by Lady Kay
A work in progress
|“There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be...”
Babatunde picked his bags from baggage claim at Murtala Mohammed International Airport and the sun of Lagos: different from any other sun in the world hit him the moment he stepped outside the arrival halls. Hot and scorching, he took out his Stetsons from his breast and shielded his eyes. His iphone had predicted a 32degrees temperature but this felt like a microwave. Beads of sweat were already making his cotton white shirt stick to his fair skin, and he was tired from flying 18 hours straight.
“ Oyibo, I give you dollar, good price. Abi na pounds? Euro”?
“Do you need a hotel sir”?
He had never been so hassled in his life, and at an airport. For Pete’s sake! Where was his mother’s driver? He was almost at swatting off another vendor of sorts off when an elderly man dressed in blue Ankara walked up to him with a phone in his hand and a his picture on his screen.
“At last!”He thought to himself. His pick-up was here.
“My name is Lekan. Your mother, Mrs Adedoyin sent me make I come pick you sah”
Gingerly taking my Louis Vuitton bags, he opened the trunk of a very well kept Mercedes and put the bags in.
I was already inching towards the passenger’s seat when he declined.
“No o. Ah! Oga, you go siddon for owner’s corner.”
He sees the confusion in my light brown eyes as I take my Stetsons.
“Yes, sah. Na back seat. Where the owner of the motor dey siddon. Madam no go happy if I carry you go house and you siddon for front. E no dey respecktfu.
I am too tired to argue with the old man that where I seat makes absolutely no difference but his seriousness about this “owner’s corner” business makes me acquiesce and I take the space behind the passenger’s seat. Moreover, no one wants to face the anger of alhaja. Not even me.
He gets behind the wheel and I am surprised the first thing he does is snap his seat-belt on. Something is certainly different about drivers in Lagos now and the drivers in Lagos I knew as a kid whilst attending King’s College in Lagos Island. Even way different from the Lagos I visited eight years ago.
The airport slowly becomes a speck in the distance as we head towards my mother’s house in Ebute-Metta. I slowly stretch my wary legs, and look around at the City’s scape realising that Lagos is not called the most populated city in Africa for nothing. Where were all the molues? Beggars? Heaps of dirt and grime by the roadside?
Flying from one of the farthest continents to Africa has taken its toll on me, yet I am not sleepy. If anything, I am more purposeful than ever. To get the interpretation of my dreams. A certain young lady has been assaulting my sleep and after seeing her in my dreams six times in the past three months, I had to call my mother.
I grew up knowing just one parent which was tough. Being called an “omo-ale”on the streets of Ebute-Metta is no big deal for it was a common street curse. However, when people knew I was alhaja’s son, every the insults ceased. But, when no father shows up for career day, PTA, and never knowing how to explain why I was a zebra; not like other kids Neither white nor black always made me wonder why I was different. Fine hair, fair skin, and fair eyes.
Against, my mother’s wishes, I fought in school. It was not my fault really. The class bully Segun won’t let me be but that day was different. It was break-time, when he walked up me, where I was eating my lunch and called my mother a prostitute. For a lad, he was big. The kind of size that comes with eating a lot of meat-pies, ice-cream, and other sweets. I was taller, and quicker. After doing a quick calculation that I will not be able to tackle him off the ground, I walked up to him, brimming with fury and slapped his two ears hard.
This for a moment threw him off balance. The blows on his head followed after. After about five minutes of pure torture for the poor kid who was now crying, I was pulled off him by a senior.
Segun was notorious for being the class bully and that day, I received a lot of pats on the back by my classmates; especially his victims. No one tried messing with me afterwards till my brother and I left the school two years later to finish and further our education abroad where I lived with my father and his wife who were childless.
According to my father, my mother and he was a love that could never be. Two different backgrounds, different races and two different religions. She was a Muslim chief’s daughter from Illorin and he was a young priest in Africa for the first time. He probably caught “jungle fever” as them racists will say and soon enough, when it was time to leave, he left. Unable to do much. He wrote letters but my mother never replied any of them Until many years later when her father, the old chief died.
According to my mother, my father was spineless and could not stand up for her, despite the love she had for him. When he left, she discovered she was pregnant. Being a muslim, after the children were born, this did not stop suitors from coming to seek her hand in marriage as in Islam, it is not proper for a woman to be left without a husband. She vehemently refused to respond to my father’s letters until the letters stopped coming and she raised my brother and I up single-handedly. Well, we had grand-pa the chief, but my mother was very industrious. She had small connections and utilized them well by supplying bags of rice and getting small supply contracts. Before chief died, he made her swear to contact my father which we did. Upon hearing he had children, he made all the necessary arrangements for my brother and I to move to the United Kingdom where we furthered our education.
Babadele, my younger brother by three minutes, and thirty seconds and I, currently live in Melbourne Australia where we co-own and run a software development company. It sounds like easy work, but it isn’t. Still we love what we do, we love both our parents, never mind their unfriendliness towards each other.
An hour later, I am home and nothing much has changed. A maid who has a fitting, yet disturbing name comes to help with the bags once the gate is thrown open. My room has changed since I was here last and my Yoruba is very rusty.
“E Kabo sir. My name is Comfort sir, and alhaja she dey pray lowo. If there is anything you want sir, make I know.”
I can’t believe mummy still prays five times day. I thought she was not even a practicing Muslim. I take off my shoes, lie in rather too soft bed, close my eyes while the cool air from the airconditioner wafts.
“Alham dillulahi, Omo mi ti de o!”
As Alhaja Fatima Adedoyin, my mother walks into my room still covered with her hijab and I do a mini postration.
“Good evening, ma.”
“Ba mi, omo mi, bawo wo ni te? She hugs me tightly and she smells of the Arabian perfume I remember as a child.
I kiss her cheek and she is almost on the verge of tears.
“My child, I thought I will never see you again. How Aburo e nko?
“He’s fine ma.”
“How is business ma?” I ask.
“My dear, business is there o. It is not like it used to be. I am thinking of retiring.”
“Alhaja, you have been thinking of retiring since I was a child. I don’t know why you work at all. Dele and I can take care of you.”
“Omo mi, don’t you know that it is not having something to do that kills one fast? Even the Christians say it. “The idle mind is the devil’s workshop”
My mother will only quote a bible scripture to win an argument with me. I am not a Muslim, and I don’t care much for fanaticism; from any religion.
“Its not as if the money you both send me is not enough o. It is, but I have to keep my mind and body sharp. Shebi you understand?”
Her eyes are twinkling as though she is sharing the secret to living long and I smile.
“Yes ma, I understand.”
“Oya, come and eat. Boya you ate on the plane does not make any difference. I prepared efo-riro and Iyan for you. Wash your hands and come to the dining.”
This not an invitation, or a question. It is a subtle command, and No is unacceptable. As a child, I remember that there was always some sort of cooking or the other always going on. During Ramadan, it is non-stop. There is always food for visitors. Be it a beggar, a child, family members and strangers alike.
My very portly mother makes her way out of my room. The signal that she is waiting.
Efo has never tasted better. Goodness me! For a moment I nearly forgot why I practical ran down to Nigeria amidst the signing of huge deal between Twin co. and Microsoft. After settling down on a sofa, belly full of vegetables and pounded yam, I proceed to tell alhaja what the problem was. I had briefed her on the phone, so she already had a rough idea.
“Has Kehinde been having the same dream”
“No ma. He hasn’t.”
Kehinde was a ladies man. Charming, smooth talker, physically exactly like me save for a birthmark behind his right ear.
“I doubt Kehinde will be worried if he saw a girl in his dreams ma”
“That child is wasting his good years with all these girls. He should settle down and marry. You both should give me grandchildren. Thirty-two year old bachelors! Ya Allah !”
The last sentence is expelled with a bit of drama, her hands in the air as though in supplication and I laugh out loud; unable to contain myself. She is the epitome of seriousness so the laugh is stifled just as quickly as it spilled out.
“My son, I have found what the dream means. Before you came, I travelled to Illorin. Hear me out before you speak” She says sternly as I am about to interject.
“You don’t talk over your elders. Did I not teach you anything? Abi, has Ilu-Oyibo spoiled you that you have now lost your manners?”
“O ma ti baje. I hope you know you are not too big for me to beat. An okro can not grow taller than its owner.”
“I know ma”
“ Last week, I travelled to Illorin. To get to the “idi” of this dream. I am told that in your former life, which is a very long time ago, even before I was born, you were married to this woman. Well not exactly the face you see but the way she was also in her former life. I remember my father said when you were born that you look almost exactly like his late father, only you are a fairer version. That is why he named you and your brother Babatunde and Babadele- Father has come, and the other, father has come home. You and this woman were so much in love but could not marry as her parents forced her to marry a rich merchant. You both vowed then, that no matter what happened, you will find each other in your next lives”.
“Mum, this is impossible. There is no such thing as re-incarnation. Maybe it was a bad idea to have travelled down”
“So, it was a bad idea to visit your mother abi”?
“Mummy” I say sweetly as I hold her calloused hands. “I did not mean it that way. I was just hoping to find an answer, and who knows maybe even find her. But this re-incarnation theory..I am out of my depth here. It is difficult to take in. “
“There are many questions in this world that even your software can not explain. Tell me why two complete strangers can look alike. Or a child is born, dies from an accident. Another child is born with the same scar left behind from the dead child’s accident.”
“I have no idea ma. Genetics maybe? “
“All that is big English. It is a mystery. It is late, and you must be tired. Take a shower before bed” she says as though talking to a ten year old Babatunde.
I kiss her cheek goodnight, head to the en-suite bathroom, where I take a shower and fall into a dreamless sleep.
Today makes it exactly one week I had that conversation with my mother. I am walking towards the Mercedes, on the phone with Dele when I see her the Earth just stopped rotating on its axis.
She looked exactly like her. This was totally unexplainable. She was even more beautiful than the girl in my dreams. I don’t know when I walk transfixed to her and of all the words to say, all that comes out of my mouth is “ It’s you”.
Nifemi quickly collected her wits as he walked towards her.
“ He must probably think I’m some type of crazy chick who stares at men lustfully.”
The butterflies won’t stop. How could they? He was here. It seemed like twenty minutes that he stood a foot away from her. Hands not outstretched for a handshake, No “Hello”, Just “It’s you”. Those words came out like melting butter, smooth and her knees almost gave way under the intensity of his gaze.
Why were her lips parched all of a sudden? How did he get here? Was it real?
“Uh, Nifemi” Nicky’s voice reached her ears.
“I just decided to take a taxi. I’l ping you later.”
No “please, wait, or I said I’ll drop you off”.
“Alright bye dear”
With that Nicky, very amused walked off and left me with Eric.
“I’m sorry, I must have scared your friend away. My name is Babatunde.” He said stretching his right hand for a handshake, phone in the left.
I suddenly became conscious of my makeup studio Tees, black pair of jeans, hair in a messy bun, minimal makeup and loafers.
“I am Nifemi” I say. Sure that my voice came out dry as this man had completely overrun my senses.
His hands touched mine, and I felt a “zing!”electric current like sensation. Holding that hand and looking into his thick lashed brown eyes, all I wanted at this moment was to cuddle up in his frame and remain there forever.
His lips moved.
“May I buy you a drink? I know this is impromptu but I don’t want to waste a second, now I have met you.”
If he has asked me to go to Mars with him, that very moment, I would say a big, fat yes. We walked back into the galleria, found a cafeteria of sorts, and ordered drinks we both knew we were not really interested in drinking.
“Where are you from? I know your name is Babatunde but it’s a bit confusing since you are..”
“Since I am half white. Right? “
“I did not mean it like that. I am just curious..”
“Well, my mother is Yoruba, and my father English. But I consider myself more Nigerian than anything else”
The voice in her head said “ You know your mother has a problem with foreigners. Better start praying she approves”.
That was the beginning of a conversation that lasted till 10.00pm without a break in eye contact. They talked about their jobs, childhoods, music movies, arts, football and discovered they had a lot in common. They both loved soul, RnB, soft rock, thrillers and so, the evening had no awkward lapses of silence.
“Can I tell you something? Please don’t freak out or think I am a psycho”Babatunde said his hand clasping hers, and eyes devouring every inch of her beautiful face.
“My God, she is equisite” he thought. Strands of hair had escaped from bun framing her face, and he loved that she was not wearing too much make-up. Giving him opportunity to drink in her natural beauty. It was taking all his will-power not to tip that little jaw of hers and taste those rosebud lips that were driving him crazy each time she flicked her tongue over them like a thirsty little minx.
“Tell me, she said. I am un-shockable.”
“I came to Nigeria because I have been seeing you in my dreams for the past three months. I know this sounds cliché but I feel like I have known you before. Somewhere we have met, but where, I do not know.”
So he had been having the dreams as well!
Thinking she would withdraw her hands from his clasp, he held Nifemi tighter, praying she won’t bail out and run out of the galleria. Her response shocked him to his core.
“I have been seeing you in my dreams as well. Not just a fleeting passing, but constantly..and we were an item”
“You mean lovers?”
Lowering her eyes to veil the passion burning in them, she said a small “yes.”
“Onifemi”, this is no co-incidence. I just met you but I know you. I feel for once in my life that I am whole. There are no missing bits. You are my completeness. If you would let me, I want to date you exclusively, explore this “thing” that is happening to both of us. It is too soon for me to express in detail how I feel, because I want to treat you like the delicate flower you are. Will you”
He just called her “Onifemi”. The one who holds my love. All this time when she thought something was wrong with her, his words made her heart swell. Finally, she was going to have a man. Her man.
“ I would like to be with you as well, and I believe we are right for each other.”
None wanting to leave the other, and both hungry for each other they grudgingly stood up to leave after exchanging phone numbers and as he walked her back to her car, they weren’t the same people who met hours ago.
Giggling like children, his hand on the small of her back, both of them totally oblivious of the fact that people were staring at them, he opened the door of her car and looked her straight in the face. She was mumbling something when his lips descended on hers.
The shock of the kiss jolted Nifemi to her toes. It was a hot, molten kiss and despite being a novice, what she lacked in expertise, she made up with passion.
She tasted like a ripe juicy fruit, and it was easy to tell she had not had many kissers. Thank God, for that he thought silently. Already getting jealous someone else had enjoyed these lips before him. Taking the lead while exploring her mouth, his hands sank in her hair as she arched herself against him.
She could feel a protuberance in his trousers and felt powerful. To be able to do this to this man that was now hers was unbelievable.
The kiss must have lasted five minutes because breaking the kiss was one of the most difficult decisions Tunde had to make. With little bites and nibbles across her lips, they slowly disengaged from each other, each burning hot with desire, and panting from need. Reluctantly he let her go.
“Drive safe baby, let me know when you are home please.”
“I will Tee.”
Her first real kiss.
All that played in Nifemi’s mind as she drove home was the kiss. The way he smelled, the feel of his skin, the taste of his lips. How could a man be delightfully sweet?
Grinning like a Cheshire she walked in to see Ma’mi sitting in her spot on the couch.
“Good evening ma”
“How are you my dear? How was the wedding? Did you meet anyone?”
“Ma’mi, let me sit first naw..”
“The look on your face tells me you have met someone Nifemi. Who is he? Where is he from? What does he do”?
“Haba! Okay, yes I did meet someone. But, not at the wedding ma. He is mixed race and his name is..”
Before sh continued, Ma’mi stood up.
“He’s what? Oyinbo? Olurun maje. God forbid!”