I woke up slowly. The night before I had felt the onset of a cough so I had stopped at the pharmacy around the corner and bought a bottle of Benylin expectorant. The Pharmacist had suggested Benylin with Codeine, but I had bought this instead. My last memory from last night was of lying sprawled on the bed while trying to watch the Grammy Awards re-run showing on Channel O. My friend ‘M’ at whose pad I was staying had made dinner and I had washed mine down with a bottle of lukewarm sprite before drinking two capsfull of the brown linctus. Next thing I knew, I was waking up, very slowly too.
Even as I floated on the plush cottonwool feel that was the fogginess of my mind, my phone alarm went off. I dove for the phone to silence it. Too late, my friend was up.
She wished me a happy Valentine’s to which I said something half sarcastic. When my Valentine’s day post went up, I shared the link before sitting back to watch the traffic on the site. She got dressed and left for work, and I was left at home alone without electricity.
Which kain Abuja be dis sef? I mused.
The evening before, my cabbie had come to pick me up from the airport only to have his number plates seized by policemen who assumed he had come to raid passengers. When he went to the station to rescue the number plates, he got detained for his efforts; he was reunited with his number plates two hours later. I later learnt he had left the station N4,000 lighter – all that before he had even made a kobo off me. Really sad state of affairs.
So I stayed home without electricity for the most part, except when I ran the generator to charge my phone battery, and replied comments to my post. A comment I read made me send an apology mail to another friend I had forgotten stayed in Abuja, and she invited me out to Transcorp Hilton to prove I was genuinely sorry. This type of penance I could do, and gladly too. We met and played catch up till it was time for her to go and keep another appointment.
I returned home, my friend M returned shortly after. We both had dinner dates that evening, but they weren’t like proper Valentine dates. A few of our friends had been called to bar earlier that day and they were having friends and family out for dinner. Considering I had made the trip to Abuja primarily for this one dinner, I showered, got dressed and made my way to 805, a restaurant in Wuse II – I did not want to be late.
When I got there, the room was almost empty. I took a seat at the far end of the room, facing the airconditioner; the lights were too bright, it was warm and I was wearing a jacket.
When at 8:17pm I was joined at my table by three older women, I was dismayed. I looked around the room at the people present and it seemed I was the youngest person in the room. I was already in talks with M to pull a rescue when in walked the host. She looked resplendent in a black mono strap gown that fell below her ankles. When she walked, silver high heeled shoes peeked from underneath catching the light as she moved. Her full lips were coloured pink, and looked more like a rosebud than a fleshy apple. I followed her with my eyes as she made the rounds and welcomed her guests, and when she got to me, I stood to hug her. For pretending to be a gentleman, I got lipstick on the right shoulder of my white jacket; I didn’t mind.
When it was time for food, which was laid out buffet style, I stood with her to one side and we chatted. I enjoyed standing there with her, blocking out everyone else in the room.
“I am nervous,” she told me.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,'” I reassured her touching her hand lightly and smiling.
“He’s meeting my parents today,” she said explaining her nervousness.
“Don’t worry, everything will be alright.” I smiled as if I see girls present their beaus to their parents all the time.
“Get something to eat before the food finishes,” she advised. I fixed a platter and returned to my table. Halfway through eating, I saw the red light blinking on my BB. I picked up Faruk, and before I could check my message, a voice said “Drop your phone and eat your food!” I looked up to see the plump lady sitting across from me watching me. Without a word I dropped the phone. I looked at the table next to us and wondered how I could be surrounded by two generations of women and end up with the older generation at my table – three of them!
When I laid down my cutlery, I thanked the women for dinner as it had become clear that they were family. That seemed to be her cue because she said “Fine boy, you look familiar. Have you ever been to the house?” I smilled and shook my head “no”. “Where are you from?” It was said in a non-threatening way. This was no cougar so I told her. “Pull you chair closer to the table,” she told me. I was going to do so when one of the other women told me to stay put where I was. “If you move closer you will answer questions today ehn, you will ask who sent you.” That was all the heads up I needed. Still she would not relent, she opened her mouth to ask me another question when my fairy godmother cut in sharply “Na call to bar dinner we come eat, wait another day to ask him all the questions you want.”
“Please leave me o, when he was pinging my daughter he should have known that he will answer questions one day.”
It was then it occured to me she mistook me for the ‘boyfriend’. There wasn’t much I could do to keep me from laughing. I told my host as much and we had a good laugh. When her man came though, attention shifted from me to the proper person.
A cake was cut, speeches were made, photographs were taken and prayers said, soon it was time to leave and, right on cue, M called to say she was on her way. My host walked me downstairs and waited with me till I was picked up. I thanked her for having me, and she made all the appropriate noises; she is one of the most gracious hosts I have met.
Truth be told, it did not seem like much, but this was the most fun I had had on Valentine’s day in a long time. Last year’s was spent with a family I hadn’t seen in eleven years.
Back home, I changed out of my dinner clothes, plugged my phone to charge. I was comparing notes with M when I took my cough meds. I distinctly remember my eyelids growing heavy, and then I was waking up. I checked the time and it was 05:06, 15/02/2012.
I had come into Abuja, I had hung out and then had dinner with a family, I fell asleep and woke up and Valentine’s day was gone. Not half bad, I thought to myself. That was until I got a BB message from M: “U know those caveats dat come wiv goods dat say ‘see results on 2nd day or Ur money back’? Dis ur visit feels like d ‘moni back’ part”
Apparently, I had been a rather rubbish Valentine, and what is more, I didn’t even know it!