I could hear my voice echo, its squeaky tones bounce against the glass walls and sturdy furniture. I would have like to stop but I did not know how to. I was too overwhelmed, exhilarated that we had succeeded in pulling of our heist. Buchi pulled me across the marbled floors, the heels of my shoes making clip-clop sounds.
‘Guy shut up now! E don do! You want make them catch us?’ he whispered hoarsely.
‘It is my….’
I stopped; my mouth suspended in an O, the tip of my tongue hanging out. Blinded by the harsh sunlight outside all I could see was the silhouette of an hourglass… this was beyond an hourglass. Her waist was smaller, her hips wider than her upper body. This must have been the figure eight that had grown a pair of symmetrical legs and walked through the door. She swung her hair to the side like she was in a shampoo commercial, her smile dazzled like toothpaste commercial and her skin nko, it shone like she was in body lotion commercial.
I called her commercial goddess. My legs turned to jelly. I smiled dreamily, painting happy pictures in my head as she shook hands with David and rested her hands ever so gently on his shoulders. She did not seem to notice me. She did not have to notice me or even love me. My love was strong enough for the both of us. Miss Wasp-Net Hairdo collected her bag from her and walked inside. David whispered something into her ears. She threw her head back, her neck stretching to infinity, as she laughed. I kept hearing that laugh over and over again.
‘What are you thinking about?’ Sonate said jolting me back to the car filled with warm air and a radio rambling low.
‘Ah-ah, sleeping beauty are you up? I was reminiscing about my first encounter with the commercial goddess and my vow to steal her and lock her in an enchanted tower for the rest of her life…’
She let out an infectious laugh, the kind that teased you to laugh as well, ‘and did you capture her?’
I rubbed on her thigh and stared deeply into her eyes forgetting about time and space and distance. ‘Yes I did. And even though her skin has been blackened by this annoying Benin sun and her teeth don’t seem as white as before I managed stole what was left of her heart and all of her laughter.’
She laughed again. I remembered over and over again.
‘Kure you are crazy? Who says I don’t still have a blinding smile?’ Sonate said as she flashed all her tiny teeth, resembling a ram that had inhaled the scent of pee.
I laughed so hard that I began to splutter and cough. I never knew I could ever be this happy again. We did not know where we were going or if we would make it. But I was content.
‘What makes you think I was referring to you?’ I said as I leant over to tuck a careless lock of hair behind her ear, smoothening against her nape.
She did not reply. She stared out of the window once again, with the same glazed wanderlust expression. I squeezed her hands gently. She smiled. My heart melted like a stick of butter that a hot knife had slid through.
‘Pull over… you must be tired. Let me drive for a while.’
I willingly obliged. My legs were numb and wobbled like jelly. I skipped into the backseat and stretched out as far as the cramped seat would allow me to.
‘Don’t worry babe. I’m okay playing chauffer for a couple of hours.’
‘Thanks.’ I sighed gratefully as I popped open a pack of chin-chin.
As I snacked on the crunchy bits and looked at the empty wrappers and plastic bottles, lace-trimmed panties and paint brushes. Somewhere beneath all this rubbish, I pulled out a rumpled photograph. I could still remember that day at the beach – skies the hue of the Atlantic; frothing waves; miles and miles of sand dunes. We had taken David there shortly after his jet had landed on the tarmac of Nigerian shores. It had been almost half a decade since we took turns to drag the bulgy suitcases along the lanes with him, our laughter echoing as T.K and I teased Buchi about how he would never see an aeroplane except the ones that flew overhead.
As we wove to the spec in the winds, I promised to write letters even though they would never make it across the seas. As the seasons came and new moons stood in scarlet skies, we came of age. We went from boys to men. We graduated. We took on more responsibilities. Some of us thought of settling down and making babies and others simply refused to see that we our beards were bushier and our potbellies were rounder.
It was good to cruise down that lazy road leading to the beach, reminiscing about high school crushes and sipping on fine brandy. Despite the difference in our ethnicities and the years gone that had led us wandering along paths that were seemingly far apart from each other, we still felt like the same boys that skipped school to pluck mangoes in junior high; the same ones that climbed trees so that they could peek at girls as they bathe in the yard next door.
Things were ever much the same. Buchi still liked point and kill and free bottles of beer; T.K had not overcome his addiction to espionage video games and novels. David had not stopped playing leader and as for me… you know now… I still was a bolo by heart. But it was good to be together once again. It was good to put all our common sense aside and trip over a football as we played monkey post soccer beneath the swishing coconut grooves. We talked. We laughed. We danced along the shores. We talked some more as we watched the perfect sun sink into the sea.
My brethren, no be the same mama born us but yet I feel the same blood course through our veins. No matter where life will take me now, even though I don’t know where you are right now or if we’ll see each other I can still feel your skin rub against mine, still hear your laughter jangle in my mind. If I could go back to the times when shit got so complicated I would tell you that we were okay being the people that we were; that we did not need fat bank accounts to be happy… it would not have made Yetunde love me for the person I was most comfortable being… all the money cannot bring T.K back now, it will not bring his mother out of her trance. All she did was stare out of the window with glazed eyes, talking to herself and smiling; crying and waiting for her boy to walk through the gates…
The circles around my eyes were moist. I folded the picture and placed it into my pocket and sat up. I wrapped an arm around Sonate. I breathed in the dampness and faint scent of cigarette smoke in her hair; tasted the saltiness when I kissed the base of her neck. I closed my eyes as I rubbed my stubbed cheek against her tender one, soft like the innermost feathers of a chick. We had approached the mouth of the brick bridge and if we made it across it we would free…. at least for a while. Sonate cleared off the road and came to a halt. She held my kissed my palms and opened the door. She opened the door and pulled me out, unto the bridge that shook when cars sped pass. I could feel the hot tar warm its way through the thin soles of my slippers. I walked faster, pulling her now, even though I was uncertain were she was leading me too.
We stopped to steal kisses behind the stems that could hide us both, the breeze cooling our brows. As we walked further down, towards the places that were quieter, I pulled her close to me and whispered silly thoughts into her ears. She tiptoed and whispered her own silly answers back to me. If we spoke to loudly we may have broken the motes of magic that floated in the air. When we got to the banks of the Niger, we waited. We stood on the green-green grass and watched the water rushing by. The child in me wanted to wave at the men in the canoes that yodelled and cast their nets into the river, he wanted to tear off all his clothes and jump in. Then I would roll in the grass with my brown skin gleaming with beads of clear water and wave at aeroplanes that flew over my sky to Obodo Oyinbo.
Sonate began to cry. I did not notice until I saw her fiddle with the locket on her neck. When she could not unclasp it, she yanked it off. She held unto it with trembling hands. She fell on her knees and sunk into the grass. I sat beside her and pulled her close; I enveloped her in my arms and kissed her forehead. I listened to her sob. I did not ask her what it was that made her so vulnerable. She stared at the locket, twirling and untwirling it around it her fingers.
‘When I was a girl my mother gave this to me… just before she disappeared. They say he killed her. That he used her to appease the god that had given him all this money. Others said it was the heartbreak that killed her. She could not bear him any other children after me. Daddy wanted a boy. When I was seven he had taken out all the pictures of her; there was nothing to remember her by… when I was seven it begun… when I was seven it begun…’
She looked up at me. Her eyes were big and scared like that of a kitten. I did not see my commercial girl or my steel-spirited friend that liked hardcore rap music with its explicit lyrics and thumping beats. Through my eyes I saw a child that was frightened and confused and lost.