It was the 27th day of March, a day to the postponed presidential election. It was late in the afternoon. I was standing in that famous motor park/filling station in the Old Garage Oshogbo, waiting for IBK. Since the day I nearly died donating blood to her, I hadn’t set my eyes on her. I left her for Cemetery Lodge to be there for Micah. A day after the CLO election, the entire lodge started getting ready to storm the hospital, but Mercy called to tell us that IBK’s brother had had her transferred to an Ibadan hospital. For the six weeks she was in Ibadan, we only communicated on phone, but the calls were painfully short and impersonal. I was sad.
An hour ago, she called me and told me she was on her way to Oshogbo. I screamed with joy and hopped on an okada to Ikirun. At Ikirun, I couldn’t wait for the Oshogbo bus to get filled; I simply hopped on another bike, to Oshogbo. It was a forty-minute journey in the dusty expressway. When I arrived at Oshogbo, my eyes were blood-red from been ploughed through the flying wind, like Agu’s after-smoke eyes. But this didn’t matter; it was the king inside me and not the Agu in my eyes that mattered. Even the headache and the dizziness didn’t count. I just needed IBK.
I dialed her number. The phone rang out. There was no answer. I dialed again and again and again, and still no answer. I became anxious. I began to wonder whether she’d tricked me. Oh God, please no. I’d heard the noise of motion while we spoke on the phone –
My heart stopped beating just then. IBK was standing on the other side of the road, waving, her teeth reflecting the light of the departing sun. She was wearing a tight white shirt over striking blue jeans. Her brown weave-on lay on her shoulders, slightly windblown. She was very slim, but her beauty and those slight curves – they sent my heart surging with emotion, as a thousand excited butterflies took over my stomach. I made to cross the road but stopped to let a trailer roar past.
I ran across the road. IBK opened her arms. I entered into the warmest hug ever given. We held each other, tight, lost to the whole world, shielded by passion and unified by the rhythm of our unified heartbeats. We were the only people on earth, standing on the centre of earth while Oshogbo, Osun and Africa rotated around us.
“Did you miss me?”
In response, she disengaged her head from my shoulder, placed her forehead against mine, and stared into my eyes. I tried to look back, even though the fire was too bright, overpowering.
“You saved my life,” she said.
“I saved my life,” I corrected.
She laughed. “Let’s start moving. I don’t want my brother to come and catch me in Oshogbo. I didn’t tell him I was traveling. I sneaked away.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Why not? I can’t afford to miss this once in a lifetime event. Let’s be going.” She linked her hand into mine, and we crossed the road. At the other side she stopped and exclaimed, “I left my bag over there!”
I re-crossed the road to get her handbag which she left at the spot where we hugged.
The organisation of the election this year was quite different from previous ones. For instance, all INEC ad hoc staffs were mandated to pass the night prior to Election Day at the Registration Area Centre. The presiding officers and the assistant presiding officers would receive electoral materials, both sensitive and insensitive materials in the night and leave for polling units at first light.
IBK’s polling unit was located in the next village, mine at the village after next. We were told to converge at our RACs by six o’clock, but it was well after six when we arrived at Cemetery Lodge from Oshogbo. Everyone in the lodge had left for their RAC, including Tina and Edwin whose RAC was in this village.
“What did you cook?” IBK asked.
I’d cooked beans and yam, but ate so little because of the fear of being pressed to shit tomorrow while presiding over the polls. But with IBK eating with me, I dared the toilet and ate like General Gowon. Then we packed our NYSC kits in bags, plus toiletries and blankets. We were like a freshly minted couple preparing for a picnic, except we were headed for different beaches.
It was nearly 7.30pm when we boarded the bike to our RACs. When we reached the school premises that served as IBK’s RAC, we saw corps members roaming about. So much for six o’clock. We got down. Our hands joined.
“Be careful,” I said.
“You too,” she returned. “Run into the bush at the first sign of any wahala.” Then she hugged me before whispering, “Make sure Jonathan wins your polling unit.”
“Ah, I am neutral o.”
She pecked my chin. “Good luck dear.”
She began to make for the generator-lighted classroom.
“I will dream about you,” I called after her.
She turned and blew me a kiss. I continued to watch her long after she disappeared into the classroom.
“Oga corper, make we go, night e don do.”
I turned, nodded an apology to the okada man and climbed on behind him. I felt an acute emptiness inside of me; on the outside, I felt naked, like a woman whose only wrapper had been forcefully taken from her. The okada man kicked the machine back to life. And I took a last look at the direction of IBK.
Written by Kingsley Okechukwu, tweets @Oke4chukwu