This isn’t my style but once in a while it is good to try a feel good , easy to do, Nollywood type tale. Lol!
It was Bodunde’s birthday party. Bodunde, the one who stuck closer than a brother. Bodunde and so she could not not show up. Bodunde and so excuses were lacking and refusal, an impossible option.
“So it is because you are turning 30 that you have decided to throw a party? What are you? A child? Couldn’t you have just said a few of your friends should go on a trip to somewhere exotic instead? You had to go all the way and invite half of Lagos abi?”
He had laughed that laugh that always reminded her of the sea.
“Would it have made any difference Wande? Would you have agreed to show up for an exotic location without me having to perform miracles involving camels and needles?”
“Yeah well I think you have a point there. It isn’t my fault I am anti-social you know.”
“You aren’t anti-anything Wande, you are just afraid of people”
“How did you get so wise?”
“Practice makes perfect. Now will you come or do I have to come and bundle you out of the house myself?”
And so she had agreed. Not because she knew he could and would make good his threat but because it was Bodunde, the friend that stuck closer than a brother.
Also it had been a while she spent any time with him. She was hiding away from life. She was tired and embarrassed by her life. She was tired of Bodunde picking up after men that had come into her life and scattered the broken pieces of her heart everywhere. She was tired of wandering and being homeless. She was tired of seeing the sadness her life reflected back at her when she looked in Bodunde and her mother’s eyes. She was weary of the pity in her siblings’ faces when they visited with their lovely wives and husbands and children.
Bodunde was not much older than she was but he had gotten his life together. When they were children playing in the streets, she had been the boisterous one, the one who led, the one with all the confidence. Today it was the other way around. She was behind in every way while he had everything – a woman who loved him, a child, success, all the things she had taken for granted as next steps she could attain at any time.
It wasn’t that she was jealous of Bodunde. She was just afraid of the day he would decide she was too slow for him.
The party was in full swing at his house when she arrived. She had walked barefoot, heels in her hand because she still lived only a few streets away in the house her father had left to his children.
“Aunty Wande!” Mahmood, Bodunde’s mai-guard greeted her, his toothy smile lighting up his acne-pitted face.
“Yaya kike, Mahmood? How now? How Amariya?”
The smile evolved into laughter.
“Haba Aunty Wande, I no get Amariya na. I don tell you taytay. Me I no like women problem.”
“Mahmood!!! Ahhhh!!! Okay na. When next I see Ramat, I will tell her what you said. Now tell me, how many people are inside?”
“Ah Aunty Wande them plenty no be small…” Mahmood answered.
Her heart sunk at his words but there was no use for it.
“You are here for Bodunde” she reminded herself. Not for the people they had grown up with that were sure to pepper her with 99 questions about problems she didn’t even know she had. Not for Wali, Bodunde’s girlfriend and the haughty “I am better than you” stares she gave Wande at every opportunity. Maybe for Iba, Bodunde’s little girl, if she was still awake at this hour. But it was about Bodunde mostly so she squeezed Mahmood’s arm and put one foot in front of the other and faced her fears.
Bodunde sighted her the moment she walked in. If he made a signal she didn’t see it for his smile that blinded her. Had he always looked this good or was 30 the new 20?
The room went quiet suddenly and all eyes turned in her direction. She was wearing her heels now but she still felt naked.
A song started to play and Bodunde was walking towards her.
He stopped when he was finally facing her and started to speak, never taking his eyes off her.
“About 20 years ago, I met this girl on the streets of my childhood. She was wearing a Power Rangers T-shirt and matching shorts. I asked her where she got the clothes from and she clutched her book bag ferociously and told me to go to hell. I told her she was a witch. She beat me up that day. Soundly. And then she became my best friend. My birthday was on Monday and hers is today, Sunday. Like she needed a whole week to be even more perfect. I know you all thought you were coming here to celebrate me and I thank you but I am a man of many parts. My parents have some parts. My daughter has some parts. Each of you, my friends have had some parts as well. And there is God who has the most part. And then there is Wande. ” He paused for a little while and then continued.
“It would be impossible to celebrate me without celebrating each of these other parts. Birthdays for me are incomplete without Wande. Life for me is incomplete without my best friend. It would be like having weeks without Sundays.” He finished raising his glass his toast.
There was applause but she didn’t hear much of it. She was crying now and she knew she must look a mess with mascara all over her face but she couldn’t care less.
Bodunde, the friend that stuck closer than a brother. She stood there and memories she didn’t know she had assailed her at every turn. Preparing Bodunde for his first school dance at 13 and the way his hands shook when she showed him where to put his hand when he held his date on the dance floor. The wild joy on his face when she showed up unannounced at his campus room in Ife. The tears that he cried when he found her bleeding that terrible night she had been raped by men whose faces she never saw at 26. The joy on his face when he held Iba for the first time in that hospital in Kansas city where no one knew who they were. The angry words they had exchanged when she insisted on giving Iba away. The resolute peace on his face as they stood at the immigration office and he filled out Iba’s forms with his last name. The pain and frustration in his eyes every time she told him of another man that had broken her heart.
For the first time, she saw clearly who Bodunde was. He was a friend that stuck closer than a brother. He was love.
People hugged her and wished her happy birthday. Iba was awakened from sleep to wish her a sleepy “Happy birthday Aunty Wande” and she wept even harder as the little girl’s arms twisted around her neck for a hug.
No one asked 99 questions about her troubled life. She knew it was because they were seeing her through Bodunde’s eyes. And it was a clear picture that only love could paint. There was cake; one for her and one for Bodunde and they cut each one together like people that belonged to each other.
“This is silly” She whispered as they held onto the knife as their friends sand “Happy Birthday” for the umpteenth time and camera lights flashed from different angles. “We aren’t ten anymore.”
‘Speak for yourself.” He said. “I met you at ten. I am fine being ten forever.”
It wasn’t until people started leaving that it occurred to Wande that she hadn’t seen Wali all night.
“It wasn’t working out,” Bodunde answered, refusing to meet her eyes.
“Oh Bodun, are you okay?” She started to ask sympathetically even though she knew it was the wrong thing to say. She was going to say something more but he silenced he with a look that she immediately understood but was afraid to believe.
It said “Of course I am okay, I have all I want right here.”
She took her heels off as Bodunde saw the last of the guests off. She needed to make her getaway quick, before he returned.
She took the back door, waved a goodbye to the caterers and started walking.
“You are doing it again,” a voice said catching her off guard.
“What are you doing here?”
“Staying one step ahead of you is what. ”
“I don’t even know what that means but okay.” She said, her heart racing as he walked towards her.
“You know what it means Omowande but you just choose to be a coward.”
He started to laugh and soon she joined in. She recovered first and took his hand so he knew to walk with her so they were in sync for the first time in a long time.
“Why did it take us so long?” she asked when they were finally standing by the water.
They stood apart, not touching but no two people had ever been more wrapped around each other.
“The valleys,” he answered, “the shadows, the disguises, the pretenders, men that planted seeds but never learned to love the earth, women seeking diamonds but not the grit from whence they came, and us. You and your cowardice, me and my unbelief. Still, I got here as soon as I could.”
She smiled as a new wave reached up to caress her ankles.
“Me too,” she agreed. “It took a while but I got here too. As soon I could.”
Song of the day: Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time