HANDCUFFS AND WEDDING RINGS

December 20 – 21, 2013.

Some days are just made to go sideways.

From almost hurtling off the top of an uncompleted bridge to landing in a police cell with the groom’s best man, crazy got as crazy got. Maybe if we had all stayed at our hotels instead of having that night out; maybe if men can truly be men and stop being men for a bit then this wouldn’t have happened.

Okay, I think I’m going too fast. Let’s start again.

It was finally Sir T’s wedding. We all thought he was joking when he announced the date and told us to get ready. Knowing him, we all expected some kind of drama and a last-minute cancellation but Friday morning met us all confirming hotel reservations. Unlike the others, some of us couldn’t leave Lagos for Ijebu-Ode till late on Friday evening because our offices were closing for the weekend. I had to attend a party organised by my office for the less privileged and finish my annual report before going anywhere.

Sir T isn’t our boy; he’s more like an elder brother to us. The other guys were his peers but I and my friends were a few years younger even though we all shared a unique bond because we graduated from the same university one year apart. I, Scooby, Ephizzy – we also call him Epps – and El Flint all lived in his apartment during our National Service year in Akwa Ibom. We were there when he and his guys threw and attended all the parties from Second Base to Lounge Uno and others; we covered for him when one side-chick came calling and another side-chick was around, helped out with his sales job and generally enjoyed a service year many others could only dream about.

Not attending Sir T’s party wasn’t an option; besides everyone we knew from Akwa Ibom was gonna be there and we’ve missed them.

Epps finally called me by 7:30PM. He’s the one driving and I was the first person he had to pick along the way.  Scooby and Pinana were already waiting at Berger so we just had to stop for a few minutes to pick them before hitting the expressway. They brought bread and drinks, and after the initial greetings, I and Awo dug in. We had no idea how hungry we were.

Even at that time of the day, the Lagos Ibadan expressway was still being a bitch but thankfully, the only one among us with the driving skills of a Lagos Danfo driver was Epps. One minute he’s finding pockets of space to manoeuvre, the next he’s driving off road with the impatient interstate bus drivers.

Two hours later we got to Ijebu-Ode. Other than the harmattan haze which reduced visibility to about fifteen metres, It looked different. There was a flyover bridge at the intersection where you’re either headed towards Benin, turning left into town or heading right towards Ikorodu. A few minutes after passing the Lagos Garage, we realised we were driving up another bridge where there was formerly none. Thankfully we stopped and backed up; we would have dropped off the top if we kept going because the bridge wasn’t finished and the signs weren’t readable at that time of night.

By 10PM, we were settled in our hotel rooms. Surprisingly, Sir T was in his room instead while the others were at the club. Nothing we said could get him out; he said he was tired and needed to sleep. He said he wasn’t really in the mood and didn’t want to wake up with a hangover. It was as if he saw what we all didn’t.

When we got to the club, everyone was there; Kay, the best man; Boyo had been transferred to Imo from Akwa Ibom but he came in with Folly; Tony, Boyo’s childhood friend was home for the holidays from England. We didn’t know the others but it really didn’t matter; a friend of my friend is my friend. Besides, new friendships can always be forged over bottles of Absolut and Johnny Walker.

There were very few women though.

Kay was outside with some guy in a white kaftan. He’d been told by Kaftan Guy that he could get some female university students to join us because they lived off campus. Boyo was not interested; his fiancé was at the hotel. Tony was having a nice conversation with a pretty bartender who happened to be from his hometown in Edo. I, Scooby, Epps and Pinana weren’t bothered either but Kaftan Guy somehow managed to convince Kay to goad Awo into drive them to go get the girls.

About fifteen minutes later, I got a call from Epps so I stepped away from the loud music

“Guy, police don arrest us o. You guys should come quick abeg!”

“What the fuck! How?”

“They said I’m driving a stolen vehicle o. I don’t even know how that’s possible. We’re at that police station that we passed on our way to the club –”

The call disconnected.

I ran back inside to tell the others and within one minute, we were all parked at the gate of the police station. Alarmed at the sound of screeching vehicles bathing the entrance with multiple headlights, some officers rushed at us with their assault rifles.

“Who una be? Wetin una dey find?

“Oga, two of our friends were just arrested. We’re here to see them.”

“Which two? Na six people our people carry enter station!”

Apparently, they were returning with the girls.

“Two of our friends are among them.”

“Okay. Come back tomorrow.”

“Officer that’s not possible. We have to see them now.”

“I say make una dey go! If I count to three and una never comot here…” The officer cocked his rifle.

We didn’t wait to hear the rest as we scurried into our cars and drove a few metres across the road. Then we got out and decided to send two people over. It was while we were debating who to send that we realised Tony didn’t leave with us as we left the entrance to the station.

Some of us began to panic. Boyo however told us not to, he was just going to join Tony to plead with the officers but Tony was with us before we knew it.

“Guys, dem say we fit enter.”

How did he do it? How come they didn’t manhandle him? Tony somehow felt we had questions so he told us he only showed the police his ID as an officer in the British Navy.

Bloody hell.

Buoyed by this little progress, we got to the counter to see Epps and Kay stripped down to their boxer shorts. Awo had forgotten his licence and ID card at the hotel. Since the car belonged to his company and the officers couldn’t find anything to link him to the company, they simply arrested him, Kay and the girls. Unable to keep his big mouth shut, Awo had further infuriated the officers by insulting one of them.

We had no choice but to beg. The officers said we had to pay N20,000 but they were only going to release Kay, the girls, Kaftan Guy but not Epps and his car. We refused; everyone needed to be out though we didn’t care much about Kaftan Guy and the girls. And damn, those girls were so not fine! Looking at them, it was as if they’d just arrived from the fufu Olympics. Awo said he overheard one of them talking about leaving her two kids with her mom.

Folly suggested calling Kay’s dad since he retired as an Assistant Commissioner of Police. Boyo suggested we shouldn’t because Kay’s fiancée might find out. How would she react when she got the details? It wasn’t going to be pretty.

So we continued begging and hoping they’ll let everyone go for twenty grand.

At around 2PM, they finally agreed to release everyone but the female officers at the counter demanded an additional 10 grand to let them go. These were a greedy bunch and it seemed we had unwittingly become an ATM for this bunch.

All this time, Folly was generally being Zen just sitting outside the station with a flask filled with liquor when a muscled, bare-chested cop closed him down and asked to know what was in his flask.

“Officer, na Black Label o. I no fit let this harmattan cold kill me for outside.”

The officer laughed, before adding that Folly could have emulated him, seeing as he wasn’t fully dressed in the cold.

“Bros leave that thing jare, you’re used to staying outside on patrols and all that. And I sure say you go dey drink too. Follow me go car make I give you better drink.”

When they got to the car, the officer was surprised at how much alcohol Folly had in the boot of his car. Folly just shrugged and told him that it was the way he and his pals rolled in Akwa Ibom. Now the officer was curious because he did his National Youth Service in Akwa Ibom too in 2009, Batch B.

Boyo also served in Akwa Ibom in 2009, same batch.

Folly couldn’t hide hi excitement at this new piece of information, “Bros some of my people for here dey the same camp with you for Akwa Ibom. Make I take you go meet them.” He gave the officer a bottle of Jack Daniels and half-walked, half-ran back to meet us at the counter.

“Boyo!”

At that time, Boyo was pleading with the female officers who refused to sign out Epps and Kay without something for themselves. After an agreed 20 grand, we weren’t gonna budge but the officers were just as adamant.

When he got to Folly, the look of recognition on his face was unmistakable as he stared at the officer with him.

“I know you. Akwa Ibom NYSC 2009. You contested for Mr Macho when we were at the orientation camp.”

Kay, a fair skinned dude who hadn’t said much since we got to the station suddenly shouted, “Agbara!”

That was what they called him back then because of his muscles and body-building. The crazy thing was that Boyo, Kay and the officer all lived in Uyo with Folly’s elder brother for a while before they got their own accommodation.

We were now so confident because we had a friend who was willing to help us – it was a breeze from then on. Fortunately, we hadn’t even paid the 20 grand the police were asking for so we halved it and asked Officer Agbara to settle things for us. The female officers also got nothing.

As we left the station at about 3AM that morning, I asked Epps if he was going to drop off the girls they went to pick up.

“Abeg, fuck that shit. I didn’t ask for this in the first place.”

The laughter that erupted among us was palpable. It’s been a crazy night.

We barely had two hours of the sleep at the hotel before Sir T came knocking on our doors to get us ready for the engagement. The lucky dude was just laughing his head off as we narrated our ordeal, thanking his stars that he wasn’t with us as it all went down.

I’m not gonna talk about the wedding but I know you’ll be wondering about how we all made it through. It was really fun but let’s just say we were a bunch of groggy-eyed groomsmen for the first couple of hours.

And then…we took pictures! 😀

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Epps and 1 – My favourite pic of the day.

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Flint and my goggled self

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Myself, one of Sir T’s friends and Epps

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Pinana, Epps, Myself and Flint that can’t photobomb with dignity

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Sir T le badass groom!

 

Featured image credits: Sugar Six Photography, https://isgphotography.wordpress.com

RUBBER BAND VOWS

There I was on a lazy weekend when I saw the red blinking LED light on my phone, it was a Facebook notification. A writer friend of mine Tarfa ‘TJ’ Benson just sent me a message: “So here’s the thing, I find people’s trouble, here’s your turn..lol.” So here it is, I do hope you enjoy it. Plus I got my revenge a few days ago. Would publish that one next.

“You can’t break up with me…” he said, reclining in boxer-shorts on the sofa.

“I can.” she said, strutting half naked to where he sat, bending down to kiss him. Her lips moved over his, easy and familiar. When his hands reached for her waist, she sprung up and rubbed her forehead like she was suffering a migraine. “It’s been a blast.” She declared to the ceiling like it held a screen that replayed summer. “But the training and workshop is over so…”

“Well like I said, you can’t just break up with me.”

“Why?” She turned to the mirror and fixed her earrings. “Because you think you are a god in bed?”

He ran a hand into his scalp. “No, because we are married.” He held up his index finger which had a rubber band wound round it. She stopped packing, covered her mouth to stifle a laugh. “My God you’re still with that thing!”

“I did say till death do us part you know.”

She shook her head and smiled a sad smile at her reflection in the mirror as she drew an identical arc on the lips of each eyelid. “And what will you tell your pastor papa when you get back to Nigeria? That you have been living in sin?”

“No.” he stood up to his full height and her breath seized for some seconds as he loped to her with the calm grace of a tiger, his cross eyes dancing at her in her negligee. His eyes always gave her a delicious sense of suffocation, free from binocular vision they probed different parts of her at the same time. “I’ll tell him that he has a daughter in-law, the child of his best friend.” He pecked her cheek. “He’d be the happiest father in-law on earth.”

She zipped her traveling bag. “So we were-” he bit her earlobe “-okay ARE attracted to ourselves and we didn’t want to break our promises to God to keep ourselves till marriage, and so we did a phony exchange of vows as our clothes fell to the ground, I wonder if we even finished reciting them sef.”

“I remember reciting the most important part, till death do us part.”

“Jesus Christ Deoye! What if we are different people at the end of the day? What if we can’t stand each other, you know attraction is not enough to build a lasting relationship.”

“We’re just ordinary people…” he sang in a mock John Legend voice. “…Maybe we should take it slow…”

She shook her head and sighed. “I just knew coming for this summer training with you will land me into trouble, I knew it!”

“You knew it was long coming.”

“And i encouraged it.” she was pacing the room now, no more in amusement. “I told myself sharing a room with you will make us look good to the company, saving lodging costs and all that.” she stopped at the center of the room and regarded him on the bed, with a scowl. “You know the only reason MD let us share a room was because we grew up together, because we are family friends.”

“It was God at work.”

She ignored his opinion. “Now that we’ve made the mistake let’s correct ourselves before we offend God again, by divorcing.”

“We didn’t make any mistake.” Deoye corrected. “We are in love, we exchanged marital vows.”

“Yes, and rubber bands.” She pulled on a dress. Then she turned sideways at him on the bed, her hands pulling her braids into a bun on top of her head. “And who will you say officiated the matrimony? Who was the priest?”

He shrugged lazily on the bed. “Jesus Christ.”

“WHAT!”

“Hebrew  says Jesus is the everlasting High Priest, Hebrews 8 verse 1 says so…” she was stunned, there was something wrong about the guy who’d worked fireworks in her body lying half-naked and seriously quoting the Holy scriptures. “More so, Mathew 18 verses 18 and 19 tell us that whatever we agree on earth will be done in heaven.”

She just watched in awe as he said these things, she couldn’t move if it would save her life.

The door flew open.

“Oops, I’m sorry…” the African-American maid was embarrassed, her glances shuttling from her to Deoye on the bed. “Just that…your boss waits for you in the lobby.” The woman disappeared back into the hallway.

She picked up her travelling kit and pulled it out of the room, as quickly as she could, before Deoye could say something again.

“So you…” he said casually, not worried that the boss waited for them in the lobby.  “What will you do when you get back to Nigeria? Will you be able to just leave everything here and continue your life?”

She shrugged slightly at the door before shutting it behind her, “Well I’m catholic; I’ll just go for a Friday confession.”

AND SHE STARTED TO RUN (EPISODE 2)

They were four alright. But they were not students. Not the beauties I was anticipating. The first thing I noticed was their travel-worn clothes. Dusty from the road. They didn’t look anything like I expected. There was a woman in her late forties, two little girls, her daughters obviously, between ten and eight. Another girl with acne and a floral patterned shirt nodded at me as our eyes met. I looked round for the sick girl, Joy met my gaze apologetically and pointed. I followed her finger.

The first thought that came to my mind when I saw her was ‘dry fish.’ She was pitifully thin, the kind of thin that told you that whatever was wrong with her was out to kill her.

Cancer?
AIDS?

A flurry of thoughts assailed me. I looked at her and nodded a greeting with my eyes. She managed a limp wave.

God, how did I get myself into this?

I looked at Joy, she was apologizing over and over “I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.”

I told her to Shuddup.

I turned to Whatsapp, wondering how Genie, my friend who had earlier agreed to take in the entrants would respond to this new twist. I tried to keep a smile on my face all through. It wasn’t easy but I think I did just fine. I’m the last person in the world who would wanna make people feel unwelcome no matter the circumstances. Joy took me aside and explained she had no idea this was how things would turn out. They made her believe she would be going with four other students then dumped a sick person on her and said ‘ so long, pal’. Some people no get conscience sha.

Genie’s response on Whatsapp when I told her was ‘WHATTTT?’. I couldn’t help laughing. This one no wan kill herself. Who fit blame am? Anyway, I appealed, cajoled and pleaded till Genie relented and said it’s okay. It’s just three days anyway.

So we all got in d cab and headed for the hostel Genie stays in Ekosodin. The driver was moaning about having to wait while we helped the sick woman into the car (did I mention she has healthy and very pretty curly hair? Skin and suppressed good looks Like a bi-racial.) I told the driver to shut up, shebi I dey pay am a very pricey one thousand Naira which he won’t make in four hours idling in the baking heat of the Ekosodin gate. He took one look at my size and I saw his throat move as he swallowed back his retort. Good.

Genie took one look at them, at their bags, clothes and stuff. And I saw light go out of her eyes. I understood. Prior to that day, I have never met Genie. We only talk on Whatsapp. I guess good people still exist, and we need to learn to look beyond the slabs of fat as in the case with big Genie, and try to see them as beings with hearts.
Well, Genie’s space wasn’t enough. We decided they should change at her place and head for the program with their stuff. It’s likely the organisers had plans in place for accommodating people from upstate and stuff.

I sighed with relief, believing the worst was over and things were well off my hands now.

I had no idea the hard part was just around the corner. I had no idea that I would be bound to them inextricably.

Because when the car arrived at the Loveword campgrounds, the venue of the crusade, when the driver veered into the parking lot and we got out, I took one look at the distance from the car park to the meeting point, took another look at the sick woman limping very slowly, painfully and stopping after every four or five steps to rest. And I realised I was in trouble.

I realised I had to carry her and walk about eight hundred paces past the crowd.

Into the sanctuary.

I think I said ‘Joy don kill me today.’

Something like that.

-Hymar David

AND SHE STARTED TO RUN (EPISODE 1)

Hello there! Trust you’re having a splendid weekend already. Here’s an interesting guest post by a bloody creative friend of mine, Hymar David. Hymar’s a student of English at the University of Benin and his story is actually a life experience first shared on Facebook two weeks ago, which I’m sure will touch a few hearts in the end. Very little editing here since I want it to convey the raw honesty of the experience. Okay, enough talking; read on.

It was a Friday. I was in my room in the notorious-for-loud-mouths hostel, Hall 3, UNIBEN, trying to download ‘And The Mountains Echoed’ By Khaled Hussien. My Whatsapp was pouring in messages like a burst water pipe; too many chats kill your battery.

There was a message from Joy. She said she was on her way to Benin from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State. She was coming with four of her friends for the Higher Life Conference with Pastor Chris holding in Benin.

Joy’s my friend in Lagos. We attend the same church. She has a hair that Zainab, my poet friend calls ‘the most beautiful natural hair’, and a face like an ex-cherub.

I took a shower and hit the streets, panicking when I couldn’t reach Femi, my…err… bestie of some sorts for the key to his apartment in Ekosodin. I had told him earlier that morning to bring the key over since I wasn’t sure if he would be online and available when I needed him to be. Well, he said he would be. He wasn’t.

So I switched plans and contacted some girls I knew, who after some cajoling, agreed to take in the new entrants for the three day duration of the programme. I heaved a sigh of relief. By the time I was done, Joy was calling/’whatsapping’my number like mad. Some girls no go gree patient but if na dem ehn, dem go be like, ”I said I would be done in ten minutes, stop calling me every half hour.” Hian.

I set off to pick them at the park, sniffing my armpits to make sure my cologne was still working and rehearsing some witty line to say to the girls. Wow, see me see overloading o. Who dash me ladies man? The sun was so hot, I made up my mind not to miss heaven. So hell go worse pass this one wey I dey see so?

My phone vibrated. I always tell people my phone never rings, it vibrates. I remember reading a funny book by some doc who can’t hear shit, ”When The Phone Rings My Bed Quakes.” It was Joy, she had news. One of the ‘girls’ was sick, she said. Could I please not be mad at her for not telling her earlier?

I was mad, alright. Angered by what I felt was a deliberate ploy to keep me in the dark, till the last minute when I wouldn’t be likely to change my mind. I hate people who are not straightforward. I hate being played, being led on some dance around a forest. I felt a torrent of words, harsh words, bubbling from inside me. But all I typed was ‘Grrrrrr’

Grrrrrr. Impotent rage.

I asked Joy if the sick girl could walk, she said Yes. I said I hope she wasn’t into puking every ten minutes, I wouldn’t want to dump patient wey dey vomit sote for innocent pesin head. Well, Joy assured me she wasn’t into that, so I guessed it was probably some heart condition or something. Kini big deal.

Mumu me.

I walked to the park, Whatsapped Joy my location, I saw her first anyway, looking around with a ‘where-that-boy-sef’ expression on her face. I smiled to myself. She looked good. As usual.

Her face lit up with a smile when she saw me.

”Hey, Hymar.” she said, coming towards me, her arms outstretched. Hugs are wonderful things, I don’t know why we are so hung up on kisses. Hugs just kind of do it for me. That you-are-loved feel when you hug someone? Priceless.

”Good to see you again,” I told her.

She smiled. Joy’s got good teeth. She’s not the sweet/chocolate kind of girl.

” Where are they?” I wasted no time asking.

She pointed.

I turned and when I saw them, my mouth hung open. I fought the impulse to scream in frustration.

”Fuck” I think I said in my mind.

To be continued…