They say disasters happen in threes but I was on my fourth and counting that Monday afternoon. What a day. I had called a prospective client an agbaya for inviting me to his hotel room even though he was old enough to be my father, that of course had led to the bank losing his multi-million Naira account and that, as you well know, had led to the boss bringing down the roof and threatening to sack me. I didn’t see his daughters doing corporate ashewo work o, but who was I to bring that up? Then as I was waiting for a cab my mum called and ended the conversation with her now familiar “se okunrin kan kan o ti ko enu si e ni?” I was 23 years old for goodness sake, what was the find-a-husband-or-die-trying rush about? And then just as I was hissing my end to the call (she had already dropped, I’m not suicidal) and turning around to face the road I got my face and body sprayed full of mud by this idiot speeding past in his BMW.
That was the last straw, I sat down on a culvert and began to cry. It wasn’t his fault, it certainly wasn’t. If not for Mama Folake would he see Folake here to paint with mud? Daddy had wanted to give me the Honda when I got this job but my mum had snatched the keys from me and said it would only happen over her dead body.
“Don’t you want to marry, Afolake? Because of your selfishness you want to leave me without grandchildren, Afolake? Did I do wrong by having one child, Afolake?” And she went on to explain, no rant, about how all men are intimidated by women with cars or houses or any property at all for that matter, and how I should basically play the dumb church rat till this almighty husband came calling. And that was the reason I found myself soaked in mud and tears on this Monday afternoon.
I was so absorbed in my self-pity that it took me about a minute to notice that someone was squatting in front of me, touching my knee tentatively. The animal from the BMW. I was drawing in breath for a proper berating when he placed his hands in front of my face to plug the tirade, said how sorry he was and offered to give me a ride to wherever I wanted. I paused mid-breath, looked at him and made up my mind. Clouds were gathering and there were no taxis to be seen so though he wasn’t the most handsome man on the block or even basket-baller tall I decided to accept the ride, I’d simply decline to give him my number when he inevitably asked.
The drive went better than I’d expected and he turned out to be very good company. I found out his name was Obinna (please call me Obi) and that he worked in IT somewhere not too far from my bank. By the time he was pulling into my drive way I’d relented and decided to give him my number since he’d been so much fun, and as he pulled up in front of my flat I stepped out of the car and began to search my handbag for a pen so I’d be ready when he asked.
“Folake…,” he began.
“Mm?” I answered smiling coyly; I’d refuse to give him the number on the first and second asking and then relent on the third. Normal protocol.
“Folake, I’m really sorry for ruining your suit, again please forgive me,” he continued. “It’s been nice meeting you, have a good evening.”
And then he drove off. Just like that.
After spending the greater part of five minutes checking for breath and body odour and convincing myself that he hadn’t run off because I was smelly I wandered indoors in a bit of a daze to discuss the runaway would-be toaster with Amina my flat mate.
Ah yes, Amina. She was another one of Mama Folake’s doings. My mum had woken up one afternoon and decided that being a single girl living alone somehow reduced one’s wife potential so she’d gotten a friend’s niece to share my two-bedroom with me. I can’t say I minded really, it was fun having the older girl around to discuss these kinds of issues with.
In typical Amina fashion, once she’d heard my story she had an answer – Obi was either gay or married. Either way, she said, I shouldn’t bother about him anymore. And even though I agreed with her Obi was now etched in my mind and I really hoped I’d run into him again. I didn’t.
Well, I didn’t, not until one Monday afternoon three weeks later when I decided to disobey my mum a little. She’d told me that good decent girls didn’t go out to restaurants and fast food places alone because 1) it showed the eligible bachelors that they couldn’t cook and 2) it looked like they were putting themselves on display. But that day I was willing to die a spinster if it meant I could be fed after another rough Monday.
I was just finishing my burger when a movement at the door caught my eye and I looked up. I and Obi saw each other at the same time and he held my stare for a heartbeat before quickly turning to leave. “Married or gay,” I thought as my heart sank and I reached down to get my handbag from the opposite chair. And then another movement caught my eye as Obi came back in and sat at my table. And somewhere in Ibadan Mama Folake must have been bursting into song because for once in my short life I looked at a man and knew I could marry him.
I’d been dating Obi for about six months when I started getting worried. I mean, I was used to fighting guys off my body six days after a first date, and here was Obi still not demanding more than a kiss after six full months. In fact, now you mention it, I was the one who instigated that first kiss about 5 weeks into the relationship when it was clear he wasn’t going to make the first move. In our six months together I had never been to his house and I realized that we’d never been completely alone for any of our dates. What was the problem? Was I not attractive enough? Wasn’t I his type? What could it be?
As usual I confided in Amina and after a long drawn out cackle she repeated her first assessment – married or gay. She didn’t think he was married, though, because he’d taken me along to a number of family functions so she decided he was gay and using me as a buffer to keep the family off his back.
It was difficult to admit it but I could see her point. I remembered the day I’d finally kissed him, he’d looked at me like he had something to say and then shook his head at the last second and kept silent. Yes, Amina was right, I had a gay boyfriend and I had already told Mama Folake about him. What was I going to do? The woman was probably already arranging the aso-ebi for her friends and if I gave her this new information she would probably tell me marriages weren’t built on sex alone and beat me into a wedding dress. So I asked my flat mate for advice.
“Well,” she instructed “there are two types of gay guys – the type that were born gay and no amount of female flesh can change, and those who had taken the wrong path sometime in secondary school and just need to be reset to default.”
Now which was he? I reckoned that if I never tried I’d never know. So I asked Amina to teach me the art of seduction and decided that if I couldn’t claim Obi back with a peek at what she liked to call my “double D boobs of life” I would accept defeat and bow out gracefully. I’d have to be careful though, I hadn’t remained a virgin for 23 years to come and lose it all for the sake of science. I’d have to watch him closely and know when to drop the curtain.
And so I invited Obi over to ours late in the afternoon on Easter Monday. When he arrived Amina said hello, manufactured an aunt she had to visit in Gwarimpa and promptly left us alone. I could sense Obi’s nervousness the minute she stepped out, he sat forward on the edge of the seat and began tapping his feet and rubbing his palms and my heart sank a little. The poor man could see the trap we’d set, he looked like a cornered rodent and I began to feel sorry for him. But I remembered what was at stake, recalled Amina’s tutelage and brought out the Jack Daniels, ice and coke that I knew he couldn’t resist. He had always been extra careful when we went out not to get drunk but today I had him at my mercy and even if I had to pinch his nose and force feed him this alcohol Obi was going to get tipsy.
I fixed him a tall glass of whiskey and coke and topped up every sip he took with a little more whiskey as we talked. About an hour later he realized he was getting drunk and made to get up and leave. He was going! I panicked and even though it wasn’t time yet according to Amina’s timetable I jumped on him, held his face in my hands and began to kiss him. He returned the kiss a little hesitantly and so I guided his hand inside my house coat to my naked breast and he quickly snatched it out like my boob had bitten him. That was it, I was now royally tired of it all.
“Obi, if you don’t like women just say it abeg and stop wasting my time,” I said knotting my housecoat tighter around me and fighting back tears, I’d had enough of the rejection. He looked at me strangely for a minute and then hung his head.
“I’m sorry, Folake, really sorry.”
I could almost feel the shame radiating from him as he walked towards the door head still down and for a minute I wanted to hug him tight and tell him there was nothing to be ashamed of. And then I remembered the split second of passion I felt from him before he snatched his hand out of my gown and I knew for certain that he was one of Amina’s secondary school cases. Somewhere inside this not-too-tall, dark and ok-looking gay man was a horny straight boy and I calculated quickly and came to a conclusion. I wasn’t going to sell this virginity of mine in the market and this was the man I was planning to marry someday soon anyway. I would sacrifice my ‘flower’ on the altar of straightening a misguided soul which I loved.
And so I thanked Mama Folake inwardly for teaching me to keep shaven and shorn at all times even though no one was meant to see, called his name just as he got to the door and let my housecoat drop as he turned around. I watched Obi’s face go from the shame of before to surprise to plain old lust at the sight of my large breasted, narrow waisted nakedness as he cleared the entire length of the living room in two long strides and had me in his arms all in less than a second. I relaxed in his arms ready for a night of passion.
You know all that sweetness and romance the love novels talk about? It’s all rubbish. He didn’t even seem to notice it was my first time, one second I was in sharp screaming pain and the next he had collapsed over me in a sweaty heap all spent. Was this what all the noise was about? While I was contemplating the anti-climax of it all Obi quietly stood up, he seemed totally sober now, wore the bits of clothing he’d discarded and walked out of my house without saying a word. I sat up on the carpet where he’d left me wondering whether to cry for myself or run out and whack him over the head with the JD bottle.
Obinna unlocked his car doors as he walked out of the house. He got into the car but couldn’t drive away immediately, he was in a daze. He had betrayed the one he loved and it was made even worse by the fact that he knew he didn’t have the courage to make it right. His phone rang, Folake was calling. He took the SIM card out mid-ring and threw it out of the window as he was finally able to drive off, knowing he was leaving her life forever. He loved her but knew he would never have the courage to tell her now what he should have told her right at the start – that he had avoided women just like he had tried so hard to avoid her, had been celibate for over two years now, since that Monday afternoon in 2011 when the doctors had called him back to discuss his HIV test.
Agbaya – ‘big for nothing’, used to describe people who act immature
“Se okunrin kan kan o ti ko enu si e ni” – “Has a man come yet (to ask for your hand in marriage)”… I think…
Ashewo – Prostitute
Aso-ebi – Uniform outfits worn by friends and family during occasions.
Photo credit: blackloveforum.com