I’m delighted to report the resumption of broadcast of Indigo Radio FM Channel 2.
The story formerly known as “Do You Remember Me” will now continue as “Forgot to Forget You” on as regular a weekly schedule as possible!
I do hope you enjoy it!
I’m delighted to report the resumption of broadcast of Indigo Radio FM Channel 2.
The story formerly known as “Do You Remember Me” will now continue as “Forgot to Forget You” on as regular a weekly schedule as possible!
I do hope you enjoy it!
I’d like you to talk to me frankly about your concerns…
My boss who is also my former senior from secondary school and my good friend keeps getting me involved in her marital problems.
Something is up with her for real, it’s like she’s not satisfied or something? And I find that crazy because her husband is like the best guy in the world, like he adores her….
I’m sure he does?
Ok – to be honest it’s not as straight forward as it could be because there’s this guy also from my secondary school past who used to be my best friend in JSS but then he got really smoking hot over one summer and ended up as my boss’s boyfriend.
And while I was in denial about it in JSS, as a grown woman I can now admit that I may still have the tiniest bit of a crush on him but more importantly – so does my boss, I suspect!
And that is very not good because marriages in peril do not need the added stress of hot exes messing things up – and obviously, since I keep getting dragged into everything, I’m terrified that it’s all gonna go hard south now that Etomi is back….
Did I mention that Etomi is back?
And that he treats me like an invisible, gaseous substance?
And that’s not even the worst thing!
The worst thing is – my boss’s husband is my friend too so imagine how hard it is for me when they squabble and I’m supposed to picks sides? Like seriously?
And then – he’s got it into his mind to turn me into a project most likely to take his mind off his breaking heart? I dunno? But the project is to find me a boy friend.
At first he was like you’re a cool girl, I know a lot of guys that would love to date you.
Stupid me, my head swelled.
And it must have been my swelled head that made me go along with it because I should’ve seen the signs.
I sha found myself alone with him in a restaurant parking lot after what for all intents and purposes was a date with him.
How do I know it was a date?
Apart from the usual signifiers like location and ambience there’s the fact that he kissed me.
He kissed me O.
My friend/boss’s husband kissed me.
I’m just dead.
Come, was I supposed to talk about work?
Should I continue?
#ForgotToForgetYou Coming Soon
First of all, I always knew I wanted to write. I remember as far back as being 6 or 7 and wanting to be an “Author” because I loved books and so authors were my heroes and of course I wanted to be one. I wanted to make people feel the way books made me feel.
And that’s actually still true for me, it’s just that movies and TV got tangled in it somehow too.
Growing up in a strict household, movies were one of the few things we were allowed to do (until 8pm on weekdays and 10 on weekends). I watched a LOT of them; just musicals at first but in greater variety as I grew older and somewhere along the line – I fell for them. Big time.
I remember a time in my teenage years when I lived at Video Clubs and there wasn’t an A, B or C list actor I couldn’t put a name or at least part of a filmography to. I loved imagery. I loved acting and stories that could only be told visually – LOVED it. But I was never able to admit it to myself till I was already in University registered for a Bsc in Broadcast Communications (my unconscious halfway point).
My parents weren’t too pleased when after my sophomore year I changed to Communication in Video and Film but I was deliriously happy! At last I got to go to film history classes (I still have my David Cook text which I refused to sell though it’s an older edition) and I got to handle Bolex cameras and celluloid film! I spliced and taped with my own hands and learned the wondrous joys of editing… I loved it so much that I thought I might actually want to be a director instead of an author.
Unluckily (or luckily) for me, I didn’t quite have the temperament for it. It takes a different kind of artistry and patience and personal force be it loud or silent to sit on the canvas chair. I took a couple of passes at it and on top of having the wrong temperament I found in the end and to my surprise that it didn’t give me the bone deep satisfaction I got from a manuscript (or even a post like this) completed to my satisfaction.
It was fortunate for me that I had double majored in creative writing as well and also that the Video/Film course gave me enough experience with scriptwriting that I could now think of stories in terms of that format as well. That was actually a very important thing.
Reading scripts and practicing writing them taught me how a medium affects the way a story can be told and how prose, poetry, stage, screen, music and even comic book writing each offer their own unique opportunities for building a narrative.
I’d known that I loved visual story telling but I’d believed I could only do it by directing (which by the way I still low key want to do properly at least once before I die). It was a revelation for me to realize that there was so much more to it. There was writing and all the stuff that gets decided in pre-production. There was also editing and all the stuff that goes down during post-production. All of them were important, creative aspects of telling the story.
With screenwriting, I felt like I was eating my cake and having it. I finally had the tools I needed to make a film using my first love and base strength – writing!
I’ve been working on it ever since and I’ll talk in another post about the actual experience of getting into it professionally after I graduated and came home to Nigeria (cross fingers that I get to it!!!).
These days, one of my favourite aspects of screenwriting is dialogue because you have to be so much more sensitive about it than in prose fiction. In a script (in prose too actually) you don’t want unnatural dialogue jarring people out of the story – but when you sit down to write it, you find that the way people actually speak is a slippery and fascinating thing.
Like in prose, dialogue is an important way to move your narrative along as well as give uniqueness and life to your characters. Unlike in prose, dialogue is the only other way you have apart from action to develop your character and move your narrative. But you can never use too much. This was a tough lesson for me to learn. In film, there is SO much more said in silences – and when characters do speak there are rhythms and patterns to it.
Spoken language is a lot more dynamic than the written word.
When you write dialogue you it’s not just about filling your character’s mouth with information. When I write dialogue I think about what my character needs to express in that moment… then I kind of listen for it.
That’s the best way I can describe it and it’s such a rush when you hear it or catch it; a distinct, living character’s voice.
Have I ever mentioned how I do random dialogues in my head when I’m driving alone?
And sometimes voice them?
Anywho, it’s a craft I’m still learning but I’m grateful for the opportunities I get to practice which brings me to the other awesome part about screenwriting. Finally seeing what had previously only existed in the boundaries of your mind up on the screen.
Talk about a feel good moment.
If you have any questions for me about my personal experience writing for TV, I’ll be happy to answer! Just pop it in the comments!
I probably am.
And I have the receipts to make that claim but thankfully I also have too much of a sense of shame to share them with you.
Either way, today as we officially enter the era of Trump *shudders*, I thought I should probably get off my behind and let you all know what I’ve been doing instead of updating DYRM 🙂
And that’s the majority of it. But none of it changes the fact that I am a very, very, very slow writer and I am awfully sorry for it.
Thanks for your patience so far and I really hope to be picking up where we left off sooner rather than later.
As the work day drew to a close, my nerves predictably started to jangle.
I had a blind date.
And despite what I’d thought earlier about this being a good idea, I was no longer sure that I should have let it happen.
This was my second blind date in not such a long time and after the trauma the first one dealt on my self esteem, I didn’t know what to expect from this one and I wasn’t feeling too optimistic.
As I shut down my desktop I tried to tell myself that Derin wouldn’t play me. He was my friend and he wouldn’t set me up with a guy that wasn’t a legit prospect.
And he basically said no pressure so I needed to just set my self to enjoy a nice night out with someone that was most likely intelligent, worked an interesting job and was maybe even good looking.
At the thought of someone good looking my mind flashed back to Etomi and I sighed because, let me not lie, this had been happening a lot since Rib day.
I didn’t hope for someone of his unfair level of fineness… but, that said, let it be known that he had really ruined my standards. In my mind now there was fine – and Etomi fine.
And everyone fell short of Etomi fine.
Maybe this was what Akudo had meant when she said you just didn’t get over him.
Why did God even make specimen like him and dangle them in front of defenseless women who have zero chance of not falling for him from a distance and breaking their own hearts?
I realized that for the umpteenth time I was dwelling on my friend’s ex and I raised my hand and smacked my own cheek. “Stop it Gigi!” I muttered to myself, “let’s behave like a sensible, mature woman for once!”
So like a sensible, mature woman I switched off my work phone, snuck away from the office while my boss was caught up in a meeting with his boss and I drove my way to the assigned meeting place.
It was a tiny new restaurant in VI called Kitchen. Going there was the one thing that I was looking forward to since I’d been dying to try out their whole thing which was Mother’s cooking cuisine.
My hands were still sweating on my steering wheel by the time I parked, sha. I was early so I sat in the car for about 15 minutes redoing my make up and reciting mantras like, “you’re a sparkling, multifaceted diamond,” and “this isn’t going to suck!”
After one last just-in-case reapplication of deodorant I forced myself out of the car and marched into the dimly lit and still nearly empty restaurant.
Thirty minutes after sitting down with a stiff smile and well into my third tall glass of water with a slice of lemon – I began to wonder if I was about to be stood up.
I had checked my phone a million times just to make sure I hadn’t somehow tripped on a time stream and showed up too early. Or maybe even on the wrong day.
My hands started to sweat again because the waiters had started to give me pointed glances.
Really, my inner paranoid said, is this that big of a surprise? When have you ever had any luck with guys?
Maybe this was my punishment for not calling Akudo and telling her about the whole thing.
I’d thought seriously about checking in with her before leaving from the office. At least letting her know that Derin had called and what it had been about. Full disclosure and all that.
My inner paranoid wanted to just keep things open and non-shady so that they wouldn’t come back to haunt me in the future. I even picked up my phone to call but then an even more paranoid voice in my head asked me; if Derin calling me wasn’t anything – wouldn’t it become something the minute I called Akudo specifically to tell her about it?
What good could possibly come out of that?
At best, Akudo would talk me out of the whole date thing because if she didn’t organize it herself she would automatically dismiss it as bound to fail (and now it looked like she would have been right).
At worst I would literally be asking her to become suspicious about my relationship with her husband…
Not that there was anything to be suspicious about. If there was one person that could be over confident about her relationship, it was Akudo. But how humiliating would it be if she believed that I believed there was something worth being suspicious about between me and Derin?
I was over thinking it again, I know, but as I have emphasized before, this is my nature.
So, I’d decided to put the whole idea of telling her on hold for a while and get the date out of the way first.
I deeply regretted it now. I wanted to call her, let her help me laugh at the whole situation and maybe come join me so that I didn’t have to be disgraced in front of these waiters.
I was literally reaching for my phone when it rang.
“He’s coming, Gigi!” he said urgently into my ear as soon as I picked up, “Are you there already?”
“Kind of,” I said weakly.
“He got held up in an unexpected meeting and he couldn’t even call out till now. He asked me to tell you he’s so sorry and he’s on his way right now.”
“Ok,” I said.
“Have you been waiting long? “ Derin asked. There was flattering anxiety in his voice, “if you don’t want to do this anymore it’s completely cool, I can still call him and cancel. You don’t even have to worry yourself.”
“No, I’ll stay.” I insisted, “I always wanted to try this place out.”
“Are you sure, Gigi?” he asked.
“Of course!” I chirped.
Another half hour later and I was regretting once again.
I was still alone and (after the harsh discovery that my glasses of water and lemon slice were not free) I had found that my funds would only allow me to enjoy one glass of Chapman and the ambiance. The looks the waiters were giving me now were downright judgmental. I almost cried with relief when someone finally sat down opposite me but that emotion turned to shock when I saw it was Derin, post work with his tie loosened around his collar and his sleeves rolled up.
I eyed him suspiciously. “Uh… what happened to Aesop?”
Derin looked apologetic, “Flat tire.”
I was beginning to feel Aesop had more in common with his Greek name sake than just the name.
So I’d been stood up for a blind date that I didn’t even beg for.
If I ever agreed for one of these things again, ehn…
“Gigi this is all my fault, I’m sorry.”
I was actually inclined to agree with him on that so I said nothing choosing to simmer instead in delayed feelings of humiliation.
“I’m actually surprised… Aesop is one of my most reliable friends. I was going to make him Godfather to my first born… and if we ever get a first born…”
I looked up at him startled at this insinuation that there were also baby issues between him and Akudo.
I found him watching me sadly and it dismantled the resentment I’d been feeling towards him.
It also brought back my wariness. I did not want to hear this. I didn’t want to know a single thing more about their drama.
“Let’s just say you owe me and call it a night,” I suggested, “no need to rescind anybody’s Godfather rights. It’s not that deep.”
“I do owe you,” Derin said enthusiastically, “let me pay you back right now. You said you wanted to try the food here, right?”
I did but that was before the waiters had started judging me.
“Guy, I’m tired. Being stood up takes a lot out of a girl,” I said.
“Then order to go,” Derin countered me firmly. “Order anything. Order everything. I’m willing to go bankrupt here.”
I probably should have said no for pride’s sake but now my inner longa throat was awake. For goodness sake I’d sat in this restaurant for over an hour smelling their tantalizing Coconut Jolly and plantain fritters while showering my grumbling stomach with cold water. All this while my waiter watched me as if I was a food thief. My inner pettiness was awake too.
“Derin, are you sure?” I asked just to be nice, “the prices here are kind of…” I jerked my thumb upwards.
“Please Gigi,” he said looking genuinely offended. He picked up the menu and handed it to me. “Go crazy.”
So I did.
And oh I enjoyed the transformation in my waiter’s expression from “Wetin be dis” to “Ha, Oga Madam welcome O!” so, so gratifying…
Even when I would hesitate, Derin would look through his menu and be like, “but don’t you want to try this?” or “if you don’t want it, I do”
Before he was done we must have run up a bill in excess of eighty something K over his friend standing me up and my pride was over avenged. In fact I was starting to feel guilty despite myself as our takeaway boxes were wheeled towards us in batches.
Derin did not flinch at the bill. He barely looked at it before handing his card over to the waiter who took it from him like it was a holy object.
“Thanks to you I’m going to have good lunch boxes at work for the next month,” I told him, “I can’t believe you let us order this much… I feel like I’m cheating you somehow…”
“That’s because you haven’t yet realized my insidious, underlying motive…” Derin said signing the receipt that had been handed to him decisively.
“Hah?” I asked bluntly. I mean there was a limit to how guilty I was feeling O.
“Would you consider giving it another try?” Derin was now pinning me with a level gaze.
“What?” I asked because he couldn’t possibly mean –
“The boyfriend search. It doesn’t have to be Aesop. I have other good friends.”
My mouth was still oily from the bribe I had devoured but I started to frown. “But Derin – why are you giving yourself assignment that has no credit?” I asked, “are you seriously telling me that you spent this kind of money just so I could continue going on your blind dates?”
Derin frowned too looking a little hurt, “No-oo… I spent this kind of money because we were having fun…”
I looked skeptical.
“Honestly! I came here because I couldn’t just tell you that Aesop wasn’t coming over the phone when you’d already been waiting for him – I know I said I was making it up to you and partly I am – but I was also just enjoying myself… I thought you were too…”
Of course I was. And it was really tacky of me to question the meal after I’d eaten it but… I just felt like I wasn’t getting the full picture here.
Looking across the table now at Derin who was frowning down at his napkin as he twisted and untwisted it like a scolded kid I wondered if maybe there wasn’t a fuller picture than this. Maybe this was just what it was and I was lucky to have a cool guy friend who thought it was fun to hook me up on dates with his buddies and also occasionally buy me lavish dinners. Maybe I should look at it like having an older, wealthy brother.
Maybe I should find my inner graciousness and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.
“Don’t mind me Derin,” I finally said, “I’m just feeling guilty because – you know there’s no way I can return the favour…”
The cheer began to cautiously creep back into his expression.
“What favour? And don’t feel guilty,” he said, “I’m the dummy who tried to turn a nice time into a bribe. You can just pretend I never said that…”
“I’m not going to pretend O!” I quickly stopped him, “I appreciate what you’re doing – helping me meet someone – especially since you’re not acting like I’m some object of pity” I added recalling Foluso’s expression at work earlier.
“Why would I?” Derin asked looking lost, “You’re letting me match make you with my friends… you’re doing me a favor.”
I preened a little on this take on things. I had to remember to explain it to Foluso this way.
“Thank you, Derin” I said feeling a little embarrassed to be saying it so late.
“No need to -” Derin’s face froze as his gaze caught on something behind me, “…son of a b*tch!” I saw him say just under his breath as his expression darkened.
“What?” I asked alarmed and twisted round in my seat. Then it was my turn to freeze.
My heart sped up as I watched the familiar tall, striking figure of Etomi walking into the restaurant, led by the establishment’s Maitre d’ and ushering a woman in a slinky camisole and palazzo pants in front of him by the small of her back.
I was damn well close to having a heart attack until they both sat and I was able to catch the woman’s profile.
It wasn’t Akudo.
I literally slumped in my seat.
“That a**hole said he was travelling!” I heard Derin mutter and I looked up to see him glaring at Etomi’s table.
Fear caught me that they would see us so I picked up the drinks menu which our flustered waiter had left behind and used it as an impromptu cover, “Guy,” I whispered urgently at Derin who was still glaring, “let’s fade!”
Derin gave me a distracted look, then one that was more truculent. “Why?” he demanded.
“Because you’ve already paid!” I answered in what I hoped was a reasonable tone.
Derin’s glance just narrowed suspiciously. “Are you hiding?”
I was. I didn’t even know why.
“I’m not hiding – I just don’t want him to see me,” I muttered from behind the drinks menu.
“Why, though?” Derin asked then his frown deepened, “wait – have you guys… met since then? Did he do anyth -”
“No and NO!” I hissed, “He just makes me uncomfortable – and it’s obviously the same for you! Let’s just leave before we end up in a confrontation!”
“He doesn’t make me uncomfortable, he pisses me off!” Derin grumbled but, to my relief, he was already dropping a tip on the table and getting up. I grabbed my bag and as many takeaway bags as I could handle then hustled out of there without a backward glance hoping that he would follow without too much commotion.
Outside I breathed a sigh of relief and started to head to my car only to be stopped by Derin’s hand at my elbow. I turned to look at him in surprise.
“Gigi, can we go somewhere else?” he asked.
“Why?” I asked baldly. I wanted to go home.
“I’m irritated and I don’t want to be alone.” he said. And he looked it. His face was stiff with disapproval and his whole demeanor was tense. I sighed internally and said goodbye to the food coma I’d been secretly looking forward to.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked.
Half an hour later we were at a cigar bar on Awolowo Rd. that I’d followed him in my car to. We sat at the bar and I immediately asked him, “You’re not going to drink, right?” Because I didn’t plan on being a designated driver.
He gave me a smile that did not reflect in his eyes. “Sorry” he said and ordered a neat scotch. I tried not to feel resentful as I ordered a virgin cocktail and after they came we sat sipping our orders in silence.
After two whole jazz tracks had gone by in his sullen silence he finally turned to me. “Why do you think he’s still here?” he asked.
“Derin…” I began.
“Am I being unreasonable?” he cut me off, “I shouldn’t be suspicious?”
“Of course not!” I reassured him a little faintly. Dear God, I thought, get me out of this…!
“They dated before right?” he asked his eyes drilled into me as if he knew I wanted to escape, “When? For how long?”
“Dude,” I said nervously, “why are you being like this? You know I wasn’t really friends with Akudo till she came back to Nigeria. I barely knew her in secondary school…” I said evasively.
“But she said you both know him,”
“Ehn, we went to the same school but that doesn’t mean we were friends!” I defended.
“So why does he make you uncomfortable? What happened between you three?”
This was getting too much for me. In truth, nothing happened between us three. Something happened between them two but that was really not my gist to share and I resented being the one given the third degree over it.
“Derin, I think I’m going to go” I said getting off my bar stool, “you should call an Uber to take you home when you’re done.”
Suddenly my arm was being gripped and Derin hung his head in front of me. “Sorry… don’t go, Gigi… Please.”
I paused reluctantly.
“You’re kind of being a dick,” I told him.
“I know and I’m sorry. I’ll stop. please just stay with me for a bit more?”
I hesitated. “You can’t get drunk!” I gave my condition.
“I won’t have anything after this drink,” he promised me earnestly.
“And – ” this one was harder to say, “I think maybe if you have questions about Etomi… you should talk about them with your wife…”
Derin raised sad eyes to me, “I was being inappropriate, I’m really sorry Gigi. The last thing I wanted to do was make you uncomfortable.”
“Well… yeah… you did…” I huffed.
“I won’t do it again.” he said resolutely, “please sit.”
I heaved a weighty sigh and climbed back on to my stool. Derin watched me with a small grin. “You were really gonna walk out on me!”
“See you,” I sniffed half jokingly, facing my drink, “don’t try me in this place… just because you bought me jolly…”
“Ok, listen but can I just ask you one thing…” he said suddenly shifting closer.
“Derin – ” I started, leaning away warily.
“It has nothing to do with Akudo… it’s about you… and that guy…”
That shut me up and I eyed him with trepidation though I actually had nothing to hide.
“Why does he make you uncomfortable?”
Ok, except that.
But that’s just for the sake of my pride. Who wants anyone to know that they’re still dying for their secondary school crush it was beyond embarrassing.
“Maybe uncomfortable was a strong term…” I hedged while I mentally searched for a good lie that would put an end to this line of questioning and save my pride, “it’s like I said – even though we went to the same school I don’t know him like that so it’s a bit awkward between us,” I finished weakly.
“Dude – you hid behind a menu,”
I really did. Why did I even do that? What was wrong with me?
“I was taken by surprise, ok?” I said fanning myself with a flyer from the bar counter and not meeting his over curious gaze.
“Ok,” he said, “I’ll let it go for now. But if you ever want to give me the real gist, i’m here for you.”
“There is no real gist,” I groaned sensing that this might become a reoccurring examination.
He let it go after that and his good mood seemed to return. We spent the rest of his scotch on light banter and gossip about his friends but it was still a work night and I was tired. After a while I could actually feel myself begin to droop.
My relief was profound when he finally called for the bill. I offered to pay for our drinks out of courtesy. He gave me a worried look and whispered the price in my ear and I surreptitiously returned my ATM card from whence it had come.
Outside he walked me to my car and lingered, watching me with what I can only describe as a fond smile.
“I’ll definitely get you a boyfriend,” He said suddenly, “But after that I’m going to miss this.”
“What? Sketchy parking lots?” I yawned deliberately misunderstanding him to keep the tone light.
“Hanging out with you like this,” he said, “just gisting.”
“Why would that change just because I have a boyfriend?” I asked.
He shrugged with one shoulder. “You’ll have him by then.”
“And? I’ll have friends too.”
“I dunno,” he said lips curling again in that warm way, “if he’s anything like me… he’d be jealous about you hanging out with other guys,”
I squinted at him thinking that was probably a correct assessment of his relationship with my friend. “Ok, then don’t get me that kind,” I told him.
His smile widened.
“Give me a list of what you like” he suggested, “I’ll find the perfect one.”
“You’re taking this so seriously,” I observed still confused at it all.
“Yup,” he agreed then glanced at me, “want to know why?”
I nodded enthusiastically. I knew there was something and I was dying to know what I was missing.
“Hold out you hand,” he said.
I stared at him as if I suddenly didn’t hear English.
“Hold out your hand,” he insisted, “and close your eyes.”
“Why?” I asked with open suspicion.
“Do you want to know or not?” he asked folding his arms in front of him.
I wanted to know.
I held out my hand and let my eyes fall closed.
For a moment there was nothing.
Then I felt his big hand engulf mine. I was starting to frown at the fact that there was nothing in it when warmth touched my lips and hesitated.
I turned into a jpeg. I could not move to save my own life.
The warmth – full lips touching mine – pushed gently against my mouth, trailed side ways, brushing erogenous nerve ends on its way, then disappeared.
I didn’t even dare open my eyes. I stood there with my hand jutting out even after he let go.
I heard him say something just under his breath that sounded like ‘sorry’ and then heard him walk slowly away.
My eyes opened of their own accord only after the sound of his BMW jeep filled the parking lot. My mouth fell open too as I watched his car pull out of his space and then drive out of the parking lot and away.
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.
The platform invasion continues!
Now I have a station on Wattpad too so if you’re a part of that vibrant community, please drop by and show me love here!
What do you think!?
We’re just sad clowns,
tamed and scripted,
I’ve come too far,
I’m coming home,
I wanna go back
To when I was young.
– BIG BANG, Loser (kpoplyrics.net)
Can you die from awkwardness?
Because that’s what I felt like doing when Akudo had to elbow Derin aside just to get Etomi’s tall frame in the flat.
She paused when our eyes met, looked delighted then pounced on me.
As she squeezed me tightly, squealing my name (had she forgotten I was here?), I caught a whiff of vodka on her breath.
“Hahaha” I laughed nervously, “I see you started without us, Akudo! Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Hell no,” Akudo pulled away still grinning, “Keep it for the office, can’t you see I’m celebrating? It’s Etomi! Look!”
I looked again and Etomi was watching Akudo with an amused half smile. It was somehow amazing to me that his mouth still did that slight quirk at the side thing. Then Derin cleared his throat and I snapped back to the matter on ground. Where was I? Ah, yes. Mortification and dread.
“Why is everyone just standing around? Derin made us barbecue, lets eat!” Akudo beamed.
“Gigi and I already ate,” Derin said with a distinctly sour tone. “If you and – your guest – are hungry, Patience can warm something for you.”
Akudo frowned, “But Derin, I said I was coming, couldn’t you guys have waited?”
“We did.” Derin said heavily.
“Um…” Etomi spoke up for the first time, his voice was deeper than I remembered it, a man’s voice now, “I’m actually not here to stay. Akudo and I met up for drinks because I’m traveling tomorrow,” he glanced between the couple who were failing to pretend not to glare at each other, “I just drove her home to make sure she was ok…?” he petered off when Derin turned to look at him with open dislike, “my Uber is already at your gate…”
“But you’ll be back in a few months, right?” Akudo said in a cutesy voice and I gaped at her because up until then I had seen my friend as a hardened gangster with a bad but endlessly entertaining mouth.
Etomi glanced again at Derin who was looking increasingly more agitated, “…Yes?”
“So allow us to see you off properly!” Akudo insisted while I watched them like film, “I told you this Merlot isn’t going to drink itself!”
“Akudo, I really have to go – ”
“Kudo, I think you’ve heard the man, he has to go,” Derin cut in then re-opened the front door that he was still standing beside and gave Etomi a pointed look, “unless you want some ribs to go, bruh?”
“I’m actually good, thanks.” Etomi held up his hands in a pronounced I’m-not-trying-to-trespass-on-your-territory gesture. He moved towards the door and paused in front of Derin. He was taller than him. I saw Derin’s look of annoyance and knew he noticed it too. “It was nice to finally meet you, Derin.”
Derin pursed his lips and I just knew he was thinking, how many times have you hooked up with my wife?
Etomi gave us one more glance, smiling at Akudo and nodding at me, before turning to go.
Derin shut the door a little more forcefully than was absolutely polite after him.
“You really had to be that rude to him?” Akudo snapped immediately, the cutesy expression replaced with a hard eyed one.
“Rude to him? I don’t even know who he is! How about you being rude to me by bringing him here without telling me?”
“How is that rude? Ok, I didn’t mention I was bringing him but it was kind of impromptu! Am I supposed to make an appointment to bring people to my own house again?”
“Akudo you were out drinking with some strange guy all night when you knew we were here waiting for you!”
“What strange guy? I’ve known Etomi for over a decade! If there’s any strange guy here, it’s you!” she suddenly turned to me, “Mobolaji tell him!”
Now they were both turned to where I stood clutching my handbag to my chest and trying to blend in with the wall.
So they expected me to participate in this Real Wives of Lagos matter!
I straightened up from the wall suddenly extremely tired of both of them. I know I said the ribs were worth it but that was before Akudo played her Etomi hand, adding more stress than ever to the already messed up group dynamic, bringing up past traumas and shaking me up severely.
I adjusted my handbag. “I think I’m just gonna go home.” I informed them politely and edged towards the door.
Immediately they both looked contrite.
“Gigi – wait – ” Derin started.
“Mobolaji, don’t – ” Akudo said at the same time.
I sped up my edging to a full out scamper, grabbed at the door handle and opened the door, terrified that they were going to stop me. Seriously, I needed to hang with my single friends more. Married friends were just too complicated.
Deep waters with murky depths.
“Thank you for the food.” I said feeling one fleeting moment of regret that I hadn’t packed any to go. I shook it off. This is the kind of thinking that got me here in the first place.
Even as I shut the door behind me I could hear them starting up again.
On the lift going down my heart continued to beat nervously even though I was pretty sure neither of them would come after me. The events of the evening had just been a bit overwhelming and I couldn’t help worrying about Akudo and Derin.
I’m no expert on relationships but – her behavior – wasn’t it somehow? And that was even before Etomi’s fine self (focus! Focus!) needlessly blasted in from the past.
Why did she behave so carelessly with Derin sometimes? Was she tired of him? Or was she trying to get a reaction from him? I’d seen that in a movie once where the wifey didn’t really believe her husband loved her because even though he was really sweet to her, he behaved the same way to everyone. So she started doing crazy things to see if he would get jealous and fight for her.
I always thought it was super obvious that Derin was crazy about Akudo but maybe from inside the relationship it didn’t look that way. Maybe she had a different criteria for feeling loved than I did? One that had nothing to do with sappy smiles, lovey dovey eyes and impossibly delicious ribs.
It was a conundrum that I wasn’t sure I could solve, even with the support of my vast research in the Universities of Silhouette, Avon, Harlequin and the Sibling Ivy League Colleges of Mills & Boons.
Honestly, I would have liked to just stop taking the panadol for their marital headache but, unfortunately for me, it wasn’t that easy to extricate myself from the matter. I had to wonder how I was going to handle my relationship with them from now on. Avoidance? It’s not like I could outright blank Akudo. Not to sound like a user but without her, I was finished at work.
I just had to go back to my old not so successful tactic of learning to tell her No.
If only I had a life. If only I had a girl crew that kept me busy with a whirl of normal social activities like get togethers and clubbing and things you had to sew aso-ebi for.
Or even better, if only I had a boyfriend.
The lift pinged as it reached the ground floor. The doors slid open and I’m not sure who was more surprised between myself and Etomi, when we found ourselves facing each other.
The lift doors closed on me before I was quite able to collect myself. I had to take a deep, bracing breath then push the ground floor button again (half of me praying that the lift was stuck just so I didn’t have to actually see him witness me behaving like an idiot).
The doors opened again and to my chagrin Etomi was still standing there looking a lot less surprised.
I stepped out quickly and it was like I’d also stepped back into my teenage years as I found myself standing there, utterly tongue tied with no recollection of any social skills utilizable for moments like this.
I think it’s ok to say hello, a voice from the hinterlands of my brain ventured.
“Hey,” he said before I could even open my mouth, “are they… alright, up there?”
For someone that had spent so much time in the States he was weirdly accentless, his deep tones simply smoothed over with clear but not over emphasized enunciation.
“Uhr,” I said eloquently with unintended “r” factor “I mean… they’re – um – fine…”
He kind of squinted at me as if trying to see the truth through me.
“They’ll be good by tomorrow,” I said pseudo lightly, “just the usual crazy married people stuff! Makes you wanna stay single forever!“ a thought suddenly occurred to me, “You’re not married are you?”
“I am.” he answered.
My stomach has never plunged so hard to the floor. I couldn’t even tell if it was heartbreak, embarrassment or an actual condition that I should probably go to a hospital about. I started to stutter.
“I’m kidding,” he said turning away from me (no doubt to hide that he was laughing at me) and scanning the parking lot. “Are you parked here?”
I needed a moment to recover from his “joke.” I pointed in the general direction of my car.
He nodded vaguely then just stood there. Have I mentioned that he was all in black? Black, open neck, dress shirt on his wide shouldered frame, black slacks hugging lean hips and tapering down long legs, finished off with large, understatedly beautiful, black shoes – I’m not more materialistic than the average Nigerian but it would be remiss of me not to mention that he smelled like money.
I began to feel self conscious about Peggy, my sweet but admittedly old Nissan so instead of heading towards her I stood there shiftily.
“So…” I said then came up blank. I tried again. “S – so…”
“Lemme walk you to your car.” he said as if he hadn’t heard me and started walking off immediately forcing me to stumble after him in a mild panic.
“What happened to your Uber?” I asked.
“My Uber was an exaggeration.” Etomi said not slowing his stride, “Which one are you?”
I pointed reluctantly at my Nissan and he stopped beside it scanning the building’s underground parking lot as if we were a pop star and her body guard. I stared at him with bemusement till his his heavily lidded gaze came back to me. “Will you be ok going home?” he asked in a disappointingly perfunctory tone.
“I’m the local here,” I said, “I should be asking you.”
He did that thing where very little in his face moves but you get the distinct impression he’s smirking, “I think I can get back to my hotel ok.”
“I could give you a ride if you want…” the words escaped me before I could hyper examine them. Dammit Gigi, a ride? In Peggy? Peggy whose passenger seat is currently buried in a mess of flyers, forgotten documents, that musty shawl that hasn’t been back in the house in over a month and an empty take away container of an indeterminate age? That Peggy? I felt deja vu as my armpits began to prickle with sweat. Please say no, I thought.
“I actually called the Uber after I got downstairs…” he said and I sagged a little with relief.
“Ok!” I said. Now that we’d established how each of us was getting home it crossed my mind that I should just go while I was still somehow ahead. I really wanted to get home so I could start texting Maminat or Dienye (the Kdrama recluse) about him. Both of them knew about my great One That Got Away story. They would understand why this random encounter with him was such a big deal to me and how tragic it was that I was so unprepared for it.
But then if I left, it would be over.
It was a miracle that I was even seeing him again. Was being able to gossip about him comfortably with my friends really worth shortening the experience? Who knew what stars had aligned, what butterfly had fluttered it’s wings in an alternative timeline, what former life I’d sacrificed heroically – to bring me this moment.
I needed to screw up my courage and embrace it because it was time to admit to myself that yes – I had once, like everyone else, had a gigantic crush on this man – and that I regretted denying him all those years ago – regretted cutting the mystery between us short before I could even find out what it was about…
I knew of course that all of it happened a long time ago and I swear I’ve moved on – he really wasn’t the reason I’d never had a boy friend since. I’ve already acknowledged my responsibility for that as I have realized over time that I’m a natural self saboteur when it comes to relationships.
I wasn’t looking for anything crazy like him suddenly asking me out again.
Especially with all the weirdness still hanging between him and my friend.
No, all I wanted at that moment was to enjoy the unexpected experience of having the breath taking man that Etomi had become – all to myself.
Also extending this would give me even more material to share with Maminat and Dienye later.
With this in my mind I took a deep breath. “It’s really cool to see you again…” I said a little too fast.
Etomi indiscreetly checked his chrome wrist watch, “Hm?” he said distractedly.
“I said -,” I began louder.
His phone made a sound and he retrieved it from his pocket, glancing at the lit screen. His face relaxed with what looked like relief. “My car is here,” he said then, “what were you saying?”
I opened my mouth then shut it again shaking my head. “Nothing!” I forced a smile, “Thanks for walking me to my car.”
He murmured a dismissal.
“Have a safe flight tomorrow,” I added.
“Thanks,” he said with a quick smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Tell Akudo I’ll be in touch.”
“Ok,” I said weakly then I watched him walk away.
I was still standing there after he’d exited though the side gate accompanied by effusive farewells from the security guys that routinely gave me a hard time every single time I came here. I stood there till I heard his Uber pull away.
Still clutching my hand bag, I thought about what had just passed between us. No matter how you looked at it, he had been distant. Kind of rude even.
Standing in the parking lot on my own I forced myself to accept that I was kind of hurt and embarrassed about it because – perhaps – maybe – I’d been hoping for something.
I didn’t even know what, just – something.
I decided maybe I wasn’t going to share this one, particular story after all.
Maybe I would just think about it by myself and wonder why someone I had once been able to talk about nostril hairs with was such an impenetrable wall to me now.
Was I being too sensitive again? Was it my ego? Was is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Why did I even try to act like we were friends?
He was nothing to me.
Seriously. Thinking anything else just because he was gorgeous – wasn’t that just being delusional?
I concentrated fiercely on this thought as I finally unlocked Peggy and fell into her comfortable squalor. I hooked up my phone to the music player and pressed play. Big Bang’s Loser conveniently started to play and I shook my head at the irony and let it play anyway because – well, Big Bang is awesome, d’uh.
Etomi was nothing. The past is the past. That’s just the truth.
It stung though.
Like you wouldn’t believe.
It was already 2 am when my second anonymous message of the day arrived.
I was still awake because after leading us on with with stable electricity till about 12:30am, PHCN had unceremoniously taken their light and left me in the darkness with my old friends heat and the anopheles mosquitoes.
It was especially annoying because if they’d taken light earlier we would have had the Gen on and I wouldn’t have had to turn it off till 2am by which time my little guest room in my Aunt’s Lekki Phase 1 Duplex might have cooled off a bit.
It would have been loud (my window literally looked out at the Mikano monstrosity. Silent Gen my behind.) but what’s that compared to an air-conditioned night and waking up to phone batteries that are at least a quarter way charged. Once it is past midnight though, it is taboo to touch the Gen again.
Unless you were watching league football.
Or having a party.
Or a medical emergency.
The point is that once it’s past midnight, you’d best have a torch that has been charging while there was light. I’m not sure why these are the rules. I didn’t make them but I don’t break them either. The last person anyone wants to offend in this country is whatever god presides over back up power.
So I was twisting sweatily in my sheets because all this meant was I’d gotten home at just before 12 midnight, turned on my AC at about 12:15am and been plunged into darkness (because PHCN aka NEPA is dramatic and does not simply “cut off your power”) literally fifteen minutes later by that wicked company. It was HOT and I couldn’t even distract myself with watching MVs on my laptop or scrolling Bella Naija because naturally, I now had to ration my batteries.
I was surprised when I heard my whatsapp alert and I recognized the unknown number immediately from earlier since I’d tried so hard to identify it. Once again it was a single word message.
I sighed. If all was right with the world and I’d woken up to this message after a cool night under my duvet I would have hissed and immediately deleted it. But I was having a rough time. So I answered.
The answer came immediately.
“Which part of don’t message me again did you not comprehend.”
There was a small pause. I felt an intensifying itch on my arm, slapped at it and then contemplated the tiny clot of blood and spindly legs in my palm with vengeful satisfaction.
“I comprehended it just fine” the response finally came.
“But after much thought” it continued.
“I decided to disregard it.”
I stared at my phone wondering where my possibly prepubescent Lothario was getting all his liver from. Was it the raging hormones of adolescence? I decided it was time to scare him straight.
“Look” I typed, “you know these things can be traced right?” I smiled smugly to myself and added, “And I have friends in IT”
“Don’t we all” came the cool and unshaken response.
Now I was the one who was getting scared.
“Meaning?” I typed.
“Those things can also be made extremely hard to trace.” they responded.
I didn’t like that. I didn’t like their confidence and it was dark and I was alone. I decided once again that the conversation was over.
“That’s not cool at all” I typed, “Pls stop being a stalker. Bye.”
This time I blocked the number before deleting the conversation.
Then I was too nervous to try to sleep so I scrolled through BN and Instagram till my phone died.
When eventually, exhaustion took me out, I dreamed of the blind date I had with Alex Madukwe just that it was Etomi that was there and for some reason we had milkshakes.
He was sipping at his from a straw in a big old wine glass then something happened and he laughed so hard his milkshake shot straight out of his nose. Then he was suddenly Etomi Eyakodevu who was still shorter than me.
And everything was ok.
So I’m standing there – behind Derin who is basically radiating hostility –
I am gaping at Etomi who is standing behind Akudo – who is low key glowing for Africa.
I’m wondering if Akudo is completely alright in the head.
Not only is she 100 years late for the dinner her husband slaved over – let’s face it – for her… when she finally appears she’s not alone. Nope. She is in the company of the one person her husband can actually not be paranoid enough about.
This is none of my business, I’m thinking. I shouldn’t even be here right now. It’s late, I have work tomorrow and I don’t really want this high definition third person POV of Akudo and Derin’s marriage. Especially since Akudo is my primary friendship here.
I should’ve left but the thing was, Akudo was not the only one electrified by Etomi’s presence.
I peeked over Derin’s shoulder at him. Since stepping inside he’d only looked at me once and his gaze had been polite and brief. His attention was now on Derin who was wearing the expression of a Club Bouncer pre – bouncing. Did he know about Etomi, I wondered glancing at my excited friend again.
Maybe I should explain all this – why Derin should have been worried, why I suddenly couldn’t leave – why this situation had MESS stamped all over it.
Bear with me as I digress into this gist …
It all goes back to Secondary School, Day 0 of JSS1.
Because of the lack of F surnames in my class, I, being a Folorunso, had my dreams of attaining cooldom by strategic classroom placement abruptly shattered when I found myself seated behind a short, bespectacled boy whose last name was, the unfathomable to me then, Eyakodevu.
Luckily, back then I wasn’t the sort to angst – even after it turned out that he did not wear his efiko glasses in vain. When I discovered that despite his worrying academic ways he liked movies, comics and sci-fi and fantasy TV shows like I did, I became determined to be the Aladdin to his Jasmine and show him a whole new world of slacking off.
Fortunately for him I was never that successful in making him neglect his studies but through it we somehow became best friends. And I mean BEST. As the years passed in Junior Secondary School I made friends that were girls too, from my classes, my dorm rooms, my clubs – but Etomi and I were the thickest. We had stupid code languages, wrote (and never finished) our own comic series together about a feral boy hero who fights monsters (he wrote and I drew) and we came as a package deal when our parents came on visiting day.
No one ever asked if we were dating or anything weird like that. Most likely because back then neither Etomi (small and studious) nor I (a gangly, open mouth laugher) was anyone’s idea of a romantic interest. I know we must have looked funny together; him all short and class prefect looking with his glasses and chubby cheeks, me properly heighting him with my perpetually rumpled uniform and flyaway hair bun. Me forever gabbing, him forever listening and laughing.
And that was what I just liked about him.
He looked up to me back then and listened to everything I said (except, of course, when it had to do with school work, where he wisely took the lead). He laughed sometimes till he cried at my jokes. He was incredibly loyal and if he didn’t actually get in trouble with me he would still be there at my punishments to keep me company.
For his loyalty, during that time in my life, he was the friend I put above the rest and everyone understood this. If you got in a fight with him, you were in a fight with me and he would always forgive before I did.
So how did such an epic and heroic friendship come to us standing in a mutual friend’s doorway pretending (on his part at least) not to know each other?
It still confuses me till this very second but, in a word? Puberty.
Back in JSS we had friends but no one would ever have called us popular. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And that was okay. The popular kids at our school were the above average – the beautiful, the gifted, the sometimes super rich kids. Thankfully they were also mostly benign. We never had any real Regina Georges (Google it – no – if you don’t know this reference, shut up and go watch Mean Girls) and the worst you could accuse them of was obliviousness to their own power.
They just seemed to exist on a charmed and separate plane from kids like Etomi and I who admittedly lacked that je ne sais qoui and were still a bit immature. We were the ones who looked up to them and crushed. In fact there was this whole middle class of kids dedicated to preserving the school’s social eco system, jealously guarding the boundaries between cool and uncool and making sure no pretenders crossed over. But yeah, these are hardly revolutionary observations. Standard secondary school life break down. Our gist only deviates a little in that Etomi crossed over and I didn’t.
It happened in that magical period for a lot of boys which is the Summer of SS1. Most boys leave school shorter and higher pitched than you – then return lanky with weird up and down voices, zits and the inability to look you in the eye. The luckier ones are suddenly taller than you with mostly cracked voices and that elusive gift of self possession. But then there was Etomi…
At the beginning of SS1 he’d finally caught up to my height and started to take an interest in sports. That summer his family sent him to a basket ball camp in the States. I dunno what he ate there but he came back as a god.
I don’t even know if I can describe this well.
The Etomi that came back from Basket Ball Camp was taller than me and suddenly had like – shoulders.
Even stranger he had musculature; like actual long, lean, boyish muscles that shifted mysteriously when he moved while his forearms flexed with sinew and tendon. His pristine brown skin stretched fascinatingly over those new muscles with not an ounce of baby fat left to cushion it.
His voice was low with a mild roughness – like even its transition from high to deep refused to be awkward.
He’d switched the specs for contacts because of basketball and with his thick eyebrow slashes, heavy lidded eyes, sharply jutting cheekbones and high bridged nose – his now visible gaze was profoundly affecting for even the most stoic of hearts (i.e. me).
His smile was rarer than before but still shy. Despite that, it packed one heck of a wallop and for the first time since I’d known Etomi I realized that my best friend was a BOY. There was just no getting around it. Etomi was suddenly really, really, freaking, leg weakeningly hot and it just came out of nowhere.
I don’t know how to describe the impact on my adolescent self that this collection of physical upgrades had. When he sidled up beside me during the first assembly of the term and bumped my shoulder with his – I honestly thought he was a new student that had mistaken me for someone he knew.
That term I tried hard not to let it matter – to be just us as usual – but it was impossible.
It didn’t help that we hadn’t been in the same class since form 1 after which classes were arranged by performance. Before then, we’d gotten used to just drifting together with our other friends between classes to gist or rant or whatever. But that term whenever he showed up in the doorway, our classroom would go quiet until, painfully and self consciously I would leave whatever I was doing and go outside with him. It was no better if I went to his classroom. His female class mates, even the ones that I was cool with, started giving me looks.
Then for the first time people started asking if there was anything between us. Even worse some of my girl friends acted funny whenever he was around. They would stare at him (as if he couldn’t see them) and talk and giggle behind his back. It was embarrassing.
Add to this the fact that he now had basket ball. He loved it and was actually really good at it. I didn’t like it as much but, before he came back all hot, I used to watch NBA games with him because that’s what friends did. Now he actually played it and had a whole bunch of friends to watch games with. Friends who actually liked it too. Friends who were popular and had started to invite him with them to do the mysterious and unknown things popular kids did.
And I remember that I actually felt relieved – because being friends with Etomi was no longer as easy as breathing. It was difficult and grew more painfully awkward with each encounter. Even when we talked about the things we both liked, there would be good moments when we laughed (me no longer with my mouth open) but then there were those moments where I wondered what to say or I would suddenly feel my armpits prickling with sweat and be filled with dread wondering if he could smell me…
It was just too weird.
So I stopped going to his class and he stopped coming to mine. There came a time when we only saw each other in passing and we at least smiled or waved. But even that eventually stopped. We developed separate lives and separate friends and it all seemed natural and inevitable. The past was the past and this became our new reality. Time moved on and I was sad about it sometimes but I mostly didn’t dwell on it because it actually became hard for me to believe we’d once been best friends. My friends and I even joked about it sometimes talking about what we would have done different if we’d only realized his potential, lololol.
Then came SS2 when the news suddenly blazed through school that a senior girl had asked Etomi out and he’d said yes. I will admit now that when my friends delivered this scoop to me I felt a stab of something that felt an awful lot like jealousy but I would’ve died before I admitted to myself that I was just as susceptible to Etomi’s looks (which by the way only improved with each passing term) as every other girl in our school. So I pretended to be excited and in it for the gist and firmly squelched down my feelings.
The girl that had asked him out was none other than my Akudo who was at that time a goddess by my school’s hierarchy. She was smart, her family was known and well to do, she was physically mature and gorgeous and she was a star of track and field. Akudo was also known as a senior with a bit of temper who would slap first and ask questions later if you messed with her. We were all super intimidated by her and the fact that an entity like her had asked Etomi out confirmed my low key belief that our friendship had been a cosmic accident that the Universe had finally corrected.
To the delight of the entire school their relationship turned out to be a volatile one with lots of public fights, break ups and make ups and all the necessary gist and drama that surrounds such things. She always seemed either crazy in love with him or mad at him about one thing or the other. She even slapped him once in front of teachers and almost got suspended. My friends along with most of the school loved every moment of it. They called them ATomi and branded them the “Lovers On Fire.” I’m cringing so hard just remembering that but in a way I kind of got what they meant. Etomi with his quiet, hot gazed anger was the smolder to Akudo’s blaze. For obvious reasons, I was not that big of an ATomi fan and I literally tuned out the entire thing catching only the most scandalous bits of the general gist.
I didn’t expect Etomi and I would ever have anything do with each other again but apparently the Cosmos is unusually clumsy when it comes to me.
It was the last term of SS5 and Akudo would be graduating soon. The action romance film that was their relationship had intensified accordingly meaning more break ups and make ups than ever. This is important to know because I couldn’t have been his girl friend for an hour and a half if they hadn’t been broken up.
It was a non Visitors Day Sunday and after spending the whole day lying in my bunk reading trashy historical novels with ripped off covers I had managed to nap through the dinner bell.
By the time I arrived at the Dining Hall, huffing, puffing and praying for a miracle the double doors were locked and I knew there was no negotiating with Mr. Odenigana, the teacher on duty that evening, because he was a self admitted miserable b*****d who I believe became a teacher expressly to make students suffer.
I was still cussing him out not quite under my breath when I realized that I was not alone. Etomi was there too, sitting on one of the benches set right in front of the dining hall. I mean of course he was. Because when life is out to get you, it likes to do a thorough job.
He wasn’t looking at me but I knew he’d heard me because though his gaze was fixed pointedly on the horizon, the sides of his mouth were twitching.
Thank God for melanin which shielded me from the additional embarrassment of advertising my mortification. I quickly turned my back to him so I could find some composure and question both God and the Devil because seriously, what the f**kery?
I started to agonize over whether I should turn back and say “Hi.” But since I’d already backed him wouldn’t it seem too contrived? Like I was hoping to start a conversation with him? Presuming on the fact that we’d been friends for a second when we were both young and foolish?
What if he blanked me? Why did it suddenly feel actually possible to die from being snubbed? Or even worse, like it would show on my forehead like a neon tattoo for everyone to see? A tattoo that read “lol, this chicken head thought, sha!”
I heard movement behind me and turned to see Etomi on his feet, unconsciously displaying his still increasing height and looking everywhere but at me. “Um…” he said and I was convinced he was trying to remember what my name was.
The thought hurt and I suddenly needed to show him he wasn’t the only one who had become a whole different person. “Gigi,” I said.
For the first time in more than a year, he glanced at me directly. “What?” he asked.
“My name. Gigi.” I said trying to sound breezy but suspecting I was coming off defensive. “Etomi, right?”
Now he was looking at me pointedly, his expression blank. “Okay…?” He looked at me like he thought I was either crazy or not very bright and I knew immediately that I may have over done it.
“Just kidding!” I said too loudly, “Of course I know who you are! Everybody knows who you are!”
I laughed nervously. This was an absolute nightmare. My mouth was saying things my brain had no recollection of generating and he was now watching me with the suspicion a snake might show a mongoose.
It was all his fault though. Why did he have to talk to me? We could’ve just ignored each other and I would still have had a story to tell my friends.
“Yeah…” he said appearing to have difficulty finding his train of thought. He blinked his heavy lidded eyes at me then said, “Mr. Odenigana said I could come in if somebody showed up later than me so…”
“Oh.” It took a few seconds for his words to sink in then, “Ohhh.”
He hadn’t really cared what my name was or wasn’t. He was just trying to let me know I was replacing him for the late comers’ punishment. My habit of over thinking things and turning them into what they were not – is an old one.
Etomi’s expression stayed carefully blank. “I’m going to go in?” he said.
“Yeah, of course…” I said studying my sandals.
“I’ll let him know you’re out here,” he added.
I nodded. He turned to the door and that’s when my stomach gurgled extremely loudly and we both froze.
My tummy’s habit of kicking me when I’m already down is also an old one.
I watched in dread as Etomi lowered the hand that had been reaching for the double door handles. I was gonna deny it, I’d already decided. Then I would simply walk away from this unsalvageable situation and convince my parents to let me switch schools… switch countries if possible.
Etomi turned. The carefully blank expression was still in place but the side of his mouth was twitching suspiciously again. “Or…” he said like he was continuing a conversation, “I could let you go in instead of me?”
We stood looking at each other. The evening birds and insects and the distant clatter and noise of the students inside the dining hall seemed loud because it was so quiet between us. He’s so much taller than the last time we talked, I thought inanely. He had filled out some more too making him bigger and his face was cut in sharper, cleaner lines, so painfully handsome at that age that to me, he looked more like an idea than a person. I couldn’t fathom how he just kept growing more unrealistically good looking while all that seemed to have changed about me was the nick name I gave myself.
I snapped back to now. That’s right, he’d asked me if I wanted to go in instead of him.
“But – Mr. Odenigana…”
Etomi shrugged loosely. “I don’t think he cares as long as he can punish someone.”
I frowned, “You don’t mind getting punished?”
“You just… er… seem more hungry than me… and I was going down anyway so…”
I really didn’t know what to make of the offer. It seemed like a random throwaway act of kindness but he was now looking at me so intently that I felt like I was missing some subtext. But then I always overthought things didn’t I? What subtext was left between Etomi and I? Unless this was a for old times sake sort of thing?
“Thanks?” I said stepping carefully towards the door and waiting for him to step out of my way. I looked up in surprise when he didn’t it. He hadn’t stopped fixing me with his heavy lidded stare.
“You’re just going to go in?” he asked.
“But… you said…?”
“I said I could let you in… I never said I would.”
My mouth dropped open. What kind of devilishness was this? To dangle dinner in front of an obviously hungry girl then yank it away… that was just cruel! I mean, it was true I didn’t know him that well any more but I had never yet pegged Etomi as mean. I glanced around nervously worried that maybe he had friends hiding in the eaves who would soon present themselves like a studio audience complete with canned laughter.
No one came. We were still alone. For some reason that didn’t make me any less nervous. “I don’t understand,” I said.
“Odenigana’s punishments are harsh, Bolaji,” I startled a little at his use of my name. I hadn’t heard it roll so casually off his tongue in almost two years. So he did remember… “Why would I do it for nothing?”
I dunno, for old times sake? I thought, because what the heck could I possibly do for him? He was smarter, more popular, more athletic and had more connections than I did. And my background wasn’t anymore privileged than his. To my thinking I had nothing to offer him. “Well, what do you want?” I asked anyway.
He never took his gaze off me, “Go out with me.”
“To where?” I asked because I’d never been more confused in my life. He didn’t say anything, just kept looking. I played back his request in my head and received a belated shock. “You mean… As in…,” I couldn’t get the words out because if I was wrong I was certain that I would not survive the embarrassment.
“Date me,” he shrugged. His tone was almost bored. “Be my girlfriend.”
Unlike before when everything got louder, now everything receded and I swear to God the edges of my vision dimmed a little. Horrified I bit the inside of my mouth. I WILL NOT FAINT BECAUSE A GOOD LOOKING BOY ASKED ME OUT I chanted to myself and it worked because things came back into startling clarity.
I frowned up at Etomi and folded my arms defensively. “Why?”
He shrugged again. “I have reasons,” he said, “And you want dinner right? Or should I just leave you to Odenigana?”
“But I don’t understand,” I insisted, “It’s not like you like me. You haven’t even acknowledged my existence since SS1 and everyone knows you and Akudo are going to get back together! Why would you ask me out?”
“What do you mean it’s not like I like you? You used to be my best friend?”
Han-ah? Was he joking with me? I was getting vexed by his deliberate question avoidance tactics. “I mean like like Etomi!”
Etomi’s expression tightened and he suddenly looked vexed as well. “Look, I’ve offered you my terms. If you don’t want them, cool.” He turned towards the Dining Hall doors and started to open them.
“Wait!” I said.
He turned back. He wasn’t exactly smirking but there was the slightest upturn to one side of his mouth.
“If…” I struggled with my words and pushed them past the voice in my head that was telling me I was making a huge mistake. “If I agreed… would this be a public or a private – erm – arrangement?”
“Public.” he said.
“Ok…” I continued tamping down my surprise again, “and what… um… what exactly would we be doing… y’know… if we were…”
“Dating?” he finished my question managing to look vastly amused with minimum expression change, “nothing much. Hanging out together… not seeing other people, I guess.”
I took a deep breath. I had one more important question. “Would you… I mean would you expect… would we…,” for the life of me I couldn’t get my mouth to say the words “make out” in front of him but as some one who had only seen kissing in books and movies thus far, it was a deeply pressing concern.
And he understood because he was finally, fully smirking.
“I can leave that up to you if you want,” he said, “so are we doing this or what?”
It made no sense. I still didn’t know why he was doing this and I honestly couldn’t imagine feisty Akudo being okay with it. Plus apart from being alpha heart throb, teenage dream Etomi… he was also Etomi Eyakodevu, my younger self’s roll dog of life. Could one small word really transform me into his girlfriend? Make him my boyfriend?
My brain told me No but my heart was intrigued and took control of my tongue. “Yes,” I said, “we’re doing this.”
It was hard for me to interpret his initial expression after I said that. I couldn’t tell if I was looking at surprise or relief but it definitely turned to smugness.
“Nice.” he said. Then he turned, opened the dining room door and ushered me in. As I moved self-consciously past him he smirked again but his eyes were warm with something like mischief. Warmer than I’d actually seen them in forever. “Guess I’ll see you later,” he said softly before shutting the doors behind me.
In a daze I went to meet Mr. Odenigana and like Etomi had predicted he didn’t even seem to care and casually gestured me towards the dining tables. Dinner was almost over and I ate in a rush maintaining my daze. All I could think of was how pleased Etomi had looked after I’d said yes and what he meant when he said later. Later today? Tomorrow? After his punishment?
It was after I returned to the dorms that I told some of my friends, asking them to keep it on the down low even though Etomi had said we weren’t hiding it.
I still don’t know which one of them snitched but roughly an hour later I was confronted by Akudo (who, being in a different house and year, I’d never exchanged two words with before then) and about 4 other senior girls. They looked pissed. A spokesperson (Abiola Duroteye, I will never forget) asked me if I was going around telling people that Etomi was my boyfriend.
I looked at the scary girls surrounding me.
I looked at Akudo’s tight expression.
I looked at her twitching hand.
I had never been hit in my life before and I could feel the dirtiest of slaps coming.
I. Denied. Everything.
Jesus’ disciples in Gethsemane had nothing on me and it wasn’t hard at all because to be honest – none of what had happened between me and Etomi even seemed real… At least not compared to the angry senior girls that surrounded me and my fear of getting slapped.
They questioned me for a while and the more I denied it, the more Akudo’s expression eased. She was the one that called off the inquisition and after a final warning that told me I was basically now on their s**t list, I was finally left alone.
After that I had to tell my friends I’d been trolling them but they looked at me weird like they were wondering what other stories I’d told them had been big, stinking lies. I managed to at least hold in my reaction to the encounter till after lights out and then in my bed I cried for my cowardly self like I hadn’t cried since first night of boarding house .
The next day when I saw Etomi, wondering if he was mad at me, I instinctively tried to catch his glance. I knew he would already have heard and I assumed he would want to know why I didn’t follow through on our agreement. I assumed wrong because he looked through me as he walked past like I was an invisible and non-essential gas.
After that trying to get his attention without drawing any to myself from the scary seniors or my friends was too difficult. So was enduring his snubs and so I left it alone.
Like I had predicted, he and Akudo were back together within the week and except for a picture taken together for our parents at graduation, there were no more interactions between us.
I heard later that Akudo and him continued their on and off dating till after his freshman year at some College in the US.
I almost forgot about him till I met Akudo again and as adults we became friends.
I actually reminded her about what happened between us over shopping and brunch one day and after looking surprised (she’d literally forgotten) she’d looked a little mortified and then we’d laughed about it.
Days later she called me and brought it up again asking what had really gone on between me and Etomi. For the first time, I told her the truth and I was surprised by her reaction. It was like she cut me off for a few days. I finally caught up with her in Church where she had the grace to look embarrassed about avoiding me.
I asked her if it was because of what I told her about her secondary school boy friend and I remember, we were standing next to her SUV after service on a day that was blessedly cool. Akudo sighed and said, “well he wasn’t just a secondary school boyfriend, was he?”
I thought she was referring to the fact that she’d kept on dating him even after she graduated but then she continued.
“Beyond the fact that he was my first – well – everything… Etomi isn’t the type of guy you can top… if you’re lucky enough to have him…”
I was literally scandalized to hear these words coming from her knowing she was married to the perfect Derin. I had so many questions but none of them seemed appropriate. I couldn’t hold myself back, however, from asking at least one. “But… you’re over him… right?”
Akudo looked at my shocked expression and laughed then offered me a lift (this was pre- Peggy my darling Nissan).
I accepted the ride and she never answered my question. But I kind of took it as a No she wasn’t over him.
It bothered me a bit at first but then I thought maybe that was how life was. Maybe just because you’d married someone didn’t mean your past disappeared. Maybe it just meant you made a decision to let it go and face your future. And it didn’t even matter anymore since Etomi was no longer in her life.
Except now he was.
He was standing in the hallway with Akudo, Derin and I, dressed in black and looking like the matured fruition of the teenage dream he was as a boy.
And my good friend (and boss) Akudo was looking like she’d gotten a second lease on life.
But I’m always over analyzing and seeing things were there’s actually nothing. There was no way that this scenario was actually setting up to be as messy as it looked…
FYI: All the chapters for this story can be found HERE on Channel Two with the most recent chapter at the top.
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