My eyes flew open, but I lay still in the darkness wondering what had woken me up. The ceiling fan creaked as the blades continued their ceaseless game of tag. The standing fan at the head of the bed whirred in its supportive role, trying its best to keep the heat at bay. I turned onto my stomach and reached for my blackberry. The blinking amber light a sign that, although it was plugged, the battery was not getting charged. I sighed before adjusting the charger chord. The clock display showed the time was 4:30am. Good, almost time to wake up anyway.
I got out of bed and was brushing my teeth when I heard my sister moving about the house; she had an appointment on the Island and I was driver designate.
We were ready to leave home at 6:00am, and it took us fifteen minutes to get on Adekunle Fajuyi way in the GRA. On Agege Motor road, the car had gone off a couple of times and my sister, uncomfortable with the starts and stops, suggested I pulled over to have it looked at.
“Check the oil and water,” she suggested. A frown creased my brow because the car had no business overheating. Besides, the temperature needle still pointed to the middle. Still I did as she asked.
Oil checked, and water too, the car now would not start. I called my brother, and a few friends too: nobody had any idea why the car would do me like that, other than that it is a car, a machine. I did a ritual dance and slow walks around the car while my sister sat in the car with my niece, and still the car would not budge. Almost two hours later, at about 8:00am, I went in search of mechanics in the GRA area and found one.
We popped the bonnet and he looked under it.
“Oga na de fuel pump. We go wait for rewire be dat o. E fit be na fuse or na de filter.”
We pushed the car to their workshop down the road, the mechanic I found and I, and waited for the ‘rewire’ to arrive on his train. I have seen those trains filled to overflowing with humanity hanging out the doors, with some people perched comfortably on top of the carriages, but they had always been ‘one of those things’ to me. Not this morning; this morning, my messiah commeth on wheels of steel, driven by a horse of metal with a body of rusted sheets.
He arrived and, after another three hours of work with my wallet six thousand naira lighter, the car was sorted. After a test drive, he showed me a bit of hose which had sprung a leak and was dripping water from the radiator. He advised me to get it fixed too, but I had had enough mechanic time for a day. I told him I would have it sorted as soon as possible – I just wanted to take my sister and her daughter home.
On the way home, I stopped off at a bank to pay some Lagos state charges. This was supposed to take no more than five minutes to do. One hour later, I was still standing in the banking hall, my teller clutched in my fist, waiting to be attended to. Even Abidemi, my niece, got restless. Her voice rang loud and clear across the properly air-conditioned hall as she babbled her complaint to her mom and anyone else who spoke baby.
From the bank we returned home, but I did not stay. I showered then turned around and headed for Yaba; I had a movie date with a special someone. I arrived there early enough for the movie, but she got held up at work. I passed the time waiting for her by playing video games there at the arcade. When she arrived one hour later, we just got in the car and went in search of food. That was when we got stuck in traffic from hell. Twice I had to pull over because the temperature rose and I did not want to chance the engine overheating.
I was sweaty and more than a little irritable when we walked into a Tastee Fried Chicken outlet and all the red hit me. There was even a table marked ‘reserved’ with red flower or serviette petals – I am not sure which – on it. The garish contrasts of white pink and red made me cringe.
We made it home to hers where I dropped her off with only just one more stop for the engine to cool down. Then I raced across the bridge home. I could barely keep my eyes open long enough for a shower and the 2nd half of the Real Madrid VS Man U match. I passed out as soon as my head touched the pillow, and next thing I knew, it was 04:30am the next day and power was gone. When I tried to start the generator, the rope broke.
I bathed and dressed by candlelight and we left the house by 6:00am again; there was still my sister’s appointment to keep. The car served us to the island and back, and we were a few minutes from home when the temperature needle shot up. Again I pulled over till the engines cooled, called my mechanic and drove there after dropping the family off at home.
Now, I am sitting here in the car, sweat dripping down my chin, the sun beating down onto my head. The mechanic is under the raised bonnet. Finally, I have a few minutes to myself and I look at my bb messages: the theme is red, the messages all about love. It is Valentine’s today. I clean forgot!
I put a call through to Mama, my first true love, and then I called that special somebody.
“Hey you, how are you?” I asked her.
“Good o, trying to rest before I read.” Came her answer.
“Do you have anything lined up for this evening?” I asked her, tongue in cheek.
“Err… Nah.” She replied cautiously.
True, we both do not believe in Valentine’s, but we believe in love – I think – and they say everyday is a day to love somebody and show them. I might as well love her today.