The first time you see him, he is flanked by two women.
Wearing a black kaftan and deep blue sunshades over a complexion of dark chocolate under this blistering sun must be madness. But he looks cool, with his arms on the shoulders of his companions. There’s cockiness on his face as he chews gum like a prostitute on Allen Avenue.
The threesome walk past you, laughing to themselves over some joke. What you get is a mix of different fragrances. You keep staring because you’ve just discovered that his hair is long and plaited.
Can a man look cornier?
He vanishes from sight, and you forget about him because this school is stressing you already. You can’t wait for the weekend, so you can sleep in or watch movies with your boyfriend. You’re also looking forward to next weekend. There’s going to be a show, and you’re excited to attend because it’s going to be your first, organized by an entertainment club whose patron has extended membership to you. The club boasts of highly talented kids, of which a popular twin band will emerge and shake up the world of Nigerian music in a few years.
You manage through the week, but your perfect Saturday has been stolen by an annoying lecturer who wants to make up for being absent the entire week. So, you drag yourself out of your hostel and start towards school, strolling down a wide road with broken tar. Hustling photographers are stationed toward the end of the road, competing for space to take shots of students walking toward them. Nobody wants to admit it, but many have thought themselves celebrities and the photographers, their paparazzies. It’s even sweeter when one is a regular customer and they start to call your name to get your attention.
This afternoon you hurry past the photographers but slow down when you spot your dark stranger selling audio tapes and doing it with a sparkling smile on his face. Under the hot sun.
There’s a makeshift stand on which the tapes are mounted. There’s also a poster banner for the show next Saturday. The musician whose tape he’s selling is performing songs from his album. Buying the tape for a hundred and fifty naira will get you an automatic ticket.
You think about the small cash in your handbag. All you have right now is five hundred naira. You approach your dark stranger and he abandons some guy he’s talking to and smiles at you.
“Hi.” He’s chewing gum again.
“You look dashing this afternoon,” he says, as if he knows you.
“So, you want a tape?”
“You know it gets you a ticket to the show, right?”
You take out twin hundred naira notes from your bag and hand it to him. He passes you a tape and your eyes meet. And just like that, you know you must see him again.
“I don’t have change o,” he tells you. “Do you mind if I look around for–?”
“It’s fine. Keep the change.”
“Okay.” He teases you with a flirty smile. “Thank you. What’s your name?”
“Oh, cool. I’m Owen. What are you in for?”
“Wow. Same. The most unserious department in the school.”
“Heard we’re competing with pol science.”
“Trust me, nobody beats us. So, you’re in hundred level? Because I’m sure I’ve never seen you before.”
“Yeah. Hundred level.”
“I’m in second year.”
“Experiencing the jambite rush already?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
But you do. The jambite rush is when second to last year boys rush fresh girls. Everyone wants new meat, even the ones with girlfriends. Sadly, once they get a taste, they discard them for fresher girls the following year. You’ve been warned by scarred ex-jambites not to fall for the rush.
He’s now looking at your lips, causing you to reciprocate. His lips are dark and pink at the same time. They are fleshy but clean looking, making you long to taste them. Not kiss them, just taste them.
His teeth are white and so well arranged. You wonder what else he does with his mouth asides chew gum and talk.
“So, Owen, I have a lecture.”
“Saturday afternoon lectures are annoying.”
“I know, but how will we do?”
“I’ll see you around?”
You smile and walk away. The journey to class is quite the distance, but you don’t feel it because you’re thinking of Owen. Those lips, that smile, that chocolatey hotness. This is lust, you know it, but you can’t stop now.
You don’t pay attention to the lecturer or anyone around you. When you’re finally done with the class, you make your exit. Soon, you’re on that wide road of photographers. Your tummy churns as you spot Owen. He’s still there. He catches your eye and you catch his. It’s almost like that weird moment you guys had before; but you look away as you keep on with your journey.
Your steps are slow, and the sunset welcomes you as you stride into it, heading to your hostel. You badly want to turn around and see if his eyes are on you, but you’d sooner snap your neck than show your thirst.
When you get to the hostel you take a nap. You have a date with your boyfriend, H.
He’s tall, hunky, has drunk eyes, and carries around an impressive tool. But you’re not with him for any of those qualities. It’s because he’s influential. He has social currency, as a third-year student and member of the student union government. This gives you certain privileges, like him having a room to himself and free food from any canteen you choose.
But nothing flutters in your tummy when you see him. You don’t smile for no reason when he walks into a room. You forget him the moment you leave his presence. Lastly, you run out of words to say to each other when you’re alone.
Tonight, he tells you to stay in with him, but you’d rather go to the Student Union Government Center and watch a movie. He doesn’t complain. He never does. H is the sweetest guy. Tough when necessary but easygoing. He is such a lazy lover too. It feels like someone wrote him a manual on how to manage his relationship, and he’s working through it without trying to do something out of the letter.
Holding you possessively, he takes you to the SUG Center. The school is abuzz with activity as it usually is every evening. There’s someone playing Craig David’s Seven Days. The smell of suya fills the air. A woman is frying akara in the corner and Oga Toast Bread is busy in his stall.
H holds you even tighter as you walk through the gate. But the moment you step in, you spot Owen seated alone in the dark, sipping from a soda bottle.
You stop moving and fix your eyes on him. Coincidentally, H bumps into a friend and doesn’t notice you being distracted by another man. As he talks to his friend, you continue to stare at Owen. Somehow, he senses your presence and turns. When his eyes fall into yours, he releases a slow smile that causes a rush of air into you.
“H?” you call.
“I’ll come and meet you later. I want to talk to some friends.”
“Okay. Later nau.”
He squeezes your shoulder and leaves with his friend. Your legs lead you to Owen.
“If it’s not the girl with the sexiest thighs I’ve ever seen!” he hails.
“Thanks?” You stare down at your thighs and remember you had worn a short gown in the afternoon as well. Was that why he couldn’t stop ogling you?
“It’s the truth though. Your legs are foine, girl! Come on, sit.”
You sit beside him. Behind you is the common room for students who gather to watch movies or football.
“What are they watching?” you ask Owen.
“Bring It On or something stupid. Do you like movies?”
“That’s my girl!” He smiles and gives you a thirsty stare. “Do you mind if I touched your thighs?”
You shrug. He runs his hand over both thighs and shivers in exaggeration. You burst into laughter. Normally, funny guys are not your thing. You’ve never found romance in comedy, which is why romantic comedy is the worst genre to you. But this moment with Owen is about to open you up to a world you’ve never seen before. As both of you sit and speak far into the night, neither of you are aware of the future you’re creating. You think it’s just for the moment—the laughter, the flirtation, the ordinary talk, the seconds of silence that bring your eyes together. There’s something greater at play.
At 3am, you tell him you’re going to bed.
“Come and see me tomorrow,” he requests. “I stay off K.”
“Phase 3. But I could come and get you and take you there. What time is best?”
“Two-ish. I’ll be back from church by then.”
He walks you to the hostel gate.
You give him a hug, and you smell him. His fragrance is masculine and mild. The fabric of his army green t-shirt is soft against his lean muscles. You also smell his breath—it’s fresh and inviting. Gosh! Those lips!
“Good night, Sally.”
“It’s morning,” you remind him.
You turn away and start heading into the hostel. If there’s a perfect moment for both of you to part ways and un-write the future, it would be now. But the forces drawing you together are strong tonight. Under a full moon, they work their magic.
You stop and turn. He’s walking backwards as he says to you, “I’ll marry you!”
You laugh. This guy is insane. You know he doesn’t mean it, but you can’t help but think about him when you lie in bed. No, not the marriage part. You’re only eighteen, the year is 2001, and marriage is the last thing on your mind. You just want to see this guy again and the thought of it makes you feel stupid.
So, you close your eyes, hoping somehow that he doesn’t show up later. You have to remain in your relationship and be loyal to H, who is mature and stable.
Sally, you must behave and do the right thing.
But this story is beyond you now. The universe has begun to align to bring you and Owen together. What has started cannot be reversed.
I would have continued this story, but I will keep the details about my relationship with H, in honor of his memory. He is late now, having suffered painfully from brain cancer.
Yes, we broke up amicably hours later, as my tweet said. He was never bitter about it, as he knew he couldn’t keep me. Our relationship had felt like a script, with both of us using each other. No, it wasn’t love.
We remained friends until he graduated.
As for Owen and I, we dated for a bit, broke up and came back together two years later. It’s been as much a fun ride as it has been tough. We’ve been married for 12 years and we have two kids. Owen has been my rock and muse. I love him like mad and I can’t imagine life without him.
I’m an award-winning and bestselling Nigerian writer. Some of my books are listed below. Please, check them out.
I’m also a screenwriter, with some projects in the works. But if you need a script written or re-written, you know where to find me.
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