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Humans of Abeokuta: Episode 3

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.

“Plop. Plop”

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.”

Coffee…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?”

 

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Thirsty Thursday

Voice in my head: “I want coffee”

*I lift mug to nose. Deeply inhale seductive aroma of coffee which I’ve been sipping*

Me: “I’m already giving you coffee. You’ll know in a couple of minutes”

Voice in my head: “More coffee”

Me: “Yes”

*I sip more coffee, stretch left hand backwards to switch on the coffee maker for another mug. Staring at the impression of red lips edging coffee mug, I think:

“#Addiction must be wanting something; even while having it”*

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That Night

Shit talking up all night,
Saying things we haven’t for a while
We’re smiling but we’re close to tears…

The Script sang ‘For the First Time’ all through that night, because my music player had it on repeat. I stayed up; relished being awake instead of dead to the world, weakened by medication I didn’t want to be taking. I listened to the wind whistle outside the shut windows, it sounded as always: strong, unhappy… the whimper of strength. I had just switched off the air conditioning because I wanted to listen to the sounds of night.

Night…

There’s something seductive about dark. Whether it’s  gracing a body, beautifying a painting, claiming earth,  entrapping a soul, or frustrating dreams. It’s the things you understand when you stay up all night and listen to the world whisper to you of its depths. The conversations held by your broken body or spirit, a drink, and the voices in your head for the singular court that’s you. The kind of smiles that are really cries for help, or of victory, or of the knowledge that you don’t really know.

That night…

My neighbour’s curtains were drawn, and the music was too low, so I was audience of thrusts and moans the performers didn’t know I was privy to. As I watched, a beep alerted me to Facebook and a friend’s ode to his heart, torn out by the unfeeling hands of death. The moans peaked, so I looked up from my laptop, and at the frenzy of the racing duo reaching for climax, palms clasped. A groan, sacred appreciation, prequel to arching bodies shooting off the dining table to be nailed against the wall; lips moving in whispered hymns. Another beep: my calendar, reminding me of medication to be taken in the next couple of hours, work deadlines approaching… the grim of approaching dawn.

Just then, they hit the spot. I smiled, closed my eyes, and sang along with The Script, adding my voice to other sounds of that night.

Oh, these times are hard

Yeah, they’re making us crazy

Don’t give up on me Baby

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February

She waltzed in on black pumps; a sultry woman whose gait glued your eyes to her graceful curves. The immaculate bodycon gown clung like a perfume, and was highlighted by the red signature soles of her shoes: was she a seductress in white, or an innocent lined with crimson?

Her hair was shiny ebony; a luxurious mane with curls that made you want to bury your fingers in them. It was packed in a tight bun that left her face naked, and you attendant to the curious stories it told. Her lips were unpainted, but the lights of the hall danced on the gloss on them. Her pout made you want to dive in for a kiss, yet the curvature told you to explore slowly. The little black mole on the left side of her face -just below her lip- made you want to ask questions.

Had it always been there? Did she know it highlighted the shape of her face that little much more? Had she ever tried to remove it?

It made you wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, you could nibble on it.

Lost in my thoughts, I did not see her until she was right in front of me, her nose so close to mine we were exchanging breaths. Her eyes sparkled, and danced with mischief; two dark crystal balls with flecks of gold that mirrored my face; yet wouldn’t tell me the future. Her perfume intoxicated, so I looked down and found her lips.

“I’m February. Let me love you”

That was the whisper her curved lips let slip.