24, Obaniran street, off Gold and Glitter makeup house, Bankole-West Estate.
It is a 15-minute cab drive from home, and I recall going to the estate only once, late last year for a party. However, all I did was watch everyone I went with get drunk or start some pointless conversation with any random, idle girl. I didn’t feel the vibes they were trying to put up, and I thought the DJs taste in music was quite outdated.
As I put final touches to my face and hair while standing in front of the mirror, I’m not sure whether to be excited or not. I’m still in shock over the letter Matilda left me. I pull it out of my pocket read it once more. I close my eyes and imagine her standing right in front of me, smiling and then quickly flashing a naughty wink. Then I remember all Tess says about her being a ‘good’ girl. It all doesn’t make sense. But, the suspense and thrill, that’s the beauty of it I guess.
I set out for adventure, at about 12 sharp. A little delay can’t cause too much harm. Plus it should pull off the impression of a ‘cool guy’- never in a rush, just taking his time to do stuff like time slows down to respect the pace. Since I took permission from mum to go see ‘a friend’, I have nothing to fear. I only need to attend fellowship this evening, between six and seven. Many church members will be present as usual. And because my father is a respectable deacon in the church, I promise myself to uphold his good name and be back in time. 5:30 maybe. Everyone watches everyone, and are quick to point out some fault of a leader in the church, as though they were made immune to mistakes. Anyway, I won’t be the bad egg. Not today at least.
There is no traffic and we arrive at the house in no time. As the taxi drives away, leaving me to face the golden brass gates, no less than 7 ft high, stretching laterally into beautifully stone-engraved fences, I develop cold feet. It is 12:20, and I feel I still have enough time, to make a u-turn and head for the junction, perhaps go back home. I have nothing to lose, I could just call her later and tell her something came up. Then I snap out of it, and decide to be a man. I approach the gates that seem to be peering into my consciousness and toying with my emotions, and bang thrice. I stand outside a little longer, and then knock again. After waiting about five minutes, I decide to call, but there’s no response. As usual.
“At least I tried”, I console myself as I consider leaving. Then I hear some rattling from the other side of the gates, and then the smaller gate opens. Could that be her? My dream girl? My brain is in a whirl of fantasy, as I envision Matilda jumping on me with a tight embrace, and pressing her lips against mine. But then, very abruptly, a lanky young man comes out instead and yells “Who are you looking for, and why are you smiling to yourself?”
“Um, good morning. No afternoon. Good afternoon sir”, I try to comport myself. But he only watches me flop around in such a silly pitiful way. Anyway, I shamelessly continue. I have to redeem myself.
“Matilda. Are you Matilda? Sorry Matilda’s dad”, he raises one brow, and folds his arms in disbelief, as though trying to say, “are you really this stupid?”
“No! That can’t be her dad”, I remind myself. He is too young to be. Maybe her elder brother…her uncle?
“I’m sorry, I meant I came to see Matilda. I know you’re not her dad, I mean you are young and…”, I sigh finally in defeat.
Suddenly, the guy bursts into laughter, worsens my condition of mental chaos.
“Guy, you just dey funny abeg. Come on in bro”, he urges, and pats me on the head as I walk in.
“At least he let me in”, I whisper to myself. I walk in, and he asks my name. “Tobi” I say, then he smiles, “Matty’s been expecting you”.
“Matty! Maaatty!! Your guy Tobi is here”, echoes from the lobby, through the sitting room, and up the stairs when he calls her out. And I have to admit, their house is the definition of prim.
“I’m coming” she calls back. My heart pounds louder and faster than I can cope with. Thankfully, the young man offers me a seat, so I can better contain myself.
“My name is Michael” He grins, “But you can call me Mike. What can I get you? …Water? Fruit juice?”
“Oh, I’m good.”
“C’mon. Are you serious right now? Nor dey form for me oh.” He jokes
“No now!” I insist, “I dey alright”
“Are you sure”, her light voice drops gently on my ear drums, and as she walks down the stairs, I am completely sure, my entire being has gone numb.
“Anyhow, if you need anything, your host is here. I’ll be upstairs”, Mike’s voice grows faint. I think he says some other things, but I don’t get them. Everything around me is getting blurry and then i…
“I said, are you sure” she repeats.
…instantly snap back! Because she is right there in front of me, waiting for an answer.
“Oh, No. I mean, Yes. I’m ok”, I stammer in my usual pathetic way. “Thank you”
She giggles and walks over to the small center table, to pick the remote, “You really are a clown Tobi”. I love the way she laughs. It’s like bells ringing with the delicacy of rain droplets over a pond. “How’s Tess by the way?”
This time, I promise myself to man up. It time to be the cool guy I am. No more stammering!
“She’s fine. She says hi.”
“Oh that’s good. Thank God Mike’s given us our space”
I’m not sure how to respond to that so I nod, and whisper a low “Yeah.”
“So are you ready?” she asks, with a playful smile plastered on her face.
“Now?”, I ask quite alarmed
“Yeah sure, why else did you come?”, she winks and then walks towards the TV stand. She crouches low, completely backing me, and I’m really enjoying the view with all its curves and angles. She inserts a disc into one of the Video players there, and I’m already imagining how crazy today might just be.
Then it occurs to me, that we are still in the living room, “Wait! right here?”, I ask. It would be really awkward if her answer is…
“Yes”, she gets up slowly, and her figure is even more defined in her silky body con dress.
I try not to panic, and trust that she knows what she is doing. She walks over and sits beside me, then she stares into my eyes. “Surprise me”, she says, then looks forward at the TV
I’m still lost for words, but get the hint that I should make my move now. So I lean forward and reach for her waist. She is startled a bit, but I go on anyway, and dive in for a kiss.
“Hey! Wait, what are you doing?” She pushes me off then gets up quickly.
Immediately, the familiar Need for Speed Theme song plays. And as I look towards the source of the sound, the words “Game Loading…” is printed boldly on the TV screen. I look just below it to find a game console, and NOT just another Video player, but I’m still not sure what is happening till I look at Matilda who is still beside me, now standing with folded arms and a demanding look. I still need clarity, so I ask, “What’s up?”
“The game is about to start, and you’re being all weird” She says in a matter of fact tone.
And in my mind I’m like “Wait! What! What game?!”
Then it finally clicks when the game pads on the table just in front of us catch my attention for the first time. A second time. I mean, I saw it before, but of course I completely ignored it since it was of little relevance to me.
“What’s up with you anyway?” This time she looks very serious. Maybe pissed
I’m so screwed! I need to think fast!
“Um, I’m sorry. I was just kidding around. I had a drink with a friend just before I got here”, I sit back, and give a sincerely sorry ‘cool-guy’ look.
“You know how boys are. He probably put something in the drink that’s making me act a little tipsy”, I try to smile off my foolishness, and I’m hoping she buys it. “I swear. I’m so sorry”
My phone startles me when it rings almost immediately. It’s Sam. Thank heavens. Time to redeem myself
“Hey! My guy, how far now?”, I hold the call and tell her to give me a minute, and increase my voice as I make my way into the lobby.
“GUY WETIN YOU PUT FOR THAT MY DRINK NA?”
Of course, Sam is lost and speechless, but Matty doesn’t know that, and hopefully, it gets even more convincing.
“BUT GUY, I TELL YOU SAY I DEY COMOT GO SEE BABE TODAY NA….YES NA….YES…MATTY…NO, BUT I DON ALREADY FORGET MYSELF LIKE 2 MINUTES AGO…SEE, I NO LIKE AM OH! YEAH…I ALREADY APOLOGIZED”
I decide to fade out the Pidgin English and go a little more suave on my diction and accent game.
“NAH, ITS COOL BRO. I JUST BASICALLY EXPLAINED IT TO HER, AND THANKFULLY, SHE WAS QUITE MATURE ABOUT IT…YEAH…IMMA SAY HI OK…LATER THEN…”
A heavy sigh of relief rolls right out my lungs, as I head back for the living room.
I walk in to meet Matilda already on the wheels. She’s playing against the computer, and quite frankly, she’s freaking gooood!
“Look, I’m sorry about what happened earlier. Cuz, well this dude, the guy I just spoke to was the one who…”
“It’s fine, I heard your conversation. Your voice was pretty loud”
Yes! I’m so glad to hear her say that.
“Well, I’m also apologizing on his behalf. Plus, he says hi.”
“I heard that too”, she answers, her eyes still glued to the screen. “So can you just pick the pad, and let me kick your butt for a bit?” she asks politely as she drops the pad and faces me.
“I think you’re a little confused, so let me jigg your memory a bit… ”
And so she began.
“When I got to your house yesterday I was quite disappointed to find that you were asleep. And well, I thought I’d just check on you myself. Your room was a complete stinkhole quite frankly, and you kept sleep talking about your game. So I dropped a note, inviting you to a duo. You remember the game you were playing, don’t you Tobi? ”
As she repeatedly asked me that question, I felt sick in my stomach. This was the worst play out I’d ever experienced in my life.
It’s 7:30pm and I still feel like I’m having the worst hangover ever. All I remember from today was my crush kicking my butt in my favourite car racing game over and over again. That wasn’t surprising since I’d already zoomed out of reality at the time.
So, let’s get this straight. I’d been getting all these hints just to play a game and beat her to it?
I’m fairly hungry. A warm cup of milk should do. Uncle will be coming home possibly tomorrow, so I’ve to get mentally ready for that drama, regardless of the paralyzing turn out of today’s visit.
I open, the windows to let the evening enchant me with its thousand stories. I think about my partners with disgust this night. I turn up the soft rock tunes reeling out of my radio, and decide this is what I will do for the night. Melting into the highs and lows of the sounds and ultimately becoming one with the music. Doing this from dusk till dawn.
The music plays on.