By now, it was already dark, and although the electricity supply was a lot better in Asaba than it was in Lagos, the power was out that night. The generators in the neighborhood had taken over from where PHCN stopped. Chief Fashola’s compound was no exception. The hum of his generator was loud enough to mask Tobi and Dimeji’s conversation from the gateman who sat at his duty post near the gate.
When Tobi stepped outside the gate and saw Dimeji, she immediately noticed that something had changed. He looked different. Dimeji had changed from the purple button-down shirt and gray trousers he wore earlier in the day, and now donned his usual t-shirt and jeans. He was smiling. No, beaming when Tobi came outside. He could easily have outshone the bright fluorescent lamp, which lit up the front of Chief’s house. Tobi wondered why he was so happy. He read the question in her eyes and pronounced the answer with his lips:
“I should have asked you this weeks ago, but I kept looking for the right opportunity and … Tobi, you have to promise me that you’ll say ‘Yes.’ Will you?” Dimeji looked at Tobi, hope written all over his face.
“How can I make a promise when I don’t know the terms? What if you want me to steal someone’s fowl? I’m not a thief o,” said Tobi, laughing nervously (you sabi as lady dey always form nau :D). She hoped the laughter would mask the sound of her heart racing. Nerves! Was he really asking her out?
“Come on now, you know what I mean. Okay, okay, I will come out and say it: I want you to be my girlfriend.”
“Is that how they ask people out in your village? There should at least be a marching band and maybe atilogwu dancers. Maybe the atilogwu dancers are on their way sef,” said Tobi, unable to hide the smile that was growing wider and wider. She could not believe it. Had he been eavesdropping on her conversation with Auntie Priscillia? Strange things has happened.
“Oya now, what’s your answer? Please say Yes,” Dimeji pleaded, grabbing Tobi’s hands and clasping them in his own.
“Yes. My answer is Yes,” Tobi said, and before she could say anything else, Dimeji pulled her close and planted a light kiss on her lips. Tobi suddenly remembered that her uncle could burst out of the gate at any moment, and quickly pulled away from Dimeji. He looked mildly offended.
“Did I do something wrong?” he asked, puzzled.
“No-o. Not at all. It’s just that my un–”
“Oh yes, I forgot about your uncle. But you’re not a child now. He should be okay w–
” Tobi’s laughter interrupted him in mid- sentence. It was the sort of laughter that was designed to pass across a message, and the message embedded in Tobi’s laugh was, “You must be joking.”
“My father is not even as strict as my uncle. As long as I live under his roof, no matter how old I am, he won’t be happy to find me kissing our neighbor outside his gate at night.”
“Ah, how did I suddenly become ‘our neighbor’ all over again? You’re my girlfriend now.”
“Girlfriend, not wife. Oya, I have to go back inside before they start looking for me.”
“Wait now. You said you wanted to talk. I’m listening.” Tobi paused and then smiling, she told him:
“It’s settled. There’s nothing left to talk about. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. No English wear o.”
“Okay o. Come now …. There’s something else …” said Dimeji. Tobi obliged. With one swift move, Dimeji cupped Tobi’s face with his hands, and gave her a proper kiss. This time, she did not pull away.
“See you tomorrow then,” he said, as he let his hands slide to her waist. Tobi nodded. He held her for a minute and then reluctantly let her go. As she retreated into the house, she thought to herself:
“This is what they call promotion, for Dimeji is a far better kisser than Mayowa.” The following day was a Saturday, and Dimeji came to pick her up as planned. He wore a powder blue brocade buba with matching trousers, and Tobi wore a purple and gray lace blouse with a matching long skirt. She left her hair uncovered.
“I don’t want to go there looking like Mr. Johnson’s second wife,” she replied when Dimeji asked her why she was not wearing a head tie. She felt that wearing a head tie would make her look older, a big no-no.
“Don’t cover your hair, then. I prefer it like this,” he said, referring to the individual braids she had tied into a ponytail. Tobi blushed. The purple and silver eye shadow she had carefully applied was not lost on Dimeji either, and he made several jokes about it all the way to Agbor.
Although they had to stop several times on the way to ask for directions to the street where Mr. Johnson lived, they finally arrived in Agbor late in the afternoon. The party was already in full swing when they walked into the spacious compound. Mr. Johnson, who was too busy celebrating life, did not even comment on Tobi’s relationship with the young man who she introduced as Dimeji. As it turned out, her fears were unfounded. After eating and drinking, Tobi got a chance to assess Dimeji’s moves on the dance floor to highlife music. She was quite impressed, but complained bitterly about it all the way home.
“I’m sure you went to practice before coming to Agbor today. I’m so sure of it! Ahn, ahn, how can a man beat me on the dance floor like that?” Tobi lamented as they made their way home. Nightfall was fast approaching as Dimeji steered the car along Asaba-Agbor Road.
“Babe, don’t jealous me! I sabi dance pass you. Just accept it,” said Dimeji. His feigned arrogance only served to irritate Tobi further.
“I’m not inviting you to any more parties, until I have satisfied myself that I can beat you at this,” said Tobi, still sulking. Dimeji just laughed at her and turned on the radio. If you love me, you go wait for me … Onyeka Onwenu’s soulful voice blended with King Sunny Ade’s lighter tones in a delicious harmony. Tobi tried to change the channel.
“Why? What are you doing?” Dimeji asked in surprise.
“I like that song,” he said, making a futile attempt to flip the channel back to the previous radio station.
“Well, I don’t. That song is–” Tobi began, and then, her voice faltered.
“What’s the matter, Tobi?” “That was our song. Mayowa always sang it on my birthday. We even had a dance for it.” Dimeji burst out laughing, but when he realized that Tobi was serious, he swallowed the rest of his laughter.
“You’re serious? That Mayowa guy used to sing this song to you and dance to it? Wow! I don’t think I can top that. In fact, I am begging you, please don’t ask me to. That’s the lamest, dumbest thing I have ever heard in my life!” He turned and caught the look on Tobi’s face. She looked hurt.
“Sorry,” he apologized.
“I shouldn’t have been so insensitive, he being your ex and all.”
“Prove it.” Tobi said. She looked and sounded so serious that Dimeji parked the car by the side of the road. His abrupt move startled a woman selling roasted yam nearby. The woman actually jumped up in fright and made as if to run from what she deemed imminent danger. Seeing that the car’s brakes worked perfectly fine and that he did not knock over either the yam or the keg of palm oil sitting on the floor, she cautiously returned to her spot. Spreading her palms menacingly at Dimeji, the sign otherwise known as Waka, or in this case, double Waka or Waka raised to the power two, she yelled:
“God punish you!” Unfortunately for her, Dimeji was totally oblivious her cursing. He had turned off the car engine and was looking at Tobi. Then, he did the unthinkable. He got out of the car, walked over to Tobi’s side, opened her door and pulled her aside gently. With Tobi leaning on the front passenger’s side, confusion written all over her face, Dimeji’s lips parted and a song floated out. Tobi recognized the song immediately. It was P-Square’s I love you . “… The personal person for me-e-e …” Dimeji sang gleefully. One would think the guy actually composed the song himself.
“Bros, you don craze finish o. Na song she go chop? If to say you buy her yam now, na she go dey sing for you!” said the yam seller, who had now turned to a roadside amebo . Why this woman thought that roasted yam and palm-oil was a romantic meal was anybody’s guess. Even more puzzling was the fact that she thought that insulting a potential customer would entice him to patronize her. Tobi and Dimeji simply ignored her.
After Dimeji’s impromptu performance, Tobi smiled her thanks. Then, they got into the car and continued to Asaba in silence. Mostly. When they arrived in front of Chief Fashola’s house, Tobi turned to Dimeji and said: “I enjoyed the performance. Thanks again.” Before Dimeji could say anything, she leaned forward and planted a kiss on his cheek.
“Is that all I get? A peck? For all my hard work?!” Dimeji said, feigning surprise.
“Good Night, Dimeji,” said Tobi as she got out of the car. As she climbed into bed less than an hour later, it finally dawned on her, the lesson Dimeji strove to teach her that afternoon: that although both good and bad memories can spring from the same experience, you can overwrite bad memories with good ones . Or something like that. As for Dimeji, he did not sleep a wink that night. That peck that Tobi had planted on his cheek had set him on fire, he didnt bath sef, and it would take a lot to quench that fire.
The following day was a Sunday. Dimeji travelled very early that morning and left Asaba for some business in Calabar. That meant that Tobi would have to go by herself to church. She was not looking forward to it, and it was not just because of Dimeji’s absence. She was avoiding Brother James. Who be brother James again?
To be continued tomorrow