Many Dinner Dates After
Tade was getting all dramatic about the dinner date turned engagement night. There were so many merry makers at the French-styled bistro, and they all appeared focussed on the unfolding episode as Tade dropped on a knee, his searching eyes moving from her eyes to the engagement ring in his hands.
“Will you marry me?”
His words echoed in her ears over and over again. She felt the urge to prick herself so she could wake up from the dream she was having. But then she realised she hadn’t been dreaming.
“How could I ever say no to you?” She held his supple chin in both hands, looking intensely into his eyes.
“Yes Tade, I’ll marry you.”
“You mean everything to me. And I’ll go to the ends of the world just to be with you.” She said with tears clogging her speech.
“Then let this ring be the symbol of our love, our promise to stick with each other at all times. To make babies and watch them grow into adults right before our eyes.”
He raised himself off the ground, kissed her slender hands, her neck, and then her lips in bliss.
It had been one year and a half. Eighteen months. Seventy two weeks approximately- And how many days actually? He was still doing the maths- since he met Deola, now the love of his life. Their relationship had gradually evolved through the times. From quarrelling in traffic, they had become acquaintances. Then partners in progress when she finally agreed to take up a management position in her Dad’s Blue-Chip company- she did it for him, he could swear it. Then they had become compulsive friends. Then jealous cats. Then lovers. And now they had taken another step further by being betrothed to each other. His mind played back to the life he lived before he met her. He had been a geek. A different kind of geek actually; so nerdy and disorganised that he lived a haphazard life. He had also been a random lover, picking and dumping girlfriends within the first or second month he had met them. Dayo once suggested that his shortlived relationships could be a pointer to the fact that he wasn’t made for marriage. And how could he not have thought of hiring an assistant before Deola suggested it. Maybe if he had done, he wouldn’t have been in such a hurry on that fateful day- the day he met her in traffic. He wouldn’t have been so cranky. He wouldn’t have ventured off that lane and so he wouldn’t have earned himself a place in the league of the unpatriotic ones. Memories of that morning still haunted him sometimes. Still he was thankful he had her. She always had a way of making him feel good about himself. A trait he was sure she had gotten from her Old Man. He pulled the car out of the parking lot and drove through the cluster of parked cars whose owners were nowhere in sight. Deola spoke, ridding them of the silence that had lingered for a while. “Tade, do you realise how fulfilled my father is, that you finally made success of your design? “I do. Your Old man has been the father I never had. I hope you aren’t jealous.”
“Who am I to be jealous of you two?” Deola continued. “He told me once that he was really proud of your dreams. That it didn’t matter to him if you succeeded or not- though I knew he wanted that success much more than you did. Of course, he always felt you achieving that feat would be victory for a much maligned continent. He told me he’d keep standing with you as long as you thought that dream was possible. He’s truly proud of you. But with me, you should know it’s a different story entirely. It wouldn’t matter even if you were a never-do-well. I love you to pieces, regardless.” She searched his face for the dimpled look that usually followed his amusement. There she had it. Tade chuckled meeting her gaze as he pumped up the volume of the car stereo. “Dee, you talk as if you aren’t proud to be engaged to me and my success…”, He said borrowing her sardonic tone. Then he exclaimed halfway through his speech, “…Hey girl!That’s my favourite love song playing!” he nudged her to sing along as Luther Vandross’ voice filled the car, It’s so amazing to be loved/ I’d follow you to the moon and the skies above.
It’s the next turn, Mr Lover man! Or aren’t you dropping me at home again?
Deola’s phone shook frantically. She had a call.
“ Hello Ma…”
“…please, I need you to come down to St. Aquinas specialist hospital as soon as you can. There has been an accident.”
How could she not recognise that voice? It belonged to Victor, Tade’s assistant at the office. He always spoke as if sang the tenor part in the choir. She had been skeptical about Tade hiring him at first. Her excuse? He made her feel a bit queasy the way he spoke. But then he had turned out to be the next best thing Tade could have wished for- after her and his project design, in that order.
“What’s wrong, ehn Victor? Who has been in an accident?”
The line was breaking up profusely. She could barely hear him talk. His scrambled voice persisted until the line went dead.
“What kind of bad news is this, God please!” Deola stood, hands on her waist only for a millisecond. She grabbed her car keys and her handbag and ran off to her car, not minding her stiletto heels. As she drove down to the hospital, her mind continuously denied her her cognitive abiity. The words, There Has Been An Accident, kept playing back in monotones. She rushed into the waiting room of the hospital scanning the entire length viciously to see if Victor was anywhere in sight. She bumped into him just as she made to turn the corner. Victor tried to speak, lowering his gaze just as she waited patiently for him to say something.
“Victor, what is it?” She spoke in a manner that showed she was at the height of suspense mixed with tension. “It’s Boss o. He was caught in a power surge while working at the workshop. He went into arrest after the shock but he has since been revived by the team of first responders that arrived in good time. Though he’s conscious again, the doctor says he’s not out of danger yet.” The Doctor walked in just as Victor left speaking. He was in company of some of the hospital personnel who busied themselves with wheeling Tade into the OR.
“That’s the Doctor.” Victor informed his Madam. She shook with palpable fear, “What are his chances, Doctor? Please tell me”. “Not too good, I must say. Are you the fiancée that young man spoke about?”
“Taking him into surgery is the only chance he has to live. We need to prevent the total collapse of his vessels which seems inevitable right now. I promise you we’ll do our best. Please sign here to indicate your assent to this… Thank you” Deola scribbled something down fast and then turned to see Tade laid out on a stretcher. Tears welled up as she reached out. He was very weak, still he appeared to be trying really hard to say something.
“Da-Da-rling, Please take care of mama for me, in case I don’t make it.” Deola stroked him gently, her tears dropping on his sheets. “Honey, please don’t talk like that. I’ll be here waiting for you. Remember our promise to stick together against all odds. I’ll wait for you, no matter how long it takes, I swear, I’ll wait for you.”
“I l-o-v-e you, honey”.
She sobbed uncontrollably now as the door slammed in her face. “God please, don’t let him leave me like this. I’d be dead if he leaves”, Her words sandwiched between sobs. Her father who had arrived in time to hear the Doctor’s pronouncements, put his arms around her as they both waited anxiously for the outcome of the surgery. “He’ll be fine”, he assured. His mind darted around randomly from one isolated memory to the other. Alternating swiftly between fresh and stale.
His daughter had gone from being the same tiny baby he dandled in his arms many years back to this pretty, blossoming young woman. An extraordinary man manager. Bride in the making. She constantly reminded him of her mother, his late wife, though he rarely mentioned it to her.
“Your mom died while she was having you.”
He remembered how difficult it was for him to give her that piece of news when she turned nine. But then he had encountered the more serious challenge of finding her a wet nurse during her early days on earth. They had lived happily together after all those challenges, until now. His mind wandered back to that evening last year, He had been astounded and delighted at the same time, when Deola, along with Tade, officially broke the news of their relationship. He had noticed prior to that that his daughter had become a livelier and more upbeat version of herself, and of course he had had no objections to her new found glow even when he suspected Tade had something to do with it. And Tade, the young feisty fellow with a knack for daring to do the impossible. He had taken a liking for him from the very first time they met up at the Motor Fair in New York. They both shared a passion for automobiles and had hit it off almost immediately. Then the most pleasant accident he had experienced in a long time happened. Tade shared his dream of making electric cars a commercially viable venture. The young man seemed determined. Just the right mix of attitude, self-belief and will power. He had shared stories of his rejection too. The prejudice. The cynical stares from balding lecturers. The sneers from unbelieving colleagues, and he sure adapted to all the negative jibes fast. Despite winning full scholarship to study at the well revered Washington University, he often got cold shoulders from most people he met. They all thought he wasn’t good enough. Poor Black Boy from the Dark Continent- it seemed to be written on their faces. And now that he was on the verge of worldwide recognition, this happens? His electric car design had been widely accepted. He had secured patent rights to protect it already. He was, in fact, scheduled to sign a MOU with a host of manufacturing companies who intended to adopt his design in their production in a few days.
Now it all seemed headed for the drains. His daughter’s dream of a blissful marriage to this wonderful young man he treasured. His fulfilment of seeing the young man live his dream as an icon in the world of technology, Africa as a continent finally coming of age right before his youthful eyes. Tade’s motivation still cracked him up a bit whenever he thought of it. The young man had hoped that one day he’d get stuck in traffic somewhere on the island, only to realise that all the cars struggling for thoroughfare were a product of his design. He wiped off the beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He was scared. It was becoming increasingly difficult to shake off the awry feeling of death that pervaded the waiting room. The smell of disinfectant around the hall even worsening the feeling. Though he knew the least he could do was to stay strong for his daughter. To keep that little flicker of hope alive somehow.
When the door to the operating room finally swung open again, it was the young Doctor who led the way. Prof. Sobukola and his daughter, Deola looked up swiftly, expectation already clouding their vision as he approached them. He stood in front of them and looked down while pulling off his gloves. “I’m sorry Sir, we did our best but he didn’t make it. We are truly sorry.” Deola let out a piercing howl. “Nooo Doctor! How can that be I just saw him now. I just spoke with him. I held him in my arms. He can’t be gone, this can’t be.” She snuffled uncontrollably. Her father held his head in his hands not knowing how to react. “So is this it? The end of this young legend? Tade is gone, never to return.”, He too was close to tears. The piece of bad news had pierced them to the marrow. He was trying really hard to calm himself and his daughter at the same time. “Weep not child. Tade belongs to the league of legends. He’ll live with us forever”, He said pulling her closer.
At the next Motor fair in New York.
Prof. Sobukola steps up to the podium and makes this famous presentation.
As you all know, we are here to celebrate the young man, Tade Makanjuola. Tade was a brilliant young African who came from one of the poorest homes in my country. He grew to become a lively young man; an energetic young man who held on to his dreams with tenacity. He thrived in the face of prejudice, in the face of those who tried to pull him down. He never allowed popular opinion prevent him from achieving whatever he set out to achieve. He worked relentlessly. He didn’t rest until he proved to the world that emission levels could indeed be reduced to the barest minimum with his commercially viable design for electric cars. I think there’s something for all of us to learn here.
He may be gone, but he continues to live in our thoughts, in everything we do. And as you all know, we have perfected plans for his ideals and dreams to live among us. It’s in that light I present to you the first brand of electric cars named after the enigmatic Mr Makanjuola.
I hereby present to you the brand new Toyota Tade
A thunderous applause fills the entire arena.
I suggest you all say no to dirty, smudgy hydrocarbons and ride in eco-friendly cars.
We crave for a greener world, just like Tade did.
The frenzied applause continues.