Today will not go well
You will look into his eyes at a party and you will see your future. He will say Hafa, and you will say nothing, standing there and staring at him like a mumu. He will laugh, the confident laugh of someone that has seen many mumus in his life. Something about the laugh, as easy and cheerful as it will be, will make you frown, and he will say, "Ah, fine girl, why are you frowning your face nau?" You will not say anything but you will not move either. Someone unfortunate will call your name and make you turn your head, searching for the terrible phlegm-filled voice, and when you turn your head again, he will disappear. You will turn your head, around and around, with a deep sense of loss that is entirely unreasonable.
He will introduce himself as Kosisochukwu few hours later, his right hand with enough juicy veins that can make a vampire break her No Human Blood policy stretched out, and ask what yours is. You will not answer. Instead, you will start smiling, then laughing. You will not tell him what your name is. You will not remember what your name is.
"Are you sure?" You will ask, slowly and too late, and know it's a stupid question only after you see the look on his face, by the way his black eyes narrow, creating an unusual proximity between his eyebrows.
"Of course," he will say and smile a smile so wide you will get lost in it. And you will not get out.
You will meet him today.
Today will not go well. You know this already, the certainty filling your head like anesthesia, completely blocking out any doubt. You woke up this morning with this itching on your palm, like someone slapped the peelings of water yam across it. You spray yourself across the bed, smelling jollof rice and something else that makes your mouth water. Three thoughts enter your head, slowly and disorderly. There is the thought of your mother who has gone from subtle questions (is there anybody?) to not-so-subtle questions (when will you introduce your husband to us?). There is Obinna, Obi Malaysia, your rich, almost new, americanah boyfriend who may or may not be a yahoo boy (who you are sure is a yahoo boy, never mind the website designer and part-time influencer story). Then there is the tiny voice in your head that you blame for all the bad decisions you've ever made: fucking that DJ who pronounced your name as Chee-oma and gave you syphilis and toe-curling orgasms, investing your entire savings in that money doubling scheme that turned out to be a fraud.
Your new IPHONE 13 that is more expensive than your school fees and house rent put together vibrates before the screen lights up and Obinna with a heart emoji is calling you. You allow it to ring for a while, hoping the itching on your palm will stop. It does not.
"Hello." A little harsh. "Hellow," yes, more romantic. "Helloww," you say again, dragging the second syllable a little further. You need to sound grateful for the hundred thousand naira he gave you the last time you met (mate).
"Mah love, imma take you round the fucking world. Imma take you to America and Europe and Canada." You're silent, ".....mah fucking queen, mah bae-bee." No 'Good morning,' no 'How are you.' No nothing. You are not sure how to respond to his excuses for a greeting, whether to say a modest thank you or shout an overstretched 'Oh my god', the voice Nneka uses for her boyfriend. You end up not saying anything. "Mah African queen, imma spoil you so much you gonna beg me to stop. Dress up sexy for me, imma take you out."
You wonder, listening to his sweet voice, if you noticed his annoying, fake accent the first time you met him at Nneka's birthday/pool party hosted by her boyfriend (who, she mentions every chance she gets, is going to propose any day now), if his voice ran straight to your brain and poked all the nerves that keep you sane and cheerful, forcing a rush of irritation up from your stomach, clogging your chest and airway and mouth, leaving a trail of bile along. You doubt it. His clothes looked too expensive, Fendi written boldly on places that should just be plain. The money he gave you that day for "just to appreciate your beauty" too heavy on your palm, the weight of it blocking any useful thought process. You refused to notice his intentional, nasal accent, the way he pronounced Igbo words with a cautious delay, tasting them in his mouth to check their palatability before saying them as if he wasn't sure the words couldn't maim the artificial exoticization of his tongue in some way. The only time Obinna sounds like his true self is during sex. He grunts, moans like an Igbo man, nwa afọ, a true Ngwa man. When he's about to come he slips his hand under you and push your hips into him, pelvis crushing pelvis - Chioma abiawalam, Chioma abiawalam. In those moments, when he is calling your name in the language that can be traced back to his ancestors, when he pronounces your name the way that would make Cynthia, the girl from downstairs, call him a bushman, you're most attracted to him. And later, when you stare at his naked, snoring body beside you, chest hairs glistening from sweat, you see your future husband in him. But he would wake up and say, "Yo babe, dah was fire," and you would want to punch him.
"Okay," you say. The itching starts spreading to your neck and shoulders and back.
Your stomach rumbles as you stand up from your bed. Nneka rushes in, smelling like curry and thyme, and you want to hug her, smell her up. Her eyes search the room. She asks, "you sabi where that new, fancy ceramic plate dey? I don find am tire. My babe is coming. I am cooking for my fiancee." Unconsciously, you roll your eyes (well done o, madam cook) at the authoritative way she said fiancee, and you stop yourself from asking when he proposed to her.
"I no know. Find am nah."
"Ah. Are you sure? What is all these nau?" You roll your eyes again, intentionally this time, so hard your eyeballs hurt a little. "My babe doesn't like to eat with anyhow plate." You almost burst out laughing, because you have seen 'my babe' and he would eat with a plastic plate, deserves to eat with a plastic plate.
Nneka walks out of the room looking genuinely worried and you are not sure if she has nothing better to worry about now that exams are over or she is faking seriousness or she is that desperate for 'my babe' to propose and thinks serving food on gold plates will convince him of her wife-worthiness. You consider this for a moment, at your own worthiness, how many yards of wife material you are. You laugh inside, wondering if men wake up and worry if they measured up to an invisible standard, how many yards of husband material they amount to. Nneka enters the room, again, her lips pursed tight, the way Jackie Appiah did in that movie where she misplaced one of her earrings and was running late because of it. You wonder if she has seen that movie and is trying to replay that scene.
"I did not see the plate o. Chineke nna, what will I do now?" You dislike her intrusion but like the curry and thyme scent that comes with her, and cannot decide between punching her and hugging her. "Chi, you know whether that babe downstairs that owns a big television has any fancy plate? Can you help me ask her? We no too dey talk, you know na, she is always looking at you to greet her because she has AC and microwave and everything." You stare at her for seconds, and before you can tell her that just because you haven't paid your part of the rent and owe her one thousand naira from yesterday doesn't mean she can send you on stupid errands like a common housegirl, and what's with her and fancy plate, is not like her boyfriend that cannot pronounce words properly cares about plates and cutleries, and who told her that her boyfriend who chases after every girl with big bumbum is planning to marry her, your phone rings. You answer it immediately.
"Hmm, Ada m, how is everything going?" Your mother says from the other end of the line. Her voice sounds like she is suffering from a bad cough (or is it catarrh?) and you are relieved that she will not say much, then a slash of guilt splices down your back, and for a moment the itching stops.
"Hello. Mma, everything is fine."
"You are saying that you're okay? Eh Chioma?" And what is unsaid is: How can you be okay when no serious man is interested in you? The itching starts again, more intense, and spreads to the area between your legs. You want to scratch your folds out. You reach down, settling for pats instead, sweet pain urging you on. She is still saying something when you hang up the phone. You feel bad about hanging up the phone when she is still talking and consider calling her back to tell her about Obinna, to give her a bone to hold onto, but you stop yourself. You know your mother, at first, she will be pacified, but only for a moment, then she will start digging deeper, initially with blunt nails and later with razor-sharpened nails, and you are not sure she will like what she'll find, not sure you will like what she'll find. There is something about him, Obinna with the cute smile and mystery money, unsteady and ephemeral, something that makes you insist he wears a condom during sex, to reach down and confirm before you can relax. Something that sits in your lower abdomen each time he says I love you. Something that makes you take from him, in an almost frenzy, to take and take. From the beginning you felt an impending end - he says I wanna spend today with you, and you ask, silently, only today? It is the way he pronounces words; you've never seen a happily married man pronounce words like that, only Malaysia boys that fly in and out of Nigeria, changing girls and cars as they move. You notice Nneka leave the room and you wonder how long she has been standing there.
Nothing good can come from a gathering of bored, drunk adults who have nothing
better to do and are looking for easy sex. The party is horrible. It is the kind of party that makes you hate parties, where humans become animals, hips thrusting forward and protruded asses pressing against pelvises. And on top of all these displays of hormones, there is horrible music and deafening noises. You came with Nneka but she abandoned you to dance with her 'fiancee.' You sip your Smirnoff, slowly, grateful the old man at the end of the bar thought a bottle will make you more corporative, more willing to go back to his hotel room with him. You take a large gulp, hold it in your mouth, gurgle it, push it this side and that side, then swallow it. You notice him first, sitting alone, not uncomfortable in the way someone sitting alone usually is.
Actually, you notice his hair, a thick afro that you immediately want to touch, to grab,
to run your hand through in slow, delicate motion. He has a black jacket on over a green polo, and you think, the only reason he is wearing a green jacket, your favorite color, is because he wants you to grab him by his jacket and kiss him, deep and full on the lips. You consider doing exactly that and think maybe this isn't your first bottle. You watch him as he sips his maltina (this is what you find the most attractive; a grown man that can shamelessly drink maltina at a party), sitting away from the madness that is the party. You know you should look away when his head starts to turn, but you don't. He catches you staring and smile. The confidence in his smile makes you want to take something from him: his smooth face, the glitter in his eyes, his effortless swag. You look away. He starts walking towards you, and despite yourself, despite your desperate effort not to smile by conjuring the image of De Nnachi nauseating breath on your neck as his incestuous hand tried to pry your teenage thighs open, you can feel the ache in your mandibles and you know you are smiling your nervous smile. You casually place your hand on your jaw, trying to manually stop the smile, and tap your chin.
"Hafa," a voice designed to soothe says. There is a drawl in it, like he is teasing the listener. You say nothing because you just realize that hafa sounds a lot like gamma the way he said it, and it makes you smile. He says something else you don't hear. You're not listening to him. You watch how his lips move, how dark and purple they are. And chewy. You wonder if they are as firm as a slice of beef or as soft as bread.
He says something that makes you laugh, too loud. The music and your voice prevents you from hearing your phone ring. You pick it on the third ring. You're still laughing when you say, Hello, and when Obinna says, Hah mah baby doing, you pity him. He is saying something about Dubai in too elaborate details, details the president of Dubai probably doesn't know, and Kosisochukwu is beside you, sipping his maltina and bobbing his head to Simi's Smile for me. The party sounds good. The noise sounds good. "Obinna," you call him in the tone a mother uses when she wants to be taken seriously by her children, "I think you should start speaking properly. You sound like an idiot." He doesn't say anything, and you wait, watching Kosisochukwu scratch his eyebrows. A strand of hair starts to fall and you have this urge to reach out and catch it, make a wish and blow it into the night. His head moved to the side, so slightly you wouldn't have noticed if you weren't trying to take as much of him as you can in. You follow his gaze and meet a blushing girl and a large cleavage, plump and all-in-your-face. You hear a final beep and you know it's over.