I picked up my Invictus face cap from the sofa, about an inch from where maami was seated watching Jenifa’s Diary. As I strolled towards the door, Maami’s voice followed me, “Look left and look right before you cross the road oh! Look up too; you never know,” she said, absent- mindedly.
I rolled my eyes and shut the door behind me. Maami and her dry jokes. Look up koor. I looked left as I was about to cross the road. This time, I did something right. Lo and behold there she was, sauntering on the street as if she owned it. No, it wasn’t her dressing that set her apart and commanded attention, though she was decently dressed in blue denim and an Ankara top. It was her carriage and grace. It felt like the scene of an American movie, but it wasn’t. The chants of market women and the sight of little children dancing to the latest music dominating the charts, ‘Customer Dada Ni’ reminded me we were on the streets of Bariga. Damn! Dammit! She was beautiful; a reflection of God’s artistry.
This was a whole new feeling and I felt like a village boy on his first flight in an airplane. It was love at first sight. I felt light headed as I caught a glimpse of her a second time and I guess that was the feeling of common sense leaving me. The battle was on from within, a battle every guy has to fight at least once. Common, she is too beautiful for you. She would snub you. What do you intend saying? The thoughts raced through my head but these fears vanished as quickly as they came. I mustered all the courage in me just the way I have seen my favourite cartoon character Johnny Bravo do on TV several times.
“Heyyss…Sorry to disturb you. I know this is wrong but…,” she turned calmly and her eyes were rather as our eyes met. I could swear in hers, I saw Venus and a galaxy of stars. At that moment I hated being a boy, males always have to think of what to say to a woman in a bid to impress her. What can I say to sound but funny and impressive? Honestly I didn’t know so I blurted, “Pardon me! I’m Adesoji.”
She smiled and said, “I’m Feyisayo.”
Letters seemed to spell out into words as we got talking and began walking down the street together. The chemistry was evident and when at last it was time to part, I brought out my phone and punched in “080” before handing it to her. She laughed hard at how genius that was as she punched in her digits. She stopped for a moment and my heart skipped a beat.
“What if it’s 090?” She said, a teasing light dancing in her eyes.
“Err…. what if?” I replied, struggling to cover my embarrassment with a smile. She laughed even harder and punched the rest of her digits before handing over my phone. She flagged down the next taxi we saw, and without haggling about the price, she told him her destination and got in. She didn’t even haggle over the cab fare, I thought to myself. I trust myself, emi ke! We both waved goodbye as the taxi drove off.
I forgot all what Paul my friend told me about making girls wait. I sure as hell didn’t have time for mind games. I called her the very next day. That was the first of many subsequent calls and endless nights of chatting till both our batteries drained. Days turned into weeks, weeks slowly rolled into months and so did our love grow. “Honey, sugar,” she would call me. “Jedi jedi’ is not good,” I would reply.
We had a lot in common; from our hatred towards the irrelevant courses taught in school, to our love for Manchester United FC, to how we both sucked at relationships, to our shared love for Fela Anikulapokuti’s music. I could go on and on, but I lost my mind the day she told me about her love for amala and ewedu. She didn’t need a broom; I was swept off my feet already.
Days into the third month of our meeting, we went on our very first date. It wasn’t the regular cinema date. What better way to express our shared love for amala and ewedu than over plates of it. We paid a visit to Olaiya canteen in the heart of Surulere. We got seated and laughed at how we didn’t care what anyone thought about our date, as we awaited our order. Our perfect date was short-lived when her phone vibrated while we ate, and I saw the caller ID, a strange name, ‘Bullet’. She hesitated before picking the call and walked away. Minutes later she walked back, washed her hands hurriedly and said she had to leave as it was urgent. She picked up her bag, pecked me on the cheeks and walked away before I could even complete my sentence. I paid the bills and left almost immediately, my appetite having followed her out the door.
Later that night, I sat by the balcony with my earphones plugged in enjoying the cool breeze that escorted the night, while Maami prepared for night vigil. I heard loud bangs on the door, which I ignored guessing it was our noisy neighbours disturbing for the umpteenth time. Suddenly I heard voices coming from the living room of which a voice overshadowed all others.
“Owo da? Nobody would get hurt!” It sounded feminine and familiar. I rushed into the living room to the sight of four armed men. One shot at me in shock, reflexes I assume. It happened in a flash. I slammed into the sofa and hit my head hard against the patent wooden floor. It wasn’t the bullet that sent me crashing down, it was the weight of Maami. She took the bullet meant for me.
“What have you done? Let’s get out of here now!” the feminine voice said. I looked up to see Feyi whose eyes held a sorry glint as they all ran out. I held Maami in my hands, tears rolling down my cheeks as I shouted for help. Surprisingly, the paramedics arrived quickly with an ambulance and whisked Maami out of my arms. “Oga mi. There’s a pulse, she’s passed out. This one still dey alive oh…” one of them shouted to the others. They examined her closely and fished out a Bible in the breast pocket of her coat. The bible had taken the bullet. I latched onto those words of hopes that Maami is still alive as we drove down to the hospital. It was the longest ten minutes’ drive of my life. I paced the hospital ward, praying that she would be silent. At last a doctor came out and indicated I could go in. I rushed inside and saw Maami lying there, the beeps from the electrocardiograms in the room, the only sound. I sat by her bed side and took her hand. “Maami, I love you.” The tears fell from my eyes as I couldn’t help but think of a mother’s love for her child.
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