Abeokuta is an ancient town. It’s people live by ancient ways. This means they adhere to ways of life indoctrinated by their forebears; including food and drink. I used to think its status as a State capital, and location between Lagos and Oyo States would have influenced it someway. You know, introduced the love of junk food and luxury beverages. I was wrong. And the discovery of only 2 standard shawarma spots should told me so. But it didn’t.
Time was 8:45 a.m yesterday, and I was at a residential training. I had strolled to the breakfast table was heavy feet and eyes; the effect of catching sleep in brief glimpses of shut eyes and quiet mind. My words slurred when I greeted “good morning”; heavy, thick, and seductive, with some unintended bedroom huskiness. A hand paused midair. Oil gathered at the base of the scooping spoon.
The sound of oil dropping on stew in the warmer sounded like the tick of my wristwatch.
It is loud. Too loud. Louder than it should be.
The words seeped slowly through my subconscious; cautious, as if not to jar me. The tiptoe of the hungover. Light dimmed, my eyes squinted to focus on the face of the person holding the scooping spoon. It was my colleague. Mouth agape, adam’s apple bobbing like one repeatedly swallowing spittle or strugglng for words; he looked lost. Something nudged at my consciousness; a persistent knock seeking attention. There had been a subliminal message in the initial thought.
If the drop of oil sounded too loud, then the room was too quiet.
The room hadn’t been quiet when I walked in; brief seconds ago. Curious, I looked round the room. There were colleagues with forks halfway to their lips, and some with hands idly twirling spoons in mugs. They were all watching me. Puzzled, I lifted a brow; a low shift of my face to ask a question. That seemed to break the jinx. Laughter, hushed comments…
“Did someone keep you awake all night?”
A voice, filled with laughter and teasing. I shook my head, jesting acknowledgement of the thought that raised the question.
“Your voice is strange this morning. Like you’re still asleep. And coffee’s been exhausted.”
That was all I heard. While my head questioned how coffee could finish, my feet led the way to my room. Once there, I fetched my wallet. It was not the kind of day to broach without coffee.
Fifteen minutes and eight shops -5 of which were still locked- later, I was still without coffee.
Who doesn’t stock coffee?
How does someone sell these chocolate beverages but not coffee?
Do people in this area live coffee-less?
Why are some shops locked?
Who knows if the locked shops have coffee in them? Can I check?
Is breaking-and-entering still a crime?
Unanswered questions racing through my mind; disbelieving my coffeelessness. How could neighbourhood shops be locked at almost 9 a.m? Why would anyone have a beverage shop and not stock coffee?
Desperation awoke my basic survival instinct. I recalled the back-up sachet coffee lying peacefully in my purse; untouched for almost 6 months. Feet lighter, I strode purposefully back to the hotel. Splinters of memory replayed in my mind. The attendants in the 3 shops which had been open. Two of them had gone blank, asking what coffee was. The third had raised eyebrows, examined me up and down like one who’d just discovered an alien, and asked:
T’anin mu Nescaafu?
Translated: “Who drinks coffee?”