“Women can be extraordinary creatures,” he mused. “And an extraordinary pain!” Dad tapped his phone after taking another bite of his chicken. “Don’t you have a bus to catch?”
“Uh, yeah. Thanks, Dad. Just gonna grab some water first.”
“Hurry up, son.”
I wolfed down the rest of my breakfast and downed it with a gulp of juice, backing out of my chair and grabbing my waiting bag. I found Jumoke in the kitchen washing up by the sink with yellow latex gloves. As I went towards her, I heard the trundle of the school van as it idled outside our gate, waiting for me. Not much time. I stopped next to Jumoke and whispered in her ear, a hand on her back.
“Jumoke, listen — don’t let my mom talk to you alone today, whatever you do, okay? Wait until my dad is back. Go out and shop or something. It’s just like we talked. They know but they don’t know about us.” She looked terrified but nodded, sniffling but holding it in. The van honked obnoxiously outside.
“Ah shit.” I bent down to press my forehead against hers, stealing a quick kiss. “It’s gonna be OK,” I lied comfortingly. “Trust me.”
I tore away from her as our maid watched me in helpless silence with her back to the sink, water running. I opened the fridge, grabbed a bottle of water, and slammed the door loudly before I rushed out to catch the bus.
This was the day it might all blow up in my fucking face. Or the day we were given the time we needed to somehow make this crazy love all work out.
To say I was a nervous wreck at school was the understatement of the century. Couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t function except to steer myself on autopilot through the motions of each class and cocurricular obligation. I lived in the liquid crystal display of the Casio around my wrist, counting down the hours, minutes, and sometimes seconds until 3:00 pm.
I mean, that had been me most days anyway, trying to keep my head down and survive the meat grinder of an elite international school — if the dog-eat-dog academics didn’t crush the soul out of your body, the social games sure as hell would.
To be honest with myself though, it had actually been getting better over the past few months. More bearable. Survivable, even, just like the rest of my life trapped in here. I had this easy confidence about me that I never had before, and people noticed.
I had been getting more assertive; and making more friends. I wasn’t some social reject anymore. The pressures that had been suffocating me just didn’t seem to matter as much. Even classes were pretty manageable after I started trying again.
Of course, it was all because of Jumoke. Not because she told me to care beyond that gentle nagging to do my schoolwork and study harder, but because she had filled an awful, empty need in my life. Showed me I wasn’t some fucking loser kid.
All I could think about was her. Not being there, not being in control of the situation, was eating me up inside. I mean, she was my first love.
I was sitting in the concrete shade of the open-air cafeteria during break time with the usual crew of kids that I hung out with; a motley assortment of semi-jocks and low-achievers. They might not have looked it, but all of them had powerful fathers. There were those who bragged about it, like pimply, mouthy Hassan trying to rock his Chino shorts, sneakers, and Panther blazer — his dad was the general manager of Access Bank.
And there were the ones who didn’t, like laid-back Olumide with the gallon of hair gel he used every morning. Ebuka, this big friendly kid on the football team whose father was the then chief judge of the state. There were others in politics and oil and gas.
And then there was Precious. His dad was a teacher who taught biology class. But that didn’t matter, because Precious was funny as hell. And he was one of us.
“…Yo, check it, it’s like this,” Olumide was saying, gesturing empathically. “Holy trinity of Afro Beats. Fela is God, Wizkid is Jesus, and Davido is the Holy Ghost…”
“No no no, you are forgetting Burna Boy,” Ebuka butted in with his deep baritone and sonorous Nigerian accent. “And Kiss Daniel. At least Burna Boy is the Devil…”
“…So, Rema’s, like, Moses?” Precious wondered aloud.
While my friends argued biblical afro-beat bullshit, the slowly scrolling pixel boxes of my snake wound their way across the dull screen of my Nokia as I attempted to keep it from going ouroboros on itself.
Blip. Blip. Blip.
The conversation ebbed and flowed around me as I tried not to get too deeply into my head. I was unbelievably tense.
“…Oh shiiiiiit, is that Funmi Akinlade?” Hassan leered out of the side of his mouth and everyone fell silent. “Hey Chizzy. HEY DUM-DUM, she’s waving at you!”
I looked up from the tangled 8-bit coils of my phone and saw the former object of my affection seated with her friends a few tables away. It was like Funmi was straight out of one of my old fantasies — wearing this short-sleeve blouse with a white cardigan tied around her cinched waist. Dark skirt and a pair of sandals.
Long, smooth legs. She wasn’t nearly as well-endowed as Jumoke, but Funmi was seriously model-gorgeous in our campus world. Both of them had killer bodies — Funmi was much more on the athletic side, being a swimmer and a dancer.
The difference between them was obvious though; Funmi Akinlade was the highest caste of them all. Rich, popular, and highly intelligent. She had this aura about her that screamed she always got what she wanted like she knew she was smoking hot and how to use it. Definitely the kind of girl my mother would approve of.
Hell yeah, the bitch was fine. Smokey eyes framed in mascara, long hair, and a beautiful, angular face. And she was staring straight at me with this friendly, slightly flirty smirk. Beckoning me over.
I knew that look. Obvious entreaty. Probably wanted to do a study group with me or something after school. Make out. Make me her latest boy toy. Or just straight-up humiliate me in front of her friends. Who knew?
I just wasn’t interested in playing Funmi’s games and initiating whatever adolescent mating ritual she had in mind. If I wanted pussy, I would just go sniffing for Jumoke back home. I only wanted her. She was a real woman. I gave Funmi a curt, expressionless wave and lowered my gaze back to the little screen. Blip. Blip. Blip.
My friends started talking shit almost immediately.
“…Did you…did you just blow Funmi Akinlade off?” Precious gaped. “Funmi Akinlade, one of the hottest fucking girls in school? You do realize she actually wanted to talk to you, right? In public.”
“He is gay,” Ebuka said sagely. “A man who rejects a goddess can only be gay.”
“I mean, that doesn’t make any sense, c’mon Ebuka,” Olumide urged. “Just go over there, you can still –”
“Naaw, it makes perfect sense,” Hassan sneered from my left, clearly jealous. “Chizzy is not gay. He just doesn’t like rich girls, isn’t that right? He likes the poor church rat, remember?”
I saw red and just reacted. I dropped my phone, turned, wrapped my strong hands around his skinny neck, and squeezed with all my pent-up rage.
“Glggghhkkkk..kkkk…” Hassan gurgled as I strangled him. His face turned pale as his eyes started to pop out of his head. For a good while the others just looked on in horror as Hassan struggled weakly against me, gasping for air with his tongue grotesquely sticking out.
But as his eyes glazed over and he stopped moving, my other friends were pulling me back, barking at each other. Hassan slumped in his chair motionless when I let go, snot smeared from his nose across his drooling mouth. It didn’t look like he was breathing.
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