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Marry Me

You knew this guy very well; long before he had that hairstyle that made him look like a dinosaur. He must have been inspired by Phyno’s look in that music video you loved so much, and he was playing that song the very first time you noticed him nodding melodramatically under a tree in the parking lot of Jojein Hotels.

You noticed the white Benz first; you were drawn to its beauty from a distance; and then the sound of music as you got closer. It was a new car, it was clean, you would have easily loved any man who would give you its key as a birthday present, the way those Nollywood hunks give car keys to their lovers like Sachet water in their films.

You knew how to catch these fishes, even though you had times when you’d just swallowed your pride to chase a fish like desperate single ladies in their late thirties. The most important thing is for the fish to get the bait, isn’t it?

That day as you walked on in stilettoes, your sequined black skirt plastered to your body like a second skin, as you walked past the car as if the car and whoever was in it meant nothing to you, he came down from the car to greet you, to make you turn around; his teeth shiny white, and his shaved head reflecting light from the sun.

You responded in that formally courteous manner of air hostesses; he had to know he was special, but not the only special one. You walked away without looking back, without giving him the opportunity to say more than the greeting. It takes patience to catch these fishes.

You knew him before he joined Pastor Onyeachonam’s church, when he was still a regular at the riverside bar at Alagbaka; you knew him when he was still dating the tall muscular girl who left him to marry a Sunshine Star player; you knew him when he was still sitting at the back in church – now he sits right behind the ministers in the second row, and you’d wonder what’s changed?

Two Sundays ago your eyes followed his eyes when it followed the perfect roundness of an usher’s backside as she went forward with the offering basket. You concluded that this guy is still in the game, so after the service you positioned yourself in his way and he greeted you, happy and surprised that you attend this church. He wanted to know your name. Yomi. What about yours? Femi, he said with a wink.

Femi: Love me, marry me.

You wondered if it was really his name, or just an invitation; for the wink says it could be the latter.

Last Sunday you came to church with just two hundred naira – two hundred-naira notes – a hundred for offering, a hundred for an Okada from the mall to your flat. You were sure one of the nice brothers with cars – possibly brother Femi – would get you through the longer stretch of the road that would have cost two hundred naira. You were so broke, you could not even pay attention when the pastor started this interesting story about a man who sowed his son’s school fees to his church and got a contract worth a billion naira a few days later.

Then the pastor said the next Sunday would be Afro Sunday, members were to come to church with their native outfits, according to the tribes; no suits, no western outfits, except of course if you were Western. It would be a day of crazy worship. That was what he called it. Crazy worship.

After the service, this guy came to you with his dinosaur-like hairstyle and you baited him with your pouty smile, with your tender touch; he baited you with the smell of his perfume, with the potentials of money.

“I don’t have any traditional outfits. Can you imagine?”

You had like a dozen this year alone, from the weddings you’ve gone to with your ladies. You were a smooth operator in these places, you would do what only men seem capable of doing. You would smile to the bank with your ladies, you had a lot to buy because you had a some things to sell.

“I have one or two.” You lied. “I’m not really into traditional outfits but I’ll have to make do with what I have.”

“Where exactly do you stay?” he asked casually.

“I don’t like telling people where I stay.” You knew the kind; the mild resistance would not turn him off.

“Oh, sorry. It’s just that I want to stop at the mall, to get material for a new outfit—”

You interrupted him. “For Sunday?”

“Yes. So if you don’t mind if I delay you for a few minutes. I can still drop you at Alagbaka roundabout.”

You said you didn’t mind. He was indeed very decisive, he went into the shop and got a suitable material in less than a minute, he paid in less than a minute; his choice was something you could buy for yourself. The guy got taste.

You were soon back in the air conditioned car.

The golden idea came to you on Monday morning, while you were in the shower wondering when the man who brought you to this town would fulfil his promise. You were wondering whether he was indeed a contractor, if he could give you the 300k as he promised, if the house you were staying in was really his own. You had seen some documents in his briefcases and in some files, you had visited him at work in some sites in Uyo and Yenegoa, so you assured yourself he was truly lobbying the government to pay for the projects he had worked on in the Akure axis.

It was the kind of satanic idea that would typically come to you after you’ve been on some high grade shit but you’ve not had that thing for about a month now. You laughed at the silliness. The idea bounced back, you said hell no. You had your ways; this was just strange. Would it even work?

Then you thought about it.

Afro Sunday would be your last Sunday in town. No one in Onyeachonam’s church knew the details of your life, you were just one of the overdressed pretty faces that would say “whoa! glory!” anytime the pastor thrills with his rhymes.

You didn’t even stand up on your first Sunday when the first-time worshippers were asked to stand up so that their names and faces could be noted and recorded.

The silly idea got you thinking even when you stood in front of the mirror to admire yourself in the red corset you’d bought for the viewing pleasure of the fine gentleman who has just be paid and would soon bless you with a portion of it. It was just the kind of silly idea that could work.

On afro Sunday you waited in the parking lot, behind a tree, eyes on your phone even though the phone battery had been long dead. You were really tired of the town, so you would love to drive to Benin.

Eyes would follow you when you walk in – for your beauty, for your height – but you were not the only one. Many tried so hard, many more tried too hard, some were just simply colourful.

When Femi drove in you walked to him – a brisk walk – as soon as his car stopped. When he opened the door he got wide-eyed.

“Wow, you look stunning.”

“Thank you. You look super yourself.”

“What a surprise. Did you get this…I mean, at the same place?”

“No,” you lied, “I’ve had it for about a year now. When you bought yours last Sunday I just didn’t want to tell you. It’s a nice material.”

“Wow.” He said again, he placed his hand on your waist as you approached the entrance; it would not be reasonable to argue that you were not husband and wife.

You waited for the right time. When everyone got their hands up, eyes on the ceiling, tears in some eyes, some of their knees, singing Onise Iyanu; that was when you took the key of the Benz, that was when you walked out, maybe someone would think you were on your way to the ladies or to your husband’s car.

Later in the evening, as you sipped Red Label, promising it would be your last sip for your kidney’s sake, you imagined Femi, hands on his head, lips pursed, eyes red; you imagined some impotently sympathetic church members and their likely suggestions.

That was the idea.

Screenwriter, Songwriter, Author, Actor