I have been away too long. Blame my ‘Ajala’ ways. I am in love with Asia and can’t wait to go back. It was a trip that exceeded my every expectation. Someday I will write about it. Not today. Today I am writing about Third Mainland Bridge, Oworonshoki, Ghana High, Falomo etc. Because I am starting to forget Lagos and this is my way of remembering.
You never really know the ‘whys’ of others until you get real close to them. Even then… Be kind. Everyone is fighting a battle you know next to nothing about. Here is hoping all the battles you fight are for love and worth it.
It began with his boss requesting the folder on mergers and acquisitions. The day had steadily gone downhill from there.
At 12pm, he decided to drive to Ghana High for lunch. Nothing like moin-moin wrapped in leaves just the way his mother still made them back in Ibadan to heal his wounded pride and muscles that ached from having to search over 50 cabinets for one folder. His 1o year old Toyota Camry had made it to the beginning of Falomo road and packed up. After trying everything he knew to get it started, he had given up and called Rasak, his mechanic. It had been another 20 minute wait for Rasak to get there.
“Oga wetin do am again?” Rasak had asked as he alighted from the Okada he had taken to get there.
Bandele ignored the question, handing over the keys to the mechanic as he got on the same Okada so he could get back to work before his already pissed off boss noticed. Rasak knew the deal and would do what needed to get done; Bandele could trust him. It wasn’t until he was back in the office though that he realized he still had not had any lunch. He had to settle for begging Risi, the cleaner to buy him whatever was left over from the rush hour at the Buka near the office.
At about 2pm, the fire alarm went off. He and everyone else assumed it was just another drill so he grabbed only his phone and wallet. It started to rain sometime between when the Lagos Fire Service arrived and when the Facilities Manager announced it might be a good idea for everyone to just head home to return the next day.
By that time he was already soaked through and through.
He was going to walk to the bus stop when Adaeze, the girl he had once thought he would spend his life with and co-worker, offered him a ride in the car her fiancé just gifted her. He had hesitated at first but it had been a long tiring day and he had no pride left.
“So how are things?” She asked as they got on Third Mainland Bridge.
“Things are good…”
“That is good.” She said before the awkwardness of it all silenced them both.
The usual traffic was made worse by the rain. Halfway through the bridge, Rasak texted him.
“Oga, I don drop the car for house. Na the engine. Time don reach for new car oh.”
Bandele smiled tightly. “Tell me something I don’t know.” He said out loud before remembering he had company.
“What?” Adaeze asked.
“Oh nothing. Was just thinking out loud”
She laughed then and he cringed because the humor that never seemed misplaced between them now was.
“I miss you Bandele. You always knew how to make me laugh. I wish things could have worked between us…” She started to say.
Bandele sighed. As if he needed this right now. What was he supposed to say? Lie that he missed her and the way she always made him feel like he was never enough?
“Hey Ada, thanks for the ride but I think I can take a bike from here so you don’t have to go out of your way.”
The rain had eased up but the Okada men at Oworonshoki were not one to pass up on an opportunity to make more money.
“Oga your money na 200.”
“Why is it 200? Something that is 50 naira normally.”
“You sef talk am. That one na normally. E no easy to drive Okada inside rain na.”
“Okay okay, I have 100 naira. Is that okay?
He had his heart in his mouth the whole time the rider wheezed through traffic like he had a death wish but he finally made it to home in one piece.
He opened the gate to find his landlord.
“Good evening sir,” he greeted.
“Ehen Mr Bandele. How are you re? How was work today?”
“Work was fine. We thank God.”
“Ehen so that water levy I told you people about at the last general meeting? Almost everyone else has paid oh. It remains only you and Mr Kosoko, that irresponsible man. He has probably used the money to drink ogogoro or play lotto…”
He sighed silently to himself as the man went on. All he wanted at this point was his bed, the one place he could just bury himself and hide from the world and its problems.
The house keys were back in the office but they kept a spare under the flowerpot behind Kaka’s bicycle. He bent to reach for it and his heart stopped. Just like that every sadness, every lethargy, every failure, every shame that had attended the day rolled off his shoulders and his heart started to beat faster. He felt like Alice falling down a hole filled with wonder.
She was home. Kaka was home.
“Hey,” she said as she opened the door. The power was out thanks to PHCN but she had lighted some candles. The light they gave formed a halo around her as she stood framed by the doorway. Not that he needed any light to find his way into her arms.
He held on for as long as he could, letting her every breath breathe life back into him.
“You are here.” He said when he finally found his voice.
“I am here.”
This was not the time for questions. He had booked her flight himself. November 4th, 2016, Heathrow to Lagos, on Virgin Atlantic Flight No 130. She was coming home for their anniversary. A quick break from business school to celebrate the day they promised each other forever. Today was only the 1st of the month.
He held on as long as he could to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, all the while closing his eyes, breathing in her every scent. Kaka was his ‘why’.
The ‘why’ there would be no new car because school fees and bills in the UK had to get paid. The ‘why’ water levies were delayed until her monthly allowance was complete. The ‘why’ behind his haggling with bus conductors and Okada men over fares so twice a year flights from Heathrow could be purchased to bring her home. The ‘Why’ arrogant bosses would be accommodated until she got a job and he could resign to follow his dream and open a Benihana style restaurant in Ibadan. The ‘why’ he accepted free rides from exes. The ‘why’ he couldn’t live up to his parent’s expectations of building a house for them in Ibadan yet. In his arms was his ‘why’ and oh was it ever so worth it.
This was love, this was marriage, a boring itinerary of ‘whys’, sacrifices and selfless acts.
They say it is always darkest before dawn so Bandele blew out the candles Kaka had lighted, before going to find true light in the embrace of his wife.
Song of the day: Dido – Thank you