Happy Tuesday! It’s exactly one week to the end of the month. Can you believe it? May will be gone in 7 days. (*singing* “May, oya pack your load!”) 😀 I hope your week has been awesome so far. Today, I will be sharing another episode of our current Nigerian Romance story series, Falling in Love With My Best Friend. In this episode, we explore the popular saying that “Good Guys Finish Last” through the eyes of Enitan and her brother, Tayo.
If you haven’t read Episode 1, it’s here. Help yourself. 🙂
Have a great week!
Episode 17: Good Guys Finish Last
The weeks leading up to Tokunbo’s 17th birthday felt like Christmas and Easter rolled into one, except that the whole of civilization wasn’t part of the preparation. Not a single week passed without Tokunbo and I talking about the upcoming party, so that I felt like I was a member of the birthday planning committee.
In reality, I was simply a member of the “supporters’ club.” It wasn’t until the day of the party itself that I met other core members of this distinguished club.
Meanwhile, although I had agreed to my parents’ chaperone condition, I still tried to get them to consider ditching this condition. I raised all the plausible reasons my mind could conceive at the time, including the following:
Tokunbo is harmless
The party is next door; you can practically walk in and say hello if you so desire
You can even watch us from one of the rooms upstairs
I will behave myself
Don’t you trust me?
Bla, bla, bla …
But my parents remained immovable. Tayo was going with me, and that was final.
Now, Tayo was not the party type. He wasn’t even remotely interested in parties, neighbors or any combination of the two. At the time my parents gave their approval for me to attend Tokunbo’s party, Tayo was still in school, completing his final term.
But in June, he graduated from FGC Ogbomosho and moved back home to start a new phase of his life. He started feeling the pressure of staying at home for an extended period of time. Of course, he had stayed at home for long holidays in the past, but he always knew exactly when he would have to go back to school.
This time around, the future for him was less certain. He had entered that season of his life where his fate would be decided by his performance on that lousy JAMB exam, and other external factors. If things went as planned, he would start a new semester as a jambite at the university of his choice. If not, he would end up pining away, re-taking the same JAMB exam, and waiting for his life to change.
So, when my parents told him about his role at Tokunbo’s birthday party, he treated it with an aloofness I knew Tayo displayed when he didn’t want to show he really liked or wanted something. But, the twinkle in his eyes gave him away. I knew he was looking forward to it and in his own way, began to ask me questions about the celebrant: Tokunbo.
Once I noticed this, I stopped trying to convince my parents to revise their decision to involve Tayo as my chaperone. I put myself in his shoes, and understood why this party, for him, was a welcome distraction.
“It’s just one day,” I reasoned. “Why not?”
The questions Tayo asked me were simple, practical ones, the sort of questions a guest would ask about an event he had been invited to, such as:
Who else was invited?
Will there be a DJ?
How big is this party?
What sort of food and drinks will they serve? Etc
But then, out of the blues, Tayo shot a question I didn’t see coming, not because I did not have an answer, but it was the last thing I expected my big brother to ask about another guy, let alone our neighbor.
“So, do you like him?” Tayo asked.
The day Tayo fired that question at me, my first instinct was to bolt through the door and avoid this and other follow-up questions. Unfortunately for me, Tayo, who must have anticipated my “run-away-fast” reaction, blocked my exit from the sitting room, and since he was bigger, taller and stronger than me, I knew I didn’t stand a chance of escaping from him or the question that still lingered in the air.
So, I did what I usually do: avoided the question, using evasion tactics.
“Tayo, do you know when Yemi will be back?” I began. “I have to–”
“Nice try, Eni. You can’t escape o. I’m still waiting for your answer,” said Tayo, using his hands to block the doorway while the rest of his body acted like an ill-fitting door. The look on his face said, “We can play this game all day. I’ve got time to burn.”
Tayo had never shown any real interest in my friends, not even the occasional classmates or neighborhood friends who visited. He had certainly never mentioned Tokunbo in the context of any friendship, except when he talked about our neighbors in general, and called him, “That guy next door.”
So, what had prompted this question? Did Yemi snitch on me? Had some words escaped my mouth when I was awake or asleep that had roused Tayo’s curiosity and put him on my trail? All these and many more questions rose in my mind. However, before my own questions could be answered, I would first of all have to jump over the first hurdle Tayo had placed before me:
Did I like Tokunbo?
My long silence must have told Tayo all he needed to know, but for some odd reason, he wanted to hear it from my own lips.
I began to worry.
If I said “Yes,” he could assume the role of a designated parent, with all the preachiness and none of the authority, telling me about the dangers of tangoing with boys.
But if I said “No,” he could ask me why, if I didn’t like Tokunbo, I was going for his party, even if it was just next door.
So, instead of answering with a “Yes” or “No,” I played it safe and answered with:
“You know me, and you know the answer.”
Tayo held his belly and laughed for a full ten seconds, while I wondered what was so funny in the response I had given.
“You know what, Eni, you chose the right course for uni. Law will definitely suit you.”
I chuckled nervously, praying that this back-handed compliment meant the end of Tayo’s Q & A session.
Boy, was I wrong!
Tayo peeled himself from the doorway and pulling my arm, led me to the long sofa in the sitting room, the one where over the years, each of us had taken many drool-involved naps.
After making me take the seat on the left edge, Tayo took a seat close to me. A single, flattened cushion, wrapped in satin with pink and green foliage, separated us. Then, he took the thick paperback novel I had been reading, whose cover had been celotaped in several places, binding it to the edge of the spine, placed it on the empty spot to his right, and sat up.
Turning to me, he said:
“Eni, before I asked you that question, I already knew the answer. I won’t tell you not to like boys, and from what I’ve heard, Tokunbo’s cool. But wait till uni before jumping into any relationship. In fact, wait till maybe 200 level.”
“But I wasn’t thinking of–” I began, in protest, angry that Tayo felt he had the authority to give me relationship advice when it was just two years that established his seniority over me.
“Ehn ehn, Enitan, listen. I’m a guy, and I know what guys my age are thinking. All they want is sex. They’ll use you and dump you. I wouldn’t even let you date my own friends, and it’s not because they’re bad guys. It’s just that under the right circumstances, even good guys can do bad things. And–” here, he placed a hand on my shoulder, reminiscent of Tokunbo’s occasional behavior, “–you’re my only sister. I don’t want other guys to talk about my own sister like the garbage one kole-kole can pack and carry away. Please, Eni, do it for me,” Tayo pleaded.
I looked at Tayo and wondered where this change of heart had come from. Why was he choosing to have a conversation with me, rather than lord this relationship matter over me?
“I understand what you’re saying,” I said. “I actually already made up my mind to stay away from relationships till uni. I guess this is confirmation for me.”
On hearing my resolve, Tayo relaxed.
Then, all of a sudden, he sat up again. I felt a bit uncomfortable. I was used to his bossy side, the part that delegated those chores he didn’t care to touch to me.
The perks of being the first born.
But that afternoon, in that moment, I could tell that something had changed. There was something different about Tayo, and I couldn’t place my finger on it.
Tayo leaned forward slightly, like he was trying to get a clear view of my toes, and comment on my chipped turquoise nail polish. But he never brought it up.
Rather, he cleared his throat, and asked me one question.
“Enitan, what do you think of good guys?”
I frowned at him. What did Tayo mean by asking me that question? Was it a trick question? Did he want me to say I preferred bad guys so he could report me to our parents?
I was confused, and my face must have betrayed my state of mind, because he reached out, and patted my arm saying,
“Hey, Hey! Relax! It’s not a trick question. I just want your opinion. That’s all.”
How reassuring! I thought. Aloud, I said:
“Okay. You really want my opinion, right? Why?”
“Because you’re the quintessential good girl,” said Tayo.
Whoa! I was taken aback by Tayo’s directness. It is one thing to see yourself a certain way, but when you hear someone who knows you, use particular words to sum up your character, it takes you by surprise. And you wonder, “How did he know?”
That is exactly how I felt.
But then, I remembered Tokunbo and wondered if I would lose points on the “good girl scale” if Tayo knew just how far I had gone with Tokunbo.
But, I guess our friendship was harmless.
As far as friendships with boys went.
So, I decided that I would be honest with Tayo and try not to make this about me.
Blushing a little, I said to Tayo:
“Well, that’s …. Different! I didn’t know you saw me that way.”
“Every brother prays his sister is a saint. At least the guys with sense. I know you’re not a saint, but you tip the scale pretty well,” he added, still watching me.
Even as he said the word, “saint,” visions of me on the apoti eavesdropping and improving my gbeborun skills flashed before me.
“Ahn ahn, Tayo! Kini gbogbo eleyi now? What’s all this for? Are you setting me up ni? You’re just buttering me up like say I be toast bread,” I said, genuinely surprised and curious.
“But na true I talk o,” said Tayo chuckling. “All I want is for you to listen and give me your opinion. That’s all.”
“Ehen? Is that so? Okay now. Carry go!” I said.
Sitting on the edge of his seat, and looking at my face every now and again, Tayo began to open up and tell me about an aspect of his life I had not paid much attention to. In fact, I seemed to have forgotten that although he was my older brother, he too, was still a teenager, and carried burdens of his own.
A few minutes into our conversation, it dawned on me that this was an unburdening session. Armed with that knowledge, I relaxed more, knowing that although he wanted my opinion, he needed me to listen more than to hear me speak.
So, I listened, observing as if for the first time ever, how much Tayo used his hands to demonstrate when he was talking or being particularly descriptive.
“Eni, the thing is, some things happened in Ogbomosho, things I feel I can tell you, but definitely not Mummy or Daddy. But you? You’d get it just like that,” said Tayo, snapping his fingers once.
“Like what?” I asked.
“You know my school, FGC Ogbomosho, you know it’s mixed, right?” Tayo began. “Both girls and boys.”
“Um-hmm,” I said, nodding and wondering why Tayo was stating the obvious. If I had missed this important fact while scanning the school prospectus he had received after admission, surely, after accompanying my parents to see Tayo on numerous visiting days, any lingering ignorance must have dissipated.
But I guess he was just warming up.
After taking note that I understood this point, he proceeded.
“Okay, okay … So, you know the people in my class, we’ve known each other since JS1, right?” said Tayo.
I nodded. It was the same with my school, and I assumed, every other secondary school that had been around for at least a decade.
“In junior secondary school, I didn’t really pay attention to girls. I wasn’t interested. But right from JS1, some folks in my class were already coupling up. You know–” and here, Tayo paused to gauge my understanding.
“You mean they were doing girlfriend-boyfriend in JS1?” I asked in disbelief.
“Exactly,” said Tayo with a low chuckle. “Boyfriend-girlfriend.”
“You nko? Did you join them?” I said.
“That’s where I’m headed, Eni. Just hang on,” he said. I nodded and urged him to continue.
“As for me, I didn’t follow that nonsense they were doing. At that time, I saw girls like the walls of my classroom. I knew they were there … I mean, we couldn’t have lessons in a wall-less room. But I just didn’t notice them. Until–” said Tayo.
“–Until SS1, maybe?” I suggested.
“Um … No. It was before that. Just around my second term in JS3, when we were still preparing for JSCE mock exams. It was then things really changed. For me, anyway.”
“Like?” I said.
“So many things changed … You know now,” said Tayo, nudging me playfully.
“No. Not really,” I said, truthfully.
“Ahn ahn, Eni. Didn’t you take Integrated Science? Puberty … Adolescence … You know, that time when guys start growing hair in weird places, and our voices crack and all that,” said Tayo, hurriedly skipping over some of the other more telling symptoms of puberty, things boys experienced alone at night, on their beds. But then again, I was his sister, and I didn’t want to hear Tayo share those nasty details with me.
“Yes, yes. I know. Can we move on, please?” I practically begged.
Tayo laughed. “Why? Are you afraid I’ll say something that will scatter your brain?”
“Yes. I’m very scared,” I replied, looking away.
“No qualms. Moving on. So, when these things began to happen, it’s like I went to sleep one night and woke up and all of a sudden, I started noticing girls. And men–” here, he started scratching his head, a wistful look in his eyes, “–I really noticed them. Imagine coming to class every day, and not really noticing the walls. And then, one day, all of a sudden, gbam! You notice that the walls are not just made of cement, they also have colors: cream, gray, brown, blue. And on top of that, you notice that people have been writing on the walls. And it’s not just your set o. No! Those that have passed out before you, have left their mark in that class,” said Tayo, eyes shining with recollection.
“What?! You mean they did that in your class too?” I asked incredulously, recounting all the graffiti on the walls on my various classrooms, and inside the bathroom stalls. For some reason, I had assumed that this display of teenage vandalism and artistic expression by some students, who went beyond writing, to actually sketching pictures on the walls, inside doors, etc, was limited to all-girls secondary schools.
But here, in my parents’ sitting room, Tayo was informing me that these student-run acts of vandalism were essentially universal, existing in varying degrees across the universe of schools.
I recalled the one I had seen on the back wall of a classroom. It read:
Rekiya wuz ‘ere, 98/99 set
I had often wondered why Rekiya would risk identifying her set, right next to her name, but seeing that no one seemed to bother, I plotted to do the same thing before I graduated.
“Absolutely!” Tayo confirmed. “But most people used nicknames, so let’s imagine a guy’s name is John. But he doesn’t like the name. It’s too common. Everybody and their father’s brother’s cousin’s nephew’s fifth son is called John. So, he decides that at least, among his peers, he won’t be called John. He opts for a nickname, let’s say “Capone” or “Capo.” Now, John a.k.a Capo, won’t write “John was here” on the wall. No, sireee. He might write something like:
Da Capo reigned here, 96 – 97
That way, only those who went to Ogbomosho around that time, and really had their ears to the ground, would know who “Capo” was. But back to my story,” said Tayo, suddenly realizing how far off track he had veered.
“Right.” I said. “Carry go.”
“Yes, so as I was saying, I began to notice, I mean, really notice girls. Their shape or lack of it, complexion, height, gbogbo e, everything! But there was this particular girl in my class. Her name was Funke. Funke Ligali. I really liked her, but … I don’t know what it is with you girls. You just like bad boys. Good guys like me, you like to collect advice from us, you want us to be forming supporters’ club, but that’s all. When it’s time to date, you pick the scum of the earth, de one wey be confam bad boy, and be saying, “But, he’s nice o. He’s not that bad,” or “He’s so cute.” Are there no good guys who are cute you can fall for? Must it be the one wey go spoil una life finish you go dey fall for?”
Tayo sounded bitter. I chuckled nervously. Clearly, Tayo had gotten carried away, and was about to use me to answer “bad boy themed” questions on behalf of every girl in the universe. I wasn’t up for that challenge.
“Well, Tayo, you know I’m not like that, so–” I said.
“I know, I know,” he agreed, and then continued.
“So, her name was Funke Ligali,” Tayo said, repeating himself.
And even in that moment, although we were physically seated in the parlor of our parents’ house in Surulere, one look at Tayo’s face, convinced me that the mere mention of “Funke Ligali,” had transported him across hundreds of miles, all the way to Ogbomosho, where this girl had been his classmate.
“Funke–” Tayo mused, with a deep chuckle. “That girl was a babe. I mean, correct babe.”
I almost asked Tayo, “So what about the rest of us? We no qualify? We too wowo, abi?” But those words never left my mouth.
Instead, I said: “Was ke? What do you mean was? Are you telling me Funke Ligali used to be a babe? Has she lost her babe status?”
“Ah no-o! Enitan, lai lai! Never! That girl na babe forever! For life! She too set! If you see her ehn … When they say black is beautiful, just picture Funke Ligali,” said Tayo smiling sheepishly.
“How can I do that when I haven’t even seen her before?” I said, drily.
“Are you jealous?” said Tayo, nudging me.
“Me? Jealous? Of a girl in your school? How can? No-o! Jealous ke? Why? No way!” I vehemently denied. However, what I did not admit to Tayo was that his loving description of Funke Ligali made me wonder if Tokunbo described me with that level of enthusiasm to other people, using similar words, and with that same “I-go-love-o” eyes Tayo had.
But, no matter how vulnerable Tayo seemed just then, no matter how open he was or appeared to be on that couch, I knew I couldn’t open up to him in the same way about Tokunbo. No, I would have to seriously vet him first, and even then, I wouldn’t tell him everything.
Some secrets should be kept to yourself.
“Okay. If you say so,” said Tayo, brushing aside my aggressive denial of jealousy. “But you don’t need to see her. Trust me, that girl is a babe,” said Tayo again. I groaned inwardly.
I get it! Funke Ligali is a wide-eyed doe with a body to die for and a fantastic personality to match. I get it! I wanted to shout at Tayo, but recalling that he had already accused me of jealousy, and not wanting to add bad belle-ism to my list of transgressions, I said:
“Okay. I agree. Funke is a babe. End of story. So, what happened between you and her?” I said.
“Who told you anything happened? Where did you hear that?” said Tayo, stiffening and frowning.
“Tayo, calm down. You have never ever sat down to confide in me about any girl. Ever. So, I naturally assumed that this particular girl must be special to you. Nobody told me anything,” I reassured him, wondering for a moment if I was not the older one, and my parents had just kept that fact hidden from me.
But Tayo was the first born, so …
Anyway, he continued.
“Okay. I just thought–” he started, and then waved it aside. “So, in JS3, I started to crush on Funke. At least, I thought it was a crush o, but I don’t know whether to call it love, ‘cos I still have deep feelings for her till now.”
Because I had been forced to answer that same “love or crush” question myself where Tokunbo was concerned, I answered Tayo’s question, drawing from my own experience.
“Tayo, I think just going by what you’ve told me, that you had–” I began.
“No … Have. It’s still there,” he said, tapping the middle of his chest lightly, a sad look settling on his face.
“Okay. Sorry. Have,” I said, accepting his correction. “I think you have a huge crush on Funke Ligali. Love goes beyond ordinary feelings. It’s a lot deeper, involves more … more doing … withstands challenges, pressures, time. Love is sacrifice, it’s–” I said.
“Hold on, Eni!” said Tayo, grabbing my arms, which had been gesticulating wildly as I explained my idea of love to Tayo. “E don do! Ahn ahn! I didn’t ask for an essay on love. Haba! And how do you know these things anyway? Please don’t tell me it’s from one of those yeye soap operas,” Tayo sneered. I wanted to slap him for deriding my precious soap operas, and wanted to tell him they were still more educational than those mindlessly violent video games he seemed to favor, but I didn’t.
Instead, I said:
“It’s not your fault. It’s me that’s bothering to help you understand your heart,” I said in a hurt tone.
Tayo must have noticed that tone, because the next thing he said was:
“So, somebody cannot play with you again, ehn? You’re too serious. Loosen up, jo.”
With my arms folded across my chest, I side-eyed him, and maintained my position, eyes transfixed on the TV which was turned off.
Tayo removed the cushion that separated us and shifting closer, began to pull my cheeks, while making gurgling noises, the way mothers coo to babies, while he said in the voice of an infant:
“Eni, Eni baby! Oya, smile for me!”
I couldn’t help myself. Whether it was the ridiculousness of having my cheeks pulled, or Tayo’s baby voice, or the combined ridiculousness of these two things, I just felt the muscles of my face relax first into a smile, then it progressed into a grin, and finally, when I simply couldn’t quench the bubbles rising from my belly, I erupted with laughter.
“Ah, na God save you!” said Tayo triumphantly. “I had tickles lined up and waiting for you. But don’t worry, another day will come.”
“Please, ‘ave mercy,” I pleaded between giggles.
“Can I continue my yarns?” said Tayo.
“Sure. I’m listening,” I replied.
“Okay, so I agree that it’s a crush I have on Funke. But it started in JS3.”
“So, did you ask her out?” I asked.
“In JS3? No! What was I looking for?” said Tayo dismissively, as if I had asked him when he would get his ears pierced so he could start wearing earrings.
“Later, nko?” I pressed.
“Hmmm … We shall get there. Hold on, Eni. Stop jumping the gun. Let me land, ke!” said Tayo.
“Okay. No vex. I dey hear you,” I said.
“Ehen. So, in JS3, I was just too shy. I didn’t even say, “Hello” to her. I think she probably thought I hated her sef. I just used to avoid her, because I didn’t, you know … trust my feelings.”
“Ehen? So what happened?” I asked, surprised at seeing this side to my brother, who I had not pictured as the shy guy who couldn’t speak to the girl he liked.
“Hmmm … Well, we took our JSCE, and then went to SS1, and it was in SS1 that things started to happen.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“You know how secondary schools are. It’s in SS1 you have to choose whether to go with Science, Arts or Commercial,” Tayo began.
I certainly understood that part of our conversation.
In junior secondary school, students took general knowledge classes with very few electives. For example, they could choose between French and Arabic. They could also choose, from a pre-determined pool, a Nigerian language to learn to fulfill the requirements for a mandatory second Nigerian language, otherwise known as “L2.” Students had to learn a second language, in addition to the mandatory “L1” (“First Language”), which was typically, depending on tribe or ethnic group, the student’s native language.
But for L2, which presented the opportunity to learn a Nigerian language you were not familiar with, students still had to choose from the same pool of languages offered under L1: Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba.
But that was only for the earlier part of junior secondary school.
At the beginning of senior secondary school, a student had to make a more definitive choice on what career path he or she wanted to pursue. This would then inform whether that student was grouped under one of three streams: Sciences, Arts or Commercial.
Typically, the most brilliant students and those who had a firm grip, or at least didn’t struggle with the trifecta of sciences, that is, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, were pushed towards the Sciences. For those who possessed good writing and/or oral skills, or leaned towards the more creative side, they were pushed towards the Arts.
Finally, Commercial was for the students who were either undecided, didn’t fit into Arts or Sciences because of the subjects they chose, or simply wanted a career path that was not addressed by Arts or Sciences.
Because I wanted to study Law, I was in Arts classes, where subjects like Literature-in-English were mandatory.
Also, these streams of learning with their subject areas were so divided because of the mandatory subjects students needed to pass on their SSCE/NECO/GCE/JAMB exams to gain admission to a particular course or field of study in the university or other institutions of higher learning.
I nodded my understanding of what Tayo meant, when he mentioned Sciences, Arts and Commercial.
“Okay, so because I was in Science class, I took Physics, Chemistry and Biology. But, remember Intro Tech from junior secondary school?” he asked.
I nodded. Introductory Technology was one of my least favorite classes in junior secondary school, and I blamed it solely on our teacher, a woman whose boring voice seemed to be more effective at sending students to sleep than stimulating them to learn anything.
“Well, Technical Drawing was one of my favorite aspects of Intro Tech, not Elect/Elect., and definitely not woodwork. In fact, it was my love for TD that made me start thinking of architecture.”
My father had wanted Tayo to study Mechanical Engineering and become an engineer like him, even though my father was a civil engineer.
But, I remember my father having a serious conversation with Tayo during one of his junior secondary school holidays, where Tayo essentially said he didn’t want to study engineering again.
In her typical fashion, my mother panicked, and said her enemies were after her, and it was manifesting in my brother Tayo being derailed from his destined career path.
But my father took a more sensible approach. He took Tayo to see a guidance counsellor who worked at the school of his friend, Mr. Osagie, the man who recommended Thompson Tutors, my last after-school lesson.
It was this guidance counsellor, a woman, who opened Tayo’s eyes to see the other fields of study where his interests lay. It turned out that architecture was a good fit for him because he loved design, and was very attentive to details.
By the time Tayo reached SS1, he had made the unofficial move career-direction wise, from engineering to architecture.
My mother no longer mentioned enemies where Tayo was concerned after that episode.
“Knowing how TD is, you can imagine how many of us took it in the entire SS1 block,” he said.
“Very few?” I guessed.
“Correct!” said Tayo beaming. “And guess who was among the “oh-so-few” TD students?”
“Ah … Let me see,” I said, casting my eyes upwards, pretending to ransack my brain for answers, when in all honesty, the answer was on the tip of my tongue. “Was it Funke Ligali?” I finally said a smirk on my face.
“Right you are again, Eni! Ah, if only I had some Cabin biscuit to reward you for these correct answers,” said Tayo grinning mischievously. He knew how much I hated those biscuits.
“How dare you?!” I asked, eyeing him in jest. “Keep your Cabin biscuits jare.”
Tayo laughed. “Okay, maybe next time, ehn,” he said, nudging me playfully.
Then, he continued.
“Yes, Funke Ligali was in my TD class. I don’t think we were up to 18 in that class. It was from there we became friends because I used to sit beside her, and all that. She’s a very lively girl, and we used to talk about lots of things, including, believe it or not, video games!” said Tayo.
I rolled my eyes. Perfect! Funke Ligali was every guy’s dream girl. Pinch me.
“I bet she can make those farting noises from her armpit better than you,” I said, with more than a hint of sarcasm barely concealed in my voice.
Tayo looked at me in shock.
“How did you know?” he asked in amazement.
“Oh, just a wild guess … Or a hunch. Doesn’t even matter. Oya continue,” I implored.
And he did.
“Okay so, Funke and I became friends. Very good friends, and I really liked her, you know. But I didn’t want to ask her out yet. I just had this idea that secondary school was not the place for relationships, that there was more freedom in uni,” said Tayo.
“But what if you guys end up in different unis, like UNN and ABU Zaria?” I asked.
“Ehn … It shouldn’t matter now. Shebi there are buses you can take from Nsukka to Zaria, and vice-versa?” said Tayo.
“Are you serious, Tayo? You’d be travelling all the way just for a girl? How realistic is that?” I queried.
And then, I remembered that I had had a similar discussion with Tokunbo on how to make a long-distance relationship work. My exact words were:
“Love will build a bridge from me to you.”
But hearing Tayo voice the same idea, even though he used different words, it sounded too contrived and far-fetched. Road travel could be hazardous, and accidents were common. Was it wise to pursue a long-distance relationship or wasn’t it better to find a local boo to build a relationship with?
I didn’t bother sharing these thoughts with Tayo. I wanted him to get to the heart of this Funke Ligali matter.
“Eni, the heart wants what the heart wants,” he said. “Travelling is a non-issue.”
I nodded and wondered if my parents would agree with him.
“So, I just remained friends with Funke. She herself wasn’t dating or going out with any guy until SS2. It was in SS2 that I started having regrets. Lots of regrets.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because that’s when Oscar showed up,” said Tayo with a deep sigh.
“Oscar? Who names their child Oscar? Don’t tell me he was a grouch,” I said, rolling my eyes.
Tayo chuckled. “His name doesn’t even matter,” he began, but I stopped him.
“Did everyone call him Oscar or did he have a nickname like … Capo?” I asked, referring to the scribbles on the wall in the earlier part of our conversation.
“No,” said Tayo. “Oscar didn’t need a lame nickname like “Capo.” Once you mentioned “Oscar” in school, everybody knew who you were talking about. He was that popular.”
“Wonderful!” I said. “So what did the Great Oscar do?”
“Oscar …,” Tayo began in a low tone, shaking his head, followed by a grunt. “That guy is the perfect example of a born womanizer. You know some womanizers are made, but others are born. This Oscar na born womanizer. That guy? Hmmm … I’m sure that right after he jumped out of his mother’s womb, when the nurse was carrying him away, he pulled out a jotter and pencil, and his first words were, “Baby, can I have your number?” ”
I burst into laughter. The mental image of the scene Tayo had just described was too ridiculous for words.
“Tayo, where in the womb of a woman, is there space for a jotter and pencil? And a talking baby? God forbid!” I said, snapping my fingers, and throwing my hands to my left side, so this evil I was wishing away wouldn’t fall on me or Tayo.
But Tayo didn’t even care.
“I’m telling you, Eni, that guy was toasting nurses before he was one week old! He’s had too much practice. Too sleek!” said Tayo.
“Ehn, maybe you should’ve approached him for toasting lessons now. Tap into that–” I teased.
“Excuse you?!” said Tayo, scowling at me.
“I’m just saying … Oya, no vex. Finish your story,” I said, pacifying him.
“Well, there’s not much left to tell,” said Tayo. “Everybody knew Oscar’s reputation. It wasn’t a secret at all. I mean, this guy was just a bad guy. Word around school was that Oscar was even servicing some of our teachers, including the CRS teacher, a married woman!”
“O ti o!” I shouted, sitting up. In my mind, I wondered why Tayo had been keeping this type of hot gist to himself all these days, when my ears were ever ready.
“Siddon there, dey look!” said Tayo with a sneer. “Next thing I knew, Funke started asking me these abstract questions. You know the type. No name to identify anybody. Just facts or scenarios, and because we were friends, she wanted my opinion.”
“So, she was using you, abi?” I jeered.
“Eni, I’m asking you for your own opinion too in this matter. That’s the point of this long story. Does it mean I’m using you too?” said Tayo.
“Well … Yes … No … Oh-oh, Tayo! It’s not the same thing jo. You’re my brother. It’s different,” I whined.
“But maybe that was the problem. Maybe that was how Funke saw me. As her brother,” said Tayo. “Which is why she told me all these things.”
“But you had other plans for her. Am I right?” I said.
“Yes, I did. But I held her in such high esteem. I didn’t want to do what other guys were doing: jumping into relationships in secondary school. Plus, I felt it would affect my focus on my books, and … and I was worried she’d say no. Secondary school isn’t the ideal place for relationships, you know. I felt, okay o, once I’ve reached uni, I’ll have the maturity to handle a serious relationship,” said Tayo.
“But you never told her any of these things, how you felt or what you were thinking?” I said.
“Of course not. What was the point? I couldn’t just walk up to her and say, “Hey, Funke. I like you. A lot. And I’d like us to be in a relationship, but I don’t think now is a good time. How about 100 level or 200 level in uni?” She’d have laughed in my face!” said Tayo in an exasperated tone.
“Or she might, because the feeling is mutual, actually wait for you,” I said quietly. “I mean, if this Funke is everything you’ve said she is, she too would be focused on her books just like you, and wouldn’t want to entangle herself in a relationship just yet.”
“Hmmm … I thought so too. I thought we had the same goals, until Oscar came along and spoilt everything,” said Tayo.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Remember those abstract questions I said she used to ask me? To be honest, I didn’t even know who she was referring to. She would just say something like, “Tayo, do you think people can change? I mean, people who everyone thinks they’re bad. Do you think they can change?” And of course, I foolishly answered her that it is possible for anyone to change, that everyone deserves the benefit of a doubt, and deserves a second chance. How was I to know that she was fishing for a reason to get with Oscar? Of all people, Oscar! Wo, Eni, please don’t bring home any guy named Oscar and say he’s your fiancé o! I no go gree!” said Tayo bitterly.
“Don’t worry,” I said chuckling. “No Oscar for me.”
In my heart, I wondered if Tayo had forgotten that it was my parents who needed to approve of my choice of a life partner. The approval of my older brother was very, very low on the scale.
“She didn’t tell me when they started seeing each other. It was another friend who told me, and I didn’t want to believe it ‘cos I thought Funke was too smart to fall for that guy. Until one day like that, after night prep. I went back to our class because I forgot my torchlight in my locker. Eni, I saw them. Funke and Oscar were kissing in a corner of the class. My Funke!” said Tayo, letting his head drop into his open palms, grimacing like his head was hurting.
“Ehn! What’s wrong with kissing?” I asked.
Tayo raised his head and looked at me with a puzzled expression. Clearly, I didn’t get the full picture of what he had just told me.
“Eni, it’s not the kissing that’s the problem. It’s the kisser. That guy, Oscar, he doesn’t just stop at kissing o. He … He finishes the job!” said Tayo, looking away uncomfortably.
Finally, I got what he meant. I didn’t need to attend an hour-long lecture to understand what Tayo meant by “finishing the job.”
“In that case, Tayo, I think it’s time for me to really speak my mind,” I said sitting up. “Ya ara e ni brain, you hear? Borrow yourself a brain. Get some sense. Funke, has made her choice, so move on with your life,” I said to Tayo.
For a few moments, a look of anger twisted his features. It was clear that he didn’t like what I had said, much less, the way I had said it. He looked like the truth had just slapped him across the face, with the lingering effects stinging his eyes and nose like tear gas. He kept sniffling and blinking.
I quickly rose to my feet.
But Tayo didn’t move. He just sat there looking at me. Then, he said:
“Eni, you might have a point. Isn’t this what they say about good guys? They finish last.”
I shook my head, and said:
“Yes, good guys finish last, but that’s where most people stop. They forget the other part. Good guys also finish well. It is better to finish well, than to finish first. All you need is a change of perspective. If you believe life is a sprint, then when you see those cutting corners, the unscrupulous, anything goes “bad guys,” zooming past you in their flashy sports cars, and you, the good guy, you’re riding an ordinary ketekete (donkey) observing all the rules, of course, you’ll be angry because you know the bad guys will always win. It’s a no brainer. But, if your perspective is different, if you see life as a marathon, you’ll pace yourself. You’ll stay focused on your goals, learn whatever lessons you need to learn along the way, knowing that ultimately, you will reach the finish line, principles intact. Tayo, good guys win too. The wise ones among them marry good women and raise even better children. Bad guys might make excellent actors, and even businessmen, but they make lousy husbands, and even more pathetic fathers. As for me, I vote for good guys, any day, any time.”
Tayo looked at me in amazement. “Who … Where did you hear that? You’re just 16, Eni!”
“I read it in a book,” I said smiling. “More than one, actually.”
“Well, you need to read more books like that so you can be advising your brother, ehn” said Tayo, nudging me. I giggled.
“Thanks, Eni. I’ll keep what you said in mind,” he said rising to his feet too.
“Anytime, bro,” I said still smiling.
Later that evening, as we strolled to the junction, Tokunbo and I had a conversation I will never forget.
… to be continued …
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