There were a couple of things I expected to happen over the next couple of days;
I expected work to be annoying and exhausting.
I expected avoiding Akudo to make it even more stressful.
I expected Maminat to buy a tree and become (for the time being) convinced that horticulture is actually a religion and for Dienye to continue to hibernate leaving me with no resources to fend off Akudo if she was determined to hang with me after work.
I expected I would have to therefore lie a lot and end up spending my evenings swapping bureaucracy war stories with my Aunt, sweating in the living room while waiting for the bedroom ACs (which the Generator just barely carried) to cool our rooms enough for us to turn in for the night.
What I didn’t expect was to be plagued.
Trying to get me a boyfriend.
I mean… It’s not that I thought he wasn’t serious when he suggested it that first time. I just thought he wasn’t serious, serious!
But then a few dour days after the disastrous Rib Night, I got a call at work. I was so surprised to see his name on my phone that I stopped everything I was doing and just stared at it.
Foluso peered over at me from his desk. “Sis – are we ok?” he asked dryly making me look up at him with what, I’m afraid, must have looked a lot like guilt.
When I didn’t say anything one of his brows quirked up. “You no go answer?” he asked suspiciously referring to my still ringing phone and that made it officially past when I could have not answered and it wouldn’t have looked all that weird even without an explanation.
“I’m answering,” I said and tapped the green button jerkily. Foluso snatched up the open bag of plantain chips on his desk and positioned himself to watch me take the call. I didn’t want to turn and block him and make myself look even more suspicious so I cleared my expression and raised the phone to my ear.
“Hey!” I said breezily and with a huge emphasis on not calling him by name, “This is a surprise! What’s up?”
“Gigiiii!” Derin chirped happily into my ear, “Are you busy? Akudo says it’s usually okay to call you anytime. Must be nice.”
I laughed weakly at this inference that my job was a seat warming appointment, “I don’t know about all that but I’m free to talk now. Anything?” I asked.
“What are you doing after work today.”
I felt my face freeze a little and the sound of Foluso crunching plantain chips in the background suddenly heightened. “Uhhh – ,” I said while my mind feverishly worked to find a response that sounded friendly, impersonal and like I wasn’t being asked out, “Regretting life choices, how about you?” I finally choked out.
Derin laughed for a good 10 seconds and I felt myself smile and relax, weak as always to people who found me funny.
“It’s a good thing I called then,” he finally said, “you’ll be happy to hear that I’ve been diligently working on providing you with some brilliant options!” he sounded smug and I was confused.
“Are you – are you selling me stocks?” I asked, “D’you have some kind of inside track on the market?” I added hopefully.
“Er – no,” Derin said sounding confused too, “I’m hooking you up like I promised.”
“With… insurance?” I asked because honestly that conversation had clean evaporated from my mind.
“A boyfriend, Gigi, remember?” he said sounding a little concerned.
I must have looked aghast because suddenly Foluso was leaning on my desk beside me, studying my face and crunching very loudly indeed in my ear.
Sh**, I thought. He couldn’t have… could he?
“Remember how I said I wanted to help you get a boyfriend? Your friend wasn’t too enthusiastic about helping but since I already said I would, I didn’t want to disappoint you,” he continued.
“Derin, you didn’t have to do all that!” I fake laughed and Foluso’s eyes flew wide. D-E-R-I-N? he mouthed with exaggerated slowness and I swore mentally at my costly slip up.
“Of course I did,” Derin said sounding mildly self conscious, “You’re my friend… and one of the coolest chicks I know… I want you to be happy…”
I truly couldn’t come up with any response to that awkwardly phrased and sweetly, obliviously, mysogynistic affection….. especially with newscaster Foluso literally wedged up in my grill.
“Not that I think you need a guy to be happy or anything like that,” he suddenly added and the lazy ass feminist in me sighed with relief at not having to do the talk, “If anything… I think any of my friends would be lucky to get you… so if you actually don’t want me to do this, you can just shut me up now…”
“Well – ,”
Watch carefully. This is how I always eff myself over.
“Did you already set something up?” I asked.
He laughed a tad nervously, “… kind of… but it’s cool, I can just – “
“I can go,” I cut him off telling myself it was no big deal. What was I doing this evening besides sitting in traffic? Today wasn’t even my day for checking if Dienye was alive on the behalf of her parents. “Just text me where to be.”
“Gigi you don’t have to…” he began to demur.
“I know that and that’s why I will,” I said with rising confidence because a thought had just occurred to me. Actually, when you put aside the indignity of it all, this was a pretty fantastic idea, wasn’t it?
Who had better access to perfect and eligible guys than a former perfect and eligible guy? What if this guy was great? What if we even hit it off?
I patted my sensible bob self consciously. I really needed to invest in something just a tad more luxurious if I was serious about boy friend hunting and at that moment I was realizing for real that I kind of was.
“You’re such a champ, Gigi! Aesop is gonna love you!” Derin said.
“What’s Aesop?” I asked nervously.
“Huh? Oh, that’s my guy,” Derin chuckled, “Don’t start getting scared because of the name, dude, he’s a good guy!”
I laughed hollowly because who tf names their kid Aesop? Is it even a real name? Wasn’t it just a thing about folk tales?
“So I’ll text you the deets,” Derin said.
“Uhhuh,” I answered Googling Aesop. Turned out he was a Greek story teller figure from the ancient of days who may or may not have existed. All sorts of theories out there. Maybe his folks were intellectuals. That wasn’t bad right? I began to calm down again.
“Hm?” I answered still distracted with my research.
“Don’t be anxious or feel like you have to accept him or anything. I made it clear to him that he’s lucky to have this time with you. Just be yourself and decide if you want him after he falls for you.”
My mouth literally fell open.
“I’ll let you get back to – not being busy!” he laughed at his joke, “talk later, dude.”
“Later…” I echoed weakly.
Was it me or was that the sweetest thing ever? Serious question – I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t just too susceptible to guys being flattering because I wasn’t exactly used to it. Either way I was beaming and still holding my hung up phone.
“Just to be clear,” Folusho’s voice whispered into my consciousness, “Derin is Aunty Akudo’s husband – shey?”
I dropped my phone quickly, “Bros, please don’t start, I know you know I’m friends with both of them.”
“Ehn – that kind of family friend thing, I know, but – did he used to call you before?” Foluso continued to study me from his uncomfortably close distance.
“I don’t know!” I answered leaning away, “Maybe! Stop trying to insinuate things!”
“Insinuate what? That he’s your Sugar Daddy?” Foluso grinned widely, “Why are you flustered? It’s no big deal these days na!”
“First of all Foluso can you return to your desk and give me some breathing room?” I begged facing my desktop with determination, “Second of all – he’s not my anything so please don’t even say that again!”
Foluso sniffed and finally got up. “We all have O!” he said strolling back to his desk, “it’s the only way to survive in Lagos on these salaries.”
“Even you?” I couldn’t resist asking, my curiosity piqued.
“See you,” Foluso snorted, “Fine boy like me? Mummies are fighting over me on Banana Island O!”
I gaped at him not sure if he was serious.
“But I have to admit, Sister Bolaji,” Foluso casually swung his long skinny legs onto his side of our shared desk, “your own surprise me, sha,”
“How?” I asked despite myself.
“At least none of my Mummies is the wife of anybody I know – not to mention my boss – you get mind!” he gave me a thumbs up and I groaned.
“Guy, I’ve told you…”
” I gerrit, I gerrit,” Foluso showed me his palms and stemmed my denials, “I’m not gonna say anything…. I just ask that you keep me posted.”
I sighed gustily.
“Foluso, he’s literally setting me up on a date.” I told him. I watched with satisfaction as his smug expression faded.
“With… himself?” he asked hopefully.
“Odeh!” I snapped, “With his friend!”
“Chill, I’m just trying to understand,” he said in conciliatory tones, “are things that tough?”
“Shut up,” I said regretting my decision to clarify the situation. Maybe it would’ve been better if it had gotten around the office that people’s husbands were chasing me.
“You see now?” Foluso shook his head, “This is why I asked you to follow me to my church. Pastor Ejimofor specializes in unbinding women.”
“I wish you realized how wrong that sounds,” I muttered from behind my computer screen wondering how long he was going to be unbearable about this. If anything convinced me about my need for a boyfriend it was situations like this one.
There was a short suspicious silence. I glanced up to see Foluso watching me with visible sympathy.
“What,” I said.
He picked up an unopened packet from his desk and offered it to me.
“Plantain chips?” he asked, his obvious subtext being; it’s the least I can do.
Slowly, not taking my eyes off him, I picked up my ear buds, plugged them into my ears, pressed play on the headphone’s remote controller not forgetting to adjust the volume to very loud and submerged my brain in iKON’s .
Sweet Kpop…it always understood me.