“The house is nice” Fikemi literarily choked out the words. She couldn’t comprehend what was wrong with her, had it begun at the airport? Maybe it was during the call, the one that had caught her while she was racking her brain over a complicated dress, hunched over her working table in her stuffy tailoring shop.
“Hello,” she’d answered when she picked up, she had not spared him any mercy off her annoyance.
“Aya mi. You sound irked?” He’d inquired, with a smile in his voice, the same kind he used anytime he called her, the kind he’d begun using when he first arrived in Boston, and the one he’d never used when he’d been scourging for a visa in this unscrupulous city, of frauds, miscreants, and rogues.
“What is it?” Fikemi spat out. Goodness, had she ever been so Irked?
He kept mute for a while, and she’d considered disconnecting when he announced” I’ve been granted citizenship, can you be here by Sunday?”
Sunday had been two days away.
She’d felt like slapping him, clawing at his face, and then hugging him close in relief.
“What do you mean? That I should just leave my business because you have gotten a stay?” She barked, uncaring.
Not minding that this was why she prayed all night, had joined a prayer warrior forum in church, and regularly paid her tithes and other extra church levies and what-have-you.
“Kemi what do you mean, what do I mean?” He’d asked, calling her Kemi for the first time since he’d left.
“This business means a lot to me! Do you know how hard I’ve toiled eh? How about my customers, what should happen to them?” She barked some more, Ade her apprentice shot hear head up, Startled from what she was doing on the ‘Singer’ machine some miles farther into the room.
“But Ade is there!” He barked in reply.
“And so? Don’t you know she goes to school. Eh, she o moni?” Then silence fell, like lead on both sides of the line.
Kemi had stood up straight then, staring out at nothing in particular, and He had been seated in the small part of his apartment he’d transformed into a study, overlooking a floor-to-ceiling glass window that blessed his eyes with such breathtaking view of the city’s oldest academic institutions, waking up at that time of the evening.
“I’m sorry,” she began, “I’m sorry. Have you told grandma? Have you told Aunty Bisi, look I’ll see what I can do. Oh Bright I love you.
What is the place like? Is it the same place you were “…
“Thanks Babe,” Bright’s voice hurled her out of her reverie, and into the reality of her life now.
Maybe the irritation, and discomfort would ebb once she familiarised herself with the soothing environ, the brilliantly colourful garden around the apartment building, Bright’s partly dim, and partly bright apartment, that was in a row of other similarly posh looking ones, and the city itself, which she’d had enough time to gobble up whilst in Bright’s Cherokee Jeep,which had driven her in from the airport.
Maybe the books and artefacts scattered about would keep her company, for they seemed to be everywhere; from the few shelves set at every available space to the window sills where books lied about, or were stuffed together, and even piled high on his tables. Maybe the walls would enrapture her, for it was spoilt with paintings, animal skins, woven baskets, and even criss-crossed spears. All in all it was appealing, very appealing.
“But where would I put my Sewing machine? ” Fikemi began again, to Bright’s exasperated countenance.
He’d never believed in prophecies, but he was sure seeing the vision of a long, long ride with this person he loved.
The thing about making it in this city is that one has to learn to ‘Survive’ alone.
And this phenomenon could materialise in different forms, for Bright it meant six hours at Mr.Biggs, Two hours at the TOEFL centre in Ikeja, and many more hours reading his eyes out at night.
Although he graduated with impressive results, degrees, and other University shennanigans, he was caught in the snare of the god-of-unemployment.
It took turns in blessing young graduates without ‘connection’, a politician Father, or a Top civil service mother, with jobs below their status. Nobody knew when it came, but if one bothered to conjecture, it probably began it’s sweep at the end of their academic session, waiting eagerly to burst their larger-than-life baloon of dreams, and plans.
The job as a manager in Mr.Biggs was made possible by his Aunty Bisi, who knew an Alhaji that knew a friend that could make any kind of job available( mostly ones below qualification, or passion) , so long as it generated money.
“The end point of going to school, is it not to make money?” He’d asked Bright the day he turned up with the job.
Bright had taken the job with a sigh, his life unknown to him, was bound to take a shocking swerve much more than it already had.
It was in between dishing out orders in the restaurant, burying himself in mountains of paper work, and accounting, attending to shirty employees, insatiable customers, and reading books from the healthy collection he’d kept in his office.
At any opportunity he stumbled upon, he’d lie back in his chair and elope into worlds through the portal of words.
It was in between all these daily frenetic activities, threatening to kill him with over-excitement and activities, that he met Fikemi.
Not exactly met her in the formal sense though; she’d almost bumped into his car while crossing a busy street in Magodo.
Her head had been bent sideways as she attended to a call, while balancing her hands with the large polythene bags she’d been carrying, the bags’d had tufts of shiny looking materials peeking out from the top.
“Would You mind paying more attention?” Bright had loudly asked after she’d escaped his car’s front by hopping to the other side of the street.
Even as she muttered “Sorry. No vex abeg” He could see defiance and assertiveness in her eyes, as announcing as a large fascia, but dettering nonetheless.
It screamed” Go away!”
But Bright couldn’t have brought himself to, because his mind had captioned her, indelible flashes of her long cascading multi-coloured braids never left his consciousness, her dark eyes, round and comical, her set lips, her direct accent-free tone, she was unreal.
He spent the whole of the afternoon conjuring up her image, and the book he was reading turned down on his chest.
He could have given up his job In a bet, becasue he knew with a starnge confidence that he would see her again.
Was this not Lagos?
Part two coming soon. Do rate, and comment. (It’s a work in progress, and I’ll need your feedbacks to complete it)