Odukoya Valentine

So there I was, Thursday; Valentine’s Day 2013.

When I say ‘there I was’ I meant ‘there I was’. In other words, I was just there.

I was at work, something-after 8 o’clock in the evening – having just responded to the last of the comments on my just completed series ’14 Days’. My colleagues were headed to the E-center – Ozone to be specific, and we were supposed to be heading there together. There was only one problem.

Six of us were supposed to leave from work. Five males, one female. Two of us were married and would be joined by their wives; a third by his woman. The other guy paired off with the one female in our midst…let’s just say I was the ‘sexy and single’ one.

Embarrassing.

Bottom line, I changed my mind about seeing a movie – choosing instead to head to Elegushi beach. At something close to 9pm. Undoubtedly crazy, no?

No. The word I choose to use is ‘lonely’.

Anyways, so I got a cab and headed to Elegushi beach. The bulk of the traffic was headed in the other direction, so within a few minutes I was trudging through the sand barefoot; carrying my shoes in my hand after making sure I collected the cab man’s number for when I was leaving.

The beach was a beehive of activity lit up by several spotlights from the many bars that lined the shoreline and the music that pounded from several different speakers warring for attention. Weaving my way through dancing, drinking and eating figures, I walked towards one of the bars and got myself a bottle of Amarula, a bag of ice cubes and one disposable cup. Caching my shoes with the bartender, I made myself a large drink, stuffed the bottle in the ice cube bag – and with bag in one hand, drink in the other, I walked to the beach.

I stood there, just at the edge of the pounding surf and watched nature express its opinion about love, human beings and other related endeavors. I looked around me at the revelers and wondered if they were supposed to be at work the following day like I was supposed to be.

“All of us dey craze,” I muttered to myself and began walking along the shoreline, trying to find some relative quiet. I was almost out of the lights before I found a place where I could stop; close enough so I wasn’t in darkness, but far enough so the music was not so loud. I looked for a log to sit on and proceeded to focus on my bottle.

I ran through three-quarters of the Amarula before I came up for air. I looked up, feeling pleasantly buzzed and at peace with the entire world. A slight rumbling in my stomach reminded me that I had had nothing to eat that day, and I looked around hoping to find something edible; something to quiet the hunger pangs.

Suddenly she was there.

She was a bit to my right, looking like I had always imagined Eve; the first woman, would look like. She stood on a small mound of sand, arms around herself, head thrown back – eyes closed. She was wearing a large shirt; I couldn’t tell what color it was, and it came down to her thighs. From where I was sitting it looked like that was all she had on. She was also barefoot like me, but close to her feet were leather sandals and a bag that looked like it was used to kidnap babies. I cocked my head to the side and listened. No alarms.

I stood up and walked slowly towards her, stopping a few feet away where I could get a clearer picture without looking like I was getting a clearer picture. Holding the cup to my lips I studied her from the corners of my eyes. She looked completely lost in the spray of the water from the night tide, eyes closed, lips slightly parted, head still thrown back. I hesitated; not wanting to interrupt what was obviously a ‘moment’ for her.

But when nature calls…

“Nature can be so annoying,” I said.

And for a long minute (about ten seconds actually) she said nothing or made any movement, just standing there as she had been before I noticed her. I was wondering whether she hadn’t heard me; whether to go closer or just walk away when she opened her eyes and looked at me.

“Why would you say that?”

She sounded like Waje and Chidinma rolled into one, with a blend of Regina Askia thrown in. My belly started churning somewhat and for the second time within the past hour; I wondered how wise it was to consume alcohol on an empty stomach. I ignored that and focused on her.

“In this case it makes it look as though peace is something easily attained, and we both know that’s not the case.”

She squeezed her eyebrows into something that was supposed to look like a frown but ended up looking like a ripple across a small pond. She jumped off the small hill and came to stand beside me, coming up almost to my eye-level.

“How do you mean ‘we both know’?”

Her hands were by her sides and I saw my earlier assertion was wrong. The shirt was unbuttoned to the waist, putting the black workout bra that restrained her ample bosom on display. I could see the beginning of the waistband of a pair of shorts just past her bare midriff – before the shirt was abruptly drawn together.

“My face is not down there,” she said, sounding like a petulant child.

“Sorry,” I said, silently blaming the Amarula for making me so reckless. “I did not mean to stare or anything. Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is look away.”

She waved away my apology with one hand while the other one held the shirt together. Her thighs were…they looked like Eclairs in that TV advert. I spent about ten years of my life looking for Eclairs that actually looked like that.

“What were you saying about peace?” she interrupted me.

“How happy are you?” I asked her, startling her out of her indignation. She looked surprised for a bit, and then her heart showed up and her face. This was one hell of a lonely girl.

Her lower lip trembled, and for an awkward moment I thought she was going to cry. I let the nylon I was carrying slip through my fingers and reached for her hand.

“Don’t…” I started to say, but she shushed me with a stern look.

“I’m not crying jo,” she said, but did not take her hand away from mine. There was a lump in my throat and my heart was pounding loud enough to serve as the basis of a rap song.  “What the hell…” I muttered half-aloud. She wasn’t saying anything so I looked at her. She had let go of her shirt and it was blowing wildly in the suddenly-cold night air – as she looked up at me with a curious half-smile on her lips.

Well. The expected happened.

I don’t know who moved first but there we were, within minutes of seeing each other for the first time, kissing as though there was a prize for whoever could do it best. She kissed just as she looked; calmly and passionately. A contradiction; I know, but that’s the only way I can describe it. She tasted like a blend of Suya and Snapp – and another taste I couldn’t exactly define. Her lips were cool but her breath was hot…

I jerked away, mumbling incoherently to myself. “This is crazy…” I said, shaking my head trying to clear cobwebs that were not put there by the alcohol I’d been drinking. She let go of me and turned away, wind blowing her hair and making her look like something out of a movie.

“I should be going home now sef,” she said, carrying her bag and shoes.

I reached for my phone and checked the time. 10:24pm.

I flung the cup away into the distance and held her hand, walking towards the noise. We weren’t looking at each other, but we were so aware of one another it was surreal. I collected my shoes from the barfly, called the cab guy and off we went; together to wait for him.

A few minutes later, we were driving off the island. I did not know where we were going – neither did I care. It did occur to me that I might be in a taxi with the devil himself; but I don’t know. I guess I was past caring. Or maybe I did not want to seriously consider that possibility.

She held me, head on my shoulder humming a low happy tune. Her eyes shone in the near-darkness of the cab’s interior, and I looked at her feeling as though I was looking at a dream.

She said her name was Nike.

—————————————————————————————–

Seun Odukoya is the winner of the 2011 Chistell International Short Story competition. He is currently working on a full-length romance novel alongside other short stories. He released his first book, a short story collection titled For Days and A Night (ebook) in December 2012. Keep up with Seun and his writings at www.seunodukoya.wordpress.com; Follow Seun on twitter: @seunodukoya.

Seun Odukoya Valentine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First photo credit: A Beach Cottage

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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