I jumped when I felt the hand snake around my shoulder from behind.
The unremorseful culprit grinned at me as I spun around just a little faster than Femi, ‘Layode’s boyfriend, can swallow a whole drumstick at a go. I nearly tilted over to boot.
“What’s your problem?” I mouthed off.
“You.” He grinned.
Something is really wrong with this Paddy dude. Though I had not seen or heard from him since the last time we clashed outside the ASA meeting, I had thought that after I had been kind enough to polish his shoes with my cigarette butt, he would be kind enough to reciprocate my intense dislike and ignore me henceforth.
Apparently, he’s taking that thing about keeping enemies closer to heart. What was he doing on campus anyway? Wasn’t he supposed to be at E&Y making money?
His arm was still around my shoulder. Ugh. I looked at it pointedly.
He laughed and drew me closer.
Okay, time up!
“Your hands off, please! What the hell is your problem?” I snapped, drawing away.
“You, really!” He laughed. “Do you want to grab a drink?”
“No, I don’t want to grab a drink,” I told him. “I have to get back to mine.”
“Alright, let me walk you back.”
I decided right there and then to practice one of my long since neglected resolutions about airing my feelings as honestly and clearly as possible, be they politically correct or not.
Taking in a deep breath, I spat off. “Look here, Paddy, I don’t know what your game is but you are getting on my nerves. I don’t like you. I don’t like boys in general especially since my disaster of an ex that I only just managed to shake off. If, by chance, you are attempting to make a pass at me, allow me to warn you now that I am not interested. I am not interested in you. Read my lips. I am not…”
“I have a girlfriend, you know.” He cut in.
Oh. My. God. Earth, swallow me NOW!
“What?” I managed to say, my throat dry.
“I mean, I am flattered that you think yourself worthy enough of my lofty attentions.” He grinned – that bloody smirk, again! – “but my girlfriend spits acid and lava when I attempt to spread the love!”
I stared at him.
Was he taking the piss? Idiot had thrown me completely off track.
“Ah well.” I finally managed. “Just as well. I happen not to like screaming banshees myself so it all works out fine. Are we now agreed on the fact that you should leave me alone?”
“How am I supposed to walk you back then?”
Huh? Walkers’ club! I never asked him to! He offered and I never intended on taking him up on that damn offer.
“It’s quite simple,” I answered coolly. “Don’t walk me back.”
And I turned to go off.
Will you believe this fool did not set out after me?! I mean, not that I wanted him to but… oh, whatever!!
Barely minutes after I got to my room, the phone rang.
‘Dewale is my older brother who works in London. I wondered what he wanted. This boy never thought to check up on me unless it was a do-or-die affair or my mother chastised him.
I have got such a massive family, it’s ridiculous! My father has three wives, well, technically, one “ex-wife” and two current wives. The “ex” in quote, because he’s yet to divorce her legally and besides, despite their apparent separation, she has gone on to have three more kids for him, not counting the two she already had for him when they were “officially married”. Ha.
Yes, I’ll say it for you. My father is a bloody virago and at the age of sixty-three, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down yet.
He first got married, when he was still in college, to Sade Nelson (the current “ex”-wife) and she had two girls for him. I don’t even know them that well – one is married with kids and the other is a certified spinster.
He had an affair with Foluke Ajayi, ‘Layode’s mom, while still married to Sade Nelson, and she had his first boy for him (I think my father was out to prove that somehow he could dictate to his sperm exactly what chromosomes, X or Y, he wanted to set in motion). Sade Nelson found out about Foluke Ajayi (‘Layode’s mom) and her ‘bastard son’, got pissed, and called it quits.
So my father lived alone for roughly three years, sowing wild oats all the while, before Sade Nelson decided she was going to forgive him. He pulled a fast one on her though and married Foluke, so Sade Nelson got pissed and called it quits again. ‘Layode’s mom went on to have four more non-bastard children for my dad – three boys and ‘Layode, the baby.
Apparently, the ink wasn’t dry on his certificate of marriage to Foluke Ajayi before my father began to secretly carry on with a college student from a Yoruba Muslim family, Zainab Olubanjo. The fruit of that secret affair was another ‘acknowledged’ bastard, my older brother, ‘Dewale. Five years later, the affair was leaked, and so my father married my mother. I was their honeymoon baby. Some honeymoon though, because my dad somehow managed to ‘sperminate’ ‘Layode’s mom with another baby around that same time, which explains why ‘Layode and I are the same age.
Phew. What a family history. And note that I haven’t even gone into details of all the other wild oats – those who have been officially acknowledged and those who may never be, altogether. The first time my mother laid it all out to me when I was twelve, I was overwhelmed.
I know it does seem like my mother played a fast and loose one in this situation since she did know about ‘Layode’s mom before she and my dad started their affair. I don’t judge her though because I know if anyone really loves my dad, my mother really does. She’s always been his acknowledged favorite.
Surprisingly though, you’d think there would be no love lost among us all but my mother and ‘Layode’s mother get along. They have this older-younger sister relationship going on. Their kids get along quite fine too. Case in point – me and ‘Layode.
Sade Nelson, on the other hand, is another kettle of fish. I don’t blame her for the animosity. I mean, I would be the harsh and bitter serpent if my husband played me the way he did her. Spawning bastards left and right. She doesn’t make sense to me, though. Despite knowing her husband was a prick and despite his marrying two other women and having so many children out of wedlock AND despite having unofficially separated from him, she still went ahead to have three more children for him after they were separated! That totally beats me.
Anytime I ponder that, ‘Layode calls me naïve. The way she sees it, Sade Nelson knows exactly what she’s doing. She knows she’s set for life, considering that the father of her five kids has to pay child support and has more than enough money to do just that. Grease to her elbows, I guess.
Funny enough, while ‘Layode’s mom and my mother have maintained a good relationship, Sade Nelson and my mother are bitter enemies. They absolutely cannot stand each other. My mother gets agitated just hearing her name alone. I think it’s the fact that the woman managed to con my dad into giving her more babies to trap him with.
I asked my mother, one day when I was fourteen, why she married my dad despite all his philandering ways. Well, obviously, I didn’t use the word philandering. She looked at me pensively and then motioned for me to sit in her lap.
“Well, because I love your daddy,” she told me.
“But Mommy, I don’t think he doesn’t love you as much as you love him. If not, it would be just you.” I told her as though I had made the world’s greatest discovery. Yeah, I have had the careless tongue from for as long as I can remember.
She sighed and smiled sadly. “He’s a generous man, your father, and that generosity extends to the love he has to share. And luckily for me and him, I am not too needy. I am not greedy. As long he gives me the little I ask for, it is more than enough.”
You might think it weird that my mother would talk to me so seriously as though I was an adult but we’ve always been that way, especially considering I am her only girl and she had decided not to have any other child after she had me.
“Your father and I understand each other,” she continued, “which is the most important thing.”
Then she laughed lightly. “But to be honest, Lara, it is better when you don’t have to share.”
But sharing she was. Well, it might have worked for my mother but I did not see it ever working for me. My mother was from a polygamous family, for one (her father was Muslim, her mother was Christian) and she had always been the independent type, being the only child of her mother. And though I have never confronted her about it, I KNOW she has her own affairs too but she always came back to my father because in her words, she loved him.
Love, a ridiculous thing.
Anyway, as I said, it was ‘Dewale on the line.
“Mohammed!” I teased.
He hates his second name, which my grandmother (my mother’s mother) christened him with. I am Maimunah, after my great grandmother.
“Ode. How are you?” He laughed.
“I am great but a little worried now that you have called me. Please, tell me that Mommy put you up to this!” I begged.
He laughed. “Hey, I’m being altruistic for once!”
I laughed too. Right, pigs are flying.
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
It’s a very, very