“…… awon to ni k’in ma para, to ni keep it cool mi….” My phone rings out of my bag, and I hurry to pick it out of my bag. By the time I get it out of the bag, it has stopped ringing. I check to see who it is; it is Bibi; my home girl from way back. I hit redial, and she picks on the fifth ring.
“Madam, na wa o.” I say as I walk into the office building “This one that you are calling us today; hope nothing?”
“Nothing” she replies, and I hear a tightness in her voice.
“Hold on a bit, please.” I say and then proceed to jog up the three flights of stairs to my office. It’s in times like this that I thank God for my height and athleticism. In no time, I am at my office door so I take a calming breath and put the phone to my ear.
“Ehn ehn, so how are you?” I ask as I close the door behind me. I take a quick look around; Lekan isn’t around, but his assistant is. I try not to smile; I have been waiting for him since he spilled coffee on my laptop. Of course, Lekan already got me another one; even if he is being very modest – like ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about modest – about it, so I’m not angry enough to mete out any serious punishment.
Since I have a lot of work this morning, as the proposal I have been working on is due tomorrow, I put Bibi on speakerphone so I can work while we talk. It’s something I do often, so when she asks me if she is on speakerphone and I reply in the affirmative; she asks me to take her off, and as I have always done I ignore her and tell her no one can hear us.
I motion for Ugly to come, but he just looks at me and rolls his eyes. I tell him to come again with my eyes this time, but he hisses and turns his chair to face the door. Bibi is saying something about surprising me, but I am not paying attention, because of Ugly’s nasty behavior so I march over to his table to give him the talk-down of his life, but Bibi’s next words stop me right there with my mouth still open.
“You are such a bitch.” She says again, so coldly I close my mouth.
“Um…. Bibi, I don’t…”
“Understand?” she finishes for me “You wouldn’t; you are that dumb.”
“Ha. Bibi, where is all this coming from?” I ask her; did I do something wrong that I don’t know about.
“Where is this coming from? Where is this coming from?! You are such a hypocrite!” She yells, and it kind of sounds like she is crying. I figure out this is too serious to take standing, so I sit in Lekan’s chair; Ugly’s presence all but forgotten.
“Bibi, please calm down and talk to me. What is wrong?” I ask her. I shouldn’t have done that.
“What is wrong is that I have syphilis, and it’s your fault. You hypocritical bastard!”
“Just shut up and let me speak. Didn’t you tell me that you’re not having sex with Iyke? You said you were a virgin right?!”
“Yes. But…” I start; I am so confused at this point
“SHUT UP. You can stop lying now, because he sure as hell didn’t give me syphilis from the skies.”
My ears start ringing as the implication of what she is saying becomes clear to me. There’s a sudden pain in my chest, and I feel like I’m running out of breath. I clutch my chest to keep it from beating so wildly, but it doesn’t stop; it just increases.
“Iyke gave you what?” I ask quietly
“You heard me you bitch. Go fix yourself up, and stop the whole good girl act.” She says and disconnects the call.
I don’t hear anything after that, but the sound of blood rushing in my ears. I don’t know that tears are coming out of my eyes until my vision gets totally blurred. Someone presses a handkerchief into my hand and I look up to see Ugly’s sympathetic face. I have forgotten that he is here. I take the handkerchief and dab at my tears, then turn so he doesn’t see my face.
“Don’t do that.” His voice stops me
“Please, leave me alone.” I say. I am not ready to be mocked so early in the day.
“I’m not here to mock you.” He says as if he can hear my thoughts “Just cry” he says, pulling my head to rest on his belly. “Cry if you need to.” He says, and I start crying because I can’t help it. I have been holding in so much for the past two months. I cry until I have no more strength, while Ugly just holds me until my shudders subside.
As I watch her cry, I feel something move inside me; I finally understand so much about her. I try to subdue the anger brewing up inside me at this Iyke guy. Lekan has told me a lot about him – of course, I had to threaten him to get such delicate information. She has stopped crying now, and is trying to hide her face, which is near impossible because said face is resting against my stomach on one side, and my hand on the other.
“Hey” I say with a softness I didn’t know I possessed, “Look at me.”
She freezes for a few seconds as if she is working up the courage to look at me, then she takes a deep breath and I can almost feel the transformation right before she suddenly looks up at me with a brilliant smile on her face.
“Oh good Lord” she says with a breathy laugh “That was really embarrassing; I’ll be going to my desk now.” She makes to leave, but I hold on to her hand and shake my head at her questioning look.
“Stop lying” I say ” You are not fine” I finish. She goes for the fake smile again, but it crumbles almost immediately.
“I’m not fine.” She confirms “You know, I thought Iyke was the love of my life. You know those people that make you think to yourself that when they are near, everything will be fine? Iyke was that person to me.” She sits on the chair in front of me and continues to talk about her ex boyfriend, and I just watch, mesmerized because I’m only just realizing how purely beautiful she is.
I try not to show surprise that she is a virgin, but I can’t help it. After a while, she is done unburdening, and she takes a deep breath and stretches out of the chair. I notice again how very buxom she is and nod in appreciation.
“Thank you, Ugly.” She says and suddenly puts her hand over her mouth. “I am so so sorry; I just registered your name as Ugly, I never thought I’d have a reason to be nice. Please, don’t take…..” The explanations are rushing out of her mouth and I have to put a finger over her lips to stop her.
“I’m not angry. Just call me Wale from now on.” I say and wait till she nods before I remove my finger.
“Thank you, Wale.” She says it so softly, like quiet piano music or the opening lines of a violin solo. I like the way she said my name; I want to hear it said like that all the time. As she walks to her table, its like she’s a different person. I watch her and I realize that I do not hate this woman, not the woman I’m seeing right now.
We use rose tinted glasses as an excuse to see what we want to see.