We strolled leisurely towards Aunty Kemi’s shed at the Mammy Market. Aunty Kemi’s was our preferred drinking joint for one sole reason: she allowed us drink on credit! When drinking was all you did in camp, the incentive of drink-and-pay-later would be too good to scorn. Add that to Aunty Kemi’s heavy bosom which always threatened to break free of her flimsy tops, and wide, round hips that reminded you of nothing but sex, we needed little persuasion to stick to the joint.
For reasons I never thought possible, I panicked in my heart when I saw our table few metres ahead of me. The familiar sight suddenly looked unsightly and demeaning. Noel was midway into her gist about how she was forced to read medicine in the University by her parents when I instinctively slowed down.
“What’s wrong Bayo?” she asked innocently.
“Er, er, nothing.”
“What is nothing? Don’t tell me that, I’m not a small girl o.” She added and tugged at my arm.
As she prodded me on what the matter was, memories of my ex broke into my thoughts like an unwanted thief.
“Bayo, when are you going to stop drinking?” Bisi had asked that Saturday morning. I was just waking up from another beer-induced night of drinking and the hangover that threatened to blow my brains was taking its toll on me.
“You came home late yesterday, brutally drunk and incoherent! This has to stop Bayo; it must stop.” I could barely hear Bisi’s words but my eyes could clearly see her shapely figure looming over me, both arms akimbo. She was naked save for a pair of g-string panties she had on. As she spoke, her full bosom heaved up and down with stark anger that rather than sober me up was actually exciting the junior me down there. I got up and made to reach for her breasts but she stepped back, her eyes red with anger.
“I’m going to break up this relationship if you do not stop drinking.”
“I’ll stop baby, I will.” I answered and made for the breasts again. She shrugged me off.
“When Bayo? Everything is abnormal with you when you drink: the sex, the sleep and the snores. No Bayo, no.”
“I’ll stop after camp Bisi.”
“After camp?! So you’d still drink in Camp?”
“Of course, what else is there to do?”
I regretted the words immediately I said them. Bisi had had enough. She suddenly turned around and started getting dressed. In five minutes she was fully dressed: a low cut mini gown over a jeggings and she was good to go.
“Goodbye Bayo. I wish you the best of luck.”
“Bayo?” Noel’s voice snapped me out of my reverie. “What’s the matter?”
I didn’t realise I had stopped in my tracks. I shrugged off the thought and proceeded towards the table, muttering ‘sorry’ to a baffled Noel. Though I approached the table with seeming nonchalance, my heart pounded wildly in my chest. Somehow, I was anxious to know what Noel’s stance would be about my friends and the sheer number of conquered bottles that dotted the table like houses in an aerial shot of an unplanned neighbourhood.
My guys received her well when I introduced her. We had been in camp for just three days but myself and some guys from my University had quickly established a clique of sorts with some other fellow-minded guys from other schools. Our common denominator was alcohol and we made sure we went back to the hostel drunk every night. Some of the boys smoked cigarettes but I detested the tobacco stick like a dog would a cat. I’d rather drink and drink and drink. Alcohol (and marijuana, like Chucks would say) gets you high but pray, what does cigarette do?
“Whooaaa! Guess who came to dinner with the boys? Sister Noel!” Chucks, my Uniport friend cooed like a matured chicken as the assembly bursts into spontaneous applause.
Noel smiled broadly, her perfect dentition bestowing a distinct prettiness on her.
“Well, I am not a Sister to start with, the only Sisters I know reside in the convent; my name is simply Noel,” she corrected with a smile and took a seat.
“Noel then. Welcome to our clique.” That was Seye, the tall, gangling one from some eastern private university.
“Thank you. I hope I wouldn’t disturb your evening in any way.”
“No, no, no. If you don’t mind the cigarette smoke and the beer, you’ll be fine.”
“Okay then. I don’t mind. I just wanna sit and watch you guys do your thing.” She answered innocently throwing me a look that unnerved something deep inside of me. Did I hear her right? I found it difficult to reconcile the pretty lady that had invited me to fellowship with the one seated at the sinners’ table, giggling and gisting the evening away.
“So what’s good?” she asked, oblivious of my thought. And the discussion started. In the course of the discussions, when guys got to know she read medicine, they got excited and started throwing various questions at her. In all of these, I could barely hear one word of the discussion; I was just content sitting there, nursing a bottle of my favourite Star, and watching Noel take on their questions one after the other. She was like the star act in a family sitcom. And I was the audience, one whose attention drifted in and out of the sitcom.
“Bayo, I have known you for three years now, right from my first year. And since then, you’ve been promising me you’d stop drinking, but no, you are still drinking. Why Bayo? Do you love me at all?”Bisi asked one cool evening as we prepared for the Final Year party of my set. She was two years my junior and we’d been dating for almost three years.
“God’s time is the best,” I answered sarcastically. She ignored my sarcasm and started crying…
“Ol’ boy, are you alright?” It was Chucks who had noticed my barely half-empty bottle. “You never drink your beer reach anywhere and you’ve been here for over ten minutes? Wetin dey happen?” he asked, concerned.
Amongst the clique, I was the fastest drinker: I usually drink at least two bottles in five minutes. Before Diminishing Marginal Utility set in, I would have drunk like three/four bottles in ten minutes. But that evening was different, I was distracted by a lady i’d met less than three hours earlier.
“No, nothing. I am fine.” I answered in a huff.
Seye broke into a smirk from down the table. “Chucks, leave am joor. Maybe e dey try do gentleman for Noel.”
The whole assembly burst into laughter and to my embarrassment, Noel joined in with a slight smile. I felt embarrassed and unable to defend myself.
“Don’t mind them Bayo, you and I know it’s not about me. So ignore Seye’s comments.” She squeezed my hand as I nodded to her after managing a dry smile.
They left me to my thoughts and continued their discourse. I saw Noel enjoyed every bit of the evening. She’d ordered a barbecue and a bottle of malt. I, on the other hand, kept drifting in and out of the moment, my bottle of Star rarely touched.
“Ok Bisi, let’s strike a deal. I’ll stop drinking before camp.” I held her hands, looked her in the eyes and made the promise. Camp was just over a month away and I was already counting down the days. She stopped sobbing just then and searched my eyes for whatever. Maybe she saw what she wanted, for she hugged me tightly after with effusive outbursts of ‘thank you’. We ended up making love instead of going for the Dinner. Lovemaking with Bisi was always something else.
“I really need to go now.” Noel was getting up from her seat, her arm linked in mine, willing me up with her. “I am on duty at the clinic tonight and already, i’m late. I have to go now.”
The words spurred me back to the present and I stood with her.
“Thank you guys for the wonderful evening. I really enjoyed myself.” She gushed with appreciation as they all bade her goodbye.
“I’ll quickly see her off guys, be right back,” I said and followed her out of the noisy Mammy.
We walked side by side into the night accompanied by the dropping temperature. As we strolled, the constant brushing of our bodies sent sparks of excitement down my spine. But I ignored it. What could I have done?
“So what have you been thinking of, Bayo? Don’t tell me it’s nothing cos I know it is something.”
“Er, well, I have been thinking of my ex.” The urge to tell even the simplest lie left me. There was something enchanting about her that made me always tell the truth when I was with her.
“Hmmnnnn, ex? What about her?” she asked, her arms linked once more in mine.
“She doesn’t like me drinking.”
“Oh, really? That’s normal. Most girls don’t like their guys drinking.”
“Yeah, do you belong to that School of Thought?”
“I don’t really care.” She shrugged, and smiled. “Drinking in itself is not the issue; it is the consequence of it that’s the wahala.”
“Uhn uhn,” she answered and nodded slightly. “So why did you break up with her?”
“She broke up with me. Couldn’t cope with the drinking.”
“Oh, so you couldn’t stop drinking for her?”
“Well what?” she asked, stopped and held my gaze. We were close to the clinic and the repulsive smell of antiseptics and drugs oozing from the clinic made my stomach turn.
“I tried Noel, but maybe not enough.”
“So you let her go?”
“Kinda.” I shrugged, “There’s no need forcing a relationship that isn’t working.”
She sighed, then smiled.
“Well, we’ll talk tomorrow. I really am late. Do enjoy the rest of the evening.”
She gave me a hug, stepped back, held my hands and smiled.
The last I saw of her for the night were a pair of long legs strolling down the corridors that led to the clinic.
to be continued