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…