“Would you come home with me?” He said the moment he parked in front of my house. He didn’t cut the engine.
“When?” I frowned. Nothing can stop me from devouring this rice tonight.
“No, not tonight. Just inviting you.” He looked at my building. “Doesn’t look like anyone is home. You’re sure it’s okay?” I nodded, grabbing the paper-bag of food from the back seat.
He got out as well, following closely behind. My landlord had obviously forgotten to put more salt on the floor to avoid accidents. He had also forgotten to shovel the snow pathway.
“This is dangerous, be care…” he hadn’t finished saying it before I slipped, but he caught me. It was just on the final step before the porch.
“Wow! You all should do something about this.” He sounded angry.
“Thanks,” I nodded, recovering from the fall and the ‘many’ awkwardness that arose. I wasn’t even sure where I put my keys, but I still tried my jacket pockets, my fingers were shaking. He had followed me to the door and was hovering, which was making me uncomfortable. Was I not supposed to be the one inviting him in?
The door wasn’t locked, which meant Henry was home he was the one who never turned the lock after entering.
“I want to kiss you.”
“Nope.” I shook my head. Announcing it was the spoiler. People do things spontaneously.
He smiled. “Because I asked abi?”
“Who told you to?” I lifted my left brow
“I see. Well that aside, would you help me…”
I turned back to him and he kissed me this time. Honestly? I was confused at first. No sparks flying about. He sef appeared too gentle, like he believed I’ll push him away in any minute and then it was taking longer so I stepped aside, and then inside. “Good night. I closed the door.
Sonia, my new ‘jamo’ friend in school said some company was interviewing for customer service reps for their night shift. The pay was $12/hr so we went. We were asked basic questions and were told to expect something, so recently, we’ve been checking on ourselves on whether or not anyone has heard anything. I was broke and the need to pay rent and all other bills, monthly was still strange to me. Bolaji had called the day after the kiss. It was either me or I felt he sounded sheepish. You know that way you suddenly begin to feel your dignity has reduced? Okay. So I decided to face front. There was so much happening in school, in class. I was getting good grades but that devil tying my tongue down refused to release it, so it was tough speaking and connecting in class. Sometimes, I tried starting up the conversation but even I knew I sounded weird when I still found it strange talking about the weather. Ah!
And there was the confusion with people and their attitude. The one who give you a beautiful smile today and looks past you the next day. I still don’t get their jokes either so I stayed in my lane.
I needed action. I absolutely loved meetups but I didn’t drink which made it awkward. Will I be going to a bar because of Coke? I needed activity and Craigslist was a mess. The kind of things one reads there ehn #lipssealed.
Perhaps this was why I took Bolaji up when he invited me for dinner, two days after. Sonia and I didn’t get called back and I spent a quarter of an hour convincing her it had nothing to do with our race, because seriously, I didn’t want to be one of those bitter people always using that as their go-to.
First Bolaji tells me to take a cab and that he’ll pay. What? I am capable of paying my own bills. Or maybe not. Of course I didn’t take a cab. I tried that once and my eyes never left the meter after every round figure. I couldn’t do that again.
After locating his house on the map, I set out. The house was fine sha, from what I saw. I wasn’t expecting much. When you’ve been alone for a long time, any company is good company, so long as you both have a basic understanding and are on the same level of discussion like ‘change-’ back home and the new government, the latest songs, and then some moves too. He had said he was an OAP for a while back home when he went on a long holiday. He was ideally my kind but…
Next station- Degrassi, Degrassi Street…
That’s me. It was still cold and I’m sure he was expecting me. Sometimes I hated the streetcars because of its excessive stops but it was also the quickest thing to take.
So I walked into First street and located him. Yes that was the house. Before I could press on the bell, the door opened. He was smiling, poking his head out to look for the cab. He looked confused but I kept a straight face. Then he invited me in. There was noise coming in from upstairs so I knew we weren’t home alone. That felt a bit odd. He took off my coat and I took off my snow-soiled boots and lay them close to the door. He still wore some excitement as he led me into the living room. Real gorgeous house. I didn’t like it though. Everything was in place. Too arranged. Even the curtains had gators. This is not the kind of place one can misbehave. One needed to act responsibly here else one will knock things over. Good food smelled from the kitchen. Strong smell of oporoko. Like efo-riro.
“Would you please help me set the table?”
He said nothing about the sounds from upstairs. At a corner of the dining room were about six wrapped gifts in shiny turquoise paper.
He made rice. Not sure what kind but it smelled really good. The efo looked berrrd too, there was another bowl of broccoli and baby carrots. I didn’t even know I was this hungry. And there was soft, nicely-diced, fried plantain. My absolute weakness. I set for two but he added another. Oh!
The clatter came from down the stairs some minutes later and honestly, I didn’t understand the pounding of my heart.
She wore one of these stretchy dresses and her wig was a bit weird- big and curly. She looked mid-40s, like all these people struggling to seem young.
“Hellooooo.” She gave that sing-song tone that insecure people used to prove some point in their heads.
“Hello..” I smiled. Not sure whether to use ma. Aunty Bodunrin looked like her a lot. I spied at Bolaji, hoping to see the same tension on his face as was on it the other day with his sister. He was calm.
“Mum, that’s my friend Ehi.”
Friend? Hold on… Mum
“Good evening ma.” I said more appropriately.
She smiled again. “Hello Ehi. Please sit.” I did.
So we ate. Silence. Then afterwards she tried to make small talk on how I found the country so far, somehow hinting on when and how I met her son. No bad blood.
Twice he passed his phone to me showing me some dance videos. We were stacking the dishwasher when the doorbell rang again.
It was Aunty Bodunrin.
The shocked look she gave upon seeing me was a bit dramatic. Like it was unbelievable. She dropped the gifts she had come with alongside the others, all wrapped in the same paper. Then she scraped what rice was left in the pot and sorted herself. She made no contact with her brother. They passed by each other trying not to even touch. I was confused. I caught his mum looking at me and I looked away fast. It was time to go o. The tension had risen so high and the aunty was avoiding my face too. I thought I heard Bolaji sigh in exasperation when she dropped the plate in the sink and walked away, then she went off to scrutinize the gifts, went out and back in with more. She held like three boxes and her car keys. One of the boxes was almost tipping over so I went to help. If you see the look she gave me. It was more of shock than rude, but she still let me. So I helped her drop them. Exactly four minutes later, I picked my bag and they all got the drift. He got up too. His mum remained nice, cordial, his sister managed a smile and I couldn’t go out fast enough. In fact I wore my coat outside.
“Thanks so much for coming.” He held my hands, turning me to him and you could just tell by his eyes.
“Thanks?” I punched him awkwardly on the shoulder. “Thank you. I enjoyed the meal.”
He laughed. “I can still manage to ruffle stuff up.”
“What’s with the gifts?” I tapped my bus pass, confirming it was still in my pocket.
“The gifts? They are mine. I’m getting married next month.”
© Oyster Finney