Dubai has been fun all the way. I have not been able to get over the giddiness of being on the trip. I had a fabulous time of wandering around and googling wide-eyed at its picturesque. The city is beautiful. It has been an experience that would linger in my memory for a long time. My beloved Naija paled in comparison to this town of perfection and possibility.
I marveled at every work of architecture and the display of wealth as I moved around the city. For the first time, my loyalty and preference to my roots wavered, and I could hear the winds luring me to consider a relocation.
It was a feeling of how you suddenly realise that your parent’s garden is not as vast and exquisite as you always believed until you stepped out to see bigger and more lovely gardens out there. Much to my chagrin, came the discovery on my maiden voyage out of the shores of my motherland.
Before now, I had never traveled out of the country. While others traveled out for summer vacation, my sister and I slugged it with our father traipsing the length and breadth of the country. We were privileged to learn and relate to its history and diverse culture. It could also be responsible for my patriotic nature. Sadly that too is now in question with only one visit out.
Now I am filled with regret for not taking the Paris offer. There is a new drive to see the world. I have already added cities to visit on my bucket list of things to do before turning thirty. Places like Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Venice in Italy, Cairo in Egypt, Puerto Rico, London and New York. I have promised myself the luxury of globetrotting.
On the last night of our trip, I was too tired to venture out. Luckily I had seen all there was to see on my list of places to visit. I decided to rest my feet and read a book before going to bed.
I must have slept off when Peju burst in the room shaking me vigorously to break her good news as she narrated to me the next morning.
I probably must have been offended in between my state of dreamland and light consciousness. I heard her announce her engagement to Mr Phillip Idowu CEO Ideal Oil and Gas, Business mogul and Lagos most eligible bachelor. Flipping her ringed finger before my half closed eyes, I groggily gazed at her babbling incoherently as I tried to make sense of all she was saying.
The next morning was none too hilariously because Peju was sleeping when I spotted the ring on her finger. I shook her mercilessly with an infectious excitement and a scream that came out with a sound similar to the screech from a car on high speed whose break is applied suddenly.
“You sly fox when did you get this? Last night? And you did not wake me up?” she asked in her peculiar way of throwing several questions at you in one breath.
She woke up with a start and looked at me like I had grown horns on my head or something much worse.
“Last night and I woke you up to break the news.” she said indignantly.
“No, you did not,” I challenged her this was is not a piece of news one could ignore or forget overnight.
“I did. You woke up looked at me mouthed may be congratulations or perhaps a get lost,” Peju explained wearily.
“No, you did not,” I insisted.
I would not have bothered to wake you up if it was stale news.” I reasoned with her.
“Yeah,” she answered drily.
Nevertheless, I found it hard to believe that I slept through the breaking news.
“Not only did you sleep through, but you also treated my story like it was no news at all. The only reason I did not pour a bucket of water over to wake you was the thrill I would get this morning when you found out. And I have not been disappointed,” Peju said with a full smile.
I heaved a sigh of relief not without throwing a pillow at her before I picked her hand and gazed at the ring sparkling a thousand glittering lights in all directions.
“You got your dream girl. I am super excited for you. Wasn’t it some few months ago I was talking about marrying you off. How fortunate I am not to have to embark on such an arduous assignment and here you are snagging the most priced bachelor,” I said, and this got her smiling from ear to ear.
I did a double take on my observation which got me thinking, and I was quick to share my thoughts.
“Peju, what are you more excited about, meeting the guy of your dreams or snagging this wealthy boyfriend. You seem to me in love more with his status than his person.”
“My dear some things should be clear to you already as to who I am. I was not looking for money when Phil came along, but I would not deceive myself that it is thrilling to be blessed to meet someone good looking, caring, thoughtful and wealthy. What more can any girl ask for in life?” she asked dreamily.
“Plenty,” I answered stubbornly.
I did agree with her that wealth coming with the package was a plus, but there were many sides to a man than his possession.
“If you and I were to plan this trip, how long do you think we would have saved without feeling pain when we check our bank balances? I doubt we would have been able to be here on our bill and staying at the Pullman Hotel. If it were a loan, we probably would have been paying monthly installment right to our graves. So I am excited about him and my new life of love, laughter and luxury.”
I could not argue with her on this one.
“Kai like those romance books kuwa! She exclaimed injecting words from her acquired native Hausa language.
I stare at her blankly.
“Hello!” waving my right hand in front of her face to bring her out of her supposed trance.
“I am lost here with your gibberish,” I said.
“It is an exclamation which did not change the meaning of what I said just adding weight to the words like when you use the word “honestly”. I have not sold you yet, still looking for the highest bidder,” she teased.
“Whatever? I said shrugging my shoulders with an attitude.
“Back to our gist. I wish you all the happiness possible,” I said lifting an imaginary cup in a toast.
“Thank you,” she said clicking her imaginary cup with mine.
“I’ll make a bargain with you upfront which is I get to go on some trips with you, all – expense paid.
“Now who is the sly fox?” she asked grinning.
“I am negotiating before you enter your kingdom and forget us mere mortals,” I teased.
“I can’t forget you. It can’t and won’t happen. You are a girl’s best friend.”
“Oh please!” I said rolling my eyes.
“I do what I need to do because it is the right thing to do and we both stand in to pitch our help for one another. We have each others back, appreciate respect each other. If anyone has kept our friendship is more you than me so don’t praise me. I said with nose crinkling and too quickly added, “we should be celebrating and not going sentimental.”
We ordered room service for our breakfast, raqaq, one of the most traditional bread known in the UAE, with cheese and Iranian Coffee. For desert Fruit salad with olives in it and a jug of orange juice.
I spat out the olives in disgust as soon as I tasted it. Thankfully it was just Peju and I. It would have been utter misery to swallow it down my throat. I had seen the small black fruit, the size of a grape during our previous meals and had stirred clear off it until today I decided to be adventurous enough to try it out, and how grave my reward was.
“The olive taste horrible!” I exclaimed wondering what all the noise about olives is.
“It is healthy and good for the body,” Peju commented.
“I can use the oil but to take the fruit is a no-no for me,” I said as a matter of fact.
“Why do most healthy foods have nasty tastes and our favourites have a fantastic taste but are not healthy options?” I wondered aloud.
A question I am not able to adequately answer but what comes to mind is the use of refined sugars in their preparation.
While I ranted, Peju took all the olives without a complaint.
“How can you eat that? It’s got a bitter taste. ”I asked looking at her dubiously wondering what she added to hers. Peju has a sweet tooth she could not have eaten the olives.
“It’s healthy, and that is my singular motivation. You don’t see olives on the streets back home,” Peju answered too sweetly.
“I know that, but I can’t get it down my throat,”I grumbled downing a cup of juice to make the awful taste go away.
I eyed the olives on Peju’s plate like it was some mortal enemy.
And I courageously put one in my mouth.
“Oh now, you’ve been eating this sweet berry in the name of olive.”
For reasons I could not explain Peju had blackberry while I had olive and to watch her go on preaching her sermon on healthy foods feasting on blackberry.
“I should have guessed earlier,” I muttered.
Today being the last day, we spent the better part of the day indoors to conclude on packing our luggage. Phil had a meeting this morning. Although it was Sunday, in Dubai Sunday was what Monday was to us back at home. He would be seeing us later in the day. He was not coming back with us as he still had work to do and won’t be in Nigeria for another three weeks.
The hours spent sitting on the plane was the only aspect of the trip I did not like. Although on our flight in, there were films to watch to keep one busy and I had brought books to read, it was disheartening to have to sit that long in just a small space. Sleep that would have been the best option chose that moment to elude me. I was looking forward to going home but not the long, arduous trip ahead.
At the airport, I had to leave the love birds discreetly alone. I might have accused Peju earlier in the day that she could be more in love with his money that who he was but watching them hugging like never to let go dispelled any doubts I had. I could see genuine love in both eyes. I might not be looking for romance for myself, but that did not mean I could not recognise a real one when I saw it.
There were tears in Peju’s eyes as she joined me where I was. My joke died on my lips when I saw how distraught she was looking. It was neither the appropriate time nor season. I looked over at Phil he was worse than Peju, the guy looked like he was ready to start howling in the airport as tears shone in his eyes. I took Peju away and hastily waved to him. It won’t be good to see a grown man crying in the airport.
I held my friend in a fierce embrace. I have done well so far and would not give in no matter how beautiful it looked when people fell in love. The heart and the drama were too much and intense for me. And somewhere along the line, the feelings cease and people fall out of love. I doubted if Peju and Phil would fall out of love. It did not look it in the few weeks I have seen them together. I was almost beginning to believe that somewhere and in someplace love could be eternal but not for me.