It was unusually quiet this evening as I sat down on our porch, observing the porch light and the arboreal insects that were hovering around it, flapping their wings rapidly and flying with full force towards the incandescent bulb, leading to their early demise.
A swift and short breeze cut through the air, making me shiver, it was quite cold tonight.
The air reeked of something acrid. Like a piece of wood being set ablaze. I stared out into the night, and sure enough, my doubts were cleared. The night was still alive, the night was still young. Menial and petty businesses were taking place as usual; there were different people engaged in different sort of activities. Women frying akara, and little children dancing around her, with their faces gleaming, as the dancing flame of the fire cast a warm orange glow on their little teenage acne-infected faces.
Other women were roasting corn too, the popping sound of the corn adding to the eerie sound of the night, and some few Hausa men roasting suya, too. Fire sparked into the sky, and died out immediately.
It was indeed a chilly evening, and I sat down comfortably absorbing it all, until out of the blues, she appeared.
She was the new girl in town. She moved in with her family few weeks ago. She had no new friends, and I was willing to dispute that fact. I have been stalking her for a while now, and that was my chance to move in. That was definitely my chance to make a move. Goodness gracious, she was so beautiful. Adorable! I don’t think she belonged to this world. She looked like something from an imagination.
From where I sat, I watched her walk to the Hausa’s man shack. She talked smoothly with him for a short period of time. And after the brief conversation, the Hausa man smiled, exposing his chocolate brown set of crooked and mis-aligned teeth.
Then afterwards, he started slicing and dicing up some chunk of red meat, while the girl stood, crossed arms around her chest, and waited.
It’s now or never, I thought, I better move in. Maybe I’ll get to know her name, or even better, collect her mobile number.
So pretending I was there to buy suya, whereas I was broke like a stone to a glass, I greeted the Mallam, “Aboki, sanu.”
The mallam smiled and nodded in response to my greeting. I turned towards the girl and said, “Hello, good evening.” I extended my hand for a shake.
The girl shook my hand and responded, “Good evening.”
And I swear, with that fire reflecting in her eyes, she looked even cuter.
And that was it. I froze. My whole scheme was literally going down the drain. Another thick and rugged voice brought me back to life, “Aboki, how much own you want?” My heart skipped a beat. I didn’t have money with me. Okay! I was doomed. I sensed the man waiting for me. I had to fix this.
Using my wits, I said the first thing that popped inside my head. “Err, bri-bri, bring five hundred naira own,” I stuttered. Even the words were scared to come out of my mouth, I felt like rapture should take place and end this pending disaster.
The man looked at me and said something that made me cringe, made my nerves rack up the shelves. He just killed my night.
“Aboki, you fit wait small?” he asked, “na just now I open shop, I never roast plenty meat.” He paused, coughed as smoke shot through his nostril, then he continued, “And this girl say na 1,500 naira own she want.”
I gulped, and nodded, and sweat rolled from my forehead to my cheeks in slow motion.
I was technically crying, and my subconscious was yelling, ‘Abort mission! Abort mission!” But I didn’t move a single muscle. It felt as though my feet was rooted to the ground. I feigned a yawn, and replied the mallam, “Okay, I go wait small.”
The mallam went back to roasting, and I stood there, waiting. My eyes were getting glassy, as smoke slowly rose from the fire and ascended into my eyes. The night was getting old, I needed to make another move, a second attempt.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” I ended up saying to her. “You look very familiar.”
She cast a dry and uninterested look at me, and spoke with obvious sarcasm detected in her voice, “Yes, we do know each other. I just moved in last two weeks, and I think I am not new to this area anymore.”
Okay, I laughed. That didn’t go so well. But I wasn’t ready to call it a day. Third time is the charm, so they say. “Aren’t you Halima?”
She looked at me inquisitively, her eyebrows perked up, and a foolish smile forming at the corner of her lips. “Is this how you woo girls?” she asked. My mouth went dry immediately. I was taken aback, and momentary paralyzed in the mouth, “Because, if this is how you approach a girl, with stupid and unnecessary questions, then it would be of no surprise you’re still single and in desperate need of a girlfriend.”
I heard a chuckle. It was quick, brief and short. It was from the mallam.
Ouch! I don’t know why, but that wrecked and crumpled my wings, hurt my feelings on so many levels. I felt my heart behind my chest, beating faster than the drums on Bruce Springsteen Rock n Roll concert. I was bleeding out, I was wounded deeply, and I needed to get the heck out of there while I still had the chance. She might be beautiful and amazing, but her heart wasn’t.
“Uh, I-I,” I stuttered. I couldn’t even say a single word. I was too embarrassed. “Aboki, forget the suya,” I blurted out, trying not to make eye contact with anybody.
And without waiting for a reply, I walked away, feeling angry and at the same time, feeling relieved. Because, I didn’t know how I would’ve paid the man. At least, something good came out of this night.
I exhaled. Dang it! I am too flipping sensitive.
The night looked dead, nothing made sense. The moon looked like a dead orb, with dead battery cells working it. The stars looked like puppets, hanging by a single thread from above the clouds.
Back at my porch, I was seated comfortably, and waiting for the night to get old and die, while reminiscing about how everything went south so soon, a voice interrupted me.
“Uncle Ray. Good evening.” I spun towards the direction of the voice, and saw my neighbour’s son, Jacob.
“Jacob, good evening,” I responded dryly, “How are you?”
“I am fine,” he said, and almost immediately, he added, “Uncle, somebody said I should give this to you.” He extended his hairless lanky arm towards me, revealing a black polythene bag. I hesitated for a while, before taking the bag from his hand. And without a second to spare, Jacob sprinted off immediately, fading into the darkness.
The polythene bag reeked of suya. I did the sign of the cross, and opened the bag, exposing its contents to my naked eyes. It was half filled with suya, and with the looks of it, probably cost much. Also, there was a note, a note from someone named, ‘Your supposed Halima.’
“Las las,” I laughed and bellowed out like a wild animal. I read the note out loud to myself.
“I AM SORRY FOR TREATING YOU THE WAY I DID. I WAS SORTA MAD AT SOMETHING THAT TIME, AND UNFORTUNATELY, YOU GOT IN THE WAY. I HOPE THIS LETTER AND BARBEQUE…”
I paused. “Barbecue?” I questioned myself. “Who this babe dey speak English for?”
I continued. “… COVERS IT ALL. DON’T LOOK AT IT AS IF I AM BRIBING YOU, I AM NOT. I AM SORRY, AND I TRULY MEAN IT. LOOK AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAPER, YOU’LL SEE MY NUMBER THERE. BYE FOR NOW”
The night and starts winked in agreement.