Driving through the Ikeja traffic and strategising the rest of the week in her head, a car cuts in front of her with the driver weaving badly. Pumping her brakes lightly, she cursed loudly into the confines of her car like any seasoned Lagos driver “Were! Oloriburuku sombori!”.
The young man in the car next to hers was smiling at her. She smiled back glad he hadn’t heard her vituperative. He waves, she waved back wondering what the wave was about as she continued down Mobolaji Bank Anthony. Getting to Abule Onigbagbo Busstop, she noticed the same brown Camry ahead of her, catching a glimpse of the driver in a white Tee that had waved at her minutes earlier. Idly wondering how he had gotten ahead of her, she swerved to avoid a pedestrain who chose that exact time to cross the road in moving traffic. Lagosians were always in a hurry – walking or driving, everyone is in a hurry to go nowehere – why else would someone cross the road while traffic was moving!
Just after she drove past Sheraton hotel on her left, she noticed the brown Camry had managed to fall behind. She smiled. Then, the Camry seemed to be chasing her through traffic for a bit until another crazy driver cuts into its path forcing the young man in the white Tee to step on his brakes and ease forward slowly. They were soon halted by the traffic light at the junction allowing hawkers walk between the immobilised cars to peddle steering-wheel covers, music cds, plantain chips, cashew nuts, footmats and every sort of product they imagine you would never find in the market or why else would they hawk these? Lara wondered to herself
Looking at the traffic light and lightly humming to the radio, she noticed a honk behind her and looked up to see if the light changed without her noticing. It was the brown Camry. Soon, one of the hawkers comes barrelling down her side of the car with a paper. The honk comes again from behind. It registers in her head, so rolling down as fast as she could, she collects the piece of paper from the man and says ‘nagode’ as he appeared to be an ‘aboki’. Almost outta breath, he merely gives her a second look, nods and steps back as traffic resumes moving at that moment.
Lara looks at the paper in her hands before dropping it into her open bag. The paper felt like it was hurriedly torn from a carton holding a phone or something. Bayo was scrawled on it with eleven numbers beneath the name. This better be fun, Lara told herself.
Turning the corner into her friend’s office, she slowed down for the oncoming vehicle to rush past as she pulled into the complex. Whistling, she turns off the ignition, grabs her bag and laptop. There was free wifi inside the building.
Throwing a casual greeting at one of the many security guards policing the building, she hits the 2nd floor button and waits for the elevator to stop. The secretary was seated in her usual spot behind the counter. Their eyes meet, she smiles back.
“He is in the conference room” the secretary informs Lara
“Thank you. How have you been? How was your weekend and the family?” Lara enquires politely
“They are all fine. Thank you” came the reply
“Hello. Long time” She calls out as she enters the conference room
“Haa! It is you. How have you been? Have you been in Lagos or you are just coming in?”
“Yesso. It is I. No, I travelled. I was in Abuja. I just came in this morning” Lara says “Where is Tope?” she enquires
“He went to court this morning with one of our colleagues. I also just returned from a deposition in Abuja last night”
“Oh really! How did your trip go?”
“Well, stressful but needful. Here I am again this morning after a long trip” He rejoins
“Pele. Where is everybody else?”
“Tope went to court with Titi. Fela is in the other office, Kike is having an early lunch and Bode went to court on the island”
“Great! And you are writing another brief with Lekan”
“Exactly” he chimes
“Anyway, I just stopped by to say ‘hi’. I won’t be staying so long. I’ll be resuming work tomorrow and wont have time to come in like I used to so am spending my last day of vacation with you guys.”
“How sweet!” sarcastically
She chuckled swatting his broad shoulders lightly. Remembering the piece of paper stuck into her bag, she brings it out to dial and confirm the number on it. If he was confident enough to ask the hawker to bring me his number, this has gotta be good stuff. She said to herself for the third time that morning.
“Hello. Is this Bayo?” she breathes throatily into the mouthpiece reading the name from the paper she held.
“My name is Lara. You asked the guy selling on the road to give me your number in traffic at Sheraton…..”
“Yes. Nice to meet you too Bayo” she paused to listen again
“No. I am still at Sheraton side. Yes, I am in an office”
“No. I dont work here. It is a friend’s office”
“I don’t know when I will leave here yet. I may be here till evening.”
“I don’t think we can see tomorrow. I will be travelling to Ibadan. I won’t be back until weekend” lying smoothly
“Yea. Too bad. No, I don’t work in Ibadan. I’m just going to visit”
“Visit friends naa.” beginning to get slightly irritated at the judge and jury pattern of questioning.
“Yea sure. I’ll call you when I get back this weekend. Bye” hanging up, she saves the number as ‘Bayo traffik’
Two hours later, engrossed with her laptop, her phone rings again and she absently reaches for it clicking the green button automatically before glancing at the screen. It was Bayo again. What’s the matter with this guy! Didn’t we just speak and agree to ‘see’ on the weekend?” she asked herself before mumbling a greeting into the mouthpiece.
“Yes. I am still there” she grumbled “I’m working”
“Just working on personal stuff. I work in a call center” she replied deciding he did not specifically need the correct info
“I’ll be here for a bit. Oh! You work with Dangote. Nice.” rolling her eyes in a Do-I-look- stupid-you work-in-Dangote motion
“So, what do you do at Dangote?”
“No. I know the company deals in Sugar, rice, cement, flour, spagghetti and all that. I meant, you as an employee, what is your job description with Dangote?” English can be harding some young men she thought to herself
“Oh! Nice. So, you are the one counting all the money for them eh? I should come and visit you in the office o” she laughs sofetening a little
“Ha! So now, you don’t have money eh? After telling me you work with Dangote cement, you now don’t have money abi?”
“Ok o. I hear you” she replies apparently more receptive to him now he seems to be more than casually employed. An accountant with Dangote. The only thing left would be to see if he can put his money where his mouth just went.
After three more hours of laboring over the laptop and browsing the internet for all the things she missed during her two weeks stay in Abuja, she was ready to shut the laptop and go grab lunch. Her phone rings again. Dele
“I thought you were meant to call me back after you alighted from the taxi and settled down at home” came the accusation
“Was I?” she flung back as carelessly “You hung up on me. So, why was I the one supposed to call you back? You HUNG UP on me” really getting pissed with every passing minute he kept breathing into the phone oozing possessiveness. ‘You dont own me mister’ she almost yelled into the open line. He was so presumptous, so much, it was beginning to border on arrogance. Why on earth would she have called him back when she had told him to hold on so she could get into a taxi! He hung up so it was on him to dial back not her.
“Ok. I’m sorry” he finally says “Someone walked into my office and I had to hang up but I said for you to call me after you got home. I didn’t realise you didn’t hear me say it” he explained
“Of course I didn’t hear you say it because my ear was away from the earpiece since I was negotiating with the cabbie” she responded.
It was ridiculous how their misunderstandings always started from really minor things such as this but managed to ballon into huge issues involving their friends by which time they had forgotten what started the conflict in the first place.They both sigh
“You know we should commuicate better eh?”
“And you know I always tell you to be patient and calm when you feel like attacking me” she retorted
“I’m sorry” he apologises again
“I’m sorry too. I could actually have called you but I was mad that you hung up. I’m sorry” she apologises too
“I was just missing you and wanted to see how your day was going plus preparations for work tomorrow”
“You know how it is…..work is always work. I am on morning shift tomorrow and they said we can’t bring our phones into the call area”
“Really? How many hours is your shift? What if I am trying to reach you?”
“Shift is 9 hours with an hour break in between. I guess i’ll check the phone at intervals or during lunch or bathroom break”she assured him “I’ll call you back if I miss your call”
“Ok. I’ll talk to you later” he rings off with his trademark abruptness leaving her holding an empty dialtone to her ears. Sighing, she replaced the phone in her bag retreating into her thoughts before remembering she was headed to the kitchen for lunch.
Returning to her seat after a 30 minutes break, she hurried forward as she heard her phone ringing again. What is Dele calling back for?
It wasn’t Dele.
“Oh! Hi Malik” she crooned
“You were not expecting my call……”
“Not that. I simply thought I would beat you to it” she cajoled Why on earth would I be expecting your call when we just spoke this morning and we are not officially dating yet! Oops! I forgot! He asked me to give him a chance after our weekend date and I agreed. I guess this is what it means eh. She quickly re-calibrated deciding to switch gears.
“Of course, I expected you to even call me since abi you did not miss me already?” she teased again
“Hmmmmn scope!” laughing gaily so that Lekan at the end of the conference table glanced briefly at her. She batted her eyes at him and continued flirting shamelessly with Malik
“Really? That would be great! Oh! I wished you were here already”
“Fantastic! What time will your flight get here? Seems you been coming to Gidi a lot before we met sef”
“Oh! You didn’t? You are coming because of me eh? You could have sent someone else right?”
“Ha-ha indeed! see scope o!” she laughed heartily and wondered why she didn’t laugh this way with Dele, why it always seemed to be angry words and raised voices with him. She returned to the conversation to hear him ask what he should bring for her. She gave her standard response “anything” which she knew guaranteed something good because that way, men couldn’t go cheap. Only an Indian guy ever broke her “anything” as a gift rule and brought her a very miniature stature of Shiva that could fit even into her wallet. That was one cheap ‘anything’ she didn’t want repeated anytime soon.
“Alright. See you soon sweets. Hugs” she dropped her phone for the umpteenth time that morning wondering if she was going to get any work done in between all the calls.
“Yes. I’ll be waiting to pick you from the airport. Text me your airline and flight time”
Driving to the airport to pick Malik and wondering if his mother will like her when she finally gets. Lara is in a good mood humming along to the song on radio. She realises she will be arriving just about the same time as the aircraft. She had not been able to leave the office as fast as she envisioned.
Someone wearing jeans was waving to her. Recognizing Malik, she waved back quickly opening her door to step out and help him with his single luggage. He must have taken it into the aircraft as Carry-on. That would explain his quick check-out to bypass baggage claim. Exchanging a quick hug, he unceremoniously drops his portable carry-on in the back seat so they could pull out immediately. Cars were beginning to honk impatiently behind them.