by Tochukwu Okwuanya
“He will make a good husband; won’t he?” I questioned rhetorically for it will take a high degree of madness to question and then answer myself. However, for considering that man that was sitting in front of me as anything other than a candidate for Yaba Left, makes me a candidate for the farthest left of Yaba Left.
He was wolfing down large morsels of fufu, fufu that were almost as large as him and with every swallow, I blinked in horror, fearing for his safety. ‘Death by Fufu’ would be a very scary headline and not the kind that the society would be willing to understand now. Of course, it made more sense to believe that the desperate spinster sitting across him had laced his food or the one of the many bottles of beer he gulped with frightening speed with poison. In between large swallows that would scare a hippopotamus, he gulped the beer seemingly in liters that would throw a whale into a panic fit.
He sat behind his stomach which was sitting before him, slightly pushing the table in front of him towards me. I took the glass of water which was the only thing that belonged to me in a table that looked like one of King Nebuchadnezzar’s biblical feast. He had taken a full chicken leg, four bottles of beer and was currently eating fufu and white soup like it was going extinct. As he swallowed, his massive stomach extended, pushing the table ever so slightly towards me, to accommodate more. I wanted to ask him to stop, scared that I would have to carry that stomach out of the restaurant if he ate more than what he has already had.
The rest of his body was nearly as fat as his tummy. His legs, thighs and waist were extensive and made me worry for his tailor. The poor guy would be embarking on one of the Herculean labours whenever the elephant that was sitting before me would task him to make him a cloth. He wore very large dark blue denim that would be enough to sew at least five of the kind of trousers I wore. His face was fat too, especially his cheeks that looked as puffy as a generously baked doughnuts. His nose was large too, but it needed to be, so as to accommodate the very large, flat nostrils that looked like a double tunnel. If there are lights at the end of every tunnel, I doubted if there would be a light at the end of the tunnel that was his very large nostrils that fanned the foams off his glass of beer whenever he brought it closer to his lips. In a stark contrast to the rest of his features, his eyes were small, like reptilian slits and there were no eyebrows. Maybe, I thought cynically, that the eyebrows were what he traded in order to attain that threatening corpulence.
In between, the gulps and the swallows, he managed to squeeze in enough conversation about his three containers of goods which were confiscated harshly by the evil custom and another container that was on the high seas. He looked like a typical Nigeria ‘Big Man’ whose major identifier was physical copiousness. It would seem that a majority of them were banned from exercising or cardio. However, I knew he was an empty vessel, I was not a naïve woman or ‘JJC’ and counting the age of twenty-one as the proper age of marriageability for ladies, I would say that I have had at least twenty-three years’ experience as a single lady and would be deserving of a Doctorate degree in ‘Single-lology’. Thus, I understand men and can easily classify who is who and who is not. I even have close to scientific classification of types of Bachelors so as to enable the young, up-and-coming single women to waste less time and achieve maximum level of efficiency and effectiveness in choosing their relationships. I would soon release a book on that and would ensure that I pack it with enough ‘Self-help Speak’ and motivational balderdash like ‘performance-driven relationships, Relationship by goals and optimizing relationship targets by 110%’ because let us face it, 100% is no longer enough. In fact I have already chosen the title of the book; ‘Married in Thirty Days: A Day by Day Guide to getting married to Your Dream man.’ Well, I have not published that book because it would be an irony of catastrophic proportions if an aging, unmarried woman is offering advice on how to snare the dream man. What is worse is that I have not encountered my dream man and The Elephant in front of me was not my dream man. In fact, he was the nightmare.
The only thing positive about him and perhaps the reason I sat and listened to his drivel about owning the world and yet having nothing was the high level of confidence with which he ate the meal which he will not pay for. He ate like a king and that could only be good. Never mind that I would be paying at least N6000 for taking just a water while The Elephant ate with his right hand and drank his fourth bottle of beer with his left.
“Nwanne…Baby, atago m money, forget.” He had started another of his empty tales. I feigned interest, propping my heads on the table with my interlocked fingers. I looked into his eyes, searching desperately for anything to like about the man. Yes, it is true. It had gotten that bad. My mother would call me again at the end of the evening and give me further updates about at least ten other people that I knew who had either gotten married, have had their first or yet another kid or who are celebrating their ten years marriage anniversary. She would always end those calls assuring me that she would keep praying for me.
I wanted to quickly escape my mother’s prayer points which I had entered when I turned twenty-seven. It worried her at times that her prayers is yet to be answered.
“Okwa Dom ka m nyere Seven hundred and fifty seven taazan just three months ago” He said, gesticulating wildly with his glass of beer. Some of the golden liquid in the class spilled onto the table but he paid it no mind and continued gesticulating wildly. He spoke of how he had given another business partner N1 million naira and lost N350,000 to an unnamed scammer. Amidst his irritating garrulousness, I nodded and interjected his fictitious claims with ‘ohs’, ‘ahs’ and ‘Is that sos’. He took that as an encouragement to launch into other barrages about how he has been to Netherlands two years ago and later entered Holland last year.
I was tired of his lies but I had to wait for him to finish eating, it was only courtesy. If he was ever a husband material and ends up in my house, it would be super disappointing. It would even make much more sense if I had simply gone to a pigsty and bought a pig. However, I know Mama and she would not mind marrying me off to a troll if that would get her to wear a nice lace dress and dance around to the spite of her long list of enemies who had blocked her daughters’ destinies making it difficult for them to get married.
I was not the first person to not get married on time in my family, my elder sister got married at thirty-eight, after attending up to at least thirty-eight different churches and dating at least half as many men. The man she ended up marrying was particularly unlucky as she blackmailed him into believing that she was pregnant, whereas she was getting dangerously closer to menopause and would later adopt two kids from an orphanage and later claim that she had taken in. Her husband played along, he had become a captive to his ill luck. Her decisive lie was helped by her corpulent body and her slightly extended midriff.
I could not tell that kind of lie because I am a tall, slim woman, with a flat tummy and a career that could not accommodate a pillow-stuffed tummy. I am what the society have come to refer to as a career woman and my work with one of the leading banking institutions could hardly allow for a feigned pregnancy.
“Babay are you getting me?” His voice jarred me back to my miserable present. When he noticed that he had my attention, he went on and on about how he had two-feet container of consumer electronics in Lagos port and would need around N700,000 to clear the goods which he said was worth N8 million.
That was not the first time of seeing scammers but usually, they had taken the guise of younger, handsome men with polished grammars and fit bodies. It was symbolic of the direness of my situation that I now listen to such men as was sat before me attempt to scam me.
I would not blame them, I was an easy mark; a beautiful, single, aging woman with very deep wallets and a desperate inclination to ‘settle down.’ However, this man seated across the table from me was the dregs of the abyss. I was desperate to count my losses. I will pay for his feast and disappear. I will not take his calls ever again. In fact, I would block him immediately after this ‘date’.
I kept looking at my watch, pretending as if I was somewhere I needed to be, whereas there was nothing else to do that Saturday than to watch marathon Romantic episodes on Telemundo and Zee Cinema, admiring beautiful men and women falling in love against all odds.
“Mr. Ononiwu…” I called him even as I stood and signaled the waiter. “I am sorry something came up and I have to run.”
He made elaborate moves to feel his pockets in search of monies that could not have been there. I was quicker, because he wanted me to be, needed me to be. I fished out one of the six debit cards I carried in my purse. I did not bother to check which, I was sure that I had sufficient funds in all six. I slotted the card in the POS which the waiter extended towards me with a slight bow.
“Can I have one more bottle Babay?” I pretended that I had not heard what he said. If I spent another minute with the Big Black Pig, I was bound to throw up, I hated his guts by then. Above all, I hated how he called me ‘Babay’. I rushed away from the table, after promising to give him a call. I felt like I had just chucked N6,000 in a bin. There are beggars littered in the walkways who could do with that money.
As I stepped out of the tightly air-conditioned cold restaurant into the warm moist air of the afternoon, I rued another wasted Saturday afternoon. I have been piling them up these days like unused shoes in my wardrobe which I bought out of boredom or corpses in the 300 Spartan movie. I hurried to my car, a grey Honda Crosstour that was packed to the farthest right of the restaurant. The security man that was guarding the row of cars greeted me chirpily with a full smile that revealed his full slightly brown teeth, perhaps expecting a tip.
I reached into my purse and extended a crisp N200 note to him, I had wasted N6,000 on someone I hated, N200 for a smiling security man that had helped keep my car safe sounded even more sensible. He ran towards me and took the money with a warm smile. As I walked towards my car, he trailed me and started clearing traffic so that I could easily move out from the premises. That was value.
As I steered into the bustling traffic, a slight knock rapped my window. I wound down and saw a man clad in black suit, white shirt and red tie. His white shirt was slightly dirty at the collar and his hand cradled a big black leather-bound Bible. I looked at him with an undisguised, irritated askance.
My eyes asked “What?” but my mouth was mute.
“My sister…The Lord has a message for you.” I scoffed and started to wind up my car window. He would probably be the thousandth prophet that the Lord has spoken to about my single status. It was an easy call, a fit-looking beautiful woman leaving a restaurant alone is most-likely single. At that age, a married woman would have her husband in tow and if he escapes the man, excited young children will be spilling ice-cream or noodles all over her hair.
“My Sister, You will be Married in Thirty Days…If I be a Man of God”
The timeline sparked an interest in me. The man had just spouted unknowingly the title of my unwritten book. I took a revised look at him and noticed his greying full head of hair that was well-combed and his deep brown eyes that was surrounded by crinkles giving him the look of a wizened man in his line of work. I wanted to leave him there and drive out as the security guard was standing in front of the driveway to conduct me out of the premises but something held me; Mama will call me in the evening and this old man seemed to believe what he was saying. And he has a complimentary card. He really has been long in the business of prophecy.
He extended a blue and white themed complimentary card towards me. I took it and he said:
“The God of Consuming Fire Ministry is a God of thirty days.” He turned and left with admirable confidence. He had not spoken about tithes, offerings and seeds then, maybe he would talk about it later but right now I was curious. I have never had any reason to believe much in God. I go to church because her father made it part of her, a culture that I could not ignore without provoking some heavenly beings especially the guardian angel who according to my father was always with me even when I am in the bathroom or in the loo. Invasive certainly.
I will call him and explore his enigmatic prophecy. It certainly cannot be worse than the pig I just left with his big belly and beers.
I threw the complimentary card into my pigeon hole and then with my right hand I flicked through my Iphone 6 contacts for ‘Ononiwu’ so as to delete and blacklist him while my left hand steered the car out of the premises.
Married in thirty days? I cannot wait to find out.
Tochukwu is a writing enthusiast that loves investigating the society through the ‘leveraging of flexible channels like story-telling’. He is deeply interested on what makes man act the way he does and could often be found asking abstract but deep questions like “What really is the ‘O’ in the middle of a doughnut used for?”
He works 8-5 by day and then writes from 6pm to whenever and then in between those times, gulps down large cups of coffee.