Some things were meant to be; some aren’t
Tade rued the slow pace of traffic on the Island. He had planned to stop briefly at the nearest First Bank office; Mama needed money and it was his duty to oblige her. Then to proceed to the office where he intended to pick up a few things before going to the workshop. He had spent the night brainstorming on the conundrum that crept up the previous day. He really couldn’t wait to try again. That was all he ever did in the last six months. Try again and again and again. His research work appeared to have stalled but he was still 100% committed to it. He would give an arm for it, if the need arose. He looked into the safe of his shiny red mini Cooper, hoping to pick out a pair of cotton buds while the rickety bus in front of him blew huge balls of smoke from its exhaust. He made a habit of cleaning his ears, planning his schedule and doing those trivial but necessary things while stuck in traffic. It always worked for him, even if most people considered it a very awkward way of conserving time. He fingered the safe carefully without success. Instead, he found the crumpled note he had written on the night before.
Dinner at Prof. Sobukola’s. Wednesday night, it read.
He realised he had forgotten the dinner invitation from the Sobukolas. He decided he would make a mental note this time and hope not to forget again. His mind switched back to the dilemma he was in. The traffic situation was not improving. He had been held up on the same spot for the last 45minutes.
“God, why today of all days?” he let out an involuntary sigh. One thing he detested so much was the idea of flouting traffic rules. It had always been his opinion that traffic offenders were the primary cause of the country’s systemic failure, and he often quoted himself fondly while arguing with Dayo, his lousy friend.
“How do you expect the same person who has no respect for traffic rules to look away when the opportunity to steal funds arises? Both vices stem from an obvious lack of self-control… Show me a traffic offender, and I’ll point you in the direction of an unpatriotic Nigerian. That’s what traffic offenders are, Unpatriotic fools!” He would shout on top of his voice. But with the reality of keeping up with his busy schedule beginning to weigh on his mind, he knew he had to do something. He didn’t see any other way. It wasn’t his choice to join this league of unpatriotic fools- the present circumstance demanded it. He steered the wheels of his car and eased clumsily out of the stagnant lane. Soon, he was crawling on to the culvert that separated the lanes and facing other on coming vehicles headlong.
“What kind of driver are you for Crissakes?” A high-pitched feminine voice jolted him out of the mini craze that had taken over his senses. “When you choose to drive like a maniac, at least, you should do that without bumping into those who choose to remain on the side of the law.” The lady who addressed him did so from a magnificent SUV that had its windows slightly down.” Tade cursed the odd luck that was making a mess of his day.
“What is it, Ma’am? Please I’m trying so hard not to be late here.”
“Oh I’m sorry!” She retorted. “Those of us who remain on the line came here to park our cars, recline our seats and take a nap while you go do your thing, isn’t it? Well, while I was napping, you drove carelessly and grazed the tail of my vehicle. I just wanted to inform you, you may have done some damage that needs fixing.”
Tade found the sarcastic tone of her voice embarrassing. He knew he had struck something while attempting to manoeuver, but he hadn’t been sure what it was. He stepped out of his vehicle hastily to check the extent of the damage, and the moment he set his eyes on the metallic grey machine, he knew exactly what he was in for. He had smashed the rear lamps of a limited edition SUV. One similar to the one he had admired at the last auto fair he attended in Europe. He rushed back to get a pen from his car. He knew right away that the damage would require him to write a cheque.
Tade stood awestruck, his mouth agape. His legs wouldn’t move. The rumbling in his stomach seemed like Hurricane Katrina; the hurricane had been a once in a lifetime experience for him. But he was nowhere close to New Orleans at the moment. He was at the Sobukolas’ residence. The sight of the garden was astounding, no doubt. The plants were well tended to. The flowers were a collection of exotic and local species. Red and white roses, yellow and purple hibiscuses, white and pink lilies interspersed exquisitely with lush greens to create the most amazing spectacle ever. The driveway sparkled despite the presence of leaf-dropping shrubs that added aesthetic value.
It must really cost a fortune to maintain this space, He thought. But there was something even more amazing he was yet to see. The same thing caused him temporary paralysis and deprived him of his much needed breath. He was planted in the lushness of the driveway and its surrounding while the cause of his asphyxiation stood aloof at the entrance of the imposing edifice. She must have been around 5ft 11in. Caramel skinned with hazel eyes, a slim svelte figure with curves only in the right places. She was stunning; an epitome of feminine endowment. He finally dragged in some of the fresh air that lay around in abundance.
“Mr Makanjuola?” the soft voice called out.
Then it dawned on both of them.
“You…?” She half-screamed.
He had taken the air of familiarity upon their meeting to be some eerie déjà vu feeling. Surely, her beauty made him imagine things, he assumed. The familiarity. Their meeting up before now. But now it was all clear.
“So it turns out that grumpy Mr arrogant is the same soon-to-be-famous inventor Dad sings so much about?” Her raised eyebrows and the creased lines on her face seemed to suggest surprise and disgust mixed with a little disappointment at the realisation that they were meeting for the second time that day.
“I’m really sorry about what happened this morning. But you see, I’m equally as surprised as you are. Or Is this not Prof. Sobukola’s residence?”
Prof. bellowed from behind, to Tade’s relief, nearly enveloping the female figure that stood right in front of him. He extended his long arm of courtesy.
“I’m glad you could make it. Now meet my daughter…”
“Dad, please spare us the formalities, we already met”. She hit back with mild ferocity as she turned and walked into the house.
“What’s wrong? So you two have met before?”
Tade tried to explain.
“I didn’t mean to act like a chauvinist; I was a bit tense after receiving a call that mama needed some money for urgent medical attention. I only wanted to leave the scene in the shortest time possible” Tade said, apology written all over his face.
“Don’t worry”, the professor said while trying appease Tade’s conscience. “My daughter is everything but a spoilt little brat. She’ll come around in no time, You’ll see.”
They walked into the living room as they spoke, with the professor leading the way. Deola interrupted them from the flight of stairs as she made her way down, “Dinner’s served already”. Her appearance gave nothing away this time. Rather, she looked even more stunning. Now that she had swapped the Come-give-me-a-hug T-shirt and the pair of shorts for an exquisite flowery gown that complemented her figure along with the cosiness of the sprawling living room.
The Sobukolas’ residence was indeed a masterpiece. Tade had been held captive right from his time in the living room. The giant cream-coloured arches seemed too breath-taking; the sophisticated sofas were too deep and comfortable for his liking. The golden chandeliers that hung from the ceiling that appeared to be too high up, were too far away. The abundance of space seemed so needless. Everything there had a little bit of extravagance to it. Even the dining area did not feel any different. There was way too much food spread out on the table. Way beyond what three people could handle.
Tade grabbed a spot close to the giant bird lying barbequed in an enormous tray. He had been offered that spot by his hostess, so he felt compelled. He looked on as Prof. broke the silence that suffused the dining area while Deola set large pieces of chicken on fancy ceramic plates.
“Darling, I’d love you to put this morning’s events behind so you don’t miss out on the opportunity of getting to know this fine young man who dreams of changing the world.” He let out a chuckle and smacked her gently on the chin. She managed a smile.
“Daddy, I’m pretty sure he failed to mention how he drove lousily against traffic, dented my car and then rudely offered to write a cheque. What a way to try and change the world.”
Tade bit off a chunk of grilled flesh from the drumstick he held as he attempted to cut her off, ignoring the playful sarcasm in her voice.
“Ma’am, please pay no attention to his sweet talk. I’m just a boy who dreams of flying. And this wonderful man who happens to be your Dad has given me wings, and he has not stopped believing in me even while I’m in the process of learning to fly. If you ask me, I think your Dad falls into the category of those men who hold the keys to revolutionalising the world.”
“I couldn’t agree more, Mr Visionary!” Deola replied this time with a naked grin, “My father’s truly a phenomenon.”
Prof. Sobukola shushed them both, placing a finger over his lips. He pointed at Tade and nodded repeatedly, “Son, you’ll fly soon. I believe you will. Meanwhile, will you guys stop discussing me like I’m not here?”
They all laughed raucously, but Deola’s was more of a smirk. She had known. Even that morning, she saw and felt it beneath his bland mien. Tade was down-to-earth and fun to be with. Now it appeared she had been right. They turned again to the meal while Tade inundated them with his life’s story. He feasted them on stories of his growing up years, “I don’t get amused each time I recall the I-had-no-shoes campaign of Mr. President because I know where he’s coming from. As I speak, kids still walk to school bare-footed in my hometown. And it was even worse during my time. We hawked petty stuff when we got back from school, in our tattered uniforms.” He told them of how a TV advert that had cars running on water stirred up the belief that he would one day attempt the impossible. He had seen the advert while he sneaked behind a neighbour’s window to watch a football match. Then with nostalgia, he recalled his first meeting with the professor. His engineering degree had served an entirely different purpose in a far way land until their paths crossed. And how soon did Prof. Sobukola offer to sponsor his quest to make the world a better place to live in. He joked about Prof. Sobukola’s belief in his dream.
“It’s time for Africa to rise up and take her place”, he said mimicking the professor turned business mogul. Professor Sobukola nodded once in a while to to affirm his statements.
“So you guys don’t believe it’s time we Africans came to the party? I dare you two to get left behind in this revolution!”
Dinner ended within the hour and soon it was time for Tade to leave. As he drove out of the compound, something in the air suggested that a connection had been made. Two grown adults with one weird feeling they both couldn’t explain. A gentle breeze blew, swaying the beautiful palms from side to side. Tade found himself looking into the mirror until he was out of sight. And Deola, She kept a fixed gaze on his little red coupé that eased out of the compound until it faded into oblivion.