His name was Ayo. I’ve always had a thing for Ayos because my first ‘love’ (and I use that term loosely) was Ayo.
But this Ayo was different from the first. He was way smarter. I like smart guys. I like smart guys a lot.
I remember the first time I saw him. Lape and I were taking the long walk home from the estate gate back home. His car paused beside us.
“Can I drop you guys off? I’m new on your street..” Or something of that sort. We got in. He did mention Jola’s name (my big sis) and Biodun’s too (our cousin). I sat next to him in front because, well, I’m older.
He asked us random questions about the estate and its social activities. I think we depressed him with our replies. He was moving from Adeniyi Jones where he’d lived all his life to our boring estate in Magodo.
“Are you guys doing anything later? My friend’s doing something. If you wanna come with…?”
We didn’t go.
I went to school and forgot about him till I got back. By this time, Jola had formed a very strong friendship with him. Not just Jola. But my parents too. He became the guy who was like a brother; the one that would make them relax when they heard we were with him.
He was our Ayo.
Jola tried her hand at match-making. But I wasn’t down for it.
“Nah.. I like Ayo and all, but he’s not my type.” I would say to her.
I lied. He was exactly my type. He was incredibly smart, witty. He got me. He knew and loved my music. Our conversations were wonderful.
But. Ayo wasn’t pretty.
Ayo had a big nose and he didn’t care much about his appearance. He wore all these old baggy suits (he had an explanation for this; something about where he was working) and just didn’t care.
And so I rejected it, denied it.
He became so involved in our lives that all my best friends came to know him.
“I think Ayo likes you…” Some said.
“And you know you guys would fit oh…” Others would say.
I didn’t listen. Ayo came for my graduation. He bought me a necklace. Yes, that necklace. The one I never part with. That I’ve been wearing faithfully for over two years.
I didn’t think he’d buy it. In one of those moments when I proclaim my desires “I want a white Range!” Or “I want to live in a wooden cabin in the green jungle!” I had pointed out a similar necklace in a Style magazine. “I want that necklace!”
Well, Ayo bought it. I have spent a good deal of this past year just staring at it. A friend versed in these things estimated it at ‘quite expensive’.
Ayo was the only person asides office people and family that I saw on my birthday. He made the long journey from his office to mine, so I wouldn’t have to use the BRT home. (Never mind his car broke down and we had to wait over an hour to fix it.)
I remember telling Anna that I would marry Ayo. That I just knew it in my belly that he was the one. That when I was older and realized he didn’t need to have a great face and hot body, that I’d capitulate.
It happened on a normal day. He was at ours some evening when he told us he’d quit his job. He’d been saying it for a while but I never took him seriously. He was serious this time.
“But why?” He shrugged.
Mother came home. And randomly asked. “When are you going for your Masters? We’re considering putting off Biola’s own till after Youth Service.”
Ayo had looked down before saying- “I’m leaving on Friday.” This was Tuesday.
I looked up in shock. Ade was smiling. He’d known all along. (He’s daddy’s P.A. Very annoying fellow!) Lape was as shocked as I was, glory be!
I picked my sandals which I’d carelessly flung somewhere and without saying a word, I climbed the stairs to my room.
I had a long bath. I wasn’t thinking anything.
Lape knocked. “Ayo is leaving.. Come say goodbye.”
“Tell him I said he should have a good life.” I replied.
A few minutes later, I got a text. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know how to tell you.”
But Jola had known. And Ade had known. Wasn’t I important?
I didn’t speak to him till Thursday evening. Lape didn’t understand why I was making such a big deal out of it. “He shaa told us finally.” She kept on saying.
She didn’t understand. She didn’t understand that this news was making me confront some things I’d rather have left in peace.
Like how I felt about Ayo. About why I wanted to cry.
He sat next to me Friday evening. His flight was late that night. We were trading songs on our phones. We said mostly nothing. I’m sure the tension wasn’t from just me.
When it was late enough, we all watched our parents pray for him before walking up the street to his house. We sat for another hour in front of his gate.
And when it was time to go. I hugged him. “Don’t forget us..” I whispered. “Never.” He said.
I think he knew. I know he knew.
Ayo left. And I cried. I cried alone. I cried in the bathroom when no one could see me cry. Because I was cold Biola. Biola doesn’t cry.
Now, with hindsight; I know that Ayo did not know. In fact, in his head, this story is told by him. And I’m the one who was clueless.
We’ve had one of those round-about conversations with a lot of ‘what-if’s dancing around. But we didn’t get to it. We left it as it is.
One of our conversations circled around the lyrics of ‘Lions, Tigers & Bears’. If you know it, you’d understand.
I’ve met smarter guys. Guys have bought me very expensive stuff. But Ayo is still Ayo to me.
We no longer talk as much. I expected this. But our conversations still leave me smiling.
I don’t know how to end this in a non-sappy way. So, I guess I should just end it here, eh?