Stories are memories. Memories are the ingredients that make our monotonous existence colorful. There’s always the blandness that accompanies every situation; and there’s always a story. That story is what doesn’t make us remember how bleak and boring that occasion was.
The stories you have seen with your eyes, heard with your ears is what keeps you walking on the streets of Lagos. At night when the world is asleep, it visits your soul and ministers to it. It brightens your night; shines in your heart. But when the morning comes, it’s the bland, simple life you have again.
You take your bath, wear a thoroughly ironed shirt and trousers, hurry downstairs and into the street with your keys jingling in your pockets. You have to trek to the bus stop again. The money you budgeted for it has gone with the beans you cooked last night. You hurry to the bus stop hoping to get an early morning bus. Deep down you know you won’t find one with a discount; the prices will be the same.
You arrive in time to hear a bus conductor shouting ‘Berger one chance! Berger one chance!!’. You give the conductor the how-much-for-Berger look. He understands, “Wole Berger 150!”
This tells you the fare is still the same. Your church mind tells you to enter, another mind tells you to wait for another bus. The latter, you know, is your village people.
With swift movements, you hop into the empty front seat. Shortly, the driver moves the bus.
You arrive at the office. It is just as you left it. Sofia, the cleaner has stopped cleaning since the day you had sex with her on your office table. She told you she felt embarrassed anytime she found herself there, even if she was alone. So she had to stop cleaning your office, you have to do it yourself.
You don’t want to think of Sofia.
You settle into the office chair that sits behind the table filled with rumpled papers. You unzip your bag which hangs on your shoulders and bring out your laptop. You open it. Switch it on. And her face, like every other day is the first thing you see.
This woman. Her face. All over again.
These memories, you know, only visit you when the day is dead, when the night is awake in all her glory. But something about the face that acts as your desktop background feels different today. You think it’s the laptop. You switch it off. And then on again.
But it isn’t the laptop.
It is you.
She hasn’t spoken with you in months. You haven’t done so too. You haven’t even tried. The only time you feel the urge to call is at night, when your phone is switched off, under the pillow. There was never the boldness to turn around, pick the phone up and switch it on.
Her face stares blankly from the laptop into yours. You remember the day you took the picture. It was with your BlackBerry Q5. She was back from work, and she had decided to spend the night with you. Late that night, after your meal, she danced in the sitting room when you told her to do something she hadn’t done for you before. You were expecting a blowjob. But you enjoyed the dance too. It was supposed to be erotic, but it wasn’t. She forced you to admit that it was. Sexy was the word she used.
You took the picture while she was trying to wiggle her small buttocks; which faced the TV.
She had jumped at you and said, “Delete it jhoor! It can’t be fine.” You dodged her and teased her with it. Then you play-wrestled. Until she gave in and fell on you, kissing you so hard.
On that office chair, it hits you that you haven’t ever thought of that night. One thing you always remember is the fact that it was a real bad night. It ended on a good note, but it rolled into a string of bad memories; bad stories.
After a hot night of intense sex, she had called the next evening to complain about how bad her day at work was. You had skillfully made it into a joke and she was laughing heartily afterwards.
But weeks later, she would be pregnant. For a man that wasn’t you. DNAs never lie, that was what you told her as you stormed out of the hospital. You were distraught. Confused. Angry. You went home and watched porn videos till you fell asleep. It helped. You didn’t know how, but it helped.
You heard rumors: the baby died. The father eloped. But you never called. You pick the phone. It feels heavy in your hands. You scroll up your contact list and see her name, Ade, staring at you cold in the eyes.
No answer. You dial again.
Then someone picks up. It is an unfamiliar voice. You tell the person on the other end that you want to speak with Ade. It is the voice of a female, an extremely young one. There is a low ruffle which seems to take forever. As you wait for her to come on, you try to remember what she sounds like. You can’t remember. But you know it as soon as you hear it…
“Ade,” you say.
“Who is this?,” the voice enquires. It is shaky. You know it’s her. That shakiness was the subject of a thousand jokes.
“Ade… It’s me…”
An uncomfortable one envelopes the call, waiting for someone, something to break it.
You don’t know what else to say. So you ask, “Where are you?”
“Work. We are celebrating my boss’ daughter’s birthday.”
You sigh. That explains the music and voices flowing in the background.
“Ikeja.” And this reminds you that she still works with RoxFoods, a company dealing in beverages.
“I’ll be there.” And you end the call.
You don’t know why you said it. But you did. You aren’t even sure those words fell from your mouth. You stare at her picture in the laptop. You smile. Then you close it.
Moments later, you are facing her. You are both speechless. Then you move closer to her and wrap her in a tight embrace.
Your phone starts buzzing; probably your boss. But you can’t just let her go, even for a second.