“You don’t even have a car. Abi do you want me to trek with you forever?” Amaka stormed out of my sight, “Find your class, Ebube! I don’t do broke boys. Period!”
Her words were like a bundle of broom sticks thrust into my ears and chest.
“Don’t worry bro,” Demola, my best friend, placed his palm on my shoulder, “you’ll get over this soon.”
I couldn’t resist the urge to be less manly, I threw my sad head on his shoulder. And like a crying baby, we slowly walked to my hostel.
“She called me ‘boy,’” I soliloquized, “a 23-year-old, boy.”
“It’s okay.” Demola stressed, “Maybe it’s God’s way of sending her out of your life.”
“Nooo,” I shook my head, “ God can not do that; he knows I love her to the brim.”
“Amaka why?” I was intensely bitter, “Shey na because say I neva get moni abi?”
“I go make am for this life. Before I finish my final year I go buy this moto,” I uttered out of annoyance inviting unwanted stares at me.
I scratched my eye with intense vigour until it reddened. The wandering smoke was the culprit. The night breeze was cool and crispy. The flame on the lantern seemed like it wanted to dance to suicide and so I kept a matches box nearby in case it did.
“Yes, how much own do you want?”
“Two hundred naira own o,” the man replied, “add yam too, fifty naira own.”
I stabbed the Akara (beans cake) in twos until I had stabbed the Akara-filled tray twenty times.
I looked up to him, “Yam fifty naira abi?”
He nodded. He was tall and fair. He was equipped with well-built arms.
I did the stabbing again in the yam section. I made it seven pieces instead of five. I give extra pieces to many of my customers. The newspaper I used to pack his Akara and yam was not just hot above my palm.
“Do you want stew, sir?”
“Yes, please,” he looked up from the white screen of his phone towards my direction.
In a moment, his parcel was wrapped in a black nylon.
“You can have it, sir.”
His right hand extended a one thousand naira note to me while his left collected the hot package.
I raised the one thousand naira note to the mini lantern light that illuminated the darkness of the night around me; it wasn’t counterfeit. I dumped the money into the pocket of my apron and scampered for his change. I found a five hundred naira note, then a hundred and finally a two hundred naira note. I did not see a fifty naira note to give him.
“Abeg who get fifty naira for here?” I asked the other customers who were waiting in the line. The only response I got was: “Oga do fast make I comot from here.”
“Or don’t worry, keep the change.” the tall man said.
“Ahh. Oga. Oya carry fifty naira pap make we do check and balance,” I pointed to the transparent bucket where the spherically rolled pap slept.
“Check and balance?” The Man gave a quick laugh. You sound like a Mathematics teacher. Okay… If you want to check,” he picked up one ball of pap, “I have balanced.”
He seemed nice. I’d love to sit and discuss with him but I was on a date with busyness. Besides, more customers were joining the angry queue.
“Have a nice night sir.”
“And you too!” He waved to me. His countenance was warm. He wore a pair of glasses that made him look like a student that reads 25 hours a day.
“Oga you too talk!” sell Ogi fifty naira, Akara fifty, make I comot from here.” A round woman shouted. She had tribal marks lining her dark chocolate skin. Her voice was louder than a car horn.
“Mama, Emabinu ooo,” My Igbo accent betrayed my plea in Yoruba.
“Omo Igbo le le” she murmured.
“Egba ma.” I handed her her parcel and she gave me exactly a hundred naira note. Whahala woman. She makes the loudest noise and buys the smallest number of Akara.
“Could you please sell fried potatoes to me?”
I fell in love with the voice even before raising my head to see the face. She was slender. Her unbraided hair was full and packed with a thick baby blue ribbon. I had seen her face before. She is probably in my faculty but I was certain she was not in my department. My God, she was damn cute. If I wasn’t careful, I could walk blindly into the boiling oil beside me. But I chose to maintain my focus. Business is oil, Pleasure is water; the two are immixable. I reminded myself of Demola’s speech.
“How much own…”
Should I complete my sentence with “ma” or “my dear”?
“…my customer?” I concluded.
“Just two hundred naira own,” her voice rang repeatedly in my head.
I used my eyes to count the potatoes left. It was just a few left and I was frying some fresh one already.
“It wouldn’t be enough oo. Please, could you exercise some patience? I am frying a new set.” I pleaded with a soft smile.
“Okay, no problem.” her thin voice was unique and caught my full attention. I struggled hard to remain focused. I even tried to talk myself out of my love illusion.
What if she disappoints me again like Amaka? What if she’s proud and snubs my moves? What if she…
“I have seen you somewhere,” she started to my amazement.
“Yeah, me too.” I ran to stir the potato before the lower side of it got burnt, “Are you in the faculty of Tech?”
“Yeah,” surprise stained her voice.
I started draining the potatoes out of the large oil-filled pan. The firewood beneath the coal pot crackled in a low baritone. The smoke that emanated from it was confused: let’s go north; no, steer to the east; wait, the wind says go south!
“Let me help you with that,” she said, seriousness was stamped on her face, “serve your customers.”
“I… Don’t… Can you… Please don’t burn yourself o.”
She didn’t say a word.
“Pap Elo?” I asked a little boy.
Pap, two hundred; Akara, four hundred; fried fish, hundred.
Wow, this boy’s family must be very large o...
In a moment I wrapped the parcel, handed it to him and gave him his three hundred naira change.
“Fish, two hundred; Akara, forty; yam, sixty.”
“Akara, fifty; bread, one twenty.”
“Yam 10 pieces, with stew.”
Their requests were overwhelming. I was tired.
What’s your name, my friend?
I really appreciate your help. It was really at a point I needed it most.
She blushed. “It was nothing.”
“Can I have your WhatsApp number before you go if you don’t mind?”
She called out the number and then told me she was leaving; it was getting late. I looked at the time on my phone. 9:17 pm. I would have to close for the day soon.
I got home 3 minutes before 10 pm after dropping my gallon of used groundnut oil, deep frying bowl, and other items in their respective places. I greeted my roommate and crashed into the bed. I needed to wake up by 3 am so I could read for at least 3 hours before going to class so there was no time for chitchats with my roommate, Tolu. I opened my WhatsApp and messaged her. Thanks for your kind gesture today, Jennifer. I clicked send then turned off my data and slept off.
“Yeah,” I placed the edge of the glass on my lip, “You’re in Civil engineering, too?”
“Nah. I’m in mechanical engineering.”
She took a spoon of fried rice into the gate of her mouth. The cherry-red gate of her mouth matched her slender dress. She was prettier than when I met her at first.
“You know what?” I glided my palm into each other and rubbed it softly, “let’s tell each other our stories.”
I told her about my past. I talked about Amaka, how she broke up with me, three years ago when I was in 200 level because I didn’t have a car like Don TeeDay on campus. I told Jennifer how the heartbreak motivated me to start the Akara business.
Jennifer was amazed; it was on her face.
She told me her story. She too had her ups and downs.
I loved Jennifer so much. She was not just the most beautiful creation I had ever seen, she was a woman of vision as well; we shared common goals. She often came to help me make and fry Akara when she was less busy or when she had read for the day and had a few moments to spare with me. Jennifer and I read together when we had test and exams on a few courses we had in common. The business was beginning to boom. We bought a few gas cylinders to fry what we sold, and we could afford to employ two people who worked under us — at least we had more time to work on our final year projects. I couldn’t buy the car I said I would, by five hundred level yet, but I had started an empire. And I had started building a house in the Ikorodu area of Lagos. Jennifer and I found love in each other. We wouldn’t have met if Amaka didn’t break up with me. And I wouldn’t have started a business if Amaka didn’t chastise my financial incapacity.
I am ever grateful for the sin Amaka committed. And truly, as Demola had said, it was God’s way of sending her out of my life so I could be in a location to meet Jennifer.
Ezeadum Sixtus Ebube is a 200 Level medical student at the University of Ibadan. He has a long-lasting romantic relationship with creativity and enjoys every variation she offers, most especially, in the aspect of creative writing. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org