Jacinta was paying total attention to the Suya Man but she couldn’t understand anything, she couldn’t hear a thing. He was talking, armed with his knife and file, cutting the sizzling skewered grilled beef Uche had carefully selected. She watched as he reached for the half ball of cabbage and began to slice it, donning the dark red oily pieces of meat white. Then he picked up an onion and sliced handsomely. He would have made for fresh tomatoes but they are now priced above rubies. He fetched a spoonful of grind pepper. Uche said something to him. He sprayed half of it on the suya. He began to fold in the two layer newspapers containing the meat. Uche unlocked his hand from Jacinta’s and reached for his wallet. Her eyes didn’t leave the suya man; she shifted to his face. Dark, with wild nostrils, a big diagnol mark on the left chin. His hair was uncombed, assuredly unwashed.
“What is your name?”
He stopped working, not sure she was referring to him, really referring to him.
“Mai suna nka?” she said. Put in Hausa, there was no mistake about it. He looked up to her with black baby eyes, his face crowded with uncertainty; slowly he smiled, revealing spotless teeth, punctuated by two dimples. He told her his name. “Abdul.” She didn’t comment on this, her attention having been seized by his eyes, those eyes!
“Did you apply eye pencil?”
“Ah ah.” He laughed.
“You really are bugging the chap.” There was a touch of irritation in Uche’s voice.
“He’s handsome,” she said.
“He’s not.” Uche collected their parcel and paid.
“Na gode,” Jacinta said.
“Toh. Sai anjima.”
They linked hands, the couple, united by the aroma of, and desire for, the suya, and left. “Should we take okada or keke?” Uche asked.
“He’s handsome,” Jacinta responded.
He sighed. They took okada home. At home, they sat on the bed, legs crossed, facing each other. The suya uncovered between them like an important map.
Jacinta ate very little. “I feel like being cuddled.”
Uche put the suya away and cuddled her, the way she loved most, with her on top. He caressed her hair, natural, carefully, down to her neck. “You’re soft,” he said. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Abdul.”
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This piece is for Gloria, to keep a promise