It was one of those mornings you wished you could sleep in and suddenly realised that it’s a Monday and you have a 7:00am meeting with a presentation. The alarm rings, and in an attempt to put it off, I catch a glimpse of the time. It’s 5.30am. That must have been an error. I was sure I set it for 5.00am. I make a quick dash to the bathroom and out in a record 7 minutes. I wear my suits, grab my shoes and bag an additional 5 minutes. Hair, makeup, and all others would be done in the cab. BJ is currently on his annual leave so I use a Taxi cab in the morning and at the close of work, I join any colleague going my way.
My phone buzzes, it’s the cab driver. I dash out of the house on a sprint to the Estate gate. Taxi cabs are not allowed into the estate. I am lucky to make it to the meeting at 6.55am.
“Phew! That was very close”, I mutter to myself as I take my seat beside Peju.
“Girl what happened to you? You look scattered”, she says.
“Ore, I woke up late, dreamt I was dining in the white house with George W. Bush and did not want that dream to end” I tease.
She chuckles and said reverting to Pidgin English, “gist dey after the meeting.
We ease off on our chit-chat as the moderator starts the meeting.
My presentation went well. Luckily there were more pressing issues that morning than the need to scrutinize my report. As soon as the meeting was over I was with Peju. Once Peju says there is gist be sure it is hot and sizzling gossip.
“So girlfriend, what is the gist?” I walk beside her as we leave the meeting venue. Peju laughs, “you and this your ears for Kwongosa, I know you won’t rest till you have heard it all.”
“Spill jo, don’t make me beg,” I said.
“We are leaving for Chief Bola Idowu’s office this morning. He called me last night to pick up a six-figure cheque.” “Woop!”I shout. I throw my hands in the air, do a jig and turn around. I see colleagues starring but who cares.
“Shhh,” Peju gestures placing are her index finger over her lips. “I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag till we have brought the cheque in.”
Chief Idowu is a very good friend of one of my uncles and I had dropped his name for Peju in one of our meetings. I just never thought he would.
“Wow! Peju, I should have gone there myself o!” I say to her. She hisses, “Who do you think has the account. Me?” she asks.
“Yes, it’s you, he called,” I answered.
“Girlfriend, he is your uncle’s friend. It’s your account,” she says.
I am dumbfounded. In this, our job of dog chop dog, I never saw it coming. I gave her the name because she needed two more names on her list to make ten prospects as I already had my ten.
I say to Peju, “I am really touched and I know you are my friend but take it.You went to him I doubt if I would have gone.”
“Are you sure?” She asked.
I say to her, “Girl, you must be crazy to think of giving me.”
“Hmmm, Lana, I am only wise to know that before Maple Bank you and I were and after Maple Bank, you and I will be. I can’t allow a simple account to come between us.”
I place my hand on my chest over my heart and roll my eyes dramatically, “This is so touching.”
“Get out”, Peju says giggling and playfully shoving me forward.
Unfortunately, yours truly missed a step and fell flat in front of the Boss.
The hardliner never ever smiling boss. It was like if he did smile his face would crack or something terrible would happen. Between Peju and I, we nicknamed him Buffalo.
“Ladies, is this the right place for this sort of behaviour?” his voice thundered.
Peju with a remorse face says, “No sir,” She is trying hard to stifle her giggle as the look of me sprawled on the floor before the boss was hilarious.
“You could take your lack of seriousness out of here. If you put as little as half the effort you put into your giggling to your work, the Bank’s bottom line would be smiling.”
Looking down at me, “And you, see me in my office for that your report,” he barked.
Oh now, I certainly would kill Peju for this. I give her a look of “you are gunner girl, you got me into this you either get me out or you would pay for this.”
Peju steps in, “Sir, Please can Lana see you later for the report, we have been called by one of the prospects we submitted the last week to pick up a cheque.”He asked us to come before 9.00am this morning.”
I looked at her, oh girl you have just bitten the lion’s tail.
“How much is this cheque we are talking about?” he asks with a look of disdain.
“N100, 000,000 sir”, she says with a straight face like she was calling a Five Naira note.
“And you are still here?” he barked, “leave this minute and don’t come back here without that cheque.”
I was up from my feet now and we both scramble away from his presence.
“I thought you wanted it as a surprise?” I asked her.
“Yes, I did but you and I know you won’t be out of that office for the next two hours, from making tea to writing and reviewing one memo or the other. I had to do something. Not with the way you were shooting daggers with your eyes. It was clear, I was a gunner.”
“Chief Idowu had better keep his word”. I say to her laughing. “Or else Buffalo will so knock you down you will forget your name.”
We both go to the ladies to work on our makeup and appearance before setting out.
On our way to Chief’s office, my phone rings. I ignore it.
Peju looks at me. “Pick up your phone girl.”
I shook my head. I did not feel up to it this morning. Ever since I started work with the bank, my uncle calls me every Monday morning under the guise of checking up on me. The call always ended the same way. “Lana remember the family you came from, never compromise your values for a career”.
I was not up to his call this morning, so l let the phone ring enjoying the Lagbaja’s all hit Konko below I used as a ring tone.
Uncle Sege is my favourite uncle and I am his favourite niece. I remember his prayers when I bought him the Paco Rabanne 1 Million Cologne with my first pay. The prayers were heaven bound and the counsel top grade with marriage first on the agenda.
“Ehen, what about that your friend who was calling you three Christmases ago?” He asked.
“I really liked that young man. He seems very sensible and responsible.” He concluded. I lied through my teeth that he was fine.
The Christmas, Uncle Sege was referring to was the one I spent with his family the year I graduated from University. My parents chose that year to go to the village and I decided to stay back but they insisted I moved over to my Uncle’s place rather than be home alone.
Uncle Sege, as we fondly call him is the youngest of my Father’s four siblings. He is a modern man. He is what I call updated. There is no latest music or film show he’s not knowledgeable off. He was one never to miss the AY comedy show since it started. “Uncle mi to bad,” we dare not speak our slangs in his presence, he would decode. We all loved, respected and feared him. He was easy to talk to, fun to be with and generous to a fault. He spoilt all his nephews and nieces without exception but I was sure I was top on the list.
If you loved Uncle Sege, wait until you met his wife, Auntie Bimba. She is an epitome of loveliness. Auntie Bimba is not the usual robust Yoruba women you come across as aunties. She is modern, updated like her husband. Growing up, she was the only Aunt I knew in my large family who would turn up in Jeans or an English outfit for family functions. There were always snickers and comments by my other Aunts but either she heard or she just did not care enough to bother. We, the young ones felt she was the coolest of all the Aunts. She was also a Barrister like my Uncle.
Uncle Sege always joked that he never wanted to be on the other team when Auntie Bimba was prosecuting. He would joke many times that he stepped down at home so that the day they ever had to be on opposing sides in court, she would remember his love and devotion. Aunt Bimba, would shake her head and say to him laughing, “Not in your life”. We all knew and saw how much how much they both loved each other. Uncle Sege was the only man to kiss his wife full on the mouth in our family meetings much to the chagrin of the other women.
I once heard Auntie Kemi, the wife to Uncle Kunle who was second to the youngest of my father’s siblings, saying, “Did they not leave the house together, so why the public display of affection? They are corrupting the younger ones”.
I could swear that Auntie Kemi wouldn’t have minded if her husband had done the same. I think I did see a look of longing in her eyes, but it was gone in a flash.
Aunt Bimba was neither robust nor slim. She is about a size 12 for her small frame. She was dark in complexion, a full mouth that was always in mulberry shade lipstick, perhaps one of the reasons why Uncle Sege could not stop kissing her, beautiful cat shaped eyes, the kind that would put Cleopatra of Egypt to shame, a cute nose that was neither pointed nor round and her short well permed and styled hair. She had everything put together that my other aunts would have wanted. A good career, a nice body that did not require the gym, dieting, or jaw locking, good looks and an adoring husband.
The young man Uncle Sege had been referring to was Bode Coker. My first love. Bode and I met on campus. I still remember that day like yesterday. The day started like any other Thursday in June. It was a special fellowship programme termed love feast where food and drinks were shared, and different people come up the stage to share words of inspiration and encouragement in special songs, drama presentation, and comedy. It was one of those events that drew crowds on campus without a barrier to your race, department, ideology or belief. We both were on the committee for this programme and had worked hard to make it the successful one it turned out to be.
Due to behind the scenes logistics, I came in late enough to be ushered to a seat. The guy at the entrance of the hall welcoming everyone in was definitely the most handsome guy I had ever laid eyes on. I recall smiling and saying to myself, “That’s one handsome guy there, wait till I get back to my room to gist the other girls.”
We had engaged in a discussion earlier in the week as to who was a handsome guy and started calling names. I just kept saying “Nah! No!! Nope!!!” That night, they came to the conclusion, my definition for handsomeness was out of this world.
It must have been a divine encounter for my eyes to be opened to see him in a light that would make him stand out that day. This was because we had both been in this fellowship and faculty for three years and I never noticed the face. We were on the same committee for three weeks planning a programme, and if I had passed him along the road, I still would not have recognised him. He was just any other face but on this day, he stood out.
I did not get see him again till sometimes in July. I stopped a cab in town heading for the campus, and he was already in the cab. He said, “Hello,” and because I knew the face, although I still did not know his name. I said, “Hi,”and got into a conversation and we introduced ourselves.
We got to the campus, he paid my fare and walked me to my hostel. I was an undergraduate but staying in the postgraduate hall. A room of two people turned to a room of four. He stopped at the entrance of the hostel and wished me a good evening. I could swear, I fell in love with him that very moment. The norm was to ask for your room number and offer to come visit.
We began running into each other frequently. We fast became friends as we realised we had mutual friends and activities. He had a group of two other guys and they were fondly called the three musketeers. I had dealings with the other two guys not knowing all three were connected. They were all a year ahead of me with just some few months to leave. Those moments were one of the best memories of campus. These guys were incredible and fun to be with. They left school the following year for their national youth service. The first month was terrible. I missed them as everywhere and everything reminded me of them. I could not remember how my life was before they came in.
The days went by and I settled into the routine of lectures, getting my project ready and fellowship.
One day, three months after they had left, I was in a stationery store that also served as a call center. Students paid to either make or receive calls. I heard the name Bode Coker over the phone, without so much of a please excuse me I grabbed the phone from the attendant and I am like, “Hey you, this is Lana. What a coincidence I am here”. I was too excited and firing questions if he had heard from the other two, where he got to work and how the work was going.
I remembered my manners, “Wow! Sorry, please, who did you want to speak to?”
He said he called to speak with me.
I was surprised. “How could you have known that I would be here?”
“I took a risk,” He answered.
“Wow! That is sure some risk” I replied.
He asked if it was okay to call me regularly and I said, “No Bode. It would be nice but I don’t want to send the wrong signals”.
“Okay,” he said and asked me to say hi to some other people and the call ended.
Bode was a cool guy. A perfect gentleman, I fondly called him but I never gave myself the luxury that he would seek me out. I had this image of the kind of girl who he would go out with and that image did not come close to mine. We were great friends and it would stay that way.
It was that Christmas I spent at Uncle Sege’s place that we were both constantly on the phone. During one of our conversation, he told me he had a surprise for me. I love giving surprises but could not stand receiving any. I was curious and asked him to spill it.
He said, “Never,” that he would bring the surprise in January when he came to Campus. Immediately I don’t know why I had this fear but I asked, “I hope you are not spending all that hours on the road to come and see my face, there must be something else bringing you.”
“My fingers are crossed, just wait and see when I come.” He said laughing.
He came the third weekend in January. I was away for a friend’s wedding in town and came back in the evening. I was told by my roommates and they were smiling mischievously.
“Bode was here, he said he would check back at 7pm.”
“What?” I asked, looking at them suspiciously.
“Nothing,” they both said bursting into laughter.
“You tell us,” Toke said.
We heard a knock on the door and since I was still standing by the door, I was the one to open. I smiled when I saw him.
“Surprise,” I say as I allow him to come in. I excused myself to change into comfortable blue jeans and a yellow top from my earlier Buba and Iro with gele.
“Did she not look like a bride just know?” Toke was asking Bode when I came in.
“I am here o! Please don’t talk about me as if I am not here,” I said.
“Yes, she did, and that’s what you guys will be doing from graduation”. Bode continued only acknowledging me with a smile that sent butterflies in my stomach. I was sure it must be something I ate at the party.
“How’s Bayo?” he asks Toke. “He is fine I should speak to him this evening.”
“Please do send my regards,” Bode said.
Toke and Bayo had been an item since our first semester 300 level. I was the chief teaser. How Toke took all my teasing was just a wonder but I was sure I could not take a quarter of the fun I had at her expense.
We left together to go out and Toke whispered into my ears, “I am waiting here”. Whatever she meant I had no clue but I was going to have a great evening, which I promised myself. It was not every day a friend from out of town came to see you.
That evening outside the student union building under the dark cloud with white specks of shining stars we talked about everything, the service year, his new place of assignment, his family, hopes dreams aspirations. It was a talk like you probably won’t see each other again and that was the reality. We probably won’t see each other after now. I was soon to graduate to be posted to any of the thirty-six states in the country…………..
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Kwongosa – A slang for hot gist
Buba and Iro – The traditional yoruba attire
Gele – The traditional yoruba headgear