A lone bike man breezes past with his cranky screeching okada. The afternoon is quiet save for the children who are belting out rhymes at the top of their voices. They probably have a teacher like mine who sneered at you or hit you if you weren’t singing loud enough. The scorching sun beat down on me as I stood on Ajayi’s crescent with its old storey buildings in Tinubu’s Lagos waiting for him. The hairdresser across does not try to hide her stares. I look down at my feet and then look back up at her.
“Ring a ring o roses” the children sang on. I press the power button on my Nokia C6, and it’s just 12:42. I’ve been standing for barely 2 minutes. I debate on calling him again, but decide against it. You had to front small with these guys. My JAMB past questions guide weighed heavily on my shoulder. Both shoulders should have shared in this pain, but I didn’t want to come here with a school bag. I was 16 going on 17, and I could handle the weight of carrying books in a flimsy lemon knitted bag even if it meant my shoulder screaming in pain. Beads of sweat trickled down my face, and my heart skipped when I remembered my church member lived on this street. What would I say if she saw me? I’m about to unlock my phone to call again when his voice pierces through the heat of the afternoon.
“Hey. Thank God you’re here. What took you so long?”
“Calm down. It’s been barely 2 minutes and I’ve missed you too. Your top is beautiful. Can I at least get a hug?”
“Thank you. Let’s go up” I say to him. The hairdresser continues to stare as he leads me inside. I wonder what is running through her head.
“You live on the top floor right?” I ask as we make our way through dimly lit stairs that echoes my words back.
“Yes oo. I hope you found this place easily?”
“I did” I answer even though we’ve walked home together a hundred times. “I would have been here earlier, but the teacher at the center is a failure at time management.”
“Its fine” he says flashing me his signature smile. A smile I had seen one too many times in secondary school. I never thought he’d beam that smile at me. I was one of the invisibles until I just wasn’t anymore. It was the final week of the 3rd term of his SSS3 when I got his note to talk during break or after school. Tobi with the athletic arms and a chin of sparsely distributed hair wanted to speak to me. How could I refuse a star student? We walked home together, and by the end of the week, we were official. We sat together at school events, I wore his sweater sometimes, and we tagged each other on all our Facebook pictures. Our relationship survived his first year of uni courtesy of Facebook and teenage angst.
“Welcome” he beams at me pushing the door open. The balcony is painted a dreary brown with its floor a mismatch of broken tiles. The welcome mat is green in the shade of grass.
We step in, and the living room is as spacious as I had imagined. The open louvres blesses the room with God’s air. A chair at the extreme end is instantly my favorite because the sunlight filters in directly on it. If I lived here, my buttocks and books would be imprinted on that seat. The TV is mounted on a huge divider stand, and is surrounded by hundreds of stacked CD’s. A portrait of his parents sits on the wall smiling down on us, and the fan whirrs on lazily.
I turn back to my boyfriend and walk into his arms. We hug for a long time, and I inhale his favorite smart perfume even though it makes my throat itch. I’m all too aware of his hand on my waist, and I allow myself disappear in the warmth of his hands. His chest is much stronger than it used to be, and his arms more muscular. I step back and smile at him. He’s growing his hair out, and it looks so good on him. If it didn’t look good on Tobi, who else would it look good on?
“Sorry I didn’t hug you outside. I was just anxious.”
“I know” he says. “Seat and let me get you something to drink.”
I oblige. Immediately he’s out of sight, I set down the enemy am bearing on my shoulder. I move to the TV stand, and that’s where he finds me, looking at the CDs. He comes bearing a tray of doughnuts and 2 bottles of Fanta.
“I hope you still like Fanta?” he asks.
“Yes. And I see I no longer share you with coke?” I laugh.
“No you no longer do.” He laughs.
I am shy around him today. It is rare that we are ever together alone. We move to a seat for two, and my anxiety is palpable.
“Relax, okay?” he says taking my hand in his, and squeezing ever so slightly. We open our drinks and sip away, occasionally feeding each other. I barrage him with questions about school even though we’ve talked and chatted about it a zillion times. I love how excitedly and animatedly he talked. His energy. After I run out of questions, we sit staring at each other while Wizkid’s holla at your boy filters out the radio.
“I didn’t know people still listened to the radio” I say in a woeful attempt to dissipate the thickness in the air. He smiles knowingly. He knew me too well.
“I have to pick up my siblings by 3, so I’ll have to leave soon” I say trying to take the Nigerian girl’s way out.
“T. Keep quiet and kiss me.”
His audacity and straight forwardness endeared him to me. It rubbed off on me. I felt capable around him. It made me dare to be bold.
“Okay” I whisper and lean in.
Our lips are cold from when the bottles had first kissed us, but we warmed each other soon enough. It wasn’t earth shattering or groundbreaking, it was warm, light, sweet, right, and loving. I kissed a boy that I loved. I make to move away but he holds onto me. We lie on the couch and kiss and laugh and just live in the moment.
2 days later, it’s sunny again as I prepare lunch with my mother in the soothing grey tones of our kitchen. She calls me.
“Yes mum” I respond. She continues to stir the stew as she speaks
“Mummy Samuel said she saw you in her street the day before yesterday. What were you doing there?” she asks in a tone too calm for my mother.
This boy has koba me.