Hello guys. 🙂 Yes, i know it’s been ages since i strolled around these parts. I should blame that on life’s hassles. Lol. So i came up with something fresh to restore some life back to this page. The inspiration behind this story is early teenage exuberance and innocence. That time in our lives just after adolescence and some few feet away from full blown teenagedom. A time when feeble hearts get broken every other day by the wicked hands of unrequisted infatuation. And crushes, the daily bread through which all energy, thought and infantile yearnings were dissipated. Relax, read, enjoy and thank you in advance for leaving a comment
His skin was a creamy shade of mocha and in unison with the short slightly wavy curls on his head. Of medium height with a strong jaw and beautiful deep set brown eyes that crinkled at the corners. He was undeniably bi-racial and his kind were popularly called half castes. His nose was finely shaped and slightly crooked like a Grecian’s. I could see his lips move but I was deaf to speech, enraptured with his perfect ivory teeth.
“Do you live here?” He repeated slowly with almost perfect British intonation whilst waving his finely manicured hands in my face.
Who was this man? Why was my pulse racing so dangerously? He must have walked out of the flat opposite mine on the landing above. Was he a relative of Aunty Romoke’s? Was he here for her traditional wedding holding the day after tomorrow?
“You’re quite the shy one aren’t you?” He remarked laughingly, intruding on my shambled thoughts.
Apart from the motionless effect his presence had on me, there was another reason why I wasn’t in control. Anger! Seni! Foolish Seni, my childhood buddy who had suddenly developed the courage to write me a cheesy love letter just because he had two or three strands of hair growing out of his chin. An act I found completely ridiculous. I was turning the big FIFTEEN in a few days, becoming an adult. Love letters were for kids. I’d gone ahead to confront him some minutes earlier at our community’s water site. An argument had ensued and the words ‘snob’, ‘brat’, ‘immature’, unworthy’, ‘ugly’ had been exchanged. But here I stood, bucket of water in hand, my shuku cornrows half loosened, Nixoderm on my face , standing with this lovely( not immature and definitely worthy of all my love) stranger, who I’d nearly bumped into on the stairway leading to my family’s two-room flat.
I was usually quite the bold and brazen one even at my young age, but this…… this impromptu flirtation with this demi-god who looked at least twice my age had totally caught me off guard.
He was staring at me now inquisitively. Arms akimbo, silent and just staring with those gorgeous eyes. Butterflies and silly tremors coursed through my being. Though young, I was not lost to the effect my prime body had on men. Fully developed breasts, well rounded bottom and finely shaped hips were physical assets my 5’2 full figured, bow legged body did a terrible job of concealing. As for the bowed legs, I’d read something excitingly descriptive about those somewhere. I suddenly got hold of myself before I made a fool of myself some more and walked past him sharply. He gently grabbed my elbow and spun me around. Pause! Was he… was he going to ……… The thought sent my heart into a jig of sorts. My first kiss just a few days to my 15th birthday? Was it going to be like I’d seen it done in movies and read about in the cheesy romance novels I usually hid under my mattress?
To my chagrin he grinned and introduced himself as Timipre and fortunately I was able to find my voice though slightly laced with just the barest tinge of disappointment and replied “Bamidele”.
“Nice meeting you Bamidele. Should see you around sometime.” he winked and disappeared down the flight of stairs.
I held on to the banister to steady my wobbling knees. At that same moment, the door to my flat opened and out came my brother bouncing his brown (once sparkling white) football.
“Why do you look so pale…….” he paused for effect with the most annoying smirk spread on his face. “………iyawo Timipre”.
I rolled my eyes in disgust, walked past him and slammed the door in his cheeky little round face.
The morning air here and as far as 200 metres from my home was rent with the aroma of wood, fire, and food. The mixture of which always signalled the beginnings of an owambe. I looked out the window in my mother’s room at the throng of women (most of them residing in the vicinity) gathered around giant pots and fires, all busy with one meal or the other. My mother dressed in her Ankara kaba was busy turning amala in a pot big enough to feed 100 guests. It was some few hours to Aunty Romoke’s (or Ronnie as she’d rather be called) traditional engagement ceremony.
Satisfied that my mother was busy, I brought out her make-up purse from her drawer and perched comfortably in front of her vanity mirror in my beautifully sequined undergarment.
The memory of the brief encounter I’d had with the man on the stairs to my flat two days ago lit up my face like a Christmas tree. No better sign to prove that we were meant to be than our names. They both ended with the letter ‘e’ and rhymed as well. “Would our age difference constitute a hindrance to our already blooming romance?” “Would our kids look half as good as their father”? I shook this and other questions from my thoughts and concentrated on properly applying my mother’s beauty enhancers on my face although I knew she strongly disapproved of me using them.
Ronnie though way older than I, was to me the elder sister I never had. She lived in the flat opposite ours with her parents and siblings. She had been my school mother through primary and secondary school. We were more like siblings than neighbours. It had come as no surprise when she informed me months earlier that I would be the one to read her engagement letter today and had gone ahead to buy for me the same exclusive aso-ebi her family would wear. It was only natural therefore that I looked my very best. I had a strong hunch Timipre would be around because I was quite certain he was either Ronnie’s colleague, friend or relative. This was an opportunity to make a better second impression not as a painfully shy and confused teenager but the grown woman I was.
The bedroom door suddenly swung open with a soft snick from the latch. I nearly broke a leg whilst jumping up and away from the mirror, my ‘painted’ face an evidence of my tomfoolery. My mother squinted at me and didn’t utter a word for seconds (tick….tock….tick). Seconds that felt like eternity before she finally smiled and said “You should try adding some tiro to your eyelid”.
“ Iyawo a bi beji t’oluwa ba fe, iyawo a bi beji t’oluwa ba fe…………..”
(The bride shall birth twins if the Lord so desires)
The alagas are usually a joy to watch at weddings. Their intrinsic ability to easily break into songs and the stern yet mischievous methods they applied in draining the purses of the groom’s family was pure gold.
I would be called in soon to read the engagement letter. My eyes scanned the perimeter of the ceremony grounds. Six big canopies were filled to the brim with guests. Earlier I’d heard some women discussing in my language about how Ronnie had sensibly “taken her eyes to the market”. I looked to the couple’s alcove to see just how true that was. The groom’s head was bowed as he busied himself adjusting his agbada and though I couldn’t see his face; I had to admit his traditional attire blended beautifully with his physique. Just as I turned briefly to re-tye my wrapper, my name was announced over the microphone. Ushered in by the bata drummers and alagas, I danced like it was my last remembering my mother’s advice that I would be sprayed money and the amount might very well depend on how well I could komole. She had even given lessons for effect. I danced in swaying and swinging to the sound of the drums, while i instantly got showered with twenty and fifty naira notes. And then I saw him. It took all my willpower not to stand upright and remain transfixed to the spot. Timipre looking the part of the handsome devil wasn’t a relative, neither was he a guest. He was the groom. Ronnie’s groom. The drums, beats, music had all faded into some vacuity in my head. I watched feebly as he whispered into his bride’s ear, making her giggle. I bowed my head and kept on swaying maniacally and only paused when one of the alagas stood in front of me with the letter in hand. She was staring at me oddly. Apparently the music hadn’t faded into some obscure part of my mind, it had stopped and I hadn’t noticed. She handed me the letter and made a quick joke to the crowd about how I couldn’t stop dancing because I enjoyed having money sprayed on me. There was an almost superficial uproar of laughter which I found profoundly infuriating.
With a calm and clear voice that hid the raging emotions within, I delved into the task.
“From the entire family of Dr and Mrs Idowu Osho to the entire family of High chief and Dame Bassey Tonye,………….” He had winked at me hadn’t he? There had been chemistry between us hadn’t there? Heart broken, legs trembling, mouth quivering, I concentrated harder on the letter.
“…..we are delighted to acknowledge receipt of your letter, intimating us of the love existing between your son, Timipre……”. I faltered a bit. “…. Alexander and our precious daughter Romoke Oluwabusolami, furthermore seeking our consent that they be………………”.
I caught my mother smiling and giving me the thumbs up sign far across the arena. My brother seated beside her was comically blowing kisses my way. I smiled back and concluded the letter which had seemed to stretch on for eternity like the national budget. Before proceeding out the hall I tried throwing a baleful glare Timipre’s way but my view was obstructed. What right had he to take my heart, squish it and throw it to the dogs? I walked far away from the tents and the noise to sob a bucketful and maybe calm my nerves in the process.
I couldn’t allow Ronnie marry that pervert, that liar, that paedophile. Yes! She needed to know her beloved Timipre had made advances towards me just two days ago. Was that even his real name? Convinced of what I had to do, I marched back to the hall. I would spill everything to her and then she’d get mad and feel the sting of betrayal just like I had some minutes ago and angrily call off the wedding while I would stand back and relish his public humiliation and rejection. Oh, the joy! I was in the tent now and continued marching on, the object of my intent in view. He wasn’t deserving of my ‘sister’ or I. She should know the sort of sick man she was marrying. The worst kind who had……. Some ten feet away from their beautifully decorated alcove, Timipre looked my way, saw me and nudged his bride to look in my direction also. They both smiled and waved with Ronnie beckoning me to come over. She had never looked more stunning. I stood rooted to the spot. Who had what really? Made small chit-chat with me and walked on? How did that translate into an affair? Oh My God! My hand automatically flew to my mouth. The enormity of what I’d been about to do and the series of cataclysmic events that would have ensued made me gasp. I maniacally waved back, an artificial grin plastered onto my face and lunged out of the marquee as fast as I could. What I’d been about to do and the fact that I had modelled an innocent simplistic conversation with a stranger into a relationship in my head revealed the simple incontestable fact that I was still a child. A child who had nigh lain to waste another’s happiness. A child who would have made a complete fool of herself and her lineage (this being the best case scenario). A child who was foolishly trying to live out her Harlequin fantasies. I’d even begun to plan our wedding in my head. (Timipre Weds Bamidele, or was it ‘hooks’ they used these days). I urgently required my mother’s trademark abara to restore me back to my senses because I was without an iota of doubt, nuts.
Lowering myself onto a white plastic chair nearby, my thoughts a rollercoaster of shock, incredulity and stupefaction, I felt a stream of cold water being sprayed onto my neck. I turned around infuriated and there stood Seni, my estranged friend and my brother giggling a very safe distance from me.
“You can’t catch us.” they bellowed as they stuck out their tongues and took off. I instantly grabbed some half full bottles of water laying on a table some spaces away from me, my roguish, tomboyish nature already kicking in whilst also pulling my damask wrapper up to my knees. The gele my mother had taken adequate time to artistically style some hours ago already hanging halfway down the back of my head in the most grotesquely misshapen state. Those miscreants would learn today. I made quite the sight that fine afternoon as I ran after my assailants, laughing and hoping to half drown them, my dangerous crush on Timipre already fading into distant memory.
A GLOSSARY OF YORUBA TERMS
|Abara (n) —-An heavy painful slap on the back
Agbada (n) —-Native outfit worn by the men folk in all parts of Nigeria.
Alaga (n) —-Master of ceremony (especially at a traditional engagement ceremony in Nigeria.
Amala (n) —- A meal made from cassava
Bata (n) —— Talking drum
Gele (n) —— Traditional head gear worn by women in Nigeria and other parts of Africa
Kaba (n) —–A loose fitting gown
Komole (v) —To dance all the way to the ground whilst maintaining a steady unfaltering stance
Shuku (n) —-Popular native hair style in Nigeria.
Tiro (n) ——Locally made beauty enhancer usually applied on the lower eyelids
Photo Credit: http://www.minneapolis.com