I am on a wild-goose waka to the airport. I get the text and I don’t think twice before I’m dressed and headed out the door five minutes later. The plane is landing in twenty-five minutes and I am not too optimistic that I will catch the bearer of my parcel before he has to set off for his hotel, somewhere in the country that is Lagos. I walk to the road like someone is chasing me because as usual, I can never find any estate okadas when I really need one. I get there and sure enough, there is a long line of people looking for transportation. Work has just closed for the day, and this is rush hour. No problem. I am not looking for keke or bus. I need a cab baby! Ten minutes later, all the keke-chasing people have gone and I am still craning my neck left and right looking for a cab, when I catch sight of this lovely, silver, 2007 Chrysler 300 in reverse. I pray someone is about to offer me a ride.
GUY 1; Sure enough, car pulls up in front of me and the windows glide down-just like in the movies. The guy inside is finer than the ones in Nollywood movies-except Chris Attoh. Chei! This guy-dark, trim, svelte, he is like chocolate over ice cream. I don’t wait for him to ask me anything oh. I say “I am going to the airport. Which way are you headed?” He makes a sound but I’m not interested. I am already wrestling with his car door. He flips a switch and lets me in, and I settle into a seat that feels like it is padded with marshmallows. I breathe in the citrusy scent and wish he were driving me to Calabar. (I know all about not accepting rides from strangers but hey, it’s not a “ride” if he ain’t a stranger, innit?). He says his name is Seun. I tell him my name and he asks from where. I say Cross River and he thinks it is Port Harcourt. I open fire. I ask him if he has travelled outside of Lagos and he says he has been to Jigawa State. For NYSC! I tell him that Yoruba people are arrogant. After Lagos, or any of the Yoruba states they are from, the only place they go to is London. I tell him that I thank NYSC for helping their case, otherwise they would never see any other part of the country that is not a Yoruba speaking state-or London. I tell him that the rest of the country is curious. We want to experience other cultures, learn other languages, know other foods. But Yoruba people, they are sufficient unto themselves, and next stop, London (of course there are exceptions). Poor guy is flustered. He basically agrees with everything I say, and I round off by telling him he’d better travel and see the country before he may call himself a Nigerian. He tells me my nose ring caught his attention. I am doubtful-hard to believe a nose ring is that obvious, but I tell him I lost the smaller one and will replace it, that this one is too obvious. He tells me “I am a man and I am the one who should know which is better”. Sigh. I spare him an anti-sexist rant. He doesn’t know what he just escaped. I thought he would be happy to let me off at Allen Junction but what do you know, he wants my blackberry pin. I demur, then relent but offer my phone number instead. After the wringer I have just put him through, I suppose he deserves it. He called before I got home to see how I was faring. Sweet man! Gorgeous, a lovely car, and polite to boot. A girl could do much worse. Oh, and by the way, I was wearing my glasses. I never thought I would see the day when a car would pull over for me wearing my glasses. Now I know there is a God and he is a friend of Nerds.
GUY 2; I imagined that it would be easier to get a cab from Allen Junction but I am so wrong. I stand for about ten minutes before I ask myself what I am doing. I call my sister to ask if she knows our friend’s itinerary, maybe I can hook up with him later somewhere, and some time more convenient. She agrees. A guy is standing beside me, also making a call, and I deduce that he is also waiting for someone. When we are done with our respective phone calls, I want to comment on the obvious, that it appears we are both waiting for people, but I decide not to. In the next breath, he does. And so, I get to find out that Paul is on his way to Lagoon hospital to identify the body of a friend’s younger brother, who just got hit by a car. It seems unreal. He is so calm, saying the words so matter-of-factly. I keep saying “he is dead! You mean he is dead!” When he asks for my pin, I tell him I don’t really like chatting and would rather give him my number, but sharp guy, he smiles and says he can get my number when we chat. I concede, after all, what is a blackberry pin to the grief that has just been unleashed on him and his friend, who by the way is in Spain? If giving him my pin will begin the healing process, by all means.
GUY 3; I begin my return journey home, and no sooner have I crossed the road that I see a crowd about four deep on the sidewalk, all waiting for the same keke I want. I sigh, call Kollins to find out if he has left work and is headed my way. He is, but the same traffic has him in a snarl, and he figures it will take him about an hour to get to me. He reminds me that I have always wanted to take long evening walks, and here is my chance. I agree and set out. At this juncture, I must digress to assure you that the short, teal and navy blue dress I was wearing, my waist cinched in tight by a belt, was not exactly made for walking, and especially not in front of headlights. As I wriggled ahead of slow-moving cars, I consoled myself that I was doing my bit to ease some poor guy of the stress of the day, by feeding him eye-candy. Next thing I know, this dude attaches himself to my side like Velcro and tries to start a conversation.
“Hello, how are you”
“Hi” I mumble under my breath, but what I really want to say is “since you ask, I am not okay, I have a list of things that are bothering me” and lay it on him. I hate it when people ask “how are you” like what would they do about it if you don’t give the automatic “fine.”
I should not have bothered. Before I know it, the guy makes a half-whimpering sound like a child who is about to start crying and crosses the road. I am surprised like what the fuck? I shake my head. Lagos has all sorts. But in the next instant, Velcro is back at my side.
“Sorry I had to see someone across the road.”
I am like what’s my own!
“So, my name is Femi.”
“Good for you” I mumble
He repeats himself “My name is Femi”
“What do you do?”
“So where are you coming from”
“I was going to the airport then I changed my mind”
By now he must be thinking “this one is not well.”
“So where are you headed?” I point vaguely, somewhere ahead.
“I am sure you won’t mind being friends” he says
I assure him that I, in fact do mind. I tell him I already have too many friends. He says that is not possible. I do not have the energy to explain that friendships, if they must mean anything, are hard work. And that you can have too many friends. He gives me a lecture on how you should have many friends so you can sift out the irresponsible ones. I ask him if he is responsible, and he says that that is for me to find out. Sharp guy! I tell him I won’t be availing myself of that particular pleasure.
We continue walking. Cars are coming too close to the sidewalk so he moves me in, close to the gutter, and puts himself between me and the moving cars. I ask him why he did that. He says to protect me. I ask him if he will use his hand to stop a car that tries to hit me. He says no, he won’t, but he will be better able to escape a collision. “Because you are a lady.” Sigh. I politely step around him and reinstate myself near the road.
We continue walking. The next words come out in a whine “please can I be your friend?” I am surprised at the innocence of the question, the child-like quality of it. I tell him I have not heard that “can I be your friend” Since primary school. He says that he has at least reminded me of something from my childhood, so I tell him that I was not aware I missed it.
I start laughing and he smiles and is pleased.
“At least I made you laugh”
“You did not make me laugh. That made me laugh” I say, pointing right in front of us. A lady is walking ahead of us with buttocks the size of watermelons. They look like someone placed two footballs under her jeans and forgot to take them out, so she started walking with them firmly ensconced and jiggling with a life, all their own.
“It is interesting, isn’t it?” I prod.
We are by now laughing quite hysterically and have to move quickly past the jiggle-ass lady. It is too terrible and just too much.
“No” he says, pointing at my own ass, and taking a step back to better survey my backside “this is interesting”. I actually blush.
He falls back in step with me, a human Velcro again, and begins to wax lyrical about the wonders of my ass. He uses words like round and firm until I tell him to stop, that the ass is right here, and can hear him. He says he is like that, says things as they are and not behind your back. I tell him it is a good principle. He asks if I like that and I say sure, I am a blogger, people like you are what keep my blog alive. Needless to say he took my blackberry pin, and Velcro came undone.
I walk on, alone and unencumbered, until I come to my street. I realise I am tired, as I was not a few minutes ago, while Velcro talked and distracted me thoroughly. I am pondering on how easy it is to meet people, how easy to make friends if one is willing; how if you cast your net wide, you catch, and when you get to shore, you sift through until you come to those who are worthy, who will stay, and you can cast the rest off like so much trash. I am counting the steps necessary to get me home when a voice distracts me from behind.
GUY 4; “Hello” he calls, and his shadow melds with my own as he matches his stride with mine. Suddenly, I am terribly exhausted. I don’t catch his name. I don’t hear half of what he says, until he says those words “Please can I be your friend?” It is unbelievable. I actually look over my shoulder involuntarily, just in case Velcro has followed me. This is not Velcro and he in intent on his mission to be friends. I am as intent in my desire to be left alone. He tells me he has walked behind me all the way from Allen, and I think how he must have bid his time after Velcro, to make his move. He talks and talks and I mumble in reply, studying his shadow. I decline the invitation to be friends, I refuse to give him my number or pin, I just do not have the energy any more. He finally gets the message. The shadow falls back one step. Two steps. Three steps.
And the shadow fades.