The first time I ran into him, I was turning the corner to the restroom in the club. I was on my phone, aggressively cursing out a Twitter banger boy, so I didn’t see him. It was my fault, but he was the one who apologised. He had a smile on his face that I couldn’t stop staring at as he said, “Oops, sorry.”
The second time, I literally ran into him. I was on my morning run, and so was he. I was trying to change the song that played on my headphones to something more aggressive. I wasn’t looking. My face crashed smack-dab into his back. Even though I knew I was the one at fault, I was ready to clear whoever didn’t sense me coming. Then I saw his face and my anger wilted. This time, I apologised first. “Oops, sorry,” I said.
The third time I ran into him, it was at my office. He was part of the new client’s team. I was entering the conference room, and he was leaving to take a call. This time, it was both our faults. He was engrossed in his call and rushing to leave while I was looking down at a report. This time, no one said, “Oops, sorry.” The impact made us both go, “Oof!” Like that Fireboy song.
That was the day he asked me to go to the suya spot close to my office with him after work. I didn’t tell him the suya was mediocre and what everyone came for was the suya spice, the yaji. I had a theory it was so addictive because Mallam Usman sprinkled some cocaine in it.
That night, as I choked on yaji, he patted my back soothingly as if that would make a difference. But I didn’t protest. We were sitting on white plastic chairs that reminded me of the ones my mother and I sat on at church when I was younger. When we pretended we were good people. The mediocre suya and cocaine yaji were spread before us on a plastic table that used to be white. There was barely enough light coming in from the dim colourful bulbs hanging on the trees, but I caught a glimpse of his eyes. I saw something in them that made me feel as if everything was falling into place. And it was all because of him. He drank beer while I drank water. Not because I had healthy eating habits, but because alcohol made me do unhinged things that could make people start asking questions.
When we had been there for over an hour, talking about the yaji, work, and whether hot cake or cold cake was better, and he didn’t ask for my number, I took his phone from him. It was locked but that wasn’t a problem. All I had to do was think of unlocking it and then it happened. He was too shocked by my audacious move to notice this. I typed in and saved my number.
“You should call me,” I said as I handed it back to him.
He laughed and nodded. “I will.”
It’s been eight days and I haven’t heard anything. Not even a text if he was too shy to call.
When I woke up this morning, I decided it was time to rid my mind of him. But it’s as if the universe revels in us making these kinds of decisions, mocking our certainty that we have control. Of all the days to have an emergency meeting with his team, the universe did its thing, and there he was, with that smile that kept me entranced.
After the meeting, he walked up to me with an apologetic look on his face. “I’m so sorry I haven’t called. We’ve been swamped with work. I’ve barely had any time to breathe,” he chuckled, and I was close enough to feel his warm breath on the tip of my nose. It was just 11 am but it smelled of something spicy. I didn’t mind. I wanted to breathe it in deeply.
“It’s fine,” I said, trying to keep the disappointment I felt for the past week from jumping out in those words.
“No, it’s not. I said I’d call, and I didn’t.”
“Okay?” I didn’t know what to say.
“I got something for you.” He walked out of the conference room, confident I’d follow him like a little obedient duckling. I did. My curiosity ushered me out. He went to the break room and took out a small white box tied with a pink bow from the fridge. “The receptionist helped me put it in before the meeting started. Cold cake, the best kind.” He handed it to me with an expectant look on his face.
“I thought you disagreed?” I asked.
“I don’t remember ever opposing you.”
I giggled. Literally. As I reached out to collect the box, our fingers brushed, and it sparked something in me I haven’t felt in a while. Excitement? Joy? I don’t know, I felt giddy. “Thank you,” I said and held the box tightly as if it would run away. He smiled as he backed out of the room. He mouthed the word enjoy and winked. His wink was sleek, unlike mine which looked like I had some dust in my eyes.
When I took the first spoon of the cake, the smoothness and creaminess melted on my tongue as if the cake itself was relieved to finally enter my mouth. The sweetness of it—both the cake and the gesture—slipped into my body and left me in a good mood all day. I waited for the traffic light to turn green instead of turning it green myself. I ignored the man that tried to cut in front of me on my way home instead of using my will to burst his back tires. I didn’t kiss my teeth and eye the gateman when he appeared saying, “Ah aunty, you don come back?” After I had already opened the gate myself. And things only got sweeter. He called me that night and we talked for three hours about the most random and the most specific things. How I didn’t care about Wizkid FC or Davido FC, but I thought the Cavemen were the best thing to happen to the Nigerian music industry in the past decade. About how he got into architecture and how I ended up in a PR firm straight out of school. About how I believed shawarma should be considered a delicacy.
The next day, we talked for three hours, twelve minutes, and zero seconds. The day after that, three hours, five minutes, and nineteen seconds. I noticed the pattern of threes. I knew it had to be a sort of confirmation for me from my guides. Three had always been my lucky number.
At this point, we were texting through the day and talking at night. The ding of my phone during the day made my lips stretch into a smile and the buzz of my phone at night made me jump out of my skin to grab it. Our conversations flowed easily. The silences weren’t awkward. They were welcomed, and I would count his breaths. When he asked if I was interested in being his date for a company dinner, the sweetness broke out again like a sea of chocolate bursting out of a cake.
I browsed for the perfect dress. Snug, but appropriate enough that people wouldn’t look at me and wonder who brought this one here. I settled on a yellow halter-neck dress because I knew yellow made me look like the goddess I was. When I stepped out of my house, I caught the shock on his face. “Wow,” he breathed out. I did a dramatic slow spin and he followed with dramatic slow clapping. I giggled again. “You look spectacular,” he said as he pecked me on the cheek and opened the passenger door for me. My heart did a little bop. My cheek was on fire but in a good way. He put on his car and The Cavemen played from his speakers. Perfection.
The dinner went past like it was just him and I in the big hall with extravagant decorations celebrating God knows what. Afterward, as we were parked in front of my gate, I didn’t make a move to leave. With The Cavemen playing in the background, I felt inspired. So, I leaned in and pecked his lips. They were soft and tasted of red wine. I kissed him again, and he kissed back and then I was somewhere else. A land where the sweetness was overflowing, and I just wanted to live in it forever. It wasn’t sparks I felt. But something less shocking. Something more relaxing and welcoming. Something like home.
That night, we talked for thirty-three minutes before we both fell asleep.
The day after that, he didn’t reply to my text until 9 pm. He said he was busy. On a Sunday. Something felt off. He didn’t call that night either. The next day, he showed up at my office with cake again. “Sorry about yesterday,” he said with that same apologetic look. “My neigbour made me follow him for this church program and it literally took all day.
“Oh shit,” I laughed. “Those should be avoided at all costs.”
He smiled, and it reached his eyes. “I should get back to work, talk to you later,” he said and backed out with a wink again.
That evening, I called my mum and told her I had found the love of my life. “Yoruba? Hmm. Are you sure?”
“Mummy, what’s this self-hatred about?”
“It’s not self-hatred oh. I’m just saying your father was also a sweet Yoruba man.” I knew what she was implying. That rubbish myth that girls always end up with men like their fathers didn’t apply to me. It could never.
“Mummy. Please, never compare the two of them again.”
But it seemed as if my mother’s powers still flowed as strongly as ever in her veins because her words manifested. In the next few days, I noticed things about him that were similar to my father. Sweet words and empty apologies that came after doing something wrong. Long conversations that made you feel as if you knew everything there was to know about them when in reality, the important topics were never explored. I’ll call you backs that just grew into a pile of unreturned calls.
He was busy again. Work had him in a chokehold. But my friend sent me a recording of him in a club the night he told me he had no time to talk. Then the texts were getting replied to eight hours later. It was at that point I knew I needed to do something because the words spoken over him were manifesting and it wasn’t his fault. So that night, I conjured his essence. I spoke words I wanted to see turned into reality. You will truly love me, you will give me the attention I need, and you will care for me. I chanted the words three times at three a.m. in the morning. Then I let all my worries dissolve into nothingness.
The next morning, a good morning, beautiful text sat under my last ignored text. I had never gotten that from him. He showed up at my office with cake again. But also, with flowers. A stunning bouquet of purple and white lisianthus. I gave him a hug, office etiquette be damned. He was stiff at first, as if unsure of what to do before he melted into the hug and told me how sorry he was. I told him it was fine.
That night, he came by my house with dinner. A bottle of wine and cut-up pieces of spicy shawarma that he fed me till I felt like I would burst. We talked like we did at the beginning. But this time, I noticed how he nodded, asked me the right questions, and never interrupted me. I slept off on the couch and he carried me and tucked me into bed. He left a lingering kiss on my forehead that wrapped around me and made me feel warmer than my coziest blanket ever did.
Another good morning text the next day, another visit at the office but with lunch instead of cake. Another eyebrow wiggle from the receptionist, how did you bag this? He couldn’t stay for long because he had a meeting soon. But he stayed awhile, ignoring the first two calls from his boss, and then running out after the third call.
That night, he had to work late so he had food delivered to me. Then he sent messages apologising for not being able to see me because of his ‘stupid job.’ He never called his job stupid. I told him it was fine, but he still apologised, sending a long string of texts. I fell asleep to an, I’ll make it up to you, baby.
The next morning, he was parked at my office by the time I came in and jumped out of his car when he saw me walking by. “Hey,” he smiled but I didn’t see or feel the warmth and sweetness. Instead, I saw a man with wild, tired eyes, fighting something inside and losing the battle. He hugged me tight, “I’m so sorry about last night.” He gave me the cake box and I felt something moving on my hands.
I looked down and saw the box had tiny ants all over it. “What the hell?” I said as I dropped it to the floor and tried to get the ants off my hands. He kept staring at me with no expression on his face like he was frozen. I hurried to the bathroom as tears ran down my face like I had just turned on a faucet. Why don’t the good parts last?
I looked at myself in the mirror and wiped the tears off my face. Maybe casting a spell to keep a man like my mother did was a bad idea. I took three deep breaths and stepped out of the bathroom. I saw him still standing there through the glass doors. Just where I left him. He hadn’t moved an inch. The cake box was still on the floor, not too far from his feet.
The receptionist called my name. “Isn’t that your guy?” she asked as she pointed at him.
I shook my head. “I don’t know him.”
He deserved to stand there for however long it took for the spell to wear off. For however long it took his mind to understand you should be careful about how you treat women. You might run into a witch, she might use her jazz on you and then you’ll be stuck, frozen on the streets.