Micah and I stood by the expressway at Ikirun, waiting for Helen’s bus to arrive from Oshogbo. We were still dressed in our khakis, having come straight from the CDS meeting. I had four thousand naira in my pocket—one thousand from my account and three thousand that Micah just lent me. So we stood waiting for Helen, knowing that four thousand naira wouldn’t serve the Trojan Princess, knowing that Uncle Dayo and the NCCF family would have my hide for insulting Rural Rugged Evangelism.
First, Dayo trusted me and I abused his trust by going to a dibia. He forgave me. He helped cleanse me. He gave me chance in the pulpit to speak to the brethren. And I was repaying him by bringing a girl to Cemetery Lodge! I hissed. If I were Dayo, I would curse me.
Micah looked at me and smiled encouragingly. I frowned. I looked away. It was normal for Micah to smile encouragements, what had he to lose? I was now in debt, insulting NCCF and risking an eternal curse. I looked at Micah; he was hiding behind dark glasses, and my frown deepened. I noticed for the first time that Micah was quite good-looking: tall, fresh-skinned and oozing with confidence, near-innocence and charm. If Helen were to be asked to choose between us, I knew who she would prefer. She wouldn’t choose me!
The thought burned me so hard in the chest, I had to unbutton my khaki jacket for air to reach my heart. I would break Micah’s handsome nose one of these days, I swore. I am twenty times smarter than him, I kept telling myself, but this didn’t help my resentment.
“What is biting you?” Micah piped up.
In response, I reached for my own sunglasses perched on my forehead and slipped them over my eyes.
Helen was the last to come down from the bus. She was wearing a white sleeveless blouse over tight jeans. She looked tired, but even this didn’t diminish her glamour. She made for the boot and brought down her suitcase and hold-all.
“She’s a masterpiece,” Micah breathed, as we started toward the bus.
She saw us and squealed with joy, flying into my arms. “Oh Kay, I’ve missed you so much!”
“I am so tired.”
I grunted. She looked at Micah.
“Meet Micah,” I said.
She extended a hand. “He is so cute.”
“He is married with kids,” I said.
She looked at me with doubt.
“With three kids actually,” Micah added.
“And his wife is heavy with a fourth.”
“Jesus, but he’s so young! Does your wife stay with you?”
“No, but he sends her two-third of his allowance,” I said.
Helen looked at Micah with pity.
“You must be hungry,” I said.
“Oh Kay, I am starving!”
We put Helen’s suitcase in front of the motorcycle. Helen sat behind the bikeman. I sat behind her with the hold-all on my lap and Micah sat behind me.
“Mehn, I am sitting on the carrier,” Micah complained.
I pushed my buttocks forward.
Helen grunted. “Oh Kay, why don’t we just take different bikes? I am so tight here.”
She actually pronounced bikes ‘by-kisses’. Of course she would want us to move on separate bikes. She couldn’t know that I was dangerously running out of money. We’d just spent a thousand naira in the restaurant. By jam-packing ourselves in one bike, I would pay 500 naira instead of three hundred each in different ‘by-kisses’.
“Oh Kay, this is too much on me!” she wheedled.
I sighed. “Babe, this is the best way to travel here because of the danger of head-hunters. We take individual bikes and you may end up in the hands of ritual guys. Election is by the corner.”
She caught her breath and grabbed my palm. “I am so afraid.”
“Don’t worry, we are here.”
Micah pinched me and I leered into her hair.
Helen didn’t say anything until we began to pass a road lined up with clothes shops on either side. “Kay, look at that blue gown!” she squealed, pointing. “I so love it!”
After paying the bikeman, I would have 2500 naira on me, and she dared admire a blue gown?! I pretended not to have heard.
“Kay, isn’t the gown so cute?” she prompted.
“It is,” I muttered. “Micah, did I give you my ID card?”
“No,” he said. “I thought you gave it to Dayo.”
“I have collected it but I can’t find it.”
“We will ask the CLO then.”
“Yes we will. When will your CDS group submit their report?” I hadn’t lost my ID card, and I didn’t want to know about some miserable CDS report. I just knew that the only way to stop the pressure of Helen’s wanton admirations was to keep talking. Micah – God bless his soul – understood. So we kept on prattling nonsense, suppressing Helen’s exorbitant wishes.
When the motorcycle stopped before Cemetery Lodge, my heartbeat was deafening. Please God, let it be that Uncle Dayo isn’t at home, I thought fervently. Let it be that he has gone to the mountain where he will pray for 21 days and 21 nights…
“You live in the cemetery?” Helen observed.
I got down the bike with a burning nose.
Micah chuckled. “We live opposite the cemetery,” he corrected.
Helen inspected the atmosphere with her nose and eyes, mostly with her nose. “Oh gosh, this is too rural.”
I paid the bikeman and reached for Helen’s suitcase.
“I thought you were serving in Oshogbo,” she said.
I live in Ohio, I was tempted to say. Micah chuckled as I grabbed hold of the suitcase and my temper. God please make me deaf (and dumb!) for the rest of her stay here, I prayed.
We carried Helen’s luggage inside without meeting Dayo or any other obstacle on the way. At the door, Micah whispered into my ear, “Where will she go for her toilet?”
“When we get there, we will cross it,” I said hotly.
Micah laughed. I hissed. Helen looked at me. “It’s like you have a hot temper o,” she said.
You never see anything.
Written by Kingsley Okechukwu, tweets @Oke4chukwu, and blogs at kingkingsley.wordpress.com