February 4th|Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere
I hope he doesn’t call me. I hope he doesn’t call me. I hope he doesn’t call me. Esohe thought over and again as she punched in her digits into the cell phone she clutched. Three angry lines on the bottom right of the screen, with several little ones branching out like a pattern on a leaf, prevented her from speeding up the process.
Why didn’t I just decline? She wondered, as she handed it back to its waiting owner.
“Thanks.” His friendly features lit up with a small smile before concentrating on saving her details. He looked up once more. “I’ll give you a call sometime. It was a pleasure meeting you again.”
She nodded back with a tight, forced smile of her own. “Same here.”
And she meant it.
The last couple of hours in his presence had been as intriguing for her as far as meeting a new fellow parent went. No. Strike that. He was uncle to Nadine, Osayu’s friend and classmate.
IK. IK was his name. And he certainly bore features resembling one of them. That blinding, light – skinned tone of his could only belong to those whose claim to the colour was almost a patent issue in the country. Ditto the charmingly, handsome facials and his toned body complementing it. Yes, those people from the East. IK. Ike. Thankfully, it wasn’t the unpalatable version that held the moniker reins – Iyke. But she had perceived nothing of the telling accent, that sometimes came with the package, all through their interaction. Not even a hint. His English was flawless and devoid of any accent whatsoever – Igbo, British, American, Nigerian-British-American, etc; his manner even more so. She had been willing to overlook her bias towards that ethnic leaning; now she wasn’t so sure anymore.
“Goodbye then.” She glanced into his visage again before hugging Nadine briefly. “Bye darling.”
“Bye-bye Nadine.” Osayu, her six -year-old son, high-fived his friend.
“Bye Osayu.” The little girl responded, then linked her hand with her uncle’s and began walking past the row of cars.
Esohe had had no designs when she attended the annual inter – house games of her son’s primary school that day. It was going to be like all the others, she had thought until this tall, very light – skinned stranger slipped into the chair beside her inside the stadium main bowl, stretching out endless legs that distracted her for a bit.
Until they both started making comments on the unfolding events.
Until he formally introduced himself and inquired about her child(ren).
Until Nadine and Osayu appeared together, while taking a breather from participating in the sporting activities. That singular event made her relax in the presence of the stranger even more. She knew his ward and vice versa.
She took a closer look at him then.
No points for telling he was a tall specimen of a man. 6’1 or 6’2 judging from his endless limbs extended in front of him. A goatee or days’ old beard darkened his well-defined chin, a rather charming addition to his handsome face of warm, brown – coloured, twinkling eyes and thin lips that curved often into a grin or a mischievous smile. No wedding band. Nice casual dressing – his pair of black and neon Nike converse, the baggy blue jeans underneath a form – fitting, plain, black T-shirt and a black baseball cap. His patient interaction with the children. And he spoke well. No grenades thrown in her direction by this one; a fitting complement to his good conversationalist trait. He possessed the kind of humour that produced several pockets of small smiles and laughter without making her show the full measure of her dental heritage. Not once did he ask about Osayu’s dad or insinuate it in their interaction. There seemed to be a connection between them, and this edition of the inter – house games was turning out to be a memorable one.
Until the four of them walked out together to the parking lot.
Until they paused by her car and said their goodbyes again.
Until he politely asked if he could have her number. Maybe, she should have lied, declined, anything…Maybe he should have entered her numbers instead of allowing her to do so, anything at all…to prevent her from seeing the ugly screen that was his mess of a cellphone. A web of angry lines marring a once smooth surface.
Who makes a first impression with a cracked screen? She wondered as she kicked her car to life.
On the medical examiner’s slab…
“Wait. Let me get this straight. You don’t think this guy has a chance because of his ‘phone?!!!” The incredulous look on Jeje’s oblong-shaped, pretty face was less than intended due to its puffiness from her present condition. She shifted uncomfortably in her chair, crossing and uncrossing her legs. “That, my friend, is shallow.”
“No, I nor gree that one with you Jeje.” Alero interjected swiftly, her voice singsong and marginally strident. Nothing about her look prepared one for her preferred language of expression. Her flawless, light – caramel skin and perfect, well – made up face were at odds with her spoken words. Her make-up a mobile advertisement for her chosen vocation as a make-up artist. Her regal-like face with mischief- shaped eyes and succulent lips provided no indication of what they were capable of spewing forth either. “Understan wia babes dey come from. You know any guy man wey go let babe wey e wan collect number from see say e fone no meet up to levels? Guy must code im shame! E no fit fall levels reach like so.”
Jennifer shook a head framed with a cropped hairstyle that fitted like a glove, accentuating her bright, brown eyes. “Or he’s just being real with her? Saying ‘This is me. Take me as I am?’”
“Not this man, girlfriend. Not this man.” Esohe spoke for the first time, tossing black- coloured, shoulder-length weave to the back. She was very dark-skinned, rivetingly pretty with doll-like facial features and lips distinctly shaped with the lower one faintly pinkish. She was easily the prettiest of the trio but had the disposition of being blissfully unaware of her attention-grabbing attributes. Unlike Alero, she didn’t need much war paint but wore just enough to enhance her features. “He looked too put together to have a ‘phone like that messing up his image.”
“Or he just doesn’t give a shit what you think?” Jennifer offered again, adjusting yet again.
“Sister, why are you defending him?” Esohe wanted to know. “You don’t even know him.”
“Then why are we talking about him?” Jennifer also demanded of her friend. “You have already tuned him out as a potential, yet…”
Esohe looked away, briefly. “He ticked almost all my boxes, Jeje, you know. He’d have been perfect.”
“He spoke very well too.“ Her friend continued. “The tone of his voice. His tenses. No accent despite…”
“Yet one thing disqualifies him. One thing that can be replaced.”
“E mean say bros nor hold na…no pepper to claim another fone.” Alero reasoned rather rashly. “Dat kain thin you go code am make nobody see am.”
“It doesn’t follow, Alero. There could be a story behind it, y’know.”
“Stori. Stori.” Alero clapped well – manicured fingers and palms together, drawing the attention of other dinners momentarily. “We no wan know.”
Jennifer smiled. “How about looking at all the pros of your meeting instead of focusing on one or two cons?”
Esohe shook her head. “I can’t seem to get my mind off that minor detail, Jeje. A cracked screen. Ha! Could be the reason he hasn’t called me sef.”
Her friend’s eyebrows climbed. “You met this guy when? Friday, abi? Two days ago. You’ve thrashed and praised him in the same breath. And you’re bothered about the fact that he hasn’t called?” Putting her hands on the table for support, she slowly heaved herself up, bringing into unobstructed view a bulging pregnancy clothed in a sleeveless dress with a white bodice and full, multi-coloured ankle length skirt. “Once again, I ask, why are we still talking about this guy?” Then turning to Alero. “Babe, please order more drinks. No alcohol for me. I need to go pee.”
Once a month (on any given weekend), Esohe and her two childhood friends – Jennifer and Alero – had a girls’ outing where they caught up on their lives, thrashed one another, let their hair down and forgot their troubles. The location of their hangouts varied according to their moods and pursues. Through the years, they had done the gamut of night clubs, lounges, steak houses, fast-food places, fine dinning haunts and a few bukas because of unusual cravings from any one of them.
In the last few months, they had deferred to Jennifer’s taste buds due to her condition and corresponding cravings.
Today, on their first meet of the year, an Italian restaurant played host to them; Jennifer wanted pasta, spring rolls, pizza…everything on the menu that was carbohydrate-filled and made into an Italian dish. So far, they had had second helpings of scrumptious spring rolls with prawns and mayonnaise fillings. Enroute was the main course – pasta.
The waitress had just departed with their drinks order and Alero turned to her friend. “But e for good if dis guy no get k-leg oh. Una for just start this Valentine, make we see wetin happen afta dat.”
Esohe slanted her a look. “You’re in the spirit! How did you know what I was thinking? I was hoping it’d be our first date. Nothing serious but it’d have been a start.” She sighed. “Oh well.”
“Wetin the bobo dey do sef? As in work?”
“Has a small business. Builds sets for shows. Read architecture.”
“Hmm. E fit be new business man oh. Maybe 3 – 6 months. E fit explain the ‘phone. All him money dey enter the business.”
“Yeah. Maybe.” Esohe agreed reluctantly. “But…you know what? Let’s drop this. He is definitely not thinking about me, seeing he hasn’t called me yet.”
Her friend looked beyond her. “Dem go soon fine you for here oh. You don go piss like 50 times since we don dey here?” Her words were directed at Jennifer who had rejoined them.”
Jennifer laughed as she fumbled with her chair before sinking back into it. “Make dem try.”
“You still didn’t ask for the sex of the baby, did you?” Esohe watched her briefly.
Jennifer sighed. “I know I want a girl with this second one but right now, the way I feel, boy or girl, anyone will do. The baby should just come out!” She adjusted somewhat on her chair, and looked around. “How long does it take to cook pasta?”