Living two separate lives is not always by choice or design, sometimes it just happens.
A few years ago I was a secondary school graduate looking for admission into University. I was different then. I was young and naïve. Today I’m an undergraduate paying her way through school. I have changed.
But the person I was still exists in the minds of those who knew me then, kept alive by an endless string of lies and pretence. She lives still, and every so often, I have to be her again. Meeting up with Johnny is one of such times.
When he called, he told me he just landed in Lagos in a friend’s private jet. He swore that after his experience in the private jet he was determined to be rich, even it takes stealing.
From where I stand, Johnny is rich. He owns his own successful business, he owns his own houses in Abuja and in Lagos, and he owns his own cars. For me, he was the richest friend I had. Come to think of it, the only rich friend I have. The dozens of rich men I have known over a night or two don’t count.
He told me to meet him at his Hotel. By that he meant Eko Hotel where he normally stays when he’s only in town for a few days. Again, how rich are you if you can stay in an expensive hotel when you have a beautiful duplex in Ikoyi complete with permanent cook and gateman?
I got ready and told the girls not to expect me.
“Ashewo, e don answer for you?” Mama asked me.
“Don’t ever call me that,” I told her.
She gave me a look like ‘Isn’t it play?’ but I wasn’t joking. I asked her to lend me some money - I wasn’t taking Okada to Eko Hotel, but I continued squeezing my face for her.
“This one that you’re doing till-day-break, you must bring something for me o,” she said as she searched her bag for cash.
That was it.
“Forget it.” I told her. I turned to Kike instead. “Abeg, give me two k, I go return am tomorrow.”
Both of them looked at me, baffled, Mama especially. The girl adores me and I knew I’d been unfair to her lashing out like that. But the thing is I was still struggling with this Ashewo label.
I could not explain myself and I did not want to apologise, so I left for Eko Hotel long before the 11pm Jonny told me to meet him there.
In the red cab I found myself going over those words that had so destabilized me: “I didn’t know you were an ashewo like that.” I was close, but not quite there yet, to determining what kind of ashewo I was. I am what I am, at the end of the day, but not tonight. Tonight, I was seeing Johnny, Johnny who had never been inappropriate with me. Johnny, who had never tried to sleep with me, Johnny who had once spoken to my mum on the phone and told her that ‘Mummy, don’t worry about my sister. I’m looking after her here.’
The cab dropped me right in front of the entrance to Eko Hotel which was busy at 10pm. Johnny had a favourite suite, 311. I still remember the day he thought me that hotel room numbers normally start with the floor number.
I decided to wait for him by the pool and buy a bottle of coke as I did. That should keep the nosy staff at bay.
I had just settled into a chair in a dark corner when my phone rang and I hoped it would be Johnny calling to tell me he was close to the hotel. As I reached into my hand bag that was also doubling as an overnight bag, I caught sight of someone walking down the steps to the poolside.
I forgot about the ringing phone and concentrated on the tall man in white shirt and blue jeans. It couldn’t be. But, could it?
I watched him walk to the bar where he stopped to chat with the bartenders. They appeared pleased to see him. He brought out some money from his pocket and shared it amongst them, buying himself salutes from the male staff behind the bar. He didn’t buy anything. He left the bar and walked his casual walk to a table with two girls already sitting and sipping Maltina. He sat down and started talking to one of the girls. They appeared to all know each other.
I still couldn’t be sure. I wanted to get a closer look but just then as I was planning to get up and walk past their table I realised how fast my heart was beating. I was afraid of him. But why?
My phone started ringing again and this time I answered the call. It was Johnny and he wanted me to go to Marocaine and order two Shawarma for him, one beef and one chicken. He told me to get whatever I wanted for myself. He was about thirty minutes from the Island and he was missing his favourite Lagos Shawarma.
I wanted to tell him that I couldn’t leave right then, but to do so would have been to have to explain myself. I told him I was on my way and he promised to meet me there in less than thirty minutes, give or take.
I got up to go and remembered that I hadn’t touched the Coke. Not that I was thirsty, but I had paid through the nose for it so I picked up the glass and downed as much as I could, even as I contemplated what to do next.
The man was still there with the two girls. If it was him, if it was that bastard London boy who scared the shit out of me and Mama and duped us thoroughly in the process, I couldn’t just walk away. But what could I do? And why was I afraid?
I had reached the steps when it occurred to me that he might be planning to do the exact same thing he did to Mama and I with the two girls at the table with him. Fear gave way to disgust. I couldn’t let him get away with it a second time. I turned round and walked right up to him.