SLOW FADE

She leads him by his collar, and he has no time to make his decision.

Babatunde complained out loud as his phone rang for the fourth consecutive time. Everyone was driving him crazy. He hated government work! He hated female bosses!! And he hated incessant callers too!!!

“Guy, how far? … Sorry joor, I been dey busy… How your side nah?” he asked trying to sound upbeat. The voice on the other end rang with laughter, and soon Tunde’s face lightened up. “Omo, na to pop champagne be dat ooo. No dull boiz.”

Ikemefuna Nwoye ran his fingers across his embossed name on the promotion letter. “Manager (Projects),” it read; he was only 26 and in a multinational company. It fitted well there, he thought, it was where he belonged. “Meet me at the top,” he usually told those who cared to listen. He clenched his right fist, and grabbed it with his left. Picking up his car keys and quickly tidying his desk, he added a spring to his gait, and on his way out of the reception, generously tipped the security guard on duty who saluted him expectantly.

“I swear, that woman na winch. Just dey carry government work on top her head like say na her papa business. Make she no go marry,” Babatunde was complaining bitterly.

“Who wan marry devil put for house? I swear down, Babs, you needs comot for that unit. E be like say na prayer and fasting you go do on top her head,” Tiwi proffered in consolation.

Osas rubbed his forehead. “Should we exchange jobs then? Would you rather wash madam’s lab coat? Or her two-day-old flask of food? And then say gleefully, ‘you’re welcome, ma’ when she thanks you for paying some money into some account. Sometimes, I wonder if it is not Biochemistry I studied. I just dey waste for this country.”

They were seated in their corner at Mama Casa’s awaiting semo and pounded yam.

Festus was about narrating how he ‘treated one babe’s fuck-up’ when Ikem strolled in. “IK baba,” they hailed in unison, bobbing their fists in the air.

“Guys, look, he’s got the swag to go with it now.”
“No dey whine me nao.”
“Abeg, chop knuckle.”
“Congrats, bruv.”
“Congratulobia, nna.”
“Thanks, mehn”

“So, how are we celebrating?” Festus threw Ikem a quizzical glance, and the others cast him their expectant glances as well.

Ikem paused, and with a brilliant smile announced, “All your orders are on me. Drinks and all. We can even have ice-cream afterwards.”

“Are you for real, mehn? See insult o. I think say e wan talk better thing sef.” Festus shook his head.
Nna, you don’t mean it. Odikwa risky. No try that rough play again,” Tiwi said with a fake Igbo accent.
Babs looked truly incredulous, “Igbo man. Your money no dey drop. How much food I wan chop. Something wey no go pass N500. We dey primary school? Ice cream ke? Why you no talk cabin biscuit and caprisonne? Mscheeeeeeew.”

Ikem felt offended at first, and then embarrassed. He was smart, probably the smartest of them all. He could handle the situation. “Alright, alright, cool down. Una blood too dey hot. So what do you want?”

Osas cleared his throat as Babs announced, “Now you’re talking. Let’s hit the bar,” and the others lent their support. Ikem was silent.
“We can’t be drinking Tandy and zobo at this our old age. Abi your pastor will beat you ni?”
“Pastor dey house dey shack im own. We fit see am for bar sef. Abeg, make we go flex joor. Life is short. Bros no do us strong thing.”
“C’mon man, one or two bottles can’t kill you. No dey fall my hand. You are a man now ooo.”
“I don’t think I have enough money on me right now?”
“ATM no dey? Shuo? Besides, I can always lend you, you pay me back ASAP sha.”
Ikem smiled and threw Osas a playful punch on the shoulder. “So, where will it be?”
Babs led the way amidst cheer, “Follow me.”

As they pulled into the parking lot, Babs announced, “There’s an adjoining club, so we can just chill out there later.”
“Sure boy.”
“I hope we won’t be staying here till like forever?” Ikem protested after deliberation.
“Dude, relax. Relax, mehn. That’s why today’s a Friday. Your promotion get sense.”
They sat in the lounge sipping martini and requesting for more, whilst talking about girls and yabbing Ikemefuna.

They entered the club and were embraced by its warm ambience despite being fully air-conditioned. The neon lights and fast-paced music sent the fun-seekers gyrating in every direction. Abruptly, the music changed and there was a unanimous scream of delight from the dancers. A lanky girl clad in a sleeveless chiffon top that was same length as her bum-short screamed excitedly at Festus as she threw her arms around his neck; “Tina baybee,” he exclaimed, and they immediately danced away.

Soon, Babs and Ikem were left sipping from their glasses in one corner of the bar. Now and then, random people walked gaily up to Babs, the brazen girls pecked him on the cheek, and the guys either shook his hand or chopped his knuckle.

I am just an Oliver
Oliver Oliver Oliver Twist
Just an Oliver
Oliver Oliver Oliver Twist

The tempo changed again, loud screams rent the air, and she caught his interest. She danced without a care in the world, drowning her sorrow, forgetting her pain. She swayed her body in rhythm to the song, wriggling her hips seductively as her buttocks frolicked dangerously from side to side.

Ikem sat across the room, amused by her gymnastics, and all the while he sipped from his glass, his eyes never left her for a millisecond. The song changed again, and as she retired to her seat, a close-enough distance for Ikem to conveniently observe, she summoned the waiter for a drink.

With slender legs and feet that sat comfortably in purple stiletto heels, and fingers that gently rubbed the wine glass as though it were a man’s beard, Ikem noticed that her glistering neckpiece lay gingerly on her cleavage, as though it did not really mean to lie there at all. Then, he noticed how well-rounded her breasts were, and imagined how supple they would feel to his hands. His hormones arose at the clarion call, and his blood became turbo-charged. With his eyes still fixed on her, she flipped her Peruvian hair and met his gaze briefly. Babs kindly refilled Ikem’s glass and he downed it in a gulp. Boldly, Ikem stood to his feet, but sat down again almost immediately.

Chisom. Why?

“C’mon, Ikem, it’s not a big deal. You’ll be done in a jiffy,” he thought he heard Osas, who had returned with the others from the dancing floor speak, but when he looked sideways, a girl with a mix of blue and red weave-on had her gigantic lips all over him. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead, and he rubbed his temple thoughtfully. When he looked back up, her eyes were fixed on him. They were intent. They dared him. “Chicken,” her eyes accused. He broke away from the interlock and gulped another shot.

He thought what to say to her when they met. Would he satisfy her? Maybe he should tell her, “please this is my first time.” Heck, no! What man does that? What girl wants to hear that? He nearly laughed out loud. And then the battle raged:

Do not conform to standard. He felt the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed.

For heaven’s sake, YOU ARE 26. It’s only as much a big deal as you make it.

You were bought with a price. You are not your own. I’m sorry.

God will not hold this one sin against your many good deeds.

Chisom? Chisom. You love her.

Yes! Chisom. You love her, and she loves you too, and love shall cover a multitude of sins.

You promised her. Ikem groaned out loud.

And she would forgive you. 70 x 70 times, no?

SILENCE

You are only human, with blood flowing through your veins.

SILENCE

Yes! You are like Jesus, but you are NOT Jesus.

SILENCE

Take charge, son. NOW! Ikem rose to his feet as Babs slipped a small pack into his back pocket, and he walked casually to his quarry armed with fresh worry:

Would she change her mind at the last minute and make a fool of him? Would she be disappointed by his stunts? Would she tease him unmercifully? Would he run into her sometime in the future? Would he suffer the guilt syndrome in the aftermath? Heck! Most probably not. That’s for women, he heard. His boxers- would she be put off? He hoped it wasn’t smelling. He could not remember now whether it was for three days or four that he had worn it at a stretch without washing.

Well, now it won’t matter anymore. She had him by the collar.

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
– Casting Crowns

Chinazar Okoro©2012

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