The sun glistened on the Benue as she lay prostrate before him; white Fulani cattle quietly grazing its green banks like horned Aladuras; with only the bridge as a fetish companion. Beyond its dashing rush, there was nothing but the sleepy forms of orange clouds which started gathering at its endless tail. This city was a sacred piece of souvenir he wanted to own with her embossed on it in gold. She has become a thousand sweet things in the hives of his heart. He stood there looking out the window holding a mug filled with the taste he knew she was; sweet, spicy, and she.
Down the road, a watery spot emitted silver rays on the tar, and he remembered the fiery kiss they shared like promiscuous dragons, the fingers he ran through her oily braids, the slow sex; and the moment she whispered an alto moan and said he was simply the best. It wasn’t Tina Turner singing the blues. She felt satisfied; unlike the nights she spent staring at the ceiling under the cologned bodies of jaded men. The moans ignited themselves and melted into his bloodstream, and never sounded the way the janitor lectured him last Friday. ‘‘Every woman sounds like a perforated calabash, lemon-green, and tell the sweetest lies when a man is deep inside them,’’ the janitor said; and he went for lunch wondering how lemon-green or any colour sounds. The janitor always had something to say; he was the first to tell him two Aprils ago that the President dancedskelewuat a rally a few hours after he cried at a bomb blast site that killed more than a hundred people. He was right then but the old janitor was wrong this time. He felt how she enjoyed the warm rain that fell inside her. He saw heaven a hairbreadth distance between his chest and her breasts that pointed like tangerines in his father’s orchard – as soft as the brown sofas in the bar across the street. She was sweet and stubborn, like the searching sunrays that pierce his window curtains every morning. She was dark, deep, and different; the only picture adorning the polished walls of his heart.
She lived downtown near the jailhouse that looks like an abandoned pig farm. Every time he visited, he went with all the gifts his heart could lay hands on, groceries, minted words and enchanted poems. When she visited, she came like a daring meteor. One rainy evening when the whole house went for a neighbour’s burial in a far away village, she came wearing a white mini-skirt, the size of a bandana. The skirt was so tight he wondered how she managed to cross the gutter right in front of the compound. She was so impossibly hot, he believed if she could jump into the Benue, the waters would boil to a hundred degrees centigrade. Like a pillow, she loved lying in bed and he made sure George Benson and Roberta Flack were always behind the black speakers of his home theatre, soulfully telling her that she was the love of his life. Two scented candles had permanent spots on the reading table to stare down at them, while mischievous winds silently opened the purple curtains to watch. For once in his life, he could see. She was his sun and he needed no daylight to recognize this sunshine.
Days passed, months passed, but the feelings soared on. Every day he saw her, he felt a deep poetic spark that reminded him of the days when the little stars twinkled and people actually cared: long before mobile phones came and replaced love letters. She was the ‘figure stained with varied colours’ that the Reverend Father preached and warned against every Sunday, but he cherished her more than the light of day.
He stood there with his palms sweating; a rod protruded around his trouser zip, and the ginger tea in the mug was now cold as ice. The janitor tapped a silent knock on the office door and said, ‘‘Sir, everybody has closed since, even the Manager.’’ He suddenly came around like a long-dead man with an emptiness that was conscripted into his mind. He raised his right hand and touched the glass as if to reach out to the river and summon the mermaid to him. He looked at his wristwatch and it was a quarter past six. He had done unsolicited two-hour overtime. He hurriedly stuffed his things in his laptop bag, raced down the stairs, sharply turned the decrepit turnstiles and exited the building to catch a bus home to his fiancée, who came to spend the month with him.
On his way home, he pressed his face on the taxi window. He watched everything outside race to the opposite direction. He was possessed by a vagueness that magnified everything he saw through the tempered glass – a lady was starting a beer joint on a concrete floor that lay naked under a mango tree like a whore, a hawker was announcing his wares, a generator was roaring close to a cyber café; and a middle-aged woman was under a canopy selling instant noodles to a congregation of Okada men who parked motorcycles on the pavement like desks in an empty classroom. His throat turned as dry as paper, as he remembered how her brown-painted toenails brushed against his buttocks whenever they made love on the chaise lounge in his office.
He alighted on the street that led straight to his place and was greeted by the distinct voices of the old men in the derby pools shop across the street and the shushing of the august winds. He felt dull and spent as he opened the door. But once he saw his petite and curvaceous fiancée, her grace worked its magic. She rushed towards him and glued a wet kiss to his lips, ‘‘Honey, you are welcome,’’ she said with a fragrant grin. He smiled and hugged her.
When night came, he rolled into the bed and curled behind his fiancée. But again the thoughts of her found a way into him. Several times, he wanted to just give it all up and summon her to bed, but, she was not to be, so he pretended she lay naked beside him.
He woke up early and had his bathe. He stood in front of the mirror and made up. He opened the bedroom door and softly said, ‘‘See you later, sweetheart.’’ She grinned and squeezed the pillow she was holding. She was already missing him. He came to bed and placed a kiss on her temple. She melted.
He stood at the bus-stop fully aware that he had no courage to walk up to the girl and tell her the many things that were in his erotic imaginations. He had never touched another woman in his life since he met his fiancée. Like cremated remains in a golden urn, he would hide his feelings in the silent boxes of his mind and watch the strange girl pass him by or disappear to some meaningless adventure abroad.
He boarded the next bus to work and sat close to this old woman that smiled at him every five seconds. He gave her an insincere oblong smile and closed his eyes: his wedding was close and he had too many things to do than spend his morning exchanging smiles with strangers. Close to his bus stop, an ocean of passersby gathered at an accident scene. He came down the bus and rushed to the scene – and there she was dead on the tar with an Okada man.
Andrew Aondosoo Labe, poet and fiction writer was born on 2 May, 1986 in Gboko, Benue State and hails from Vandeikya LGA, Benue State, Nigeria. He is the Publicity Secretary of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Benue State Chapter, and Benue State Coordinator of Society of Young Nigerian Writers (SYNW). In 2010, he won the Beautiful Lines Poetry Contest (1st Position, Unrhymed Lines Category) with his poem MUTED SYMPHONY written in honour of Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo (1932-1967). In 2012, his poem SOLILOQUIES was nominated the 6th Best New Poem in the world by www.bestnewpoems.com. He blogs at http://andrewaondosoolabe.wordpress.com.