Sunlight poured in through the open curtains filling the apartment with a beautiful natural glow and highlighting the particular ambience Pablo was always trying to create with his constant redecorating. Obi and Ayo were seating on the carpeted floor, sharing a blunt while Pablo moved vases from place to place, switched the cushions on the parlor chairs and switched them back again.
“You know, I could really use some help from you guys.” He addressed Obi and Ayo who were competing to see the person who could blow the biggest smoke rings.
“Man what else do you want?” Ayo asked, clearly frustrated. “It’s a Saturday morning and we’ve cleaned this house spotless, from top to bottom. Chill out abeg oga escobar.”
Pablo eyed her and hissed, walking out of the room and returning seconds later with a can of air freshener which he began to spray sporadically around the room and even over them. Obi started to laugh.
“Yes o holy father Pablo, anoint us with your fragrance.” He sprang up on his knees and did a mock bow in front of Pablo, spreading his arms as wide as they would go. In response, Pablo directed the can right in front of his eyes and sprayed hard. Obi, who had been too busy in his mockery of the catholic church, was caught unawares and started to cough and splutter as the perfumed gas invaded his mouth and nostrils.
“Bastard. Ode.” He coughed, “You wan kill me abi Pablo? Because say you don get muscle everywhere yeah? No worry, my God no go let you.”
Ayo had been laughing at his pain all this while until Pablo doused her from the can as well. She screamed out loud, covered her face with her hands and dashed out of the room, cursing Pablo all the way. She returned with a towel which had been soaked in water and tied round her face.
“You dey mad o Pablo, see as you just put air freshener for my face. Fine babe like me? Ah!”
“Fine babe gats dey smell nice too na. And you Obi, which god you dey talk about abeg? Shey na the same god wey you never go church or even kneel down pray to in five years?” Pablo laughed derisively at his friends.
“Who tell you say I no dey pray? I no need go church to follow my papa for heaven talk joor, my body sef na temple. I no be like this Ayo girl.”
Ayo made the peace sign with both hands and waved it in their faces. “Atheist and proud boo. I don’t need to stress myself with all these Christian fairytales.”
Pablo laughed again. “The thunder wey go strike you one day ehn Ayo, the thing still dey gym. No worry, just wait.”
“I’ve been waiting all my life man, nothing yet. Isn’t it weird how so many millions of lives are dependent on some book written thousands of years ago by a bunch of illiterate sheep fuckers?”
“Sheep fuckers? I’m dead.” Obi rolled around on the carpet, holding his stomach from exploding with laughter.
“Yes nw. So just imagine it…I’m an amazing writer, which means I could probably write my own holy book right now and in a thousand years some ignorant wankers will proudly claim it as the work of some benevolent god, and everyone will believe them. So tell me, what is the point?”
Obi was still laughing while Pablo just sat shaking his head. “This your beef with religion ehn Ayo, one day – one day, you go finally tell us exactly wetin ‘sup between you and God.”
“No beef bro, I just really hate the concept of religion, it’s fraudulent. And there is no god. Thanks for coming.” She took a long drag from the blunt in her hand as if to emphasize her point.
“Pablo sef, you wey dey talk. When last you go church?” Obi asked.
“Omoh e don tey o, but e never tey reach your own sha.”
“The last time wey Pablo go church, na market carry am go nw.” Ayo interjected chuckling. “I fit remember that day die. You be wan sell to that new guy, na so you fill up that your bag come put am for boot, drive go park inside church. And na you dey form Christian o.”
“Na true sha,” Obi suddenly remembered. “Ahn ahn, Pablo Pablito. Dealer to the gods themselves. Most high. Higher than the highest. Hallowed be your name.”
Ayo and Obi were high and in great spirits, so they just continued to laugh even after the jokes would ordinarily have stopped being funny. Pablo sat watching them for a while, before he too gave up and rolled on to the carpet to join them.
“Una don go jonze. Abeg pass me that thing joor, make I start to dey see life from your point of view.”
Ayo cheered and Obi clapped his hands as they passed him the half-smoked blunt and Obi started to roll another. Pablo was a firm believer in the old dealer ethics of never getting high on one’s own supply and he applied this discipline to all the other drugs he sold. But his two roommates and friends dealt primarily in marijuana and since their stash was gotten directly from him, it was inevitable that he would not break the cardinal rule every once in a while.
“See as you just dey romance mary-J,” Ayo poked him in the ribs, “Why you kon dey form for us before?”
“Leave Pablo o, he dey form virgin mother, dey clean house wey we don clean one million, billion times just this morning alone. Nonsense!”
Pablo exhaled slowly, blowing out a perfect ‘O’ into the air. The trio watched the ring as it soared higher and higher, losing some of its form until it finally evaporated as it touched the ceiling.
“Una dey always forget say na me teach you two youngins how to smoke. Where una for dey without me?”
He had meant it as a joke but their minds all went back some years, to the days of buying weed out of Pablo’s backpack in the lonely corners of the university, and how he had gone from kush plug slash stranger to the hero who had saved both their lives. Ayo and Obi looked at Pablo and he saw past their red eyes and could guess what they were thinking. He smiled and then they smiled too, they would never be able to repay him for what he had done for them but they would always be grateful, and it was on the back of this gratitude that their loyalty to him and to one another had been born.
Ayo reached over suddenly and pulled him into an embrace. Obi snuggled in from behind and wrapped his arms around the two of them such that Pablo was locked in, from back to front.
“Thank you again Pablo.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. You guys can…”
Obi interrupted. “Thanks so much man.”
“Okay you guys are high, and you need to let go of me right now.” They didn’t listen so he flexed his muscles and struggled a bit and in a matter of seconds was completely free of them. “Emotional motherfuckers, before you know it now una go start to dey cry on top my body.”
They laughed again and Obi stuck the fresh blunt he had just rolled between his lips.
“Where lighter dey?”
“Na you use am last nw, check your pocket.”
Obi patted down the sides of his shorts for several seconds until Pablo who had been watching him intently started to laugh again.
“Ode, wetin you dey check like this? Na boxers you dey wear so which pocket you dey find for your body?”
“My guy just dey tap his sides where pocket no dey,” Ayo chuckled. “Which kind kush wey you don give Obi smoke?”
The slightly confused Obi glared at them both before ordering everyone to get up and shake out their clothes. After much persuasion, the lighter finally fell out of Ayo’s flowing kimono and she and Obi had a brief shouting match about who was higher between them. Then they returned to their original positions and continued to pass the blunt around in relative peace and quiet.
“It’s been a while since the three of us just stayed indoors and chilled without any outside wahala.” Ayo said after almost fifteen minutes of quiet had gone by. “These last two weeks were just something else, first with Damilare and then everything else that’s happened.”
“He’s still getting discharged on Monday yeah?” Pablo asked.
“Hopefully. Although he hasn’t really been himself since that night I went over to see him and ended up in Dr Odoh’s office instead.”
“I don’t know, he won’t tell me anything. He’s just been so quiet and he’s acting strangely. I just hope it’s nothing serious.”
Obi cleared his throat. “Well at least he’s finally leaving that dreadful place. But Ayo ehn, what about this Odoh guy?”
Ayo eyed him. “Ehen? Wetin do am?”
Obi and Pablo laughed. “But you know the guy has a crush on you yeah?” Obi continued. “Ever since that night I rushed into the hospital I’ve been noticing the eyes our doctor uses to look at you.”
“Wo! Obi, free this gist abeg. Na you sabi the crush wey you dey find up and down.”
“Okay o bro, if you say so.”
The blunt continued to be passed around until Ayo spoke up again.
“Wait o, I was just saying how long it’s been since the three of us got to chill like this. Usually Obi is running around for work and all, and you, you’re either stuck at the gym or hustling somewhere and…”
“…and you’re usually here Ayo, fucking the life out of any man, woman or demonic entity you’ve chosen for the day.” Obi cut in.
They laughed again and Ayo gave him the finger, holding out the blunt to him at the same time. He accepted it and took a long drag.
“How far with that your boss sef?” Pablo asked in all innocence. “Wetin dey sup with am?”
The smoke Obi dragged into his mouth suddenly became difficult to swallow down and he started to cough and Pablo had to repeatedly thump his back to help him catch his breath again. The question had caught him unawares. He hadn’t spoken to or seen Stella since the party. He had sat in his office and waited for her to summon him or to send any of her PAs to him but she hadn’t. He had sat in meeting after meeting waiting for her to sway in as she usually did but nothing happened. He had tried to forget what happened when they left the underground club together and he hoped that she would do the same, but it was becoming increasingly clear to him that Stella Jide-Coker was avoiding him.
“Nothing do my boss bro, she dey alright.”
“Ah! Na why you dey cough like that?” Ayo looked at him suspiciously but he avoided her eyes. She knew there was something he wasn’t telling them but decided to let it slide. He would loop them in whenever he was ready to talk.
“But Pablo I can’t believe you saw Uju, and here of all places, after all these years.” Obi said, effectively changing the topic.
“Guyyyy, I was shocked as hell man, I’m still shocked sef. She said she needed a place to crash for the night. I tried not to pester her because she looked like she’d been through hell so I made the couch up for her and told myself I’d wait till morning before firing her with the questions. Next morning, I woke up and she was just gone, no note, no explanation, nothing. Just folded up bedsheets and blankets, right here on this couch.” He tapped the couch above their heads for emphasis.
“And you’re sure you didn’t imagine her?” Ayo asked for the umpteenth time. “You’re sure it wasn’t just a dream? Or a ghost or whatever the fuck else?”
Pablo hissed. “Come on Ayo, shey you think say I dey craze ni? I held her; I smelt her perfume, it was the same scent as always. I tucked Uju in on this very couch, I did not imagine it.”
An uneasy silence passed as they all tried to come to terms with Pablo’s story once again. Uju had been the one woman who had nearly collapsed the brotherhood, she had almost destroyed the bro code and all it stood for. The three of them all had fond memories of her, along with much darker ones. It had taken a lot from them individually to bury her in the past, but the woman refused to stay buried and had come knocking on their door once again and soon, they knew, she’d be walking right into their lives.
“Well at least I’m glad you gave her the couch and not my room, cos na there we for just fight kill ourselves Pablo.”
“Why would I ever do something like that?” Pablo asked, laughing at the notion.
“I no know for you o, you fit wan dey do say I be woman and Uju sef na woman, so make she just dey for my room. I happy say you no try am sha.”
“Haha, this guy, fuck you abeg.” He pushed her head away affectionately and reignited the blunt that had begun to die out. They fell back into the easy rhythm of passing it along from one to another, bantering themselves and cracking jokes at one another’s expense.
Finally, Obi sat up. “Omoh, shey na like so we go just dey kush up till night? We no go chop? Na after one for afternoon be this o.”
“See your mouth, every time food, food, food. You no dey ever stop to dey chop?” Ayo tackled him.
“No vex o bhadoosky. I don forget say you no dey chop. Na just weed and knacks you dey live off. Olodo!”
“That reminds me,” She pulled out her phone and hurriedly scrolled through. “I met this fine ass babe some time ago, right before Damilare was rushed to the hospital I think.” She showed Pablo and Obi a picture of a light skinned woman who had one of the biggest asses that either of them had seen in real life.
“Damn Ayo, shey you won’t just stick to guys like this? You’re robbing us of some of the finest pussy in all the seven kingdoms.” Obi teased. Pablo continued to stare at the babe in question until Ayo reached across and snatched her phone from his hands.
“Na so. You that has all the pussy in this city and everywhere else lined up at your beck and call. How far that Nadine babe in your office? How’s that one going?”
Obi frowned and squinted at her. “I don’t remember telling you anything about Nadine, other than the basics….”
“Come on man, you used to share all your conquests with me. I’ve even used one or two of your lines to land some pretty big fish recently.”
“Male fish or female fish?”
“What the fuck does it matter Obi Okorafor?”
“Please don’t use any of my lines on guys in the future madam,” Pablo and Ayo began to laugh with renewed vigor as Obi continued. “That being said, I do not have any ‘lines’, thank you very much.”
“Of course you don’t. Obi the demon, I hail o. I fear who no fear you. My oga!” Ayo continued her mock hailing as Pablo laughed on and Obi left the sitting room in search of his phone. He found it on the dining table and unlocked it to reveal eleven missed calls and a host of messages across all his social media platforms. He ignored everything else and focused on the missed calls. Three numbers in particular stood out in his mind; the first one was Stella Jide-Coker who had called once, Nadine, surprisingly, had called him twice and the final number was unsaved, but something about it looked so familiar that he was lost in thought for several seconds until he heard Pablo’s voice asking if he had given up on the blunt.
Obi took his phone and walked back to where they still lay on the carpet.
“Weird coincidence but that Nadine chick called me twice about an hour ago and I didn’t even hear it ring.” He thought about bringing up the strange number but decided against it.
“How you go hear am?” Ayo asked. “When you dey here dey smoke igbo like say tomorrow no dey.”
Obi glared at her. “Don’t you have something to be writing or someone to be screwing or whatever?”
“Wetin concern you bro?”
“No vex.” He turned to Pablo. “Guy, wetin we go chop like this?”
Pablo shook his head repeatedly to clear the fog in his brain and stretched his six foot four inches’ frame.
“We fit make soup, use am chop eba. All the ingredients dey fridge, na just to run am together remain.”
“Oya make we go run am nw.” Obi turned back to Ayo who was steadily texting on her phone. “Madam, shey you no go follow us go kitchen?”
“For what na? You and Pablo are more than enough to deliver a well cooked meal. I have faith in you boys, especially you escobar.” She winked at him and then had to scurry quickly away to avoid his incoming kick.
“Dey there dey find booty call up and down you hear? Make we go kitchen dey cook for you.” Obi helped Pablo to his feet and the bigger man slung his arm over his shoulders as they walked to the kitchen together.
“Thanks boos,” Ayo called after them. “You guys are the best.” Pablo muttered a quick “bastard” to her hearing and all three of them laughed.
Ayo stayed in the sitting room for some time and continued to smoke her blunt and text while the guys banged pots and pans in the kitchen. Finally bored by herself, she rose from the carpet and went to join them.
“You for dey there na, make food come find you.” Obi said as he handed the vegetables over to her to slice. She mouthed “fuck you” and continued to press her phone.
“Guy, na kitchen we dey o. Please stop the smoking, ejor.” Pablo cautioned, collecting the blunt from her lips and putting it out with his fingers.
Ayo started to cut the vegetables and the three of them worked silently for a long time on the meal they were preparing and vibed to the Fela songs being played by Ayo’s phone. Obi’s mind went back to the fact that Stella had finally called, after almost a week of complete radio silence. He had already decided against calling back and would wait till Monday at the office to see her, that is, if she wanted to be seen. He had no regrets about what had happened when they left the party together, and he would not be put through stress over choices they had both made.
The soup was ready in under two hours even as they had already started to snack on bread and frozen butter they found in the fridge. Obi made a mountain of eba and called the other two over to dish for themselves. They carried the plates to the dining table and sat at their usual places. Without further ado, Pablo dug into the food with full force and the others followed suit, the sounds of loud chewing being the only thing to be heard for several minutes.
Obi’s phone was right in the center of the table and it began to ring and vibrate simultaneously. Pablo helpfully reached for it and tried to slide it over to him but not before he had a chance to check who was disturbing their meal. It was the same unsaved number as before. Pablo looked at it once and dropped the phone like it was a voodoo doll.
“What the fuck man?” Obi cried out, checking to see if his screen had cracked.
Pablo looked from him to Ayo and back to him.
“The number? I don’t get, na wetin make you drop my phone like that?”
“You don’t recognize it?”
“How could I? I don’t go about memorizing numbers in my head.”
The phone finally stopped ringing and Ayo picked it up and checked it as Obi continued to explain.
“The person called before. I was thinking of returning the call but it must have skipped my mind.” He caught the look that had suddenly come over Ayo. “Okay, you guys need to stop being so fucking mysterious. How the hell do you both know the number calling my phone and I don’t?”
Pablo looked at Ayo once more. She placed the phone back on the table and nodded at him.
“Yeah, it’s Uju.” Pablo confirmed. “I can’t ever forget that number. Sometimes I see it in my dreams.”
Obi picked up his phone just as it started to ring again and it suddenly clicked in his head why the number looked so familiar. It really was Uju, but why the hell was she calling him?
To be continued