August Break

Arinze is a short man who likes tall girls. Or used to like them. Or perhaps, he likes them and hates them at the same time – in equal proportion. He likes height and derives thin pressures from the thoughts of long legs wrapped around his slim waist in an entanglement of sweats, lust, and passion. He never got lived this dream. And he hated tall girls because they look down on him – literally and otherwise.

Arinze’s romantic desires as is with most normal people plateaued and began a slow slide to his level of height, confidence, and emotional capacity—an average guy grows up wanting Beyonce, then Uche Jumbo, then the lead singer in his church then a decent girl from his village in Ohafia. Arinze refused to accept his reality and declining prospects and he began to flirt with the idea of never getting married. He was now thirty-two, growing a small potbelly and working most of the day and a quarter of the night in his bar and betting shop.

Then he met Rose. He met Rose in a place where he would never have imagined he would meet a woman he would take seriously. Women love money, he always told himself so why should I meet one at an ATM point? But fate doesn’t count empty words.

It was one of those days when only one ATM seems to be working in the whole neighborhood and a crowd gathered before it. Arinze was number eight or nine in the queue and seething. A soldier turned up and with “abeg I dey in a worry”, joined the queue in the head. Arinze protested. “Oga, you are standing in the wrong place.”

“Yes,” a small musical voice supported him. “We are all in a hurry.”

People don’t usually challenge soldiers on full camouflage outfit even when they are standing on the people’s right. Sometimes, a brave soul would protest but when he is a short man like Arinze with a big hair people look at him a second time. When she is a short girl who has a curvy body and a decent face, people would look at her longer. And more people protested and the soldier was forced to make a proper plea to be allowed to use the ATM. But Arinze didn’t stop thinking about her. She is bold, she is fine, she is cannot look down on me. She…

“He thought because he is a soldier he could walk over everyone,” she said, cutting through his thoughts.

“Yea,” he said and tried in vain to add a wise rejoinder.

Silence. He went back to his thoughts. Bold girl, fine girl, short girl.

“It is your turn,” she said.

“Yea.” He climbed the platform. How do I get to talk this short fine girl? How? How? How?

“You have entered a wrong pin,” the ATM wrote. He smiled and entered the wrong pin two more times. The machine swallowed his cat. He turned. “They have seized my card o,” he announced to all.

“What bank are you using?”

“Is it Verve?”

He ignored all their questions and as the fine short girl climbed up he whispered, “Withdraw more, I will transfer to you.”

She just smiled. She didn’t even ask how much. I will take any amount, he said to himself. and resumed dreaming. “Will 5K be enough?” She came and stood before him. She is the same height as he. Heads level, large eyeballs to small eyeball, breast level to chest level. He remembered a novel he read in which a very tall female character released a happy sigh when she got to hug a man of the right height.

Even short people can love, he said to himself. “5k is more than enough,” he said. We could go sit down somewhere while I transfer it back.”

“Ok, let’s go to your car.”

He laughed. “You only accept transfers from car owners?”

“Maybe.” She didn’t smile.

His heartbeat accelerated.

To be continued…

 

 

 

I Saw Him Again

Eben entered my room. He was carrying a bag on his back and a broad smile on his face. “Baba na,” I said. “At last, you come.”

“Walahi, traffic no gree.” He dropped his bag on the stool and asked for something cold. I opened my fridge for him. “Kai, your fridge full o.”

“Na package.”

“This one pass package o.” He took a bottle of LaCasera. “How is Chika?”

I smiled. In campus, Eben would run into me and Chika seated by some kiosk eating buns with LaCasera and dreading some deadline. “She is fine.”

“You suppose marry that girl o.”

“She pass my power.”

“Stories.” Eben sat down.

I looked at his bag and tried to guess what was in there. Someone’s ongoing project, a copy of Ben Okri or Chimamanda, a poetry book, his laptop, his student’s assignments, a flash drive. Etc.

He took a sip. His mouth was wet with stories. We have a lot of catching up to do. I didn’t even know where to start. Politics. The delay in appointing ministers, Atiku’s petition, the Supreme Court ruling on Davido’s uncle, the drama in NASS. Sports. Women World Cup, Super Eagles AFCON journey, Lampard in Chelsea; Arsenal, all. Marriage. When will you settle down? I saw a girl on your Whatsapp DP: Is she the one or do we expect the coming of another?

We have a lot to discuss. Eben sipped from the bottle. I couldn’t wait. I can’t wait. 

“Guy, put CNN na.”

I reached for the remote. I wanted to say something mean about Trump but decided against it. Not now, Trump should be the last thing we talk about, the AOB aspect of our discussion. There are more important gists.

Richard Quest was talking on the TV. Smart dude, Quest. Not that smart. He may be that smart but not today, not in the presence of Eben. I watched Eben. He wasn’t nodding to what the presenter was saying which meant the presenter wasn’t making sense. I said it, he isn’t that smart.

As I made to sit down, two things happened. Car tyres screeched then crashed in a blast that shook the windows of my sitting room. “Accident,” I said. Eben’s phone began to ring. He snatched the phone out of his pocket as though it was live coal and snapped to his feet. “It’s important,” he said. He opened the door.

“Your drink–”

Eben slammed the door behind him and left me in a state of confused surprise, left behind a whiff of sadness. He left his bag behind. But the bag wasn’t here. It had disappeared. The bag was never here. Ebenezer was never here. I was dreaming while wide awake. I saw him but I didn’t see him. I may see him again but I will never see Eben again.

Eben passed away exactly this day two years ago. It was a painful event, his death. It still echoes with disbelief and rings bitter sorrows in my heart whenever I remembered my dear friend and mentor. He came back to my life today. I saw him, we talked, we sat together, we watched TV together. We had more to talk about then he suddenly stood up and walked away from my life forever. He forgot to say goodbye.

Rest in Peace, bro.

You may wish to see the First tribute for Eben and then the one-year remembrance tribute.

Eben