Warning: Contains language that could be considered offensive.
I’m laughing at Tito’s last comments, and also thinking of my strange reaction to her quiet, older sister when I walk up to the car. Sam is waiting for me beside the vehicle. Restrained annoyance is etched on his dark-skinned face.
“My guy, where you go now?” he asks in pidgin.
I get inside the car, turn on the ignition, and motion with my finger that he should get in. He’s not fully seated when I turn the AC knob clockwise. True, the car is running low on petrol, but if cool air doesn’t blow on me, like right now, I’ll combust from my own bewildering thoughts. Hot air from the vent initially blasts across my face. Sam says “Yeh!” In seconds, the air turns cool. Sam stares at me, a perplexed frown furrowing the bridge of his nose.
“Don’t ask,” I say.
From the corner of my eyes, I see him shrug. He sticks a fat envelope in the cup-holder. “Twenty grand,” he says. “For two bed spaces.”
I nod, pretending hard to concentrate on my driving.
“You’re not counting?” He sounds baffled.
“I trust you,” I reply. No, I don’t trust Sam; I’ve never trusted Sam, just as I’ve never trusted anybody when it comes to my cash. But right now, my brain is too wired up to even think about money.
“My guy, you see ghost?”Sam asks.
Something more than ghost, I reply wordlessly. Kofo, in her snug princess t-shirt- looked so girly-woman…and in all of the right places. I don’t believe I’ve ever had this kind of reaction before to any female. Who knew – looking at her from afar and dismissively labeling her as a Jambito – that I’d be struck by her witchy brown eyes covered by her glasses once I came closer? Dammit, but it’s good to be rich because then, one could look pretty like Kofo. She’s not exactly what I’d call beautiful. Yes, pretty is the word alright. But then, something tells me rich or not, Kofo is naturally pretty. To think that she’s only 18! I scratch my head with one hand.
I really shouldn’t be thinking along these lines, especially when Kofo’s mom was just as pleased to see me as I was to see her. And the woman had hugged me too, really warm and nice, like a good parent who’s happy to see her child., even though I’m not her child; even though it had taken a lot of self effort on my part not to grimace when she’d said she remembered me as a baby, confusing me for Dayo.
Chief Oyetunde’s wife hasn’t changed much though, I reflect. Still very petite, with dimples in her cheeks when she smiles, and a glowing dark skin that reminds me of that model in the Joy soap commercial. Kofo seems to have taken well after her mom. When I was a child, I used to fantasize that Mrs. Oyetunde and her husband were my parents. They were always so poised, so rich, and appeared devoted to their two girls. But of course, those were the whimsical thoughts of a child. No more. I’m a man now, a man whose only fantasy – if one can even call it that – is to make enough money so he can transition efficiently to the new life that’s calling for him in Chicago. That’s right! The US oA!
Besides, the woman has enlisted me to protect her daughter from Ife boys, and I can tell that Kofo is going to need some serious protection the moment some unassuming guy walks up to her and gets struck by her sweet-faced look. She’s an unconventional beauty, that Kofo. And her prettiness is more in her eyes…and her pert nose…and her cute lips that contrasts nicely against her skin. God! So flawlessly dark-complexioned. For one blasted second, I’d stared at her lips like an idiot when her mom did introductions.
Speaking of introductions, I snicker, remembering how Kofo squirmed when her mother introduced her to me.
We brought your younger sister, Kofo to school…Remember her? She was about eight when your mummy passed.
Yes, I do remember her, even though she’s no longer eight; even though she isn’t my younger sister.; even though she sure as hell isn’t my type…with those big, trusting eyes of hers hiding behind her glasses.
I’m the last person Mrs. Oyetunde needs to protect her daughter from the so- called yeye boys of Ife she talked about. Me and my depraved soul isn’t what any sane-thinking parent would want around their daughter., not that I have any plans to do anything about my attraction to Kofo. But a deal is a deal; I’ve promised Mrs. Oyetunde that I’ll come check on Kofo tonight, and against my better judgment, I’m going to stick to the plan.
“So my guy, how much have you saved up?” Sam cuts into my thoughts as I drive past the gates of OAU.
I shake my head ruefully, thoughts of Kofo still shadowing my mind. “Not enough,” I reply, and it’s the honest truth. How much is enough to help one relocate and settle down in the United States, a country where the cost of a semester’s tuition is more than the cost of building a house in Nigeria?
“You know, why don’t you just swallow your pride and ask your father for help?”
I can feel my pupils narrow, and I can’t help the sudden clench to my hands at Sam’s suggestion.
“Sam,” my voice is deliberately soft.
I give him my best knifelike stare. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Okay.” Sam holds up his hands in surrender. “My guy, just trying to help o. You need the money and your father can -”
I don’t let him finish. I stop the car suddenly, and hold him up by the collar. Sam looks stunned. “Don’t. Ever. Ever…” I’m bristling with so much anger and hate , it’s difficult to finish my sentence.
“Okay, okay, okay,” Sam splutters, completely taken aback by my sudden rage. “Put me down. Put me down now.”
I release him and he slumps back, quite shaken, into the worn leather seat of my ’88 Honda civic. I take a long deep breath, collect myself and resume driving.
“I won’t suggest that again,” Sam says after a long while.
You better never.
“I need to get some fuel inside this car.” I say, and just like that, I forget Sam’s errant mention of my equally errant father and settle my thoughts on a pretty girl in a pink t-shirt, staring at me with big, brown eyes.