53

Inside Out

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Friday, September 13, 2013, 6:05 pm

I sigh as I alight from the bus. The familiar feeling of indignation towards my parents stirs up whenever I arrive at this place- Femi Kila Street, Okota. Despite my incessant pleas and complaints, they’ve refused to permit me to live with my friend at Ikorodu. Apparently, they want to have their last child (and daughter) around them all the time before they eventually give her hand in marriage. I hate this vicinity, this street in particular. Aside from its deplorable road and the fact that the last name sounds like ‘Killer’, men seem to be crawling everywhere. Men of similar nature- unrefined and obscene.

The street is long and the last house is numbered eighty-six, which is my house. For this reason, motorcyclists are usually available at the junction of the street, and this is my saving grace from torturous walks and harassment from men. But today, none of them are in sight. I wait for about ten minutes, all to no avail. I’m not desperate enough to ask passing vehicles for a lift so I muster courage and begin to trek. I have barely taken ten steps further when the Hausa man that sells suya on the other side of the street smiles lecherously at me and says ‘Pine girl’.

I do not return his smile.

“It’s not ‘pine’, it’s ‘fine’. And for Pete’s sake, I’m not a girl, I’m twenty-three.” I scream at him…in my head.

I walk faster, pretending not to hear the catcalls and shouts of ‘hey, baby’ coming from every corner of the street. It occurs to me to plug in my earphones and listen to music but as I reach into my hand-bag, I remember that I left my earphones with Linda, my boss’s secretary.

‘Great’, I groan and continue trekking.

Halfway down my street, there’s a large football field. But it’s not just sports they play there, street carnivals and competitions are held and it’s also a suitable spot for smoking marijuana and all. Opposite the field, there is a beer joint. Men usually gather there to discuss sports, women and politics over bottles of beer. That’s where the vultures gather, that’s the real danger zone for me. I increase my pace and stare at the ground as I walk past. I can hear their smutty jokes and raucous laughter. One of the boys sitting on the fence that surrounds the field begins to sing the chorus of Iyanya’s Sexy Mama as I pass by.

“Bebe, dis ya gown is sexy o! I am sure the body beneath it is sexy too.”

I cringe, I don’t have to look sideways to realise that that’s an Ibo man. Their noise subsides, and I can feel a hundred eyes boring into me─ this is the part where I mention that I have a huge backside. A couple of them whistle softly.

I swear under my breath. They’ll do this to your sisters, every one of you.

I heave a huge sigh of relief as I get past the field. I’ve crossed the major hurdle and I can see the finishing line now.

Then I hear a new voice behind me. It sounds different─ refined and tender, unlike the usual gruff ones.

“Hey.”

I do not look back or respond.

“Hey, it’s okay. I’m not trying to make advances towards you or anything. I have a girlfriend.”

He’s different. The guys in this street usually say: “I’m not trying to toast you.”

I still refuse to look back. It’s a ploy to get my attention, and I’m not going to fall for it.

He sighed dramatically, and then dropped the bomb. “Your dress… you wore it inside out.”

Oh God No! Not again!

It had happened before. The first day I wore the gown, I was going on a date and I’d worn it inside out (It’s really hard to differentiate). Fortunately, my keen-eyed mother noticed it before I left the house. I’d successfully worn it thrice after that, so I thought I had figured out the difference. Apparently not.

I swear again and try to keep a stiff upper lip. I’m down on my luck today. Friday the 13th doesn’t seem like a hoax anymore.

The man has caught up to me, and I’m too embarrassed to look at his face.

“Your colleagues at the office were too busy working to notice. I was too busy checking you out, so I noticed.”

I laugh, in spite of myself, and look at him impulsively. My eyes nearly pop out of their sockets. So something good can come out of this street…

He’s wearing a black body-hugging T-shirt on jeans. He’s tall, dark and handsome, wIth a killer smile. Cliché. Mind you, I like clichés.

He feigns a look of surprise. “Wow, you actually laughed. I guess that Iron Lady look you’re wearing is false then.”

I mentally slap myself for laughing.

“May I walk you home?”

He’s different. The guys in this street usually say “Can I walk you home?” Some don’t even ask, they just walk beside me and engage in one-sided conversations.

“Sure”. I smiled.

6:25 p.m.

Jermaine and I just parted ways. Such an unusual name for a Nigerian. Jermaine.

I enjoyed the brief conversation we had. He’s funny. I’m quite disappointed though. He didn’t ask for my number.

I walk into my room, step out of my flats, toss my hand-bag on the bed and begin to undress, only to discover that I’m actually wearing my dress the right way. I recall that I didn’t verify his claim when he’d said I wore my gown the wrong way.

I remember the teasing glint in his eyes when we stopped at my gate and he said: “Tola, please always take your time when you’re dressing, okay? Doesn’t mean you should get to work late though.”

I start laughing like a fool. I can’t believe I fell for such a trick.

He’s different. He’s clever.

I like him. I hope I bump into him some other day.