It donned the toga of what is tagged ‘love at first sight.’ But as event turned out, this stealthy relationship between a man from a family of peasants who fell in sudden love with a daughter of the affluent, turned awry. This is as a result of a social gap that soon made him bubble into troubled waters in the blind bid to date a lady clearly beyond his means; reports GBOYEGA ADEOYE.
Margaret was a staffer of the Canadian Embassy in Abuja. Her mother is Yoruba while her father is Dutch. I met the beautiful light skinned and experienced lady at a cocktail party one misty night late last year in Ikoyi, Lagos. The party was attended by several ambassadors including one time famed America envoy to Nigeria; Walter Carrington.
It was a great event. Having been in Lagos for years, I have learnt to shed the toga of peasantry. And like Europeans at the party, I was in fine suit, held my cup the manner of theirs, gesticulated, nodded majestically to guests and even tried to speak phonetics.
After chatting for fifteen minutes with Margaret, I knew where she belonged. On occasions, for instance, she tried to correct the manner of my pronunciation of certain words. When I told her I liked Mercedes Benz, she quickly told me the correct pronunciations.
Again when I said “eke a living” she rudely corrected that the word was eke (I:K) and not ‘eke’ (as Ekiti will call lie). I had to restrain my anger; the option was to talk less, which I did.
Surprisingly, Margaret graduated from a foreign University. I had to leave the party on time so as not to miss the last BRT bus at Obalende. I got home furious. ‘Bulldog’, my elderly cousin had eaten all the remaining beans and garri and was “lying in state” in the parlour, asleep or pretending to be.
The fourth week after our meeting was Margaret’s birthday. She was on the line, inviting me, even after I had thought I should forget about her and cut my coat according to my cloth. I was at the party, a great night of music, wine and gist. It was as if the world would not end. I made sure I ate enough to cover my dinner.
From my calculations, the outing was profitable. I spent N1000 to and from Victoria Island but had a good lunch and dinner which I guessed made me look fresher throughout that week.
Lots of ladies came to the party. All, including the young men, were from rich homes, except me. Anyone would know that. The men wore jeans and T shirts marked with crazy inscriptions. The ladies, put on mini-skirts, Elizabethan gowns, corduroy trousers and fashionable sneakers.
I was the only one with Aso Oke and some time, I felt I should sneak out. I was also the only one that could not dance accurately to the funky music. After a while, Margaret came to me and gave me a peck. Initially, I thought she wanted to eavesdrop something into my ears. I stood there, wondering if the moisture of her peck would ever dry on my cheek.
Our familiarization continued for three months when she invited me to visit her family home. But Margaret had complained seriously about my manner of dressing which she said was flabby. “I want you to look smart and yuppy.” After visiting her for a month, she had asked me “Don’t you have jeans and T shirt?” And I lied in the affirmative.
The second day, I tucked N5,000.00 neatly in my pocket, thinking of heading for Oshodi market. I found myself beaten by the infatuation bug and completely in fantasy. With N5,000.00, I could pick a jeans trousers, “Homeboy T-Shirt” and a cap. Margaret’s request had reminded me I had not worn jeans for over fifteen years.
However, I got a second-hand T Shirt, “Homeboy T-shirt” and a cap marked “Kango” and hurried back home.
“You must dress like a yuppy; my family loves smart dresses,” keep recurring in my senses. I wore the jeans, T shirt and the cap. I looked ridiculous, watching myself in the mirror. I did not look like the yuppy or a guyish fellow expected by my beloved Margaret. My stomach was protruding while my buttocks shot unnecessarily backwards. I tucked-in, but it was worse. At best, I resembled a village footballer.
The second day, I was at Margaret’s family home. I had removed the sports dress and was now in native Adire. To myself, I looked better. Their house was magnificent; the rug was like the pristine whiteness of snow. I could feel the aura of the biblical paradise. Margaret came out of her bedroom, made a catwalk, and sat close to me.
Her parents later joined us. The father discussed the pastime at the secondary school days.
Margaret and her parents were talking about life in Dutch secondary schools, dart playing, games and horse-riding. They spoke with nostalgia about some authors like Mark Levis and Vaughan Curtis. They spoke about holidays in London, Sweden and even Santiago in Chile . I felt uncomfortable. While they spoke about such things,
I was thinking of my own pastime: wrestling at the tropical forest at break time, chasing rodents, jumping from one mango tree to the other and even the popular bojuboju (hide and seek) game.
Suddenly, Margaret asked me: “Have you been abroad before?” Hmm well, “I’ve been to some countries? I said. She probed further. “Which countries,” I retorted with hesitation “Togo, Ghana and Mali”. I noticed her mother winked. After about two hours of chatting, I left.
I took BRT bus and got home late. Bulldog was furious that I did not take him along. I told him he should wait to meet Margaret, who had promised that she would visit the following Sunday on the condition that she met my house quiet and free from the usual “fifteen in a room” kind of Lagos situation. I let her have the impression that my apartment was always quiet and free of human traffic.
I made a clean environment and I had chosen Sunday for her visit knowing that the crowd in my apartment would have gone to church. I gave N500.00 to Bulldog, pleaded with him to keep away his ugly face and peasant tummy. He bought roasted yam and akara with the money. He stayed away in a neighbour’s flat. I had my jeans trousers on and a novel by James Hardly Chase which I was reading.
Oh! Yes. Margaret loves music. I searched through the shelves. All I could see were records of Elemure, Haruna Ishola, Omo Abule, Baba Ara and at best Chaka Chaka and Cool and the Gang. I got, however, Eric Donaldson from my neighbour. Margaret came in few hours later.
Good enough, tranquility was at home. She took a cursory look at the apartment and sat quietly. For thirty minutes, we talked in general; Margaret inspected my apartment, raising complaints about everything: the curtains, the kitchen, the stove. He said my bedroom looked like that of a village king. She also complained that my nose was “too big and flat.”
We were chatting on the programmes on the television when a bang came on the door. My heart jumped. I jerked the door; it was my neighbour’s child Tunde, who we nicknamed “Mr. Pig”. He had come to look at the strange; “Oyibo girl,” but I quickly sent him away. Five minutes later, Ijaikoko, owner of a barbing salon on Kazim Street, Alapere in Ketu, Lagos came in shouting. “Army (armed) robbers nearly kill me today.” He was chewing corn with two pieces of coconut gripped on his left hand.
Before I could welcome him, Iya Sherif, my cousin came in. She came with three of her children who insisted on watching Channel 7’s “Nkan Mbe” (a Yoruba programme). And few minutes later, Biodun Akomolafe, a colleague, came in with his fat girlfriend who requested to visit the toilet as soon as she came in. Biodun went straight to the kitchen and brought out a pot containing left over beans. Bulldog came in too, introduced himself to Margaret, “with all playsore” (pleasure).
Margaret winked at me and said “I got to go.” On our way, the kids were out again, six of them, starring gleefully at us.
When I came back home after she had drove away, I met my visitors already mapping out strategies on how to deal with the “intruder”. Bulldog delivered their resolution: “Look next time we see this kind girl here, we go break her leg, Allah”.
Margaret really came back two weeks later. She was furious I had not changed the curtains and repainted my flat. She did her calculation and gave the bill to me. It was almost N150,000. Bulldog later saw the bill and barked at me. “Sigidi fe sere ete”; meaning literally that I was digging my own grave.
As a matter of fact, no one need to educate me that Margaret belonged to the exposed and rich, not to the poor. I stopped seeing Margaret.