Happy March! Or should I say Happy Belated Palm Sunday? All join, abi? Well, it’s good to be back. Thank you so much for being patient with me. 🙂 And without wasting any more time, here is the next episode of our ongoing Nigerian romance series, Falling in Love With My Best Friend. In this episode, Tokunbo helps Enitan devise and execute a plan to give the amebos at her lesson something to really talk about. Oh, it involves baffs too.
I hope you enjoy it. And in case you’re just starting the series, Episode 1 is waiting for you. 😀
Have an awesome week. Happy Easter in advance!
Episode 15: Something to Talk About
I looked at Tokunbo puzzled. That was certainly not the answer I was expecting.
“Something to talk about?” I repeated aloud, looking at Tokunbo with a look of utter confusion on my face. “How does that solve the problem, Tokunbo?”
A slight smile curled up his lips, as he responded.
“Hear me out first, Enitan. Promise me you’ll at least consider my proposal.”
That word, “promise” put me on guard. How could I make a promise without knowing what on earth Tokunbo was about to ask me to participate in?
“Promise wetin? No-o. I don’t roll like that. Tell me your plan, then we can agree on promises later,” I said.
“Enitan, this is ojoro o, and you know it,” said Tokunbo, pretending to sulk.
“Emi? Ojoro? Na you be the one wey wan do me wayo now. I’m just an innocent participant jare!” I chuckled.
“Come on Enitan. You can trust me. I would never do anything to put you in danger. You know this,” he said, laying his hand casually on my shoulder.
Removing the hand with the same disdain one might apply when picking off a stray bit of thread from a garment on one’s person, I cast Tokunbo’s hand aside, and said:
“Oya talk. I’m listening.”
And he did.
“Since the main issue you have with these bullies or amebos at lesson is with your outfit, we’ll make some adjustments in that department,” he began.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Okay, if you had a whole new wardrobe of brand new clothes, would they still talk?” asked Tokunbo.
“Well … Yes, they would. But it wouldn’t be about my lack of baffs. It would probably be something along the lines of me being an oppressor.”
“Enitan, it’s better to be an oppressor, than to be the oppressed. Besides, remember our plan is to give them something to talk about. We’re not trying to completely silence them. That’s impossible.”
“True, true,” I said. “Okay, so where am I getting this brand new wardrobe of clothes from?”
“Me, of course!” said Tokunbo, puffing his chest. “Let me be your sugar daddy, Enitan,” he added with a wink and a sly smile.
I jumped to my feet, clapping my hands dramatically.
“You and who? Sugar what? Sugar daddy ko, Salty mummy ni. I no want o, Tokunbo. You can’t buy me clothes. That’s what my parents are there for. And definitely not an entire wardrobe of clothes. How can I hide such things from my parents? No, Tokunbo. Besides, I didn’t tell you I lacked clothes, did I? I have clothes. Shebi I’m standing here wearing clothes. But they’re not baffs. That’s the problem, and this yeye teasing about my baff-less clothes is getting on my last nerves.”
Tokunbo gave a very long sigh and muttered:
“There goes ‘Plan A’!”
“Yes o,” I said. “Flush ‘Plan A’ down the toilet quick quick.”
After a short pause, I asked cautiously:
“So, what is ‘Plan B’?”
“Since you’ve knocked down ‘Plan A,’ I don’t know how you’ll feel about ‘Plan B.’ For the record, ‘Plan C,’ which will involve no input from me, and which I had already told you from Day One, is to completely and utterly ignore them.”
“Dude, that didn’t work. Let’s hear ‘Plan B’ abeg. Don’t write it off before presenting it, ke!”
“Okay o. If you insist. Here’s Plan B … though you have a specific role to play. Now, what I think we can do is act, pretend. How do you feel about wearing someone else’s clothes?” said Tokunbo.
“It’s what actors do,” he added.
I scrunched up my nose. I didn’t have any sisters and hardly ever wore clothes belonging to another person, except in the most exacting circumstances. Was this one of them?
“If it’s for a good cause … maybe,” I replied, my face betraying my reluctance to go that route.
“It’s for your sake, Enitan. I consider that a good cause,” said Tokunbo.
“But you’re not the one borrowing clothes, so–” I began.
“True,” said Tokunbo. Then, he continued. “If you have no objections to the borrowing part of our plan, then the rest should be easy because I’m the one handling the rest.”
I was alarmed. How did solving my problem become Tokunbo’s burden?
“What do you mean?” I asked, unsure of where he was going with this ‘Plan B,’ and simultaneously wondering if ‘Plan C’ wasn’t the best option, after all.
“Here’s the plan: you will borrow baffs, just for one day. That day must be the last day of lesson, and you must be ready to convince your parents to move you to another lesson. I obviously can’t do that for you.”
I nodded in comprehension. I knew what I could say to my parents to change the tide, to finally convince them that I needed to switch lessons.
“On the last day of lesson, you’ll show up wearing some hot baffs … or at least baffs better than the ones you own. You know the type: straight from yankee and all that. By the time lesson is over, I’ll show up to pick you up from lesson, posing as your janded boyfriend. Of course, I won’t come empty-handed. I’ll come bearing gifts. Then we’ll ride into the sunset together. That’s it.”
I giggled. “You mean into Adelabu traffic because it’ll be way past sunset,” I said.
“Ehn … That too,” he said with a grin.
I looked at Tokunbo in wonder. What benefit could be possibly derive from all this wahala? And why such a far-fetched idea? Wasn’t there a simpler solution?
“I don’t know, Tokunbo,” I said uncomfortably. “This idea seems silly and far-fetched.”
“Do you have a better one? If you do, oya let’s hear it,” he said in a tone that reeked of annoyance, and more than a hint of anger.
I shook my head. I certainly did not have a better plan, but this one seemed so error-prone that I just couldn’t see us pulling it off without a hitch.
“Okay, okay … Supposing we choose this plan,” I began, “where will I get these awe-inspiring baffs from? My friends?” I asked, mentally perusing the list of friends who could do such a favor for me. Very few.
“They don’t have to be awe-inspiring, Enitan. Just better than what you have now. And yes, why can’t your friends help? Abi don’t they have baffs?”
“They do, but honestly, the ones with the baffs will want to know what I need them for, and the less people who know about this, the better,” I whined.
Tokunbo thought about it for a few minutes, and then suddenly asked:
“What size of clothes do you wear?”
“I don’t know … UK Size 8 when I’m in school and closer to Size 10 during long holidays. Why?”
“I think Yele is about the same size,” he replied.
“You want me to borrow your younger sister’s clothes? She’s my junior for goodness sakes!” I cried, my face contorted into a look of disbelief.
“Enitan, the end justifies the means. Let me handle Yele.”
I made no response.
Omoyele, Tokunbo’s younger, and only sister, was someone I had barely spoken to. She remained a mystery to me, keeping to herself a lot, and I hardly ever saw her.
But now, I was going to be wearing her clothes? I felt weird even talking about it.
Tokunbo noticed the discomfort written on my face.
“What is it? You don’t like Yele?” he asked eyeing me with suspicion.
“Tokunbo, I don’t even know her,” I replied reluctantly.
“But that’s not all, is it? There’s more,” said Tokunbo with a knowing look, urging me to continue.
“Well … Yes. How can I be borrowing clothes from your sister? We hardly talk and she’s my junior. It’s embarrassing. And the way you’re talking, it’s like you’ll be the one asking her. I just feel somehow–” I concluded with a shrug.
Tokunbo laughed. “Is that all? Yele is my sister and I know her better than you do. If I tell you she’ll help, it’s because I know she will. So, don’t worry. I’ll handle it. And if she says no, then–” here, Tokunbo shrugged his shoulders, “–then, we’ll adjust our plans accordingly. Nothing is set in stone yet. Let’s start with this, and call it ‘Plan B, Version 1.0.’ ”
I chuckled at the version number Tokunbo had assigned to our plan, and I wondered how many upgrades we would have to implement, as well as what version we would end up executing.
“No upgrades without consulting me though,” I insisted.
Somehow, Tokunbo’s words had given me hope, and we parted ways on that note.
For the next few weeks, we ironed out all the kinks in our plan. I could change my clothes at the bathroom at Tantalizers on Alhaji Masha Road, which was out of my way, but not too far from my lesson. According to Tokunbo, we could buy a meat pie or donut while I quickly changed into my baffs in the bathroom. Then he could arrange with Mr. Rufus, his mother’s driver, to drop me off about a mile away from lesson so I could complete the journey on foot.
In the alternative, I could opt to change in the church he attended with his family, which was actually closer to my lesson than Tantalizers. Then, I could simply walk to lesson on my own. This option appealed to me because Thursday, which was the last day of lesson happened to be one of the least busy days for church activities at that particular church.
I myself had no idea what these baffs would be, but I left that to Tokunbo and Yele. I had no reason yet to question Yele’s taste in clothes.
Eventually, the D-day arrived.
The day before, Tokunbo had handed me a nylon bag with the name of a popular UK clothing store on it. He told me that Yele had given me three sets of clothing to choose from. I was both shocked and excited.
However, it was only when everyone had gone to sleep, when I knew I would not be interrupted, only then did I proceed to try on the outfits.
The first one was a bright yellow cotton spaghetti strap top, with a built-in bra. I did not own a strapless bra, and I felt that wearing a top that would show my bra straps was the very definition of tacky. Most importantly, I was deeply biased against “spag tops” like we called them, because they showed off too much skin.
The second item of clothing in the bag was a pair of dark blue, bell-bottomed jeans, concrete proof that in the world of fashion, recycling trends was completely natural.
The third and fourth items were both skirts: one was a very long, black and white skirt with diagonal stripes, almost sweeping the floor and hugging my derriere so much that panty lines were clearly visible a mile away. It also had a long slit that stopped mid-thigh. If I sat down, the slit would ride even higher up my thighs. As I tried that skirt on, a vivid image of a financial chart with a downward-pointing arrow, flashed before my mind’s eyes, depicting my bride price plunging to dangerously low levels.
I hurriedly took it off. That skirt was a definite no-no for me.
The other skirt was knee-length with a slight flare around the hem. It was the same shade of yellow as the spag top, suggesting that they were to be paired together.
The final two outfits were what we called “body hugs,” but were essentially figure-hugging t-shirts. One was a black, quarter-sleeved, plain blouse, made of mostly lycra, and the other was a fuchsia-colored t-shirt with some spandex. It had the words “DKNY” printed across the front in gold, chunky letters.
I quickly settled on a single outfit I would be comfortable wearing. That, of course, eliminated the spag top and long skirt. Even the short, flared skirt didn’t make the cut. Neither did the black lycra blouse.
Instead, I picked the dark blue bell bottoms and the fuchsia t-shirt.
It was at around 11:00pm while I was trying on this particular outfit – the winning combination – that it suddenly struck me:
I forgot the shoes.
“Crap!” I hissed. I had to choose either the red score slippers which were made from faux leather, and essentially clashed with my chosen outfit, or my even simpler Made in Nigeria, brown leather palm slippers.
“There’s no perfect plan,” I told myself, kicking myself inwardly for forgetting this important detail. I decided that I would either have to wear the newer score slippers or the palm slippers which had seen better days.
I was quite restless all night long as I went over the sequence of events that Tokunbo and I had agreed on. What if something went wrong? Would I have to improvise?
Curiously enough, the single thought that never, for one minute crossed my mind was, “What if Tokunbo doesn’t show up?” or “Will Tokunbo chicken out on me?”
No, the Tokunbo I knew was a person who followed through once he had made up his mind to do something. I didn’t doubt his loyalty to our cause for one second.
In retrospect, and as I reflect on this particular adventure in my adult years, I realize just how foolish, how childish we were, not being able to look beyond what we considered to be “problems” and how we would solve them.
But that’s the beauty of youth: foolish risks co-exist with lofty dreams. We lived in hope, and it drove us forward and onwards.
Hope, and the promise of change, filled my heart when I finally opened my eyes that Thursday morning. The way I saw it, we had nothing to lose if we tried. And if we didn’t succeed, if this somehow failed to “solve” the problem, at least, we tried.
Comforted by these thoughts, I got up and got ready for school. Time passed quickly. It was as if daytime was part of our conspiracy, hurrying the hours forward towards nighttime. I went through the motions of school work with mechanical passiveness. I couldn’t even remember taking the buses that brought me to Surulere. My legs seemed to have mastered the route home, and guided the rest of my body while my mind was elsewhere. Eventually, I was on that long stretch, walking home from Masha bus-stop. Only when I stood in front of our gate, did it hit me:
“This is really happening. Plan B is about to start.”
That was when the nervousness kicked in. As I took a quick bath that afternoon, and watched the day’s grease and grime disappear down the drain, I began to have second thoughts.
“Maybe the teasing isn’t so bad. Abi, am I over-reacting, taking this thing too seriously? Shebi it’s only sticks and stones that can break my bones. Words can’t do me nada.”
But as soon as I stepped out of the bathroom, the squeaky sound coming from my water-logged bathroom slippers interfered with my momentary bliss, threatening my peace of mind. It seemed to say:
“You’ll never know what’s on the other side of the mountain, until you climb it.”
By the time I stood in front of my bed, my mind was made up: I was going to climb this mountain and use my two koro-koro eyes to see what was on the other side.
Not willing to risk my mother discovering Yele’s clothes in my wardrobe, I had smuggled them in my bag to school. During the journey to and from school, I ignored the sharp protests from my shoulders and back, which had to bear the extra weight. They had to cooperate.
As if they had a choice …
Lying on my bed was that same floral dress I had already worn to lesson twice that week. I had resumed wearing mufti that week in preparation for our plan. I pulled out the chosen outfit provided by Yele, and laid it beside my dress.
“It’s going to be worth it,” I told myself.
The glaring difference between the two outfits struck me. My dress was bought in Balogun market, certainly not trendy, but it was brand new when my mother bought it for me. Yele’s outfit was, in my own eyes, trendier, more modern, and didn’t make me look like I was wearing hand-me-downs from a great-grandmother who had lived through the 1920s. Yes, they were reigning, but they had been worn by, and in fact, belonged to another person.
For a moment, I reflected on what I was about to do: to get people to see me in a different light, I was pretending to own clothes that did not belong to me. Why did their opinion matter anyway? I understood that by participating in what was essentially an orchestrated deception, I was agreeing with them, telling these people that these things mattered, and that I cared about what they said or thought about me.
Did this somehow make me a materialistic, wannabe? I decided in the negative. I wanted something better for myself, I reasoned. Nobody had the right to call me names simply because of material possessions I apparently lacked, and for once in my life, I was not prepared to simply roll over and let it go.
“Tokunbo is right,” I told myself. “Sometimes in life, you have to fight back. In my case, I’m just borrowing the tools to fight. But I’m not a borrow-borrow. This is a one-time thing. If they ever talk about me again, it won’t be because of my lack of baffs.”
That last part was the whole point of this elaborate enterprise. It made sense at the time.
So, I wore the floral dress, and my palm slippers, praying that the lesson students would be so mesmerized by my “new outfit” that my old, worn out slippers wouldn’t concern them.
I stuffed the chosen outfit into my bag, carefully separating it from the rejects. But, my bag was now lighter because I had removed my school books and only included my lesson books.
After rubbing white talcum powder on my face to reduce the shine, and hopefully, obliterate the smudge of guilt that remained, I moisturized my lips with a dab of Vaseline, swung my bag onto my shoulders, and left the house.
I knew I would not see Tokunbo until later that evening. Till then, I was basically on my own.
I decided before leaving the house that it would be better to go to church on my way to lesson to change, and then, on my way back, I could either use the same venue or Tantalizers as planned.
So, I went to the church the Williams attended, which unlike the church I attended with my family, did not have any hang-ups over women wearing trousers within the premises. I greeted the security guard at the gate, and found my way to the women’s restroom, where I quickly transformed from my drab outfit to Yele’s own.
“I look good, if I do say so myself,” I quipped as I admired my reflection in the mirror. I had to restrain myself from blowing kisses at myself. Yes, I loved the way my body looked in that outfit. There was a clear demarcation between bust and waist, and between waist and hips.
As I was about to leave, it suddenly occurred to me:
That security guard knows my parents. What if he starts asking me why I changed my clothes?
After deliberating for a few minutes, I decided that I would just use bold face for him. I had not come this far to let anyone wield questions like a hammer, shattering my careful plans into smithereens.
So, I stepped out boldly, prepared to meet the security guard’s inquisitiveness with brashness.
Fortunately, when I stepped out, he was no longer at the security post. A quick scan of the church yard answered the single question that had formed in my head.
Where is this man?
He was not far from the security post. With his back turned to me, he was busy with the task of pouring diesel into the tank of the generator. He was so engrossed in what he was doing that I doubt he even heard the gate creak as I let myself out, and quickly dashed into the street.
I almost skipped for joy!
That was certainly my first recorded victory that afternoon.
Because of my short detour, I arrived at lesson ten minutes late, and could not slip into the back row as I had planned. Rather, Mr. Jide Thompson, our Maths teacher, and the owner of the lesson, singled me out as I entered the class.
“Enitan, come and sit here,” he said, pointing to an empty seat on the front row. I did not have a choice.
As I walked slowly to the front of the class where the seat was located, I heard hushes and scattered whispers. A few words landed in my ears.
“See new clothes!”
“Akisa, get thee behind me!”
“Did she jand?”
“Is today her birthday?”
All the fear and apprehension I had fought off as I approached lesson simply melted away. I felt like I was walking on air. By the time I reached my seat, a bashful smile had replaced the glum look on my face.
As I sank gratefully into my seat, I blessed Tokunbo in my heart. Not even Mr. Thompson’s reprimand, delivered in a no-nonsense voice in front of the whole class, for coming late to lesson, could dampen my joy. As far as I was concerned, I had already won. But I trembled with excitement, and could hardly sit still for the rest of the evening, as I realized what was coming next.
During the short breaks at the end of each hour between 5:00pm and 8:00pm, a few of the girls clustered around me, demanding to know where and how I had acquired new clothes. Their questions were met with multiple hisses, blank looks and this over-used expression: “Stop disturbing me!”
No one would get an answer out of me.
“Let them continue to wonder,” I thought to myself, and chuckled inwardly as I realized that ‘Plan C’ – ignore them – was already in motion.
A few minutes after 8:00pm, as I gathered my books together after lesson, the noise of a commotion outside startled those of us who were still in the classroom.
Before I could even rise to my feet, a girl ran up to me excited. It was the same girl who had told Binta not to invite me to her party.
“Enitan!” she began, squealing in delight, as she danced on the same spot. Proceeding in a voice that would make one think we were long-lost friends, she announced:
“There’s a guy outside looking for you o! His name is Richie, and he has just come back from Germany.”
It took a few seconds to decode what she had just told me.
And then, it hit me.
That was the name he had said he would use. But why Germany? I would have to ask him on the way home.
I grabbed my bag, and shot outside like an arrow.
As soon as I stepped outside, an incredible scene met my eyes. My fellow lesson-mates, including the guys, had crowded round a silver Mercedes Benz, which was parked in front of the house directly across the street from our lesson.
Standing in front of the passenger side of the car, leaning against it slightly, with an air of ease and a tranquil look on his face, was a tall, young man wearing dark shades, hands stuck in his pockets.
He wore a wine-colored velvet jacket, with a white collared shirt, on top of indigo dark jeans. Even from where I stood, I admired Tokunbo’s taste as I caught sight of the tan leather derby shoes and the matching tan leather belt peeking through the little arch where the jacket met the jeans. I had imagined him wearing sneakers or loafers, but those derbies were the classier choice.
If he had not told me in advance that he was coming, I would never have recognized this confident stranger as my Tokunbo.
His shoulders looked broader, and he stood taller, more dignified than I remembered. I was amazed at how a few clothes and a pair of sunshades could transform a person, and even make him look older.
The guys were asking him about the specs of the car, and the girls were asking all sorts of questions, none of which he was responding to.
But as soon as I came outside, I heard him say:
“Eni baby! Oh, how I’ve missed yew!”
In a few strides, he had crossed the street, and wrapped me in a warm embrace.
As he hugged me, I was tickled by the way the few words he spoke landed on my ears. Tokunbo spoke with a crisp American accent. How come? From where to where?
When he pulled away from me, he pushed down his shades to the tip of his nose, and gave me a quick, mischievous wink. The grin I flashed back at him was so wide, I was sure he could see the molars on my lower jaw.
“Baby, I just came from the airport, and I just had to see yew,” he gushed, as he led me to the car. The crowd cleared a path for both of us as we approached the car. Once we reached the car, he opened the door to the passenger’s side, and re-appeared with four large bags bearing the names of boutiques, filled with goodies. I did not even bother to inspect them closely, but collected them from him, one after the other, with loud remarks:
“Oh, thank you sweerie!”
“You shouldn’t have!”
“All this for me?!”
“Oh, honey you’re the best!”
Then, he helped me put them back into the car, before opening the front passenger door for me.
I slid into the black leather seat, and sat still until he came to the driver’s side.
As soon as he had entered and shut the door, we heard the tap of fingernails on the window. I pushed a button, and as the dark-tinted window descended, the face of Binta appeared before me.
“Please, Enitan, can you give me … us–,” she corrected, pointing to an indeterminate number of girls behind her, “–a ride to that junction over there?”
I looked her straight in the eye, and said:
“Sorry. No Perchers Allowed.”
Then, I watched in satisfaction as the look of hope on her face changed to anger, as the windows went back up.
“Ahn ahn, Enitan, that was mean now,” Tokunbo chided.
“Nope. She was their ring leader,” I said firmly.
Not even Tokunbo was going to make me feel bad about my revenge. I was sure Binta would have done the same thing, or worse even, in my shoes.
As the car pulled away from the lesson, I thought to myself that if Tokunbo had showed up on a white horse, and we had ridden off into the night, I couldn’t have been any more elated than I felt at that moment.
As long as it isn’t one of those malnourished horses at the beach sha …
As we approached Adelabu Street, I began to ask Tokunbo questions.
“Since when do you drive?”
“About a year now, but my mum only lets me drive around the neighborhood. So, technically, I haven’t broken any rules,” he said with a grin.
“And where did Richie come from? I know you told me you were using that name, but I almost called you Tokunbo!”
“It’s one of the many names that never made it to my birth certificate. Donated by my father.”
“And why Germany? I thought we agreed on the UK.”
“Omo, as I reach your lesson, fear catch me small … I saw the Benz and for whatever reason, Germany was the first name that came to mind. Does it even matter?”
“Not in the least!” I shouted, whooping for joy. “Bros, with that your American accent, Jim Iyke ain’t gat nothing on yew!”
“–Or Bob-Manuel sef!” Tokunbo added with a chuckle.
We both burst into laughter.
As we drove to the church, I reflected on the fact that nobody seemed to have noticed or questioned the fact that even though “Richie” claimed to have just arrived from Germany, he had a solid American accent. Or that the names of the clothing stores on the goodie bags he supposedly brought from Germany, were actually the names of boutiques on Adeniran Ogunsanya street, which was right there in Surulere. Or that the items in the bags were the food items he had purchased for his mother that very afternoon at a supermarket off Adeniran Ogunsanya Street.
“But you know the best part of today for me, Enitan?” Tokunbo asked as he parked in front of the church I had visited that afternoon.
“What? Wearing shades at night? Driving the Benz?” I asked uncertainly.
“Nope. Posing as your boyfriend for one day.”
“Actually, it was just a few minutes, but–” I began, correcting him.
“Same feeling,” he said smiling.
After changing at church, I handed all Omoyele’s clothes back to Tokunbo.
“Please thank her for me, and tell her I’m sorry I couldn’t wash them before returning them,” I said apologetically.
“It’s okay,” said Tokunbo. “She’ll toss them into the washing machine anyway.”
I recorded that day in my heart as one of the most enjoyable days of my teenage years, and Tokunbo had made it happen.
As we parted ways that night, neither of us had any inkling that the very next month, December precisely, the Williams would once again spark controversy in my home.
On a bright Saturday morning, controversy landed in our house, in the form of a lovely Christmas hamper from Mrs. Williams, which was delivered by her driver, Mr. Rufus.
It was a large wicker basket full of imported eatables, surrounded by a clear, plastic wrap, which was in turn, tied with a massive red bow to match the festive season.
But it was not the hamper itself that caused wahala. It was the enclosed, equally lovely card, from Mrs. Williams, which read:
To a Loving Husband
This card was addressed to only one person:
Mr. Akinola Ladoja, my father.
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