Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Palmgrove Letters: Part 2

Palmgroove Letters Part One can be found HERE

As Naffy ran across the terminal in her high heels, she knew she would never make the meeting in time. Damn these Nigerian airlines that never kept to their schedule.   Her meeting in Port Harcourt had gone smoothly and she had all the procurement papers signed. She made it back to the airport in time to hear the announcement that her flight had been delayed for 30 minutes, then an hour, then two. By 2pm she was still in Port Harcourt. Her phone had been ringing none stop as she was trying to brief her boss and the bank directors on the details. With their busy schedules, this meeting had taken months to plan and could not be concluded without the procurement papers that she had just collected. Her boss really should have let her use the company jet. 

As she walked out of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Mr Segun was waiting for her knowing what was at stake. He would have to drive like a maniac to make it from the airport to V.I. The traffic as to be expected on a Friday afternoon moved at snail’s pace. This was one thing she would not miss about Lagos. There was traffic in Kano but it was child's play compared to Lagos. 
She stormed into the Standard Chartered building at 4pm. Keeping such important people waiting actually felt good. As she walked into the big glass conference room, she wished had smoked a cigarette beforehand. 
Her boss stood up and introduced her to the room. 

'This is the lady we have all been waiting for' he said jokingly. 'She has brought us exciting presents in envelopes'. 
The whole room laughed politely.

'I have always maintained that the best gifts always come on paper. Money, shares, agreements etc'. The whole room consisting of 11 men and 1 woman in expensive clothes chuckled. 
Her boss introduced everyone and the fourth man was introduced as 'Professor Abiodun Phillips, one of the members of the board of directors.' No one needed to tell her that he was Bayo's dad. He was tall, dark, broad shoulders with thick glasses. He said 'how do you do young lady' in polished English, like an older and more refined Bayo. 

She suddenly became even more nervous, and her mouth went dry. She really, really should have had that cigarette. 

She did what she had been taught by her American friend every time she had a presentation and got nervous. She pictured everyone naked, chuckled to herself, and then started giving the details of the agreement that she had with oil contractors. Once she got started on the details, her confidence returned and she delivered impeccably. 

As she finished, her boss concluded, 'so lady and gentlemen, according to Nafisat's projections, we are about to become very rich' 
Everyone chucked again. Nafisat took the agreement that had taken her weeks to prepare to every board member to sign amongst general chit chat. Everyone shoke hands and as they were getting ready to leave, Mr Phillips made an announcement. 

‘As most of you know, my wife is imposing a birthday party on me tomorrow. She has insisted I remind you all so please RSVP to her and bring your dancing shoes’. 

Everyone laughed and began to trickle out, congratulating her on a job well done.

She cleared up all the paperwork and closed her laptop while waiting  for her boss to finish his banter in the Lobby. She pulled out her blackberry from her pocket and checked her messages for the first time all day. It flashed red from her low battery as usual. She was surprised that her friends even bothered to contact her because she never replied to personal messages till the end of the day. 

Her boss walked towards her beaming and she knew he was in a good mood. This is a good time to bring up travel with the jet she thought to herself with a smile. 

'Excellent job Nafisat. I expect to see the suggested amendments in my inbox tomorrow morning.' He always expected everything tomorrow morning, regardless of if tomorrow was a weekend or holiday. 

They walked outside where his car was waiting and she got into the back seat of his black Mercedes with him as Mr Segun followed behind then in her car. 

'I am sorry about the delay sir' Nafisat started 'But these airlines are becoming increasingly unreliable, I was having a look at the policy on the company jet the other day, and it seems that some of my travel would be eligible for.....'

Her boss never took his eyes off his IPhone, probably monitoring stock prices. 
He interrupted her and said 'You have to go to Professor Phillips birthday tomorrow on my behalf. Governor Moghalu's daughter's wedding is tomorrow in Enugu so I will be flying out in the morning.' He called his personal assistant immediately and said 'Yes Kate, call Professor Phillip’s wife to RSVP for his birthday tomorrow, Nafisat will be representing me. Yes, the head of the board of S.C. Any word from the embassy? Ok keep me informed'. He put down the phone abruptly, never saying bye. 

'But sir, I have to attend my friend's wedding....' she lied. She knew running into Bayo in Lagos was inevitable, but she did not think it would be this soon, certainly not at his dad's dinner. 

'You have done this many times before, show up for an hour with a gift and make sure you are seen. Continue with your weekend plans' he said abruptly. 'You were saying something about the jet?'

'Erm yes, I looked through the company policy on the jet.....' she started

'I'm sure you know the answer is no' he interrupted with a chuckle never taking his eyes off his phone. 'But if you ask your uncle to facilitate the deal with China, the maybe we can reconsider' he said as they pulled up to the front of Gloval Towers. 

She chuckled because he knew she had no influence over her uncle, and even if she did, she was not travelling on the jet. 

She got out of the car after him and followed him to the office. He gave her some more instructions which she took down before she ran back out to her car. The more he saw her, the more work he would assign. 

'Mr Segun, please take me to Farida's' she instructed as she lit up a cigarette.
'How the meeting?' he asked curiously. He loved to know what was happening in the company so he would boast to his friends at the joint how work was in the Oil and Gas sector' 
'It was good oh, we got them to sign the contract' she replied cheerily. It had been a good day. 

It was another bad day for Bayo. The caterer's cheque had been bounced and they were threatening not to turn up for the party. His mum had called him in panic asking him to fix it, so he was stuck in the bank, closing time on a Friday, trying to withdraw a huge sum to take to them in cash. He had been in the middle of a meeting with his website developers when she had called, and they were getting fed up with him. His mum had a P.A and he didn't understand why he had to run such errands. The caterer's office was on the mainland and he was bracing himself for the traffic ahead. Unlike with his dad, he never delegated work his mum gave to him. 

He had been thinking about Nafisat the whole day. He had not bothered calling or messaging her because he knew she would ignore it. He always told her she should have joined the military like her father. 
He seemed to see her everywhere. She was tall, slim and very fair. She had one of those faces that made it difficult to figure out where she was from. People would stare at her, trying to figure out if she was mixed race, Lebanese or Fulani. She had a cold and withdrawn look, so few people dared to approach her. The few that tried would be quickly shut down. She was not friendly and did not like mindless chit chat. It had been difficult when she lived in the States not to appear rude because Americans loved endless talk. Bayo always teased her that she would have fit in a lot better with the British. 

As he drove to the caterer's with a ton of money in a bag, he remembered when he first saw her. She had walked into his friend's house party and as usual, everyone stared. His friends whistled by his side and said, 'Omo, too many fine chics dey this Lagos, they won kill person' 

Femi, the ladies’ man immediately walked towards her as she said hi to people. He stayed next to Tobi, whose birthday it was, as she walked towards him. 
'Hey Tobs' she said cheerily as she approached him. 'You don dey old oh' 
Tobi chuckled at her attempt at broken English and said 'The only girl whose broken is worse than mine. I don't think it's meant to be spoken in a Pseudo Hausa/American accent' 
'Abegi, free me oh' she replied 
They continued to banter and Femi getting tired of Tobi ignoring him said 'Hi, I'm Femi, since Tobi has no manners'  stretching out his hand.
'Oh hi, I am Nafisat' she replied with a smile. 
'Oh is that Hausa?' he interrupted as she attempted to continue chatting with Tobi
Tobi got the hint and excused himself. 
'No, it is a Muslim name' she replied already sensing that he wanted to chat and looking for an escape.
Lagosians loved to talk, especially the men. She missed the reserved nature of Northern men, who barely approached women in public. 
'Oh really, but you are Hausa now?' he replied mockingly
'No I am not' she replied curtly 
'So where are you from?'
'I am from Borno' said Nafisat
'Ahn Ahn, so how aren't you Hausa' he replied with confidence
'Not everyone from the North is Hausa' she replied. She did not feel the need to give him a geography lesson so she excused herself. 
'I will see you later then?' he asked as she walked away 
She smiled briefly in reply and walked towards a waiter to get some water but what she really wanted was a cigarette. Damn you Farida for not coming with me she thought. She was new to Lagos and didn't know any of Tobi's friends. They had met at MIT and he had become one of her closest friends.
She got to the bar to order a drink. A guy at the bar said 'hey, I think I know you....'
'I don't think so' she replied as she walked away again, not waiting for her drink. She walked outside to look for somewhere private to smoke. Next to Tobi's house was an uncompleted plot and she walked towards it, lighting up her cigarette. She took a very long drag when she heard someone speak from behind her.
'How long has it been since your last fag?' asked Bayo
She turned around to see a tall bespectacled guy with his hands behind his back. 
'Because you took that drag like I did after about 3 months of trying to quit' he continued
Nafisat smiled, 'is it that obvious?' she asked 
'Yes, it really is' said Bayo. 'Sounded like you were taking in some oxygen after being underwater'
'That's what it felt like' replied Naffy
'So how long has it been? A month, 2 months, dare I say 3? asked Bayo
'Its been about 6 hours' said Naffy with a smile. 'I know, I know, my lungs look like the ones on this packet!' 
'I know this amazing secret that can help you stop' said Bayo with a cheeky smile. 
'What makes you think I want to stop?' replied Naffy 
'Are you on the you only live once campaign?' asked Bayo
'I wouldn't quite phrase it like that' said Naffy 'So what's your excuse for being here in the dark?' she asked
He smiled a mischievous smile and said, 'Oh you know, just taking in the beauty of mother nature'
'You mean kushing?' she retorted 
'I have no idea what you are talking about' he said with a straight face. 
'I wouldn't mind some if you care to offer' she smiled 
'I do care to offer' he said as brought his hands from behind his back and passed her his spliff 
She accepted it with eyes glistening and offered him her cigarette 
He declined shaking his head, 'I have given up smoking'
She chuckled, 'You do see the irony here'
'More than you know' he responded 'By the way my name is Bayo' 
'Nafisat' she replied as she took a long drag and passed it to him. 
'This is the part where you ask me what it means or where I am from and the like' 
'Well I know that Nafisat is an Arabic name meaning Something Precious or Priceless and I assume I will get to know where you are from when we get to know each other better' he replied with his know it all attitude.
'When? That's awfully certain of you.' said Naffy
He gave her a knowing smile and said 'I have to get back in Nafisat. It was nice to have met you' 
'Of course, thank you for sharing your mother nature with me' she replied
She watched him walk inside and smiled to herself. He was intriguing. 


It was 5pm on Saturday and Nafisat's bed was piled with clothes as she tried to figure out what to wear to Professor Phillips birthday dinner at Oriental. Farida usually picked out her clothes for her but she had to style people who actually paid her first. She had tried her number endlessly with no response. She decided to wear a dress that Farida had given to her from one of the many events she attended. Farida always bought a size smaller in the hope that she would lose weight but it usually meant that Naffy got to wear them. It was a purple floor length gown with long sleeves. It was made of shiny brocade and she paired it with a gold scarf which she wrapped around her head. 
Bayo had asked her why she bothered to cover her hair on leaving the house since the scarves never seemed to stay on. She had replied that it was for the same reason he left the house with a wallet full of money and it never stayed in!
 Remembering that made her smile. 

She missed him a lot. It was especially hard because they spent most of their time together in her room. Although Bayo loved to go out and socialise, Naffy preferred to stay indoors and sketch. She loved to draw, and her balcony was littered with various sketches that she had started and was yet to complete. She did not particularly like eating so Bayo's attempts to take her to the new 'it' restaurants failed. She did not drink either so she did not like going to bars or clubs. She convinced him to stay indoors with her where they would talk for hours about everything under the sun. Usually Bayo did most of the talking and she would simply watch him intently and listen.  He could talk for hours on end and she never got bored of listening to him. They would smoke shisha, weed and cigarettes until they ran out.

He would eventually leave because his parents’ or someone called him and she would watch him as he got dressed. She always wanted to beg him to stay but something always stopped her. She wasn't sure if it was her pride, stubbornness or the fact that she knew she had no right to him. It was the first time in her life where she wanted something and knew she could not have it. Poverty must be a horrible feeling.

He would leave her sheets smelling of his perfume. She had tried to explain to the cleaner that her sheets didn't need changing daily, just so she would his smell linger, but he would simply change it a day later. 
All across her room and living room upstairs there were memories of him. There were burn marks all over her rug from shisha when they would fight over the pipe. Her walk in wardrobe reminded her of when she hid his phone there because it wouldn't stop ringing. Her dresser reminded her of when he would help zip up her dress as she was getting ready. Her shower reminded her of the time when.....
'snap out of it' she said to herself 
She put on some eyeliner, lipstick and perfume and walked out the door grabbing her car keys. Mr Segun rarely worked on weekends so she would be driving herself. 
As she drove towards Oriental she wished she had more female friends. It would have been more bearable to have someone tag along to these things. Her phone rang out, and she saw that it was Farida returning her calls.
'Woman, where have you been?' asked Naffy
'These fucking Lagos big women will be the death of me. This woman tried on 8 outfits I brought for her and it seems none is 'quite right'. Can you imagine? What the fuck does that even mean?....' yelled Farida
'Calm down, where are you now?' asked Naffy
'Heading for a meeting with that guy from the reality show' replied Farida
'Oh wow, thanks for including me in all your weekend plans dear friend' she said dryly
'Oh my bad sweetie, I assumed you would be going for Professor Phillip’s birthday thing, Ki ya kuri' she apologised
'Wait, how did you know he was having a party, or that I would be going?' asked Naffy
'It is my job to know what’s going on in Lagos babes.' replied Farida. Her phone beeped with an incoming call, 'gotta run hun, potential client calling, kisses' said Farida as she hung up. 
Farida could not be more of an opposite to her if she tried. She had always thought that Farida and Bayo would make a great couple. But he hadn't met any of her friends or family, and she preferred to keep it that way. It was complicated enough as it was. 
As she drove into the hotel parking lot she said a silent prayer 'May I not run into Bayo tonight' 
She walked into the lobby with her high heels clicking, it was not hard to tell which hall belonged to the Professor Phillips. There were loads of distinguished looking men and women in suits and traditional attire waiting to hand in their invitations and get searched by security. 
Naffy smiled at the grandeur of the beautifully decorated hall. Lagosians knew how to throw parties. There was a live band already playing, drowned by the sound of people laughing and socialising. She signed the guest register and dropped the company card and gift, before proceeding to get her picture taken by the official photographer. She was a professional now. 
As she scanned the room looking for Professor Phillips, she saw Bayo. He had his back to her and was whispering something in his mum's ear with a smile on his face. It was obvious he adored her. He wore a black tuxedo, and he didn't need to turn around for her to know he looked very handsome. Her palms started to get sweaty and she suddenly craved a cigarette. 
'Fuck, fuck fuck' she swore under her breath. She knew she would run into him, but not so soon, and certainly not looking this good. He was busy and had not seen her so she walked towards the back to sit amongst people her age. She would not stay longer than an hour, shorter if she was able to grab Professor Phillip's attention earlier, but he was nowhere to be seen. 

She sat at a table laden with food, drinks and plenty of fresh flowers, pondereing how she would get Professor Phillip's attention and avoid Bayo's simultaneously  It was going to be a long night. She had no idea how long. 
As she made small talk with the person sat next to her, she scanned the room again. Professor Phillips certainly was not there or she would have spotted him. 
'So beautiful, you still haven't told me your name' asked the man sat next to her with a full tooth smile. 
'It’s Nafisat' she replied curtly trying not to sound as disinterested as she felt. He did not notice.
'Emeka is the name' he replied in a thick Igbo accent. 

‘How do you know Prof?’ asked Emeka. He had to be exaggerating this Igbo accent thought Nafisat. No one speaks like this.

‘He is a friend of my boss’ she replied curtly ‘I am sorry but you have to excuse me’ she said as she got up to walk towards Professor Philips who had just walked in the door surrounded by a dozen people. She zig zaged amongst the chairs hoping to catch him before he got to his table when she was abruptly stopped by one of the members of the board. She exchanged pleasantries and explained the absence of her boss. By the time she looked up, Professor Phillips was nowhere to be seen.

She changed directions and made her way towards the sea of people around the stage when she saw Bayo amongst the crowd. She spun around abruptly and walked towards the door. 

She was glad for the burst of humid air that wrapped around her when she walked out of the revolving doors of the hotel. She got cold really easily and the air conditioning in the hall had been freezing despite her long sleeve dress. She wrapped her scarf tightly around her and reached for a cigarette. The sun was setting over the ocean and there was a small breeze that carried the smell ocean with it. There were small sail boats  with people being transported from one end of Lagos to another. There were jet skis racing across the water, dwarfed by huge sail boats belonging to the Lagos elite. The water seemed to go on endlessly, until it merged with the sun in the horizon. It was picturesque, and she took a mental picture to sketch later on.

 She walked slowly towards her car, enjoying the view and contemplating if she should stay or go for a ride and return in a bit when there were less people. She had a feeling that this party would go on well into the early hours of the morning.

Suddenly, she heard footsteps behind her and a male voice calling out ‘Aunty Aunty’. She did not turn around.

A man approached her from behind, and said in a deep voice that he had been looking for her. She turned to look at him, still walking, and ignored him.

‘Aunty, na you I dey talk to? No be you park this Messdis for here?’ he said aggressively pointing to her car.

She had no idea who he was, and since the parking lot was getting dark, she continued to walk towards her car. He followed her at a distance, mumbling to her. As she got to her car, she saw that it had been clamped. Behind her car was a sign that said ‘Director Only’ which had definitely not been there when she had parked earlier.


This immediately pissed her off and she turned to him and said
‘What is this? Take that clamp off at once’

‘Aunty no need for all this grammar wey you wan start. You park for unauthorised zone so you must pay fine of N25,000’ he said angrily
‘You are insane’ started Naffy angrily. ‘You had better take this clamp off before I lose my temper’

‘Me I no insane oh. Na my work I dey do. You no shine your eye see sey you no suppose park here....’ he replied also angrily

This enraged her because she knew he was lying. She put her purse on the floor, put out her cigarette on the floor and began attempting to remove the clamp.

‘Ahn ahn, wetin dey worry you?’ he said shocked at her sudden movement. He moved close to her and attempted to pull her away from the clamp.

Naffy’s shock at his touch, sent her into a blinding rage, and she gave him a resounding slap on the face. ‘Don’t you ever touch me’ she said shaking with anger. 


He seemed taken aback at first and then came closer to her in a menacing way. ‘O danpe iya yi tin ya were? shey you dey crase ni? He shouted


She realised the stupidity of her actions. She was alone, in a dark parking lot with a big black angry man whom she had just slapped but she was never one to back down.

‘You have no right to put your hands on me...’ she responded

She heard quick footsteps walking towards the parking lot and she said a silent ‘Alhamdullilahi’ for whoever it was.

He quickly stepped away from her, also turning to see who was coming.

She knew it was Bayo before she saw his face. He had a brisk walk, from too many winter nights walking around campus. His tall, broad shoulders could be made out from the shadows before he came towards them and asked

‘What is going on? Who are you?’

The man seemed irritated by his appearance, as if he had been expecting someone else. He replied ‘I am an officer of the Lagos State Parking Enforcement Board, and I am performing my duty’ suddenly speaking proper English. People hardly spoke to Bayo in broken or slang English as he sounded very intimidating.


‘Come here’ he commanded and took the man aside. Naffy could hear Bayo talking calmly to the man as he switched to Yoruba. This relaxed the man, and after speaking for a while pointing towards Naffy, he started to smile. He suddenly started praising him, calling him Oga mi and my chairman. Bayo handed him a wad of notes, and the man hastily unclamped her car, with a big smile on his face. He walked away with his clamp on his shoulder still calling out Bayo’s name.


Nafisat watched Bayo walk back towards her and said ‘Thank you so....’

‘I cannot believe you can be so stupid’ he started

Naffy was shocked at his outburst, especially because he had never raised his voice at her before. Bayo was always very calm, an attribute she blamed on him being high most of the time.

‘Sorry?’ she replied

‘How can you be so irresponsible so as to endanger yourself like this? He told me that you slapped him? In the middle of this dark parking lot with no one in sight? Do you know what he could have done to you?’ he continued with his outburst


‘I just lost my temp....’ she tried to reply


‘Anything. He could have done anything to you here. He could have beaten you, robbed you, even raped you...’ he started


As he yelled at her, she saw the look of fear in his eyes as he said the last words and she felt so glad he was here. This was not the first time he had put out fires she had started with her temper. She always seemed to be in confrontations in Lagos. Whenever anyone did something she did not agree with, she made it a point to let them know. When she was in Kano or Abuja, no one dared to talk back to her, but Lagosians were aggressive people and would always give her an abrupt response.  

 She had gotten so used to him being there to make peace that she put herself in danger without thinking of the reprecautions.
As she watched him yell at her, her heart longed for him even more. She reached for his hand, pulled him gently towards her and gave him a tight hug. Her head on his chest, she could feel his heartbeat really fast. He slowly began to hug her back, and she felt his heartbeat relax.

‘I am sorry’ she mumbled into his chest, inhaling his Tom Ford perfume. She felt at home being wrapped in his arms. She began to realise that she was treading on very dangerous waters. This was no longer a fun thing.


He pulled her away and stared down at her into her eyes. ‘One day I won’t be here to save you from yourself’ he said to her his usual soft tone


She stared into his eyes, knowing that he was right. She wondered how she had survived without him for the past 26 years. She also wondered if his lips still felt as soft as they did the last time she kissed him. She leaned up towards him to find out. He did not hesitate to kiss her back, holding her waist to him like he always did.

They felt just as soft, and his kiss was just as passionate as she remembered. The shivers down her spine and slight dizziness were exactly as she remembered. She kissed him deeper, and he moaned a little, exactly as she remembered it.

They got lost in themselves forgetting everything around them. There was loud music and sounds from the party from a distance, but everything was tuned out. They both heard quiet footsteps walking towards them, which they both ignored. 

They could not ignore the voice that gasped loudly a few meters from them. They both pulled away abruptly to stare at the source.


‘What the fuck is going on?’ asked a high pitched voice that was coming closer from the dark.

A small woman in a gold strapless dress and red gele with matching lipstick clicked her heels towards them menacingly.



Moyin was back. 



xoxo

Miss B

4 comments:

  1. "Oh really, but you are Hausa now?' he replied mockingly
    'No I am not' she replied curtly
    'So where are you from?'
    'I am from Borno' said Nafisat
    'Ahn Ahn, so how aren't you Hausa' he replied with confidence
    'Not everyone from the North is Hausa' she replied. She did not feel the need to give him a geography lesson so she excused herself. "

    THE STORY OF MY LIFE. LOVES YOU FOR THIS!!!!

    ReplyDelete