360Stories: Camp Fire by @EbukaSID

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The first time I caught a glimpse of her it was in slow motion. Silly as it sounds, believe me when I tell you I literally saw the fingers of the wind shift the luscious strands of her synthetic weave, revealing the most beautiful pair of eyes I’d ever seen. It didn’t take more than the faint glow of the crescent moon to see she had skin so smooth it could have made Genevieve hide in the same crack shop as Jesse Jags. It all seemed so animated, as though perfection came to NYSC camp, Iyana-Ipaja and took a seat on the table right next to mine.

We were both in the mami market and she was seated alone on the table beside the one on which I sat with my homeys. I wasn’t sure if all the special effects were for real or they were the conjuring of Sir Baron de Vals who was currently coursing gleefully through my bloodstream, but of one thing I was definite. I had to stop drinking, and start talking to this angel who had apparently taken a detour off the golden streets for some mami suya.

“Hello!” I heard myself blurt out after taking a seat beside her.
“Hi” she replied with a smile that made the headquarters of my circulatory system lose its solid consistency.
“So, err, what’s a cutie like you doing alone out here?”
Blank stare.
“I mean you aren’t waiting for someone here, are you?” I added, realizing I had to let her finish chewing the bit of roast beef in her mouth.
“I’m not . . .” she said expressionless. “. . .  Waiting for anyone, I’m here alone. Any problem?”
“Well, not exactly. Save for the rapists roaming these streets looking for young girls to devour, you’re good.”
She giggled and assured me she could handle herself. Sober or not, I knew I wasn’t that much of a funny guy so I took the giggle as a cue and proceeded to invite her to my table.
“In the spirit of protecting the cute girls of this world” I said, “I hereby assume the duty of your bodyguard for tonight and I can only do that successfully if I have my eyes on you throughout. Guess I’m just trying to ask if you’d join me and my friends for a couple of drinks, emphasis on me.” A cheeky grin was plastered on my face saying the last three words.
She tried to resist laughing and failed then she said “you’re going to have to do better than that if you want to throw lines at me”. Seeing me close both my eyes with a palm, she added “but in the spirit of being cute and lovely I hereby accept your bodyguard proposal.” Putting on a mock coarse voice she continued “guess I’m just trying to say I can join you and your friends for a drink, emphasis on drink”.
In between laughing and helping her up from her seat, I knew it. I had found a reason to stay in camp. All my plans of getting an exeat flew out the proverbial window that instant.

Five cups of Andre into the conversation, it was quite obvious that the width of our smiles and length of our laughs were not in the least bit proportional to the humour that triggered them. It would suffice to say that we were real tipsy at this point and we both knew that. She was already super friendly with my homeys. As I watched bants fly around the table, it wasn’t hard to understand why my homeys were cool with her. She was stunning, funny and livelier than the other chicks on the table. Why she was cool with my homeys on the other hand? It must have been the alchohol, calling them ugly would be putting it lightly.
“I can see you’ve succeeded in getting me drunk.” I told her frowning.
Trying hard to keep her own straight face, she said “You this junkie, I’m so reporting you to the platoon inspector. Shit, my head’s actually spinning a little”
“Hehe . . . I think we should take a walk or something.” I suggested. “If you’re still spinning after that, feel free to take me to the commandant even”
We walked out of mami and started on the tarred road leading to the kitchen area. I had my arm locked in her elbow as we slightly staggered down the road, half because I didn’t want either of us to fall and half because it felt like the last thing necessary to complete the romantic scenario. I mean there was the crescent moon up, I could hear Flavour’s ‘Ada Ada’ playing somewhere and I was definite igbo-cupid was lurking around with his love-stone laden catapult ready to shoot the love jones into both our hearts.

Having walked some distance, I said, “lets lean on this van for a bit”, ushering her in between a white Volkswagen van and coaster bus parked at close proximity with each other.  Leaning on the van first I tried to keep her from doing so, “lean on me instead, you’re gonna get your whites stained.”
“It’s no problem joor . . . I’ll have it washed tomorrow anyway.” She replied leaning shoulder-to-shoulder with me. “It’s been ages since I got this high though.”
“It’s been ages since I liked someone this much in such a short time.” I said. “Hell it’s never even happened before.”
“Calm down young man” she said feigning a straight face and waving an accusing finger at me, “it’s probably the alcohol making you imagine things.”
She was so cute, I was yet to see an un-cute expression on her face. Everything was just plain beautiful, whether she smiled, laughed, frowned, put her tongue out, whatever. I was looking at her looking at me and I dint have words to reply her with. I knew I was supposed to say something in my defence, I just wasn’t sure my reply had to be in words. Without over thinking it, I put my right palm on her left cheek and kissed her on the forehead.
“Ebuka” she said, as if to say don’t do this, don’t make me do this.
I had an idea of what she wanted, or didn’t want in this case, but I just couldn’t shake how sweet it felt hearing her say my name like that. I had to hear it again.
She was starting to say something when I motioned lower and placed a soft one on her lips . . . not loosing contact, I fiddled her ear and hair as she started to return the gesture. She had her hands behind my neck, clawing lightly. Our tongues found each other and started to get familiar. I was starting to get lost in the moment when I heard a car approaching on the road beside us. I pulled away and leaned back on the van to avoid being discovered by the glare of the oncoming headlamp.
“Err, so what were you going to say” I said, scratching my head and trying desperately to avoid any awkwardness.
“I’m not single.”
“Okayyy. . . aint that about a bitch.” I said out of reflex, losing the smile that only seconds ago seemed like it was never going to leave my face.
“Well, I tried to tell you before you went all Diego on me.”
“And you just had to spoil the moment for me, it wouldn’t have hurt if you stalled for ten minutes before telling me” I said rolling my eyes.
She gave me a tongue-out, then I took her hands and told her we should go seat under the canopy a couple feet in front of us and talk about how her boyfriend just became the first prospective victim in my newly hatched plan to pursue a career in serial killing. She laughed and started to say something, I sensed it was going to be about her boyfriend so I put a finger to her lips and pulled her towards the canopy.

“There’s just a seat here.” She complained.
“I guess It’s thank goodness Ebuka has strong legs innit?” I teased seating and tapping my laps with both palms.
Her neck just millimetres from my face, I caught a whiff of her scent. Yet one more reason to want her even more than I already did. I honestly didn’t know how roses smelled, but I could swear her neck smelled like roses freshly plucked on Valentine’s Day.
I Leaned in and kissed her neck. She let a soft gasp escape, and then I took the lower bit of her ear lobe between my lips, working my left hand up towards her chest and my right down towards her fly.
She took a handful of my Mohawk in her left hand and clutched my right hand with hers as if to say don’t go there. I made no attempt to stop what I was doing. She made no attempt to stop me.
Gasps graduated to soft moans, soft moans to even more sonorous renderings of my name as I let my fingers swim in the pool at the centre of the garden. It felt good knowing I made her other lips drool.

Loud and piercing the night, the beagle sounded, telling everyone who heard that it was 10o’clock, lights out. I zipped up her fly and held her in a tight embrace as we were both reluctant to play the part of obedient corpers and move to the hostel. In between me telling her how good I felt just now and her telling me how big of a mistake we were making, a loud, heavily Hausa-accented, marijuana-hardened voice screamed and asked what we were doing out here.

“Can’t you see its 3 phast 10!” bellowed the soldier.

“I’m sorry sir.” I replied, standing with both hands clasped in front of me. “We were just about to go in.”

“Just about to go in . . . in pact what were the two op you eben doing hia?”

“Sir nothing sir, we just came out for a walk and we’re just about entering the hostel.”

“Walk!? Do I look like a pool to you!?”

“No sir you don’t look like a pool sir” I replied, holding back a giggle. Even as sweaty as soldier man was, he definitely couldn’t pass for a pool.

“We’re really sorry . . .” she said cutting in, as though she knew I was about to get us into even deeper trouble. “. . . I was a little tipsy and we walked here so I could clear my head a little.

After noting both our platoons, assuring us he was going to find us and treat our respective puck-ufs, he let us go frog jumping back to the hostel. In front of the hostel, I got her number, told her how lovely it was hanging and said goodnight with a hug. That night I realized for the first time it was possible to sleep well on the kulikuli-hard, miniature mattress on my bunk. It was definite. I was already into this girl.

It turned out to be the fastest two weeks of my life. I couldn’t possibly have enough adjectives to describe how those weeks went. She had me looking forward to the next day every day for two weeks straight, my friends were starting to suspect some spiritual facilitation in play even. There were a number of girls in whom I expressed interest when we first got in camp, she made all of them fade into the background. Every time I walked by with her I was sure to catch a nasty look or two from disgruntled ex-crushes. It all didn’t matter anyway. She made me happier than any of them ever could.
We went to all the camp gigs together. She had the power to transform the most random moments to the most memorable ones. We even did church together one time, although I wasn’t in my most spiritual of moods that day. If Jesus was a calabar woman, that service would have left me with more yong-punctuated curses than I could ever hope to annul in my whole life. I had paid more attention to her features than I did to my future that Sunday.

Anyhow, here we were wearing our starched khakis, sweating profusely and pulling our boxes behind us. It was the last day of camp and we were saying our final goodbyes.
“Gosh, you don’t know how much I’m gonna miss you” she said.
“Me more babe” I replied, “but it’s nothing, we’ll still be seeing much of each other. Aren’t we both in lag?”
“I guess, but whatever happens just know you made my camp experience”
“Stop it joor, you make it sound like I’m dying or something. We’re just leaving camp bae, we’ll see on the outside”.
“Okay, if you say so”. She said with her eyes misty.
“Come on bae, it’ll be okay” I said looking in her eyes and patting her cheeks with both palms.
I dint understand why she took it that hard, though I assumed it must have been me taking our temporary separation too lightly.

I was red with anger. I had almost walked the length of Victoria Island looking for Fidelity Bank, NAPEX branch under the ever-blazing Lagos sun. All the idiots I asked for directions pointed me in opposing directions every time. The only thing I hated more than myself for not having a car then was my blackberry for crashing the night before and ensuring I’d not talked to her since leaving camp the day before. Here I was with sore feet cursing lagosians, the sun, coal tar and just about anything I laid my eyes on. It was hell hard not to think about her, even amidst all the unpleasantness of the day, she still ruled my thought process. So much I even saw her face on the driver of the Honda CRV that just zoomed past me with a baby in the passenger seat. I laughed at how pathetic I was trekking and playing James Blunt on the streets of V.I. imagining her face on super-moms. Pathetic Ebuka, just pathetic, I thought to myself.
Turned again in the opposite direction by a lady staff of the branch I was looking for, I was assured that I was on the right track now. I picked up pace to beat the 4o’clock closing time of the bank and eventually found the entrance to the bank’s compound squeezed in between two buildings. The entrance could barely pass one SUV, but the guard there assured me it was the right place.

The CRV that passed me earlier happened to be parked in the compound, it wasn’t all that special save for the few yellow keke-scratches on the flanks and the ‘baby on board’ and ‘super mom’ stickers pasted behind . Shifting my view towards the bank’s entrance I saw the driver making her way to the car with a cute and chubby baby clutched in her arms. She really had a striking semblance to my camp fire. So much so that I couldn’t resist calling her name.
“Ebuka!” she answered unable to hide the shock in her face. “What are you doing here?”
“This is the bank to which I was assigned. . . what are you doing here and whose is the cute baby?”
“Errm. . . Well. . .”
She was halfway through her mumbling when a corporately dressed man in his mid-thirties called from behind. “Honey, Mr. Badmus said we needn’t bother waiting, he’ll forward the bank form to my branch. Err, who’s this dear?”
“He’s an acquaintance from camp… Err, Ebuka meet my husband Charles”. She answered with the most casual of smiles.
The Ray Bans I had on couldn’t hide my shock, I had chills shooting down my spine as I tried to comprehend what I just heard. I actually shut my eyes tight trying to wake up from this bad dream. I was only forced to open them when Charles spoke and stretched his hand for a shake.
“Nice to meet you, are you alright?”
“Yeah… Errm, yeah, yes. You too” I blurted, trying hard to also stretch my now trembling hands for a shake.
“Take care now.” I heard her say as they got into the CRV and drove off. She dint even avoid my eyes. She eyeballed me like I was actually just an acquaintance.
My eyes were probably a bit moist as I stood there trying to understand what just happened. WHAT THE FUCK?! I thought out loud.
Again I was jolted out of my thoughts by a man in a guard’s uniform.
“Oga corper, bank done close oh! Instead make you enter since you just stand here open mouth like say you chop pepper. Abeg dey go, I wan lock gate”.

In utter bewilderment I made my way out of the gate when I realized it. My camp fire wasn’t even mine to start with and I had found a reason to hate the four letters ‘N-Y-S-C’ for life.

 

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