Distance Episode 3

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“Na so e dey start,” she muttered to
herself. “From ‘Hello’ to ‘I no do
again.’ That’s how the story ends.”
She promptly emptied the dustbin and
was about to enter the house when she
heard a man’s voice yelling “Hello.” It
was the same guy. He had decided to
vocalize his greeting this time, but
Tobi’s reaction was the same. She
simply ignored him and went inside.
“I came to Asaba to look for a job, not
to make friends,” she reasoned as she
retreated indoors.
Later that afternoon, one of Chief’s
friends came to visit. His name was
Professor Jonathan, and he taught
Physics at University of Nigeria,
Nsukka.
Professor Jonathan was a smartly-
dressed middle-aged man. Although he
was dressed in traditional attire, it was
easy to see how he would look in
English wear. He had an air of
unshakeable confidence around him,
like a man who had wrestled with deep
questions, and had perceived the
answers by trial and error. He was in
Asaba for a friend’s 60th birthday, and
decided to greet Chief Fashola while he
was in town. Chief was known as a
very hospitable man and as was his
custom, offered his friend something to
drink.
“Any soft drink will do,” Professor
Jonathan said.
Auntie Priscillia searched the house and
discovered that there were no soft
drinks on hand. Tobi offered to go and
buy some cold drinks from a nearby
shop.
“But my dear, you don’t know your way
around this neighborhood. Let Godwin
go and buy them.”
“Auntie, please let me go with Godwin.
I might as well use this opportunity to
learn my way around town.”
Auntie Priscillia agreed and
Tobi hopped into the car with Godwin.
He took her to a one-storey mini-
supermarket about five minutes away
from the house. He parked outside,
and waited for Tobi to return.
“Madam, please I need to buy a crate of
Coke and Fanta. Mixed. Do you have
any cold drinks?”
“Yes. How many you want?” the
woman asked.
“Twelve bottles of Coke, eight bottles of
Fanta, and four bottles of Schweppes, if
you have any.”
“We no get Schweppes, but we get
Mirinda,” the woman said, sounding
apologetic.
“Shuooo! How I go take buy Fanta plus
Mirinda? No be the same thing dem
be?” Tobi queried trying to form an
igbo accent like say she sabi
“No, they are not,” a male voice
answered. “Fanta is made by The Coca-
Cola Company, while Mirinda is made
by Pepsi Co., the same company which
makes Pepsi.”
“Who cares? They are both orange
drinks,” Tobi answered without even
turning around to face the interrupter.
“Come o, who be dis ITK (I TOO KNOW)
sef?” she asked, her face wearing a
frown.
With the question still hanging in the
air, she turned around and came face to
face with the human encyclopedia. She
recognized him immediately. It was the
man she had ignored that same
morning, while taking out the trash.
When she saw him that morning, she
only caught a slight glimpse of his face.
But now that he stood within touching
distance, she carefully assessed him
from head to toe.
Tobi was about 5′ 7”. This man
appeared to be at least 2 inches taller
than her. He had what Tobi later
admitted was an adorable little afro, the
kind that just makes you want to reach
out and pat it, just to feel the softness
of the hair. He had a gentle face with a
bold nose that did not seem like it
belonged in that face.
She paused at his ears.
Both ears were pierced, revealing little
holes where ear-rings had once been.
He looked like he was badly in need of
a shave, but all that facial hair did not
hide the Adam’s apple, which kept
bobbing up and down whenever he
swallowed or spoke. He had the build
of a man who was not afraid of hard
work, and could handle physical labor
without whining. He was dressed
casually in t-shirt and jeans, and his
hands, very hairy hands, were stuck in
the side pockets of his jeans. He wore
blue loafers, and as Tobi’s eyes trailed
all the way down from his head to his
toes, and then back to his face, his lips
parted in a smile, revealing gapped
teeth.
It was when he smiled that she saw
them for the very first time: little round
dimples in his cheeks, the kind that
made one say a special prayer of
thanksgiving to God for blessing men
with dimples. They made all the
difference in the world.
“You’re checking me out, ehn? But this
morning you didn’t even answer my
greeting,” the stranger teased. Tobi did
not answer. She was still enjoying the
way his face came alive when he
smiled.
Those dimples … Hmm … Correct!
“I’m Dimeji, by the way. Oladimeji
Bakare. Call me Dimeji.”
Tobi still did not answer.
“Why does he have to introduce
himself with all his names? Weirdo,”
she thought.
Dimeji kept talking.
“Ahn ahn … Are you going to ignore me
even now, when I am standing right in
front of you?” he asked. A frown had
twisted his brow into odd waves of
skin, and the dimples made a very
limited appearance as if they were shy.
Tobi snapped out of her fantasy.
“Oh sorry … What did you say again?”
“I’m Dimeji Bakare. You can call me
Dimeji. And you are?”
“Tobi. Tobi,” she said repeatedly,
smiling at of herself.
“Auntie, na which mineral you want
make I give you?” the woman asked.
She was tired of watching this drama
and just wanted to get paid.
“The Mirinda is fine, Madam. Twelve
bottles of Coke, eight bottles of Fanta,
and four bottles of Mirinda,”
Tobi replied, turning back to face the
woman.
“Madam, please add two cartons of
Chivita, the pineapple one. I will pay
for everything,” Dimeji offered.
Tobi tried to convince him otherwise,
but he was just persistent.
“Consider it a gift, from a neighbor,” he
said, as he paid for everything Tobi had
purchased, including the crate of
drinks. As she thanked him, he said it
was his pleasure, and was about to ask
her some more questions when his
phone rang. He answered it and
immediately burst into fluent Hausa.
Tobi was shocked.
The phone call lasted for just a minute,
and Tobi immediately asked about his
speaking Hausa.
“I grew up in Kaduna. I moved to
Lagos when I was about to start
secondary school. Oh, sorry. I didn’t
mean to delay you. Your visitor will be
waiting for the drinks.”
“How did you know they were meant
for a visitor?” Tobi asked puzzled.
“I saw him entering your house as I was
driving past.”
“Your eyes are sharp o.”
“Not as sharp as they need to be,”
Dimeji replied.
That last sentence further confused
Tobi, and as she returned home, she
wondered what he meant. She left him
and returned to the car where Godwin
was waiting for her. They both
returned to the house. Tobi told Auntie
Priscillia that a neighbor had paid for
the drinks, and she was very pleased.
Tobi went with a tray of drinks to serve
the visitor. She knew he would only
drink one bottle, but it was for the sake
of variety that she presented him with
three different bottles. After greeting
him, he pointed to the bottle of
Mirinda. She was just grabbing the
bottle opener when her uncle
addressed her:
“Tobi, Prof and I have been talking.
The friend he came to visit is the
General Manager at one of the local
banks. He might be able to get you a
job there.”
“Oh, really? Oh, that would be very
nice, sir,” Tobi said in response to her
uncle. Then, turning to Prof, she said
almost knelt down while the words,
“Thank you, sir,” escaped from her
lips. Prof smiled his acknowledgment.
“What course did you study in school?”
Prof asked.
“Business Administration, sir,”
Tobi replied.
“Come on, Prof. You know that even if
she read Agric. Science, she can still get
a job at a bank,” Chief teased. Both
men laughed and the conversation
switched to politics. Tobi took that as
her prompt to slip away from their
midst.
After Prof left, Chief told her to send
her CV to him by e-mail, which she did
promptly. He would forward it to his
contacts, including the very prospective
one they had already discussed. That
night, Tobi went to bed full of hope.
– to be continued –Please stay tune!