Since I resumed work today, I’ve been feeling disconnected, like I’m floating instead of walking. Kelvin smiled at me when I got in, and we shook hands in passing but I admit; it felt odd relating with him as normal. I felt like he’d stolen my girl, except that she had never been my girl.
So I kept busy. I finished all my assigned tasks earlier than normal, around 11AM, then helped a newly married colleague finish hers. The speed at which she ducked out, I didn’t have to ask where she was going. It was barely 1pm at this time. I was done for the day and for tomorrow as well. I’d left pretty early before but never this early.
Fortuitously for me, just that moment, Bunmi called me. Apparently she had made lunch for her family; all of whom seemed to be able to skip work on a Monday afternoon with no repercussions, and I was invited as well.
So I waved my colleagues goodbye and left. The drive to the address Bunmi had given me was made in under 20 minutes. I only stopped to buy her a basket of fruits because as I recalled, she was very vocal in her disapproval of people who come into your house, eat your food and drink whatever they can get their hands on and bring nothing for you. I got there early enough, perhaps too early because she almost immediately put me to work setting the table. My instructions were, I quote: “Arrange the table really good. Improve the ambiance”. Giving her the fruits earned me a thankful smile and an excited, “I can make smoothies with this! Thank you!”
The lunch was slated for 1:30pm but by 1:45pm, none of her family members had shown up. Then Patrick comes in, looking harried and flustered. Joker. He’s been sitting outside in his car, windows wound up and air conditioner presumably on, for the past 3 minutes. I caught sight of him through one of the picture windows. But here he is, giving Bunmi a kiss on the cheek while rustling fried plantains from the plate.
I smile in satisfaction when he loudly yelps and Bunmi blows him an irreverent kiss.
Then the rest of the family begins to trickle in. First, the mother. I stand up to greet her while Patrick sweeps her into his arms and begins to dance to non- existent music. I notice her stepfather outside struggling to carry a large carton and a small package simultaneously and I go to help him carry one of them. There, I meet a man I don’t recognize but judging by the way he greets Bunmi’s stepfather and takes the package from him, I suspect he’s a family member as well.
I’m inside the kitchen asking Bunmi where to put the carton when it lands on the tabletop with a thud. Ebube is here, arms around a woman who looks a little like Bunmi.
I made sure to arrive late but early enough to ensure that Patrick wouldn’t finish all the fried plantain before I got there. In a lot of previous family gatherings, where I wasn’t hosting and Bunmi was, I’d arrive first or Patrick would and we’d get all the undesirable jobs. Sweeping the house (always the house because why sweep only one room when there’s so much time to spare), “improving the ambiance” (which Bunmi was fond of ordering me to do and was hardly ever satisfied with) and pounding yam. Once, I got there late because I overslept and got stuck in traffic and I didn’t have to do anything at all. It was so pleasurable and every time Bunmi is hosting I trade in my normal time consciousness and embrace my African roots.
I hear a dull thud and I look up, completely unsurprised to see Boma. Since Kelvin’s declaration yesterday, it clicked what Bunmi had so mysteriously said about him telling me a story. Bunmi was trying her hand at matchmaking.
I smile at him, remove my hand from Amara’s shoulder, then pinch Patrick who hands me a fork with six plantains on it and I bite off three.
“Hi…. Boma!” I say, fanning my hand over my mouth. Patrick sticks out his tongue and laughs in mischievous glee.
Boma, mouth twitching, moves close to me and begins to help me fan my mouth. I give him a soft punch to his stomach before I remember that we’re not friends. Yet. So I apologize and bite off the remaining 3 plantains.
These lunches became a thing because of me. While I was wandering through the country and outside it, I’d come back for a day then fly off somewhere else. It was nomadic and completely stress free. I sometimes took on jobs but i made sure they were for a short term and whenever I volunteered, it was always short- lived or online.
Because the instability of my trips back home made me a distant face, whenever I came home, whoever i was staying with, my mom or my dad, would call the other and we’d have a family lunch. Amara was dating then and as her cake and pastry business had become a juggernaut, she hardly had time to spend with her dates, then boyfriend (now husband) so she proposed that we all be allowed to bring a friend or a boyfriend if we chose. It was accepted. I fear it is becoming mandatory. Everyone in my family really seems to want to see me married.
I pull myself out of my thoughts. Boma has been talking to me.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I said, Bunmi told me that this is a family lunch but there’s an allowance for friends or dates. I’m not sure which category you fall into. So I was asking”
“Oh! I’m the baby of the family. Well, technically not the baby but… ”
“Hello everyone!” Kelvin interrupts.
Once again, I begin to feel disconnected. The minute he bounds through the door, holding a plastic bag, I lose my good mood and the floating feeling returns.
I’m not the kind of man who steals a friend’s girl. I refuse to be. But I watch him kiss Ebube’s cheek and watch her smile and rub his beard, and I know I’ll be leaving early.
Soon, we’re seated at the table. Everyone is making such a big fuss over him, you’d think they hadn’t seen him in a year.
Then Ebube turns to smile at me, her hand draped over his chair, “I know you met yesterday but I’m not sure you were introduced. Boma, this is my childhood friend Kelvin. Kelvin, this is Boma, Bunmi’s friend”
“Will you go out with me?”
http://thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com/2016/03/17/3-1-16/ – My God does NOT forget the minutest detail. Better than the best organizer. Thank you Lord!
Last year, there was a buzz about a girl who sold groundnuts doing her homework with the help of street lights. Remember?
Well,it turns out that someone found her family and created a fundraising page for them, and for the girl’s education.
Here are the details:
Thanks for whatever you decide to do.