I walked into Spices a few minutes before 9pm. It felt wrong, criminal even, to sit at the centre-table where I met ‘Tomi exactly four years to the day – so I chose a different one in the dimly lit corner. I sunk into my chair, acutely aware this was her favorite restaurant and she might walk in at any time.
Then she, the other she, arrived.
She came in and looked around – failing to notice me – and retrieved her phone from her clutch-purse. Evidently, she was going to dial my number. I made no move to stop her and introduce myself, preferring instead to observe her from the anonymity of my seat. She was lighter skinned, of a slightly smaller build, and had shorter hair.
In that instant, I realized I was subconsciously comparing her to ‘Tomi. I had just had my second epiphany of the day – my subconscious expectation that every woman in my life would be another ‘Tomi had led me to the point where I had only one female friend, ‘Tomi. My original epiphany now had a Siamese twin.
I waited till my phone rang, then I rose and walked over to her. As I introduced myself while steering her towards my choice table, I caught a whiff of her perfume. My heart stopped for a second, and I gasped for air. The smell was unmistakable. She wore Omnia Green Jade by Bvlgari, ‘Tomi’s favorite perfume. I have never believed in coincidence, and so in that instant I knew – something was going to go wrong.
We settled at the table without any incident, and made small talk while we waited for our food. She introduced herself as Feyisayo, a lover of all things written. She thought I was one of the best amateur writers ever, and wanted to know if I planned to write a book. She read Malcolm Gladwell, and thought there were similarities between his work and mine. She had a blog, and wanted to know if she could republish my article or create one for me. I felt important, admired even. Five minutes into our conversation, all my fears had disappeared.
More time passed. We talked about Nigeria, and we talked about lizards. We talked about Faborode, and we talked about the recent ‘skirt-and-blouse’ scourge. She wanted to know why I chose to study Mechanical Engineering instead of English Literature. She wanted to know what inspired my writing. She wanted to know what I thought about UJCM and their recent political stance. She was very expressive: leaning forward when I spoke, stabbing the air to punctuate her sentences, and hanging on to my every word. She was different.
Thirty minutes passed, and the food had still not come. The service at Spices had not improved much in those four years. In fact – they still had the same waiter from my first day on campus. Under different circumstances I would be glad that they were delaying, but the University Management had recently begun to shut down New Buka at 11.45pm – so we did not have all the time in the world… I reluctantly drew myself from our conversation to ask why our food had not been served.
As I approached the counter, I noticed that Spices was rapidly filling up. All other tables were now taken, and if a few more customers came in – they would have to join us at our table. I fervently hoped that would not happen, as I looked forward to being alone with ‘Sayo until we really had to leave. And just then, I heard a familiar voice call me. My heart stopped for another second. At this rate, I was going to be dead before the end of the day.
I suddenly remembered that my friend and Class Governor, ‘Koye, had promised to take me and ‘Tomi out for dinner after he became General Secretary of UJCM. We had pestered him after the Missions handover service to ‘wash’ it for us, and he accepted – quite surprisingly. After postponing twice due to his busy schedule, we had finally agreed on a date – November 28. In the euphoria surrounding the success of my article and my dinner invitation – I had completely forgotten. Now, he was here – calling my name. ‘Tomi was sure to be somewhere around!
As I turned around – almost in slow motion – to greet him, my heart prayed all sorts of prayers: that it was not really him, that power supply to Spices would fail all of a sudden and I would disappear under the cloak of darkness, that he would be here alone – looking to grab a quick meal before another one of his meetings.
I caught the smell of Omnia Green Jade for the second time in one night. As I extended my hand to ‘Koye, I saw her. She was standing right behind him…
Written By: Koye ‘Gbeke