 127 BBM messages, 5 text messages, 3 Facebook messages,  4 IMO missed calls, 16 missed phone calls, all from dearest Ma.

She definitely doesn’t understand the concept of an ignoring act. One tap and the BBM messenger opens. Arrgh! Over 30 photo-shopped pre-wedding pictures. Make ‘em stop! Oya time to read Ma’s messages.

Jeremiah answer your mother now!

That cough has come back.

I have a girl for you o.

She is your Uncle’s friend’s secretary’s cousin’s elder sister…She is so pretty. LOL… Let me send you a picture.

Sigh. My mother.

The picture downloads and …wow, she is actually pretty. The kind of face one wants to see every morning. But one look at her and I know that’s all she is— a pretty face. Still I can’t blame Ma.  She is getting restless at her son’s snail-speed love life.  She won’t understand where I am coming from and I don’t think I can explain it to her or anyone else really.

I have seen divorce and I know what it can do to a family. My mother always thought my father was handsome. She had been proud that other girls thought it too, until other girls started sharing him and then other girls convinced her handsome husband to get a lawyer to draft divorce papers. Now Ma is alone, lonely, picking a new hobby one day and discarding it the next. Her latest is me and I just want it to be over soon.

Thanks, but no thanks mom.” I send it to her and the reply comes immediately. Her fingers are practically glued to her phone.

‘I’m trying to help Jerry. I want you to find someone.’

That annoying name again.

“I will find someone mom…” I start to type when… Sarah… she pops up in my mind again. I can’t help but smile foolishly now. Before I can stop myself, I hold down the backspace and type instead,

I’ve found her already.

SARAH

Time to go.

I remove the yellow tape carefully and dump it in a basket with the rest of my things. I pause to take one more look. Wow…I’ve really become very good. No pride intended.

As a kid I didn’t instinctively know how to draw. I never thrived in fine art classes. I never drew amazing portraits that were hung in class. But my teacher, Miss Amina, had seen an untapped and gestating flair for painting that I didn’t even notice.

“Open up your mind and you can do a lot,” Miss Amina had said. It had sounded like gibberish then – even confirmed by my parents who concluded I should move from Fine Arts to Home Economics.  Now I realize she was right and my parents were the opposite.

I head outside and look up. The moon is already high in the sky. I can’t believe I worked so late. I throw my work basket into the boot, and as I circle to the driver’s seat, my phone buzzes. OMG it has to be Jeremiah texting.

Sarah, get it together woman. Control them ovaries, and please stop smiling as you open the message.

Okay, so it’s not Jeremiah, but it’s on the same level of important. My best kinda message – 60,000 naira from Mr Onoja.

‘I don get alert, God huwin’ the song is reeling in my head now as I drive the next 5 miles to my house.

The Aniekan residence is a lavish duplex in Lekki Gardens. I frown at the car I’m parking behind, check the plates to be sure… LSD-67…. oh jeez my parents are home early.

Johnson and Petra Aniekan are both high priced lawyers. The Aneikan chambers is one of the top ten in the country, defending big names- even some politicians during the recent witch-hunting fiasco. Now imagine how it was when I told them I wasn’t going to be a part of the family’s law firm, even after five years in University and Law School. I’m still haunted by the disgust in my mother’s eyes when I mentioned painting kid’s rooms as my chosen profession. My dad had been colder, replying with a tsk and then completely ignoring me.

It didn’t sway me though. I have no intention of giving in to what they want. They have two other daughters to mould into their robots. I pity Sandra and Silvia though, just 19 and 15 yet their names are already printed on name plates waiting to be hung on office doors at Aniekan Chambers.

Getting out of the car, I take one look at my appearance- my usual work dungarees has numerous green, red, maroon and blue paint splatters. One button is undone leaving the front flapping and revealing an equally stained black short sleeved shirt. My black loafers though have just a few green stains, and they are even artistically arranged to look like a design of its own.

My appearance is actually very picturesque, worthy of Vogue, but knowing my parents it will not stand. I know the minute I walk through the front door, my mother will say something like, “You look like you robbed a crayon factory.” In some houses that might pass as a joke and even turn into an anecdote, but not in mine. Here, the statement will be made with a serious face and a tone of disgust, and it will be received just as sombrely. Although I trust my sister’s sha, we shall laugh about it in private.

Bottom line, I can’t let my parents see me like this.

Sandra is my best bet; Silvia is not a person to trust during emergencies.

Come and open the back door, I text Sandra.

Thirty minutes later, I’m in a faded pink shirt on blue denim trousers and seated between my sisters at the long dining table in the white washed dining room. Every time I look at these walls, my mind can’t help but go over all the colours it is missing. Our fancy Oakwood table can sit eight people so the three empty chairs on the other side makes the room even gloomier. I used to tell Sandra and Silvia that on the empty chairs sat our parent’s invincible best friends, Mr. Pride, Mrs. Snob and Miss Perfection.

Oh God, the room is too quiet. Even the sound of steel cutlery seems non-existent. Why am I even complaining? This is normal. No one talks at the table or makes any unnecessary sound. Even the chewing of crackers has to somehow be muffled. Breaking the rule was punishable by derogatory looks and captious remarks.

It is suffocating.

I can’t even touch my jollof rice or the salad, or even – my favourite – a piece of fried chicken wing.  I don’t feel like eating, I feel like talking. I want to talk about work, about the colour fusion I managed to make an artwork out of, about the joy on my client’s faces, or the new equipment I plan to use my money to get, heck I even want to talk about Jeremiah.

But I can’t. Mr. and Mrs. Table Manners and their three friends are around.

Just then, my phone chimes on my lap. Thank God it’s not a China phone, I think, but the deed is already done. The looks have already started rolling in. One apologetic look coming right up. Whether they fall for it or not I can’t even tell. Stylishly, I look to see who pinged me. O MY GOD!! I know I’m breaking one rule by smiling right now but I can’t help it. Who cares, let them look!

Jeremiah just said hi.

LONG TIME CRUSHES AND USELESS BOYFRIENDS

I lay on my bed and acted like I couldn’t notice her: I mean my roommate, Remi.

She was getting ready to go to shop rite.

She kept chattering about how she couldn’t wear ‘that her blue chiffon top again’ because  it was the same one she had worn ”the last time Nicholas had taken her out to the movies”.

I rolled my eyes. I was sure that was about five months ago because the guy actually never takes her out. My roomate is always cooking for him, virtually every day.

Last valentine, she had gone to the market to buy Chicken and pepper. When I asked if she would go out with Nicholas, she said that’s why she was cooking, they would celebrate ‘AT HIS PLACE’

I had no problem with that but with the fact that he seemed to me as one who could ask my roommate for ‘anything’, Ungodly things, ‘AT HIS PLACE’ and that’s if he had not asked already.

The last time I tried talking to her about the boy, it had not ended so well.

“So you have something against me cooking for my boyfriend?”, she had asked angrily.

I sighed, ” No Remi, you know that’s not what I mean. I’m saying Nicholas seems not to be as excited about you and the relationship as much you are. It’s not even about you cooking for him and he taking you out or not, it’s the attitude. You know I have nothing against a girl cooking for her boyfriend, I would in fact cook for mine”

Before I finished my statement, she sarcastically cut in, “that’s if you will ever have a boyfriend!”

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The insult went straight into my bones,

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I swallowed spit and tried to explain again,

“Remi, all I’m asking is if you are comfortable with his level of commitment and excitement towards you and those around you. Even when he sees your friends and I, he would almost not greet”

She sarcastically cut in again, “so it’s about the fact that he doesn’t respect you guys enough right?”

I dropped the issue.

And since then, if I dared to say anything, I am considered the ‘saddist roommate’ who doesn’t have a life and is therefore focused on ruining that of others.

She broke into my thoughts,

” I told him we must go watch the Unilorin show next week”, she announced.

Now, that’s it! I’ve heard enough! I took my ear piece and plugged it in.

She shook my shoulder roughly,

“Paula, See, See! Is this yellow top okay?”

Before I could even respond, she sighed and turned around, “I don’t know even have any cloth to wear”,

I rolled my eyes and turned over to face the wall again.

“Paula!”, she screamed, ” you’ve not answered me”

“Oooo Remi”, I grumbled ” you can wear the yellow top, it’s okay”

“Okay?, just okay?”, I stared at her innocently.

” What?”, I asked

“I’m going out with Nicholas and his friends, I can’t wear a just ‘okay’ top”

“Oh”, I stammered, ” I meant the top is also fine”

She sighed and walked over to her wardrobe obviously to keep searching for another top.

I looked around, the whole room was a mess. Remi’s clothes were all over the floor.

My phone beeped.

I rushed at it hastily.

Finally! someone messaged me!

I had almost thought my network connection was bad, I had even checked for the umpteenth time if my phone was switched off.

I checked for the message, it was my friend, Peter.

Peter was one of those friends you’ve always known for forever; one of those great guys whom you can absolutely be in a relationship with or would like to get married to but yet, nothing has happened and you also can’t explain why because you’re not sure if he sees you the same way you see him and you don’t want to be the first to tell him you like him, so as to avoid stories that touch the heart, you understand?

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He attends another school. The last time he came home, I was with his phone and I noticed a particular girl’s picture coming up frequently in his gallery.

When I asked about her, he started blushing.

“Aha, why are you blushing nitori Olorun?”, I asked.

But you will think someone was controlling him with a remote, he kept blushing, I was amazed.

“Peter”, I said in a serious tone, “oya, tell me who she is”

After another round of blushing, he finally spoke up.

“Her name is Busola, 200 level, Law”, he paused and I stared.

“She’s awesome”, he continued.

I nodded as if I was paying full attention.

“Like really awesome, I swear Paula. You need to meet her,Oh Lord!”, he exclaimed and cupped his face inside his palms.

I opened my eyes wide in bewilderment.

“Ki lo wa le to yen“, I wondered.

” If you hear her speak Paula, the way she thinks, the way she handles things… Oh God!”, he exclaimed again.

HEY STUPID! EXXXCUUUSE ME!

LAST TIME WE WERE BOTH IN A SITUATION, I HANDLED IT JUST FINE.

I smiled, “That’s cool, I’m glad you’re excited about her, she’s really beautiful too”, I added.

“I know right”, he was blushing again.

SHUT UP! YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO RESPOND TO THAT!

I MEAN, DOES HE HAVE TO AFFIRM THAT SHE IS BEAUTIFUL?

HE COULD JUST HAVE KEPT QUITE!

” And she is a serious Christian too, like really deep girl”, he added.

HEYYYYYYYYY! IS SOMEONE BLIND HERE!

WHAT IS HE TRYING TO SAY, THAT I’M NOT SPIRUTUAL ENOUGH!?

That night, I think I dreamt that I murdered someone. A girl named Busola.

But now, I’ve gotten over it or so I think. I never asked him about their relationship though. I mean, there is no point using my own hand to sprinkle salt on my wound. There is only just as much a girl can take.

I found myself wondering why he was messaging me now because we hardly talk whenever we are both in school.

“You remember the girl I told you about last time I came home”, he typed

” Yes, Busola right?”, I replied.

“We are no longer together”, he typed.

I smiled and pursed my lips together so as to contain my excitement

AYEEE! EXODUS 14:14..THE LORD HIMSELF WILL FIGHT FOR YOU AND YOU HAVE ONLY TO BE STILL”

Is that not the Bible passage the Pastor preached on last Sunday?

‘Paula!’, I laughed, ‘Stop it’, I reprimanded myself. I needed to type something back to him.

“Oh..really?”, I asked

“Yes”, he replied.

” Uhm..What happened?”, I really wanted to know.

“I don’t even know how to explain” he replied, “I don’t want it to seem like I’m attacking her or bad mouthing her”

‘BRING IT ON’! My heart screamed. ‘PAINT HER UGLY, BLUE, BLACK! DO IT!’ #wicked grin#

“It’s alright” I replied, “you don’t have to say anything actually”

LIKE WHO CARES, YOU’RE DONE WITH HER AND THAT’S IT!

He however went on to explain, “She sometimes acts immature, very immature. Her response to issues can be so childish. When you expect her to be calm, she’s blowing off the top already. I think I made a mistake with her”

I sprang up from my bed!, I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT! I limped around the room. I knew I could handle issues more maturely than that girl! I knew I was better!

I paused and looked around, my roommate was still engrossed in her cloth picking business, she didn’t have time for me. I looked down at my phone and felt a little ashamed of myself.

You’re not supposed to think that way Paula, the Bible says ‘consider others better than yourself’, why would you even think you’re better than she is, that’s so wrong.

I straightened up and went back to my lying position. But before I knew it, I was smiling again.

Paula, Stop it!, I reprimanded myself.

“Uhm…maybe you should just be patient with her”, I typed back to him and smiled knowingly. I still have to be the great friend and try mending things between them.

He had gone offline already. I smiled at my phone screen.

My phone beeped.

” Hey, she just called me now, said she wants to see me outside my hostel. I’ll gist you what happens when I’m back. Maybe I should be patient with her right? I’m so happy, later dear”

I stared at my phone in shock,

“but I didn’t mean that”, I whispered repeatedly. I wasn’t going to cry.

My roommate’s voice drew me out of my thoughts,

“Really!?”, she screamed. She was on a phone call.

She dropped the call and looked at me dejectedly,

” Nicholas just canceled”

She was so sad.

I spread my arms wide, “Come here and let’s take a group hug dear, I’ll help you tidy up the room”

I had a feeling Remi was coming back to the single girl’s club and I had just been thrown right back into it.

Hello Readers, Something big is about to hit the blog! Wait till I announce it…Ayeee!

 

MY BESTFRIEND HAS JUST GOT A BOYFRIEND!

“Paula, see me after the service”

I searched myself up and down: my skirt wasn’t too tight, the slit wasn’t too high, not at all. I hastily ran my hand ov my head and gave a sigh of relief, my hair was well packed up and covered inside my scarf. I was about to drop my hands when my fingers felt something, I paused.

Oh God!

A strand of my hair had fallen out of my scarf!

After the service, I walked out lifelessly. It felt like I was walking towards my doom.

“Good afternoon ma”, I went down on my two knees as I greeted her. It is only if you wanted to die (literally) that you would you not go down on your two knees when greeting Mrs. Owonikoko. She would start by reminding you that even your own mother would go down on her two knees when greeting her. So who are you not to!

“You asked me to see you ma”, I said.

” Oh yes”, she adjusted her glasses, like this:

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I knew I was in for trouble.

There was a look of disgust on her face “What is this?”, she asked.

” What Ma?”, I was confused.

“What is this on your lips?”, before I knew what was happening, her hand was forcefully wiping something off my lips.

I drew back, struggling to get my face out of her hands.

“Ma?” I almost staggered.

“So all the red and pink things you people put on your lips is not enough, it’s now purple abi?”, her eyes bored into my face.

There was a long pause, then I realized she was expecting a response, “Ma…” I stammered, “It’s just lipstick”

“No ooo”, came her sarcastic reply, “I didn’t know it is lipstick, I thought it is blood”

I looked down.

“If you people want to use make up by force, then use normal colors abi?”.

She took a step closer and stared at my lips, “E maa gba mi!, she cried, “Which one is this purple again! Haba!”, she was raising her voice, I was embarrased.

“Go and clean that thing off, right now!”, she ordered.

” Alright ma”, I whispered and started wiping it off with the back of my two hands.

She looked at the lips again as if to be sure it was well wiped. “Good”.

She pointed to a large polythene bag on the floor, “carry that poly bag to my car”, she ordered.

“Alright ma”

I sighed. They say that in the Yoruba culture, it is not only your mother that brings you up but every woman in the neighborhood or in this case, every woman in the church.

These are the women who immediately know if the color of your lipstick is bugundi or red, lilac or torquoise blue, they see it when one strand of your hair immediately falls out of your scarf! They are almost more powerful than your parents or the pastor sef.

I started walking back into the church. The side of my eyes caught another ‘Mama’ of the church. I almost tripped as I hastened my steps.

It was ‘Mama Usher!’

Ah! Mama Usher was a teacher in the secondary School I attended, the School was founded by my church.

She was also the head usher of the church hence the name, ‘Mama Usher’. This woman had the eyes of a cat! I swear! Because how else can we explain how she notices you put on a nude eye shadow when you are on stage while she is sitted at the far end of the sanctuary.

It happened the day my friend, Gloria put on a nude eye shadow. We were now in our second year in the University. Gloria was the first to begin all those kind of things. She dared to do things like draw her eye brows, make hair styles that could not be properly packed into her scarf because they were quite bulky; well, this was how she had started, with using the nude eye shadow.

Even I didn’t notice, but Mama Usher, She did!

To make matters worse, Mama Usher had just gotten to know that Gloria had a boyfriend.

That was the end of us all, I was dragged into it!

“How is it that your best friend has a boyfriend and you allowed her?”, Mama Usher asked looking straight into my eyes (more like into my soul)

” Ma…Ma, I did not even know ma” I started to explain. 

What kind of a mess has Gloria pulled me into for Heaven’s sake.

“Tell your friend to see me after the service”, she said.

I sprang up immediately and made to run away when she added,” make sure you come back with her”, my heart sank.

I rushed to Gloria’s side.

“We are finished”, that was all I needed to say to her. It was the exact equivalent for ‘Mama Usher’ wants to see us after the service.

In church that day, the invited pastor was preaching with all power and vigor.

“If Christ comes today, how many of you would go to Heaven? ”

The whole church was silent.

“No, I’m not asking a rhetorical question! I want you to answer. Rise up if you’re sure you’ll go to heaven”

Gloria looked at me. We had this discussion just last week.

“We have been saved”, I had exclaimed to her.

“We believe in Jesus and he is our Lord. We are confident of our salvation, the price has been paid! It’s not a reason for us to misbehave but it is the exact reason we live right and work out our salvation with fear and trembling, according to God’s mighty power which is at work in us, that is Grace!”, I slapped my hands on my thigh as I always did when I was excited.

Gloria kept listening and nodding quietly, “That is true”, she had replied.

That day, we ended the discussion with a prayer session which I led, it was powerful.

But now, she looked at me again, She smiled and nodded as if urging me to stand up. I looked back at her in shock and shook my head profusely, I mouthed to her, “are you mad?”

She looked back at me in confusion.

“No one is standing up”, I continued.

She looked around, ”some people are standing up and besides…”, she rolled her eyes as if expecting me to remember our last discussion.

“Mama Usher is behind us” I whispered back,

“Okay?”, she hissed and stood up.

I sighed and stood up too. I looked back and saw ‘Mama Usher’ staring at us.

I straightened up, ‘whatever’

After the service, Mama Usher signalled to us to come.

I smiled and shook my head. The funny thing was I still loved her. She was difficult and exasperating but she was one of those women I would remember years to come and smile for while growing up and before we were wise enough, she was one of the reasons we didn’t misbehave.

For example, In our JSS1, when I wanted to wear my School beret in a particular style, the way the big Senior girls used to wear it: a little slanted to the side and although the School authority had warned us against it, some girls like me were still adamant. All Gloria needed to do was remind me that ‘Mama Usher’ will be the teacher in charge of the assembly ground that day, I had adjusted my beret back the right way immediately.

There was another day both of us had not prepared well for a test and were contemplating taking a sheet of paper with the answers into the test hall, all God needed to do was let ‘Mama Usher’ pass by, our brains recalculated immediately. ‘Mama Usher’ will slaughter us alive if we were found out to be cheating.

We walked up to her and she asked us to sit down. Gloria sat to her left, I chuckled as I remembered that according to the Bible, it is the Goats who will stay at the left hand side of Jesus. Gloria was indeed a Goat for if not for her, we won’t be here.

“So as I was saying in the morning”, she dragged me out of my thoughts

“Paula, how is it that your friend has a boyfriend and you allowed her?”, she asked as she started packing the Church Bulletin together.

She didn’t look up but I knew she was expecting an answer. I cleared my throat, “Ma, I know we are still young and a relationship could be a little strange right now”.

Mama Usher nodded, she was paying rapt attention. This was a good start, she was ‘feeling’ me.

“However”, I continued, ” I want to believe that all your effort over our lives since we were young has not been in vain. You’ve taught us to know the Lord”, ‘Mama Usher’ nodded slowly.

I continued, “Gloria I believe, is in a relationship with God. She said she asked God about it and she believes God wants her to go into a relationship with this guy…”

I immediately corrected myself, “with this errrr…boy. I trust that if the boy asks her to do anything wrong, she would break up immediately because I know she is a christian and would not jeopardize her relationship with God for anything and I  know that the boy is also a Christian.”

Mama Usher was staring at me, Gloria was glaring at me. I continued,

“My sole prayer ma is that we will build a church where we can be confident of our fellow brethren’s walk with the Lord.”

Mama Usher was silent. After a long pause, she said, “Alright, you can go”

My head shot up, had i misheard? Gloria was amazed.

We stood up and walked out hastily.

“You did it!”, she exclaimed.

I held my chest, “Wow! Wow!”

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But I was indeed excited.

A small boy aproached us, “Mrs Owonikoko and Mama Usher said I should call both of you”

“What!?”, we exclaimed,

” Shit! Shit!” I cried.

“Just when we thought she was into what we said, she has gone to gather her other spiritual forces, we are done for!” Gloria exclaimed.

“No”, I replied, “you are done for cos I am so not going back there. In fact, I think I can hear my mother calling me already, it’s time to go home”.

Gloria laughed, “You are a sly!”, “Paula, please na, friends stick together”

“Ehn”, I replied, “That’s why I’ll be your best lady on your wedding day. Go and call your boyfriend to stay with you this time”, I said laughing.

“You are high and I hate you!”, she shouted after me.

“May the grace of the Lord be with you to withstand this great persecution that awaits you!” I shouted back.

She laughed heartily and turned around. I knew she was going to be fine.

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MISCONCEPTIONS-STOP SPOILING OUR MARKET😡

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I don’t even understand again.

What exactly is in my body that is chasing boys away? E ma gbami!

For example, Adeolu. I know he likes me, I swear, he likes me! He is the one who always chats me up himself, with his own hand!

But the problem is: often times, we don’t have anything to talk about. I run out of stuff to say and no matter how hard I try to make conversation, nothing seems to come forth. It’s so painful! Sometimes our chats be like:

Hello

Hi dear“, I respond

how are you?”, he asks

“I’m fine, you?”

“I’m fine too, how was your day?”, he asks

It was fine” I respond

So what did you eat tonight?”, he asks

(P..S. I hate that question)

Then I answer, “Semovita and vegetable soup”

Then he types back, “Awwwn..you cooked it?”

(At this time, I’m so vexed at how drab the conversation has been, I roll my eyes like ‘No o, I dinnor cook it. It is my mother’s goats that live with us that cooked it’)

But I respond with, “Lol, Ofcourse na. Who else will cook it if I don’t”

P.S. Actually, my elder sister will cook it if I don’t, but remember what I said about a girl playing her cards right, saying the right things and doing the right stuff. For example, with what I’ve said now, he would have it in his subconcious that I can cook well, which is a good thing, I mean, every guy wants a woman who can cook right?

I can see that he is typing a message back, I smile subtly. My phone beeps.

Awwwn..cool, so how far na, so how are you?”

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HOW ARE YOU! AGAIN! Haven’t you just asked that before! I sigh, so much for ‘playing my cards right’.

My friends think I’m the one at fault.

“Paula is too uptight, that’s why!”, Tola says.

“Are you kidding me! No, are you freaking kidding me!” I’m so agitated, “How can you even say that! You know I’m not uptight, you know!”

Hadassah laughs, “I’m sure the guy doesn’t even know you like him”

I snort, “Really, Is he blind?!”

“You never show it!”, Tola exclaims.

So we come to a resolution. From that day onward, they ask me to stop friend zoning him, not to use words like ‘brother’, ‘bruv’, ‘fam’; they say it can make him too familiar and get him thinking I don’t like him.

Also, if he says something nice, I should reply in a likewise sweet manner,

SO I GET TO WORK! PROJECT 411 BEGINS! OPERATION GET YOMI TO KNOW PAULA LIKES HIM! OPERATION GET HIM TO LIKE HER IN RETURN! ALL HANDS ON DECK!

I begin to do a lot of extra things: I try my best to make conversations even when I’m dead bored, I force myself to laugh at his jokes even when they are not funny, I try to say things right, giving him subtle hints to encourage him in case he is too shy.

After three weeks, my friends hold another meeting (because it always looks like they plan these meetings and make me the center of discussion)

They sit me down and ask for a report on the former operation.

I laugh and tell them Adeolu and I are still ‘just friends’ and nothing more and that it doesn’t matter anymore because I’m already trying to get over him but Tola halts me.

“Wait! Maybe the signals Paula is giving are not strong enough”

Hadassah nods, “that’s true fa, because Paula is a Fish. She might still be as normal as can be and yet claim she’s giving signals”

My jaw drops. It is at this point I feel like cursing them!

“Are you guys high! Please, should I set my self ablaze before my signals are considered strong enough!? E maa gba mi! Nobody should even tell me rubbish o!”

Sometimes, I wonder if he is just shy. Yes! That should be it. He is probably shy. I sighed, took a pen and opened my diary, I felt like writing anything.

“My love, shy crush” I write,

“Come close

And you’ll see my walls crumble like a pack of frickled cards;

Fumble in your steps but take one, I’ll take two;

Fall before you get to me; I’ll pick you up, place my hands in yours

and together, we’ll walk down the aisle.

‘Forever’ written in our eyes.

I closed my diary and fiddled with my pen. Why would he even think I don’t like him, For Heaven’s sake, he is so fine! Who doesn’t want good things!?

My phone beeped, it was a message from Joseph.

I rolled my eyes, what does he want from me?!

He should leave me alone abeg.

He had been messaging me more often nowadays, ‘checking up on me’, he says.

His time is past. I liked him so much back then and we were very close but he liked another girl.

They weren’t dating but they liked each other very much.

Joseph would always talk to me about her and I would be forming ‘listening ear’,  ‘shoulder you can lean on’, ‘best friend’, ‘matured girl who can take in anything’.

Ah! I’ve suffered o! Sometimes after he talks to me about her, I would be almost drawn to tears. My friends said I was the one at fault because I didn’t even give him a hint that I liked him but how could I have done that,

That will be a treason against the girl code!

I mean, he likes someone (a girl like me), it would be so wrong of me to try surfacing my ugly face into his life.

But it seemed the table had turned now. I think their relationship didn’t work out.

So now, he thinks he can use me as a second option?

Thunder fire him. I hissed and swiped the notification of his message off my screen.

I’m not interested again.

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EXACTLY! I DON’T CARE ABOUR YOU NO MORE!

My phone beeped again, it was a notification on Instagram.

It was Joseph again! He had commented on a picture of mine!

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Hehe! Leave me alone!

I logged in to read the comment:

Awwwn, See my babe, looking so cute. I miss you so much😍😍😍

I was confused.

Number one: Who is his babe!?

Number two: Why the ‘love in both eyes’ emoji?

If he had put the ‘blowing love’ emoji; that would have been better but the ‘love in both eyes’ emoji! People might think there is something! ADEOLU MIGHT THINK THERE IS SOMETHING! And we don’t need Adeolu thinking he has any competitor.

All these people that will just be ‘spoiling market for somebody’! I’ve once talked to Adeolu about Joseph and all these kind of things will just chase him away even farther.

What kind of a life is this!

I drop my head on the bed!

Later that night, I was chatting with Adeolu.

Mama, the mama!“, he hailed. “ I saw your picture on I.G today and all your lovers doing wow, wow, wow “

” lol..lovers nikan kor, which lovers?“, I replied

All your lovers na…you know you have many lovers

I rolled my eyes. This is exactly what I was talking about.

Normally, I would have tried to say something to correct his notion but I refused to.

It was all too stressful. I remembered what I had heard some people say, that a guy who wants you will come get you and you won’t have to go through so much mental and emotional stress. Maybe, just maybe no one could ever spoil anyone’s market, for whoever will come in will come in.

My phone beeped. It was a message from Adeolu.

It beeped again, another message from Joseph.

I swiped both messages off my screen and went to sleep.

So I’ve been stuck to my phone since 9a.m. I usually don’t do this, even in class, I was smiling and giggling. My friend whispered in my ears,

“Babe, wassup? What if Professor Alabi sees you?”

I smiled at her and went back to my phone. I started laughing again, louder this time.

She hit my lap angrily, “Are you alright?!” She was torn between looking at my face and looking forward at the lecturer so she won’t be caught. I laughed at her.

“Who are you chatting with sef?” She asked.

“later”, I whispered. She shook her head.

Of course, this is so unlike me, I hate chatting but my friend isn’t aware I’ve found something higher- Jesse!

Immediately we got to the hostel, I was back on my bed. I had messaged him but he wasn’t online, so I had to hang around the WhatsApp community for a while which is so unlike me. I started replying messages and chatting with even those I didn’t want to because what if he came online just the minute I left, I wondered.

Now, why am I so stuck on the guy?

Number 1: He is so funny *inserts a long and hearty laugh* and sensible and real and christian. I didn’t just meet him though. I’ve always known him but we started chatting on Tuesday at 3.05 p.m. I was wearing a blue top on my black shorts and was walking towards the kitchen when he beeped me. He messaged to ask for more details on a Fellowship program. It’s been three days since we started talking and I must confess: I’m thinking a white gown and a ring already. You can’t blame me! He is so cool!

I’ve been trying to keep my head straight though. So we were discussing a particular topic:

‘Girls and their fantasies of love’

I told him I agree with the fact that we girls expect too much from guys, ‘unrealistic requirements, dreams and fantasies’, that’s how I put it. I knew that would make him like me even more, he would be thinking, ‘Wow…This girl is so mature!’

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m trying to make him like me by lying or saying false things or anything like that but well, a girl’s got to play her cards right, right?

He was typing a message, I smiled.

I started to think about his name, ‘Jesse” I always joke that I like guys with Yoruba names, ‘some’ Yoruba names. They usually seem so cute to me but well, Jesse would still do. I actually think it is also cute, my mouth curved in a smile. The only way I test the cuteness of names is by saying it with a particular baby voice. I would imagine I’m dating the guy and I’m behaving like a baby, the way girls behave to their boyfriends, all cute and stuff, then I’ll say the name, like:

‘Please Jesse, please’ (there’s a way girls do it, then they’ll pout their lips.)

I laughed out loud, “It is cute!” “It is cute!”

Wow! I let out a sigh of relief. Imagine if it was a name like ‘Gbolabo!’ or ‘Sunday!’ Ah! I will just go and kill myself! How does that ever sound cute in the baby ‘girlfriend’ voice, It’s not!

But hollup! Jesse’s surname is actually the bomb!

‘Thompson!’… ‘Thompson!’ Oh my God! How did he get such a surname! I will become ‘Paula Thompson’ ‘Osheey!’, I laughed.

“Really babe!, Stop it’ I reprimanded myself. I paused and continued playing with the name in my head again.

‘Paula Thompson’… ‘Thank you for watching the news, I am Paula Thompson’, I rehearsed and shrieked.

My phone beeped and I jolted out of my thoughts. It was him!

“Yesterday, my girlfriend and I went out and I…’.

I turned my phone over to check if it was really mine. I read the message again,

“Yesterday, my girlfriend and I went out and I wanted to act all gentlemanly and open the car door for her”

I was still confused. I checked the name on the chat list, it read ‘Jesse’.

My phone beeped again, he continued ” She rolled her eyes and she was like ‘what is wrong with my own hand that I can’t open it'” he added the laughing emoji.

I was staring at my phone in shock. I saw that he was still typing.

“I laughed ehn…just when I was trying to be a gentle man, Can you believe it!” he asked.

I dropped my phone and stared at the Ceiling.

Of course, I don’t believe it!

HE HAS A GIRL FRIEND! JESSE HAS A GIRLFRIEND! I picked up my phone and saw more messages from him,

“Are you there” he asked

OFCOURSE, I’M NOT HERE! YOU DUMB ASS POLYGAMIST!

I didn’t say that to him, just in my mind.

I had to type something back to him, I bit my lips,

“Lol…she’s adorable… and mature” I typed back.

“Lol…I know right”, he typed back

YOU KNOW WHAT?! YOU IDIOT!

I was bewildered.

I MEAN, DID HE THINK I’VE BEEN CHATTING WITH HIM SO FREQUENTLY SO I CAN BE HIS ‘FRIEND’?

Okay! Okay! I have no reason to be angry. I know he really didn’t egg me on.  It was just my mind playing it’s tricks on me. He had always been calm; coming online when he wanted to, PROBABLY WHEN HIS RUBBISH GIRLFRIEND WAS ONLINE TOO!

 

‘Okay…Okay…calm down Paula’ I said to myself, the girl has done nothing wrong.

But damn! It felt so real! Like he was the real deal!

I sighed, ‘onto the next one, Jesse isn’t THE ONE, he’s taken!”

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Where exactly do I go wrong with this relationship stuff?

Where exactly was I when all the dope guys were getting their girlfriends!😂

WATCH OUT FOR THE SINGLE GIRL’S MOMENTS IN THE NEXT EPISODE!

 

SINGLE LADIES CONFERENCE!

PhotoGrid_1494101265964 I was seated in front, staring and listening attentively as the preacher talked with so much enthusiasm. She was jumping, crouching and almost flying in some instances.

“Don’t tell me that!”, she exclaimed loud into the microphone. ” So this girl came to me, telling me that she sometimes feels lonely and bored and wishes she has a boyfriend. What is the meaning of that?!”, she glared at us as if expecting an answer. “Lonely and bored?”, she continued, “That’s rubbish! Get up girl! Stop sulking! Get your A game on! Take yourself out! Talk to God! No time to ever feel lonely! No time!” She rushed the words out fiercely without waiting to catch her breath.

The hall was in an uproar, I stood with the others, clapping ecstactically as I nodded fervently. “Yes ma’am!” I cried. “Preach it mama!”

I was fully charged; on a cloud nine!

I walked home, the words of the preacher replaying in my head,

“No time, Get up girl!“,

I gave a hearty laugh as I pouted my lips and clicked my fingers three times (the way girls do it): Up, left and right; Osheey! Iyalaya boyfriend! Single life on fleek! Who boyfriend epp! Their father! Kill them all! Boss babe! Girl pride on 5.0! No boyfriend till 22! I don’t need no one!

When I got to my room, I got down on my knees to pray.

“Your will be done Lord, whenever you bring him my way. I won’t be bothered, I won’t fidget: your will be done”

I lay on my bed feeling all prim and proper. Then my phone beeped. It was a pop up message from Vikki.

Babe, Segun wants to take me out I quickly logged into my WhatsApp.

Eh! Osheey! I texted back.

I don’t know what to wear, she replied

What about that gown, the flowery one with short sleeves

“I can’t wear it. You know the dinner we had in School last week, that’s what I wore. If only he had talked earlier

Lol…I swear, that gown is so on point. Ehn, wear a top and jean then. Simple and nice: a brightly colored top o, not a dull colored one

Hehe, Paula! Which one is bright or dull now”

Shut up! As if you’re not excited

Lol” she replied

Do you remember you used to swear you don’t like this guy. Now you’re bothered about what to wear, Olodo! I told you it won’t last, Segun is so on point. I like him, for real. So what if he officially asks you out tomorrow?”

“Lol..I know he will she added the winking emoji

Osheey! Babe don port! Segun weds Victoria!

Lol…you’re high! Gotta go, I’ll call you”

“Alright love, bye ya”

I put down my phone, giggling. I had always known they were a perfect fit. I stared at the fan frantically rolling on the ceiling,

So that’s it, Vikki is going off the hook, just like that! I shrugged, “Well, I’m happy for her”

I turned over on the bed, picked up my phone and went over the chat again.

“But wait, that’s it fa! Vikki is almost off the hook” I exclaimed. “They will be on another date tomorrow!”

Well today, the preacher said we should learn to spoil ourselves.

That’s exactly what I’ll do! I sprang up from the bed.

Tomorrow, I’ll go to a restaurant. No! not one inside School; couples are always there, girls with well made up faces giggling with some cute boy. I paused, Vikki will also be out tomorrow, giggling with Segun and what about me?

I will be all by myself, drinking Viju and eating Meat pie and smiling at the waiter” It’s all so silly!” I sighed.

The hours, excitement and charge at the conference came crumbling down.

PhotoGrid_1494095950120LOL! Most of us have these moments. Sometimes, we’re up and alive, feeling like the boss. Sometimes we’re sulking inside yet acting all ‘poise and I’ve got it all together’ on the outside.

Some tell me they never have these moments. I hail you. This however is for those who do: Hello FAM✊ *Takes a group hug*

Here is the highlight of today’s post: Something I realize we girls don’t like to say out loud:

We all have different rates of which attention is being shown to us. Some girls get zero or little attention while some are like wanted chocolate cake. Girls in the former category will never admit it ‘cos well, it can be quite embarrassing saying you have no one ‘on your case’; no dates, no phone calls nor messages: sometimes, you’ll wonder if your phone has been switched off or your network is bad😂 (We both know there is nothing wrong with the phone) while your friends are ignoring calls even from fine boys😂

Most times, this is what leads to desperation on the part of some girls and this is the reason for this series. You are not alone. You might be a bit starved but please don’t go for shit still. Some might look on you as a weakling for feeling lonely and sad but remember, we all have different stories. You might have been single for a much longer time and probably gotten lesser attention from boys than they might ever have had.

Sure, the feeling of loneliness and boredom can be helped. I recommend getting busy doing stuff you love. You might feel sad sometimes but that’s because you’re hungry for something but you still musn’t feed on shit. Remember, there are worse things than being single, like living purposelessly and thinking that a boy is all you need.

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I rest my case!

Watch out for next week’s edition. It will be Lit!

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