Jibola let the word out with a long drawl. It sounded more like ‘gash’ with a forced American accent he had picked up from the many disco parties he went to in the city, where speakers blared hip-hop music.
“Sorry o, oga,” the commercial motorcyclist who had splattered muddy water on Jibola’s baggy jeans and faded bronze coloured boots said and stopped his bike.
“Fuck you, man!” Jibola screamed at him. He clenched his fists and waved them in the face of the motorcyclist, preparing to fight.
“Sorry. Oga. I dey sorry. Abeg, no vex.”
Jibola calmed down. He was happy with himself with the show of manliness he had just displayed in front of Bisoye, his primary school sweetheart. He had seen her looking at him with her eyes full of admiration when he stole sideward glances at her. He knew this was going to be an easy one for him.
“It’s aiight man, it’s aiight. It’s not your fault. It’s them fucking potholes on this bloody road. Just ride on man, it ain’t nothing,” Jibola said, gesticulating with downward strokes of his hand like a rapper on stage.
Confusion contorted the face of the motorcyclist as he looked on without saying anything. He understood a little of the English language but Jibola’s words sounded like mumbo jumbo to him. Jibola motioned to him to go on and he nodded in affirmation. He kick-started his bike and it sputtered to life after three tries. He rode off, leaving a trail of white smoke behind him.
Bisoye looked at him again like she had been doing all evening. She was taken in by his words and gestures. She marvelled at the pout of his lips when he said ‘gosh’. She looked at the dreadlocks on his head with cowries attached to each end and wondered how it got there; he had not been a dada when he left Adatan village seven years ago. He had a long blue towel around his neck that hung over a green T shirt which had ‘Eko-ile’ scribbled across it. She watched now as he removed the towel from around his neck and used a side to clean his jeans.
She noticed that the shirt was greying at the shoulders and its collar had lost its firmness. But she didn’t say anything, thinking it was another fashion from the city. Just like when she asked why he walked as if there was a weight in his crotch, or why his jeans were sagging below his waist exposing boxer shorts that were once white, and if he was a construction worker because of his heavy boots. He had laughed his throaty laugh and said ‘Its swagger and fashion, meen.’
Jibola had changed. He was no longer the timid neighbour who walked together with her to the community primary school three kilometres away. He had grown into a handsome man, standing at six feet. His milk chocolate coloured skin shone in the receding light of the evening; from the generous amount of Pears baby oil he rubbed on.
It was only his facial features that remained unchanged; the way his aquiline nose melted into the gentle rise of his high cheekbones. His pupils were still of a very light brown, but they no longer held the shy innocence of those days, when he had been unable to return the gazes and teasing of classmates who called him onimu Fulani. They likened his nose to that of the Fulani people, long and pointed like the oyinbos. She was bigger than him then, and always stood up for him in front of their troublesome classmates. They would taunt them more, calling them husband and wife. After their primary education, he had gone to live with his uncle in Lagos to continue his secondary education and they had lost contact.
It was his unchanged face that made her recognize him instantly yesterday evening when he came to visit her. She was preparing cassava fufu. She was stirring the mixture in the pot over an earthen fireplace with a long wooden ladle when he called out to her. She dropped the ladle and ran over to him. They hugged, and she felt she would boil over with the joy of seeing him again. She noticed the embrace was tighter and longer than necessary; his hands were sliding down the mounds of her buttocks. She dismissed these thoughts from her head .The happiness of reunion had overwhelmed her. He brought her gifts; a packet of digestive biscuits, a tin of Morning Rose talcum powder, two T shirts, and a pair of jeans trousers. The clothes smelt of the cheap perfume of second hand clothes. He was staying at his parents’ for a few days, he told her. He would come visiting the next day.
He came and they strolled around the village. They stopped and played for a while at the little stream where he used to wash his legs on their way home from school. They ran around the big acacia tree where they used to shelter under on afternoons when the sun was too hot, like two love birds. He said they should go to Adatan hills, where they used to play hide and seek in the caves with other children. She objected, saying the day was far spent and people hardly go to the hills any longer. He insisted, asking her if she didn’t feel safe enough in his presence.
They were on their way to Adatan hills when he got splattered with muddy water. He didn’t seem to mind the distraught looks on the faces of the villagers as they walked around, as he switched between holding her on the shoulders and around the waist. So she didn’t mind too. He told her tales about Lagos. He said he had finished secondary school and was seeking admission into university.
They got to Adatan hills. The rock felt warm as they climbed. They crawled on fours and held on to branches and tree limbs for support. They got to the mouth of a cave and Jibola parted the overgrown tall grasses. They entered the cave. The air felt cooler, a relief from the dull heat outside. It was musty though; it stung her nostrils and she sneezed. He spread the towel on the bare rock and they sat side by side. She could feel his breath on her neck.
“You never told me what you’ve been doing these years” he said, his hand finding its way to her exposed thigh and tracing circles on it.
She moved away a little and removed his hand. She told him how she had to stop school because of her father’s death. Her mother’s meagre income could not support all three children. She had to stop because she was female and her younger brother proceeded to secondary school. She took sewing lessons in the day and helped her mother sell fufu at the evening market.
“You know, I really loved you back then,” he said in a whisper, his mouth close to her ears. He moved closer to her and his hand sought out her thigh again. “And I still do. It feels really good to be by your side again. I will take care of you and cater to your every need if you will be my girl, just like old times.”
She laughed. Her soft voice rose and echoed in the cave, disturbing a few bats that flew about in a flurry before assuming new perching positions.
“We were children then Jibola,” she said. “Did you know what love is then? And I wonder how you can cater to my needs, when you told me a while ago that you were still dependent on your uncle.” She made to remove his hand again. This time he placed it firmly and continued to trace circles. She tried again, hesitantly. She couldn’t deny what his hand was doing to her. It was as if his fingertips had tiny charges of electric current that sent pleasurable shock waves all over her body.
“Forget the past, I am here now and I love you, and that is what matters,” he said to her. He moved closer to her. His other hand caressed the ridges between her cornrows before moving down to play with her earlobe.
“Jibola please stop, this is not right.” She was breathing in heavy gasps now, and her voice was two octaves lower.
“Come on, don’t be a baby.”
He drew her into his arms and planted a kiss on her cold lips. She pulled back, couldn’t understand how a kiss could be that sweet. He pulled her close again. This time his tongue parted her lips and probed the warm wetness of her mouth. Her ‘Jibola, please stop’ was a silent whisper now and was fast becoming moans. Her mind was running around madly now. Perhaps he really loved her? Maybe if she acceded to his demand, would he really take care of her needs?
He slid his hands under her loose blouse and began to trace the outline of her supple breasts. He was soon trying to unhook her bra strap. She didn’t try to stop him again. She had gone past caring now. She did not remember all her mother’s admonitions about keeping her virginity till marriage. She had not gone this far with any man and the pleasure was too much for her to stop. He could have her here and now.
She didn’t mind the little rocks that bit into her legs as they held on to each other and he explored her body. There seemed to be a fire on his fingers as her traced it all over her body. And his kisses on the nape of her neck were so light. Yet they made her shiver in his hold, like an unclothed child in the harmattan. They were still at it, when she heard an unmistakable hiss-hiss sound. At the same time she felt something cold slither past her outstretched leg. She sat up abruptly, startling him. In the thin light that wafted into the cave through the entrance, she could make out the faint outline of a huge snake as it crawled away.
She gathered her clothes around her and ran out of the cave, all the way home. She never saw him again.
It was one of those mornings when it was so misty you couldn’t see beyond an outstretched arm. Bisoye and six other girls were on their way to the stream. They were chattering away, and playfully shaking the dew off roadside grasses on each other’s bodies.
“Does anybody know Jibola?” Adunni asked.
“Which Jibola? Is it the one that came to the village four months ago?” Bisoye asked uneasily. She wondered if Adunni knew of her escapade with Jibola. Adunni was the undisputed queen of gossip among them, and she always seemed to be abreast of happenings all the time. Perhaps in her mischievous way, she had chosen this morning to spill the beans in the presence of other girls.
“Yes, that one. That boy is such a crook, do you know that he impregnated two girls from Eruwo village? The parents of the girls came to make a scene at his father’s house yesterday. I saw them on the way to the evening market,” she said. She had a glint in her eyes in her eyes that always came to the surface when she has gossip to share.
“Ehn Ehn!” They all replied, except Bisoye.
“Please tell us more,” Adebimpe, one of the girls piped in.
Bisoye looked surprised and stopped to think. Silently, she thanked her stars and the gods of Adatan village. She also thanked the snake that slithered past that day. Perhaps, she would have been the third person carrying a protruded belly around now.
She walked up to the other girls as they continued chattering on their way to the stream.