The twitching started early in the week. Monday, to be precise. The same right toe twitching that was my body’s way of warning me that something bad was going to happen. Typically, these premonitions triggered a series of events that eventually culminated in that thing that I was warned about.
The first time I experienced this was when I was 6 years old. I vividly remember telling my mother about it. She, ever the worrisome one, immediately rushed me to the hospital fearing some neurological disorder. As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with me. The doctor simply theorized that I had probably eaten too many sweets or was not getting enough sleep. Clearly, he did not think it was important. My mother did not believe him, so we went to three more hospitals. They all said the same thing: there was nothing wrong with me.
My mother finally accepted the doctors’ diagnoses, and sent me to bed two hours earlier than usual, for one whole week. I, of course, was not pleased, since that meant that I would miss some of my favorite TV shows. If anything, I had hoped the doctors would tell me to spend more time in front of the TV. What? I was only 6 after all.
On the third day of my “therapy” and two days after the twitching started, a man came from the village, one of the numerous uncles I had heard of, but had never seen. I saw him that day, and he brought bad news: my maternal grandmother, Iya Elepo, who sold palm oil, was dead. I cannot explain how I knew, but deep down inside, I knew that that was the bad thing that was supposed to happen.
Over the years, 15 years to be precise, I learnt to pay close attention to the timing and frequency of this warning. I noticed that it was quite different from the twitching I observed in other people. My ex-boyfriend, Richard, for example, had involuntary twitches too. But it was with a different body part: his eye. And it was for a completely different reason. I doubt that he actually noticed it, but I certainly did. You see, his eye twitched whenever he was telling lies. It was his left eye and it twitched nine times within one minute. Yes, I counted. That was how I knew he was lying when he told me he had spent his Easter weekend at a cousin’s house. Any further doubts I had were erased when I overheard him telling his best friend what really happened.
It was as I had suspected: he spent that weekend at Sade’s house. Sade, who had actively discouraged me from dating the same guy. I found this out in the afternoon of the next day. That night, I paid him a visit, dressed in black and slashed his car tires. In some circles, it is known as vandalism or destruction of property. In my mind, it was simply a send-off present. All of that happened a month ago. This week was different.
On Monday afternoon, when the premonition started, I was in class. I ignored it because I assumed it was because I was wearing a new pair of shoes, and they were a tad bit too tight. However, on Tuesday, it happened again. I paid attention this time because I was wearing another pair of shoes. These ones were older and more comfortable. My anxiety increased each day and so did the frequency and duration of these twitches. And then all of a sudden, it stopped. Right in the middle of a prayer meeting in church.
“… And Lord, may we always be at the right place at the right time,” Pastor Daniel prayed before we said the grace. I did not say Amen.
My mind was far away from the church. I was planning what I was going to wear to the club that night. It was Friday night, you see. By the time we recited the grace, which in my absent-mindedness I did not join in saying, I had picked out my outfit: a tight-fitting blue dress that stopped mid-thigh. And by tight, I was not kidding. This dress left nothing to the imagination, which was my intention. It was the club, after all. And I was on the prowl.
As soon as I got to my dorm room, I got dressed and waited for my friend, Yemi to come and pick me up. I did not have a car, but Yemi did. She often gave me rides to Wal-Mart, and other places, without any complaints, which to a student studying abroad, is a God-send. Yemi arrived less than 10 minutes after I rouged my lips with my favorite red lipstick. Her car was packed full of three other excited young women: Oge, Mariam and Josephine. They were all Nigerian students, who like me, had left home after secondary school to study in the United States.
Oge was the energetic and ambitious Biology major who never seemed to have a bad hair day. That girl’s hair was always on point. So was her appearance. Mariam was the shy, timid, but firm History major who was always talking about switching to Chemical Engineering. This was her father’s idea. He did not see why he should waste his hard-earned money sending his daughter to learn why men fought wars and how expensive the ‘clean-up’ afterwards was. She had stood her ground, and it looked like her father was beginning to accept Mariam’s decision. Now, it appeared that Mariam was the one who needed to be convinced to stay the course with History.
Then, there was Josephine, the tall, logical Mathematics major. She never outgrew her tom boyishness, and we often teased her on this point. Her typical response was “Abeg, waka! We can’t all be like Oge.” All three ladies sat on the back seat of Yemi’s Toyota Camry. Yemi herself was getting a Masters in Chemical Engineering, the same course Mariam’s father wanted her to study.
I, of course, was an Economics major in my final year. As an only child, there was never any talk about me picking a major that was not palatable to me. Economics was my choice, and my parents had no say in the matter. I sat down in the front passenger seat, and within seconds, we were off. Our destination was the Red Flame, a popular night club in our small, university town.
… to be continued.
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