“What is the time by your watch please?”
Dark chocolate dipped in American Honey whisky.
The thought came unbidden; an observation, a ghost of something in my subconscious. I hadn’t yet processed the meaning of whatever he had said. My brain felt slow, drugged by the sex-me allure of the voice that had spoken from somewhere behind me. My body was waking to electric currents along lusty paths; causing my heart to beat faster, and my legs to cross at the ankles…
Her voice emerged breathless, a needy whisper, and she winced inwardly. Mortified heat popped goose pimples over her, and she bit her lip to prevent words falling out. She did not trust her voice to sound better. And chances were that she would ramble stupidly, instead of salvaging the situation or initiating a conversation with the stranger. Her shoulders slumped sadly as she figured he probably thought she was either ill or uninterested in discussions of any sort. Resigned, she lowered her forehead to the backrest of the seat in front of her; grateful for the dark bus, and the fact that she was not looking the sexy-voiced stranger in the face.
He is probably ugly or bad for me.
The thought made her feel a tad better, so she let it float in her subconscious; let it ease the melancholy of shattering fantasies. Many minutes later she heard him notify the conductor that he was getting off. When he walked past her as he alighted, his perfume filled the air, and stayed on after the bus’ door was shut. She sighed, looked to the bustling street beyond the window, acknowledged the hollow ache in her chest, and forced down a ball of emotion lodged in her throat. She blinked to clear moist pools from her eyes, and announced:
It was best that way. There’s no need wanting things I can’t keep.
It was over five minutes since I had alighted from the bus; five minutes of trying unsuccessfully to convince myself that I didn’t wish that conversation had gone differently. Five minutes spent on the bridge, watching the waters of the canal, wondering if what I was living was indeed ‘life’.
His voice had reached something deep inside me, something encased in ice for the past 14 years. I could have had him for a little while; even if not forever. But I had kept quiet and he had alighted; leaving the trail of Woods to haunt me. By the way, what kind of young Nigerian man knew enough about perfumes to be using one from the 1990s? And why would that kind of man, definitely from old money, be in a yellow and black painted bus, sardined with too many people, a driver high on God-knew-what, and an uncouth conductor? A lot was puzzling, but the perfume sat right in with the voice. Classy, strong, sensual, deep, textured, intoxicating… like the chorus of waters gushing through a channel. Would his voice break if he groaned? Or become huskier if arousal swamped his senses? Where would he taste of Woods, of man, and of desire? Would his hands grab me, or something, if he thought he was losing thought and control?
“I hoped you would come here”
For a heartbeat, I thought the voice another whip of my tortuous thoughts. Then my brain processed the meaning of the words, and I swung around, trembling…
I had stayed a while in the shadows, watching the arch of her back as she looked over the canal. Her lips were slightly parted, her head slightly raised, and I wondered what thoughts caressed her mind so. Then she deepened the arch of her back; thrusting her breasts and hips slightly out; and I couldn’t wait a minute longer to be by her side. To tell her, to see if she remembered, to know if it had been a dream or real, to determine what future I had died for.
She turned around so fast, I thought she would lose the balance her heeled pumps provided. Per reflex, I reached out to steady her waist, and the world faded behind a veil of honks, conversations, hoarse calls of “Jakande”, “Oshodi”, and lights. Only her, the fire coursing through my veins, and blood rushing to my head existed.
“Dem no know say na canal dey under bridge?”
“Children of nowadays, no where wey dem no go play love”
Comments from busy-body Lagosians, meaningless sounds to the deathly silent duo standing atop the bridge, eyes locked. They stayed quiet for many minutes; her mouth moving but uttering no words, his bobbing Adam’s apple telling that he too struggled internally with something. Then a tear rolled down her right eye, a liquid crystal of words which refused to be spoken, questions which refused to be asked, and he closed the distance between their bodies; held her to his thumping heart while the moon shone to reveal tears on his own cheeks.
After endless moments, she pulled away. Eyes locked, she put her hand on his cheek, picked a tear drop off with her thumb, and put it in her mouth. His jaw clenched, and the hands loosely around her waist held her tighter. She remembered him, it had all been real, but he needed to tell her before he could know what the future held.
“That was stupid”
“No, it was hopeful. I wanted now, today.”
She looked him in the eyes again, then slid her palm over his to interlock their fingers.
She saw the hint of fear in his eyes, even as he asked with an even voice. He had been the subject of all her dreams, her desires, so…
“Let’s go someplace far. We’ll live together till our times expire.”
He felt like a truckload of emotions, struggled to hold tears back, and nodded vigorously. By silent accord they walked to the Oke-Afa memorial arcade and read off the marbles:
Here lies the victims of the bomb explosions from the armory of the Ikeja Cantonment which occurred on Sunday, January 27 2002. More than a thousand innocent lives, including children scampering for safety, perished in the brackish waters of the Oke-Afa canal. May their souls rest in peace.
To passersby, they were two people at the Mass Burial arcade, perhaps coming to read it on the anniversary of the deaths of so many people, 14 years ago. In reality, she was a young woman who had run into the canal, seeking refuge from the bombs going off, intending to swim to safety, oblivious of the imprisoning murky depths of the water below. And the man who had jumped in after her, seeking to rescue the woman he loved from death he knew was imminent. Together, they were two souls whose unidentified bodies had long been buried at the arcade, finding each other after almost two decades of searching. Two souls finally finding peace; ready to live again.