I had often heard that good things come in threes, but I’d never given any thoughts to it, because I hate trite sayings. As usual, fate conspired to show me that as much as I thought I knew a lot, I knew nothing.
Falling for you took the form of a three part drama staged to change my life inexorably.
The first act was interesting. I’d taken my spot – the passenger seat of Abena’s Car. Abena is my ride-or-die, the ‘Chinchi’ who ensures that rest after hectic work cycles would forever remain a theory for me and I’d never see it happen. He had finally succeeded in dragging me along to go hiking with the Abuja Hash Harriers, of whom he was a member. I had put on my joggers, ‘dirtied’ up my sneakers (oh how I rolled my eyes at his numerous attempts to convince me why it added to my street cred in the group) and we set off. I first met you at that traffic light just before exiting IBB way into Ahmadu Bello. We were almost late and Abena was already groaning when we saw the red light counting down at 81.
A fairly beat up Black Toyota Tacoma rolled to a stop next to us, with the windows wound down. I didn’t turn even though I could already see from the periphery of my vision that the driver was male. However I heard the same song I’d just stopped repeating on my phone for fear of ‘cracking’ the Artistes’ voices remotely. Simi was belting out the lines in Enough. I then turned. Singing along word for word, you were studiously staring at the lights, perhaps willing it to count down faster than it already was, and I briefly surveyed what I could see. Your arms were rested on the wound down window and the first thing I noticed was a well-defined biceps straining mildly against the sleeve of the tee shirt that, at first glance, seemed part of your body. I got to your face and the absence of a beard was even more interesting as I’d seen your forearms and I could see you were a hairy person. You did look cool.
I must have stared too intently because you turned sharply towards me, giving me no opportunity to withdraw my gaze. Then you winked, your smile utterly mischievous. You seemed too cool then, so as Abuja’s resident Grinch, I had to burst your bubble.
“You’re a terrible singer” I said, eliciting a gasp from Abena.
“What?” the incredulity was obvious on your face.
“You’re spoiling Simi’s song,” I said
Momentarily, you were speechless. The light turned green, and I signaled the dithering Abena to move on. We turned into Ahmadu Bello Way, but not before I took another glance at you, and saw the wide, uninhibited smile spreading on your face. I returned it. I couldn’t help myself.
The second act afforded me a better opportunity to study you better. I had again been dragged by Abena to Thought Pyramid Art center for that month’s Freedom Hall activities. Upon walking in, I was first staring at the mini concession stand, looking for my drink of choice when Abena said to me;
“Hassana, See that your Truck singer boyfriend”
I looked at the stage and you were smack dab in the middle of belting out your Spoken word piece. I stared, lost in the staccato of words, your powerful employment of Alliteration and metaphors eliciting gasps from the small audience. Your dashiki was sleeveless and I saw those arms again, reacquainting myself with the broad shoulders that seemed to call me to rest my head. Your clean shaven head made your eyes even more prominent, deep, haunting as you told a story of love found, and subsequently lost, or was it the other way round? I don’t remember very clearly, I was staring too intently. I could not explain the pull, you seemed to suck me in without even seeing me.
Twenty minutes later, you were standing at the concession stand I’d just vacated. Impulsively, I walked to you, a startled Abena content to just watch me.
“You really do have a terrible voice” I said.
You whipped your head round so fast, I was surprised your neck didn’t crack.
“….. It’s you….” Then you smiled, lazily, moving in closer, All Six Foot, three inches, becoming an instant tower over my petite frame (5’3 is petite right? I’m not short)
“I was wondering if I’d run into you again”
“And punish me with your croaky voice?”
Your smile instantly becomes fuller, your face had completed the transformation from foreboding to inviting.
Before you could return a repartee, I confuse you further; the DJ had been blessed with a brief moment of lucidity, and as is usual with Freedom Hall events, he’d gone old school, jamming Sean Paul’s I’m still in love with you. I’d already decided I wanted to do you at this point.
So I asked you to dance, grinding on you suggestively enough to intimate that I wanted more than just the dance. Your physical response through your denim pants indicated your intention to accept the offer.
I wish the night had ended there. I’d already agreed to your eager request to ditch the now bemused Abena and follow you home, but of course fate had to test me by showing me a side of you I definitely wasn’t ready to handle. While retrieving my purse from Abena’s car, I heard the squeak of surprised children, feet slapping excitedly on the asphalt as they ran to you, screaming your name. I turned to see you squatting, weight on your heels, laughing easily and joking with the kids. Their adoration for you was so evident, it started an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
You see, I’d placed you in the ‘cute nice guy I wanted to sleep with a number of times’ box. Now I wasn’t so sure. It was suddenly obvious to me you would not be staying in that box. My submerged cold feet came quickly to the surface. You suddenly turned to me, those haunting eyes raking me over and settling on my face, eyebrows lifting as you read my evident change of heart. You smiled sardonically when I wordlessly turned back into Abena’s car, perplexing him no end, and asked him to take me home in a tone that brooked no questions. I didn’t even have your number.
For our third act, you had somehow tracked down my number. You would not admit later on, but I still suspect Abena’s complicity. Your call, coincidentally, came on a day I had been berating myself for often chickening out, running away from people I couldn’t place in my little boxes.
“Coward,” you said, by way of ‘hello’.
My heart fluttered, then beat madly as if pounded upon by a meth-crazed percussionist. I’d somehow known it was you even before you spoke.
“Um…… Hey” I managed to croak.
“You’re a first grade magician” you say to me. “Houdini’s got nothing on you.”
My confusion deepened. “Magician?”
“Yeah, I haven’t seen your trick before. You tried to break a heart even before dating the person.”
I had become mute.
“What were you afraid of, little girl? Comfort zone too cozy?”
Your mocking tone stung me out of my stupor. I squared up, forced some energy into my voice and firmly refuted you.
“I’m never afraid.”
Your quick response showed me how easily I’d fallen into the trap.
“9pm, Sofa Lounge. Let’s see if your own voice is better than mine.”
Swallowing the expletives in my mind, I agreed.
In hindsight, I’m glad I wore my Big-girl pants that day. I had literally the best day of the christmas period that evening at the lounge, belting out old Usher Songs on the Karaoke machine. I still maintain that my voice was better than yours, and the louder applause you always seemed to get was due to your ‘buffness’ rather than your singing ability. For the first time in years, however, I allowed myself sing along to a carol publicly. I could practically feel the approval from Scrooge’s three Christmas ghosts.
Leaning against your arm, walking down the stairs as we exited the club, I felt the onset of the doubts again. I was having way too good a time, so good, it felt almost sinful. I could feel myself close up, my unfamiliarity with experiences of this kind encouraging me to pull a Cinderella again, but you kept pace with me.
You pulled me even closer, encouraging me to burrow deeply into the chest that seemed to extend forever. Ignoring the curious glances from passers-by, you hooked a finger under my jaw, tilting my face to look up to yours. Kissing the corners of my mouth lightly, while waiting for the Uber you summoned for me to arrive, you whispered;
“No, we’re not going home together tonight. Yes we’ll take it slow. Don’t get scared and run away again, Smallie. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll feel at home with this; stranger things have happened.”
Sitting in the back of the plush vehicle, serenaded again by Christmas carols, I allowed a small smile play on my now gloss-less lips. Funny how I could still feel your essence cocooning me.
Maybe you’re right. Stranger things really have happened. I just might end up having a very good year.