POSTED 01/19/2018 14:59
Christmas comes with a loud aura. The weather shouts, the children too, even the animals which are ignorant of the fact that they would be used to appease stomachs as peace offerings, even the hearts of the parents who know the burden of purchase the season comes with shout within the cages of their ribs.
I wish I could tell the world to wrap me in its noise, perhaps my head would find its cool in the noise. I work as a fashion designer. Against the general thought that, folks who sew cloths are usually junks and unkempt, I am neat. I like my things tidied and in order. My magazines, tool box, game console etc, all have their places.
I am what people call a lost soul. I have tried to detached myself from my family, choosing a life of isolation, but they won’t let go. Maybe I am lucky to have such a caring family, maybe I don’t deserve them. My joy calling… my phone displays.
My mum. Today is 11, she is calling to remind me of the things I am supposed to get for Christmas: salad ingredients, fruits, ribbons and balloons, and most of all a husband. I left the phone to vibrate mildly against the bed I’m lazily lying on. I yawn, casting a sideward glance at the TV, boring as always.
I begin to wander in thought like a shepherd boy pursued by a bear. I think of work, how the boring times seem to swallow the beautiful ones. I remember John’s last message, November 2nd, before I quit our partnership last Friday - to be his woman. The greatest principle I will never flaw: to date a colleague in the same work place. We are both fashonistas and designers, and I love it at that. The thought of sharing the same office with someone who has asked me out and I rejected, is repelling. That was why I decided to call it a quit. Though John had asked if that was why I was quitting, I lied, saying I just don’t feel like partnering anymore.
I remember my first day at his shop, during NYSC. I was his apprentice, and I found him interesting, especially the way he related with his workers and staff. He still maintains the same, but I just don’t know why I find it even boring. When I told him, I would like to work with him after service, the glow on his face made me pity him. He seems a man of his own self too.
I remember university days, my friends, males and females. The times we were broke, the times we just would sleep with comedies from the guys, being occasionally spiced up by the ladies as dinners were fun. I am even smiling to myself. The thought of every Christmas break from school strikes me with nostalgia. Everyone from the hostel would pack their bags the same day, and those with similar destination would travel en mass. We discuss and chat naughty till the buses were ready to move, and everyone would follow his own transit.
I walk the lanes of my early life, my childhood. Childhood was a very interesting part of my life; the sincere friendship and innocence, the plays and all sorts were fun and life in themselves. But most interestingly, I remember my childhood friend, Kent. He was my best friend, and we shared so many things in common, from the plays, to secrets, to family issues and personal issues. We have been friends since I was in primary school and throughout secondary school; we made sure our parents sent us to the same school, however, it did not work out for higher institution. Kent asked me out in S.S.S 2, when love at our age, was still ignorance. I denied. I didn’t expect he would ask me out. Moreover, the attention and wooing I was getting from other boys was interesting, and they massaged my ego.
I remember, Kent spoke harshly to me, saying I was getting drowned in the attentions boys who don’t like me were giving to me. He asked me questions about who really cared, whom I shared secret with, who knew me so well that could tell me my likes and hates. I shrugged him off, thinking he was joking, knowing all those things would pass away with childhood.
I am jolted back to reality! By Jove! Really, the relationship I had always wanted was right here within my court. Kent is a wonderful man and friend, or should I say was? I shut him out of my life some two years back when he kept pestering me with his profession of love. I was dating another guy then, a guy who never knew the right spot to target. He is caring, but his jokes were expensive and demeaning. I gave up on him. After him, I tried another, my friends named him price, he added price tag to everything he bought for me, and if mistakenly scratched or lost, the whole world would hear.
Kent was home last Christmas, he tried to hang out with me, but I put up an excuse. His parent’s place isn’t far from mine. Somehow, I look forward to spending time with him this Christmas. I feel sad too, because having kept him outside the court for so long makes me feel, he wouldn’t want to talk with me anymore. We haven’t spoken throughout this year. I am feeling guilty for wanting to meet him too, because it looks as if I want to use him to fill up my miserable life that is without meaning, and also to give my parents what they have always wanted, a suitor. I really wish this for Christmas, but I know it is too much to hope for.
As I journey home from Lagos, through Ore, Christmas was spelt everywhere, street sellers hawk and marketize their goods, their voices fill the air. Nothing has changed; the bad road, the dusty air, rusty rooftops among others. Today is 18. As we gallop into Benin City, I curse myself for not taking a direct flight.
At the Uselu park, I drag my heavy boxes to get them arranged for a taxi.
"Ireti! Omono mose mose (beautiful child)." I recognize the voice, it is Kent's mother. It carries the same power as Kent's. I turn around. She bore her eyes into mine and smile. She asks about my faring and request I greet my parents. She mutters something about me not changing as she makes to leave. After some steps, she turns to say "Your friend will be home, tomorrow or next."
I alighted from the taxi tired, exhausted and hungry. I pressed the bell beside the gate of my 'father's compound'. Mum had said I should stop calling it my Father's compound, as girls my age were already sending suitors home like fly. I would laugh anyway. Ada, my cousin opened the gate. My bags were hauled inside. Mum rushed to me and blessed my cheeks with kisses. She stands on her toes to peep through the gate bars. I shrug and walk inside. She came in and tugged at my arm.
"Ireti, I didn't see anyone outside. Did you hide him somewhere?" I act confused and walk to the kitchen to see what was cooked. Mum made bean porridge, just how I like it; yam diced in cubes, ripe plantain sliced in circles and garnished with fresh enitan.
I have been buying packets of salt for the past two days, just to have a reason to go outside. I know mum is becoming suspicious, noticing the salt can is full. Benin City seems to have the hottest sunshine in Nigeria.
"Ireti," mum calls, while I still assess the sun from the veranda. "Please don't buy another pack of salt today. Walk through the market, a young man or an Americana might notice your yellow face, buy him with that salt money you are holding." I laughed.
I walk towards Kent's place. I resolve to cover as if what I want to buy is a fish if I don't see him outside. I was contemplating on what bargaining tactics to use.
"Yellow pawpaw." I know the voice.
I am tempted to run towards him in an instant, I resist. The odds seem higher than my resistance. I found my hands wrapped around Kent in a hug. I refused his offer to come inside, saying my purpose was to come get fish, and it is needed at home.
Two days later, I'm at Kent's place. It is two days until Christmas, I decide it won't be strange to deliver presents. I made that an excuse to visit. Kent's face seems as if he is waiting for me, unsurprised.
Handing out the basket to him, I say, "Well I brought cherries, I know your mum loves them, please help me give them to her." Rigidly, I turn to leave, he holds my hand almost immediately, a thousand and one butterflies dance in my stomach.
"You mind coming inside for a minute?" Kent says.
Do I mind? I do, I don't. I walk in anyway. I feel his eyes all over me, his words, or rather his voice pierce through my heart. His words slurp like bubbles in water.
"Ireti, you ain't listening to me, are you?” I am knocked back to reality.
"I am sorry Kent, for all the wrongs I have done you over the years. I am so sorry." He looks away.
"There is no need to apologize, times have gone by, we are still friends aren't we? Do you want to make it up to me?" I smile and nod.
He drags me to "Point & Kill" for a time out, despite my excuse of not being properly dressed.
At 8pm, we walk home hand in hand like a couple. Who wouldn't think we are? As we approach my gates, I withdraw my hand unconsciously, sharply. We both burst into laughter.
"Come on, your mum will not flog two adults for holding hands. What would she think if I come right into your room and we locked your door behind us?"
Still laughing I said nothing. But I wish he would really do that. I imagine what it would be like to share a room with him. I manage to say goodbye and that ends the night.
Kent comes over the following day. He helps with the cooking in the kitchen, as we really need some man power. After the work, we come into the room, my room. He sits on the bed and makes silly jokes, like the good old times. But now, he makes funny ones about marriage. He walks to where I am seated on the chair, places his hands on my shoulders and whispered, let's go to the all-night at St Patricks together. I think he was going to say something else, maybe plant a kiss on my lips. There is too much Chemistry in the room already. Mum knocks, Kent ushers her in, she eyes us both, and turned back to exit the room.
The adoration service starts by 9pm. The service is fun and impactful. It is almost 12, the priest counts down into the new day, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0!" The noise of "Happy Christmas" echoes through the church. People greet and felicitate with one another. I turn to greet Kent, who has been beside me throughout the service, there he is, kneeling beside me with a ring on his hand. The eyes around us flutter for answer. I kneel down in front of him and say yes. With tears in my eyes, joy in my heart and the ring on my finger I embrace Kent.
After church, as we walked together, I say to him, I fell in love at Christmas.
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