“…business proposals? That was very creative of you.” He says, suppressing his laughter. A towel is wrapped around his waist, droplets of water spread across his skin. The air conditioner drones somewhere in the room, releasing puffs of icy breath.
She laughs. “But it was the best I could come up with in such a short time.” She adjusts the duvet across her bare chest.
“Busi.ness pro.po.sals.” He jerks his waist forward and backward for each syllable pronounced.
“Stop it. Stop it.” She says, breaking into laughter.
The first day they met, he was put off by her laughter.
On that day, it had been raining all through. The rains Lagosians tagged the seven-day rain. They don’t whip hard, just light unending drizzles all week long. But with persistence on its side, it soon filled portholes with overflowing brown water, making the ground slippery. Every pedestrian had an umbrella and picked their steps to avoid a splash or a misstep, or worse still, a fall. Well, everyone, except him.
He kept throwing those long legs in quick succession, quick enough for people to pave way for him to overtake. Then he took a left turn into a swampy road. It was there his left leg slipped. He came crashing into the mud, his umbrella spread defeated over his face.
She was approaching him and witnessed the fall. The laughter had already escaped her mouth, before she could swallow it with an apology.
But part of it had reached him. He cussed at himself, smearing the mud in an attempt to wipe them off. There was no way he could go back to his hostel to change without being incurably late for his exams. He kept trying to wipe himself clean but in vain, until she said it again.
“…I stay in Zaria Hostel. I can actually get you something to change into.”
Zaria Hostel was a mixed hostel, and it was also close by. She could actually help out, he thought.
“Okay. Thank you. But please let’s walk fast. I have exams this morning. I am almost late.”
“Haven’t you learned from what just happened?” She laughed again.
He learned to ignore the laugh and tottered along.
These days, the laugh excites and tickles him all over, tempting him to have another go.
A sudden sound of brass instruments, ringing from her phone, interrupts his thoughts.
“Ha! I have actually forgotten this song!” He says. His eyes wide with excitement.
“Still my favorite, like you are.” She says. The phone still ringing in the background.
He smiles. “Here it comes.”
“Oh oh oh oh oh oh…” They both sing along.
“It reminds me of that night. It was so unlike you.” She laughs. “Do you still remember?”
“Ha ha. Why won’t I?
On that night, the speakers trembled with music. They sat in a secluded part of the room, away from the boisterous rumble. Many sweet words were passed. But the words that would crown his night still remained unsaid.
So he took a sip and stared at her.
She adjusted her hair behind her ears.
He took another sip again, and then downed the whole thing in one quick gulp. It burned down his throat, slammed into his belly and stung his eyes.
She looked at him in surprise.
He bared his whole teeth in a sloppy smile and mouthed something.
She pointed her hands to her ears, indicating he should speak louder.
He opened his mouth to shout the words. But it was at that moment the speakers decided to go off.
“I love you!” He shouted.
A hush fell over the bar and they all looked their way.
The drink had finally converted to courage, and he acted along. He stood up, walk towards her, pulled her up and planted a kiss on her lips. Then she parted them to receive him. The bar erupted in claps and woohoos. The speakers boomed to life, and that song came on. At that moment the song became theirs, and they danced deep into the night.
“Who called?” He asks after the ringtone had gone off. Once again, the drone of the air conditioner remains supreme.
“You should know.”
She takes the duvet off herself and slips into her panties, dressing in the reverse order she had taken them off.
He walks towards her. “You know, I’ve really missed you. Everything keeps bringing back all these good memories. If only I could rewind time.”
He holds her from behind and nibbles at the side of her neck.
“If only. But I wouldn’t have…wouldn’t want you to have…deferred the scholarship. It was all you ever…wanted then.”
“If I had that opportunity again, I would have chosen you…”
“Ssssh, it’s not your fault.”
Then she lightly shrugs him off and continues dressing.
Her phone rings again with that same jazzy tune, and he wonders why their song is been used as a ringtone for another’s call. At least she is here with him, he consoles himself. But that’s not enough to quell the feeling brewing in him each time he sees the band gleaming from her fourth finger. You should be mine, and mine alone, he is tempted to say, but he only settles for: “He is the one again, I guess.”
“Yes, I’m meant to be home by now.” She begins dabbing her face with powder.
She finishes dressing up then notices his silence. Pressing herself into him, and holding his cheek, she adds, “Don’t worry dear. Soon we wouldn’t have to hide anymore,” before kissing his lips.
As soon as they step out of the building, the hot afternoon breeze warms them in its embrace. Then they take their separate paths like they have not just come out of themselves.
Image by Tesfay Atchbekha Negga via Manufactoriel
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