By Bunmi Sofola
SANDRA, a fifty something lecturer recently recounted how a chance meeting with an old flame turned a holiday that she thought would be hum—drummed into a never-to-be-forgotten adventure. Her story:
“I would never have imagined that the next time I ran into Bolaji, it would be on a plane en-route good old Britain. The last time I saw him was over 15 years ago. We’d dated briefly after he’d relentlessly come after me—with the whole works. Dinner, fancy presents and just sitting down for stretches of amusing natters. In the end, we became lovers.
I’d left my husband then and was grappling with a broken relationship. Caleb, my lover of seven years, had just put up an appearance too, after a period of wondering where he was. Simply put, life couldn’t be better. Then, one fateful day, Bolaji was having a drink in my flat when Caleb came. I was amused to see Bolaji sit up like a ramrod.
Caleb made his usual polite conversation, but it was obvious Bolaji wouldn’t be hanging around for anything more friendly and was out of my flat as soon as he decently could, telling me firmly not to bother to see him off. I wondered if Caleb knew him but he obviously didn’t as he asked if Bolaji wasn’t one of my colleagues as his face looked familiar.
I quickly agreed that he was. I didn’t hear from Bolaji for a long time. Months after Bolaji had dropped me like a hot potato, I ran into him at a filling station. It was on a Sunday and he drove himself. He’d got out of the car looking good to eat in Barmuda shots. I was angry with him, if anything, he owed me an explanation for his disappearing act and I got out of my car to confront him.
“He didn’t look guilty. He looked as if I was a total stranger he was trying to place.” ‘What happened to you?” I asked him. “How could you have disappeared without a word?” “What do you mean?” he wanted to know. “Did you think I could come to your place after running into my chairman in your house?” he asked. His chairman? It was then he explained that Caleb was the chairman of a political party’s committee of which he was a member. “He was also one of our financial supporters.”
“He went on: ‘and I was just co-opted as a member of his committee when I ran into him at your place of all places. Didn’t he recognise me? I thought he would have told you who I was. I didn’t want any trouble, so I stayed away. The way he looked at me, he was sizing-me up to see if I would be a serious adversary. I just left and that was it.” That was the last I saw of him until I saw him a few weeks ago ambling his way to his seat on the plane en-route Britain.
I’d sat with a stuffy man in a suit who’d come with a bunch of national dailies and had buried his head into one as soon as he settled in his seats Bolaji, who now looked a bit rosy-checked and well, was pleased to see me. “Travelling time flies if you’ve got a lively chatter-box to keep you company. By the time we arrived Heathrow, he’d told me his first grandchild would be christened the next day. Could I make it? What about his wife? “I had this child before I got married,” he explained.
“I’ve booked myself into a service flat.” After, exchanging phone numbers, we left. First thing the next day, he was on the phone giving me directions on how to get to the venue of the naming ceremony—and he insisted on my taking a cab. As I arrived the place, he came out to pay the cab driver. By the end of the day I was at his service flat, feeling as if we were on a first date all over again.
The friend I stayed with scarcely saw me as I was always with him closing the I5-year gap between our first relationship. I was a bit amused when he offered to come with me for a weekend with a friend that stayed outside London. He would book himself into a bed and breakfast so I needn’t worry about accommodation for him. My friend’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when she saw him.
Thank goodness her husband is not a Nigerian or he would have wondered at the number of ‘cousins’ I kept showing up with. Thanks to Bolaji, I scarcely touched the holiday allowance I had with me as he happily picked up most of my tabs. He even took my friend’s family to an expensive restaurant on our last evening. When we left for London, I simply moved in with him and by the time he left a week later, I’d had a most mind-blowing holiday. He’d discreetly asked if I was still seeing Caleb and I said yes. His eyes clouded a bit, but he shrugged.
“He made it clear he would never want to cross Caleb and I understood. Why wouldn’t I? Apart from Caleb, my hands are definitely full. Where on earth would I fix Bolaji when we got back to Lagos?
Giving him my little-girl-lost look, I told him I understood. He might be alright in no-man’s-land, Britain; but I knew as a fact that he too had a very ‘busy’ social life in Lagos. The phone never stopped ringing in the flat when I was with him and there were times he’d promised callers he would call them back. For now to him, I was a ‘matter-of-the-moment’ who needed all his attention.
By the time he left, the flat was still full of foodstuff brought in by his daughter who seemed happy to be ‘friends’ with me. I bet it was to get back at her step-mother whom she said she didn’t like. There were a few days left until he handed over the keys to the flat to its owners so I agreed to stay in the flat until his short lease ran out.
My friends were definitely happy to help me clear up the left-over grub and booze in those few days! The rest of the holiday flew past with trickles of news filtering in from time to time—news that were more interesting than the one NTA dishes out every evening. Not surprising is the fact that Nigerian parties were not as elaborate and adventurous as they once were.
Did I go to the wrong ones? Was it to do with the now over-used economic melt down? Or, more realistically, was the proverbial age catching up with all of us? As I got ready to team up with Maggie,an old Irish classmate and a few others, to visit a few ‘scenes of the crime,’ I wondered if we still had it in us to shake things up as we once did!”