Distance Episode 8

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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, 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 –Checkout in the next
episode