04 July 2010

Garuba by Anengiyefa Alagoa (Part Two)

It was late. The remains of our supper had been cleared away by the silent woman who had brought the food to us some hours previously. All three of us had stayed together in Garuba's room watching videos and talking generally. I talked about life in Lagos and the south and how what I had seen of the north so far seemed very different from the south, which I was used to. They talked about how they perceived Southerners and how people from the south of the country seemed to be so much more westernised than they were. Abdulsalami in particular, was keen to show me how Westernised I was in the way that I chose to dress and the hair product that I used. But all of this was quite good-natured and amiable and there was a lot of laughter and quite a few jokes.

Garuba I was told, was an architect. I learned that he had only just the year before, completed his one year of national youth service and had a few months ago started in a job with a firm of architects established by brilliant youngish Bauchi indigene, who having been granted a scholarship by the Bauchi State government, trained in America and had recently returned. Garuba was still living at home with his parents, but he reckoned that he would move to his own place within a few months. There was a lot of talk about how much there was yet to be done in Bauchi, talk about contributing to the development of the State and Bauchi town in particular, especially in relation to municipal and city planning. Garuba seemed really enthusiastic about the work that he did in his job and about his profession. I listened attentively, although I couldn't help admiring his fine angular jawline and the way his lips moved when he spoke. This man is absolutely gorgeous, I thought to myself.

Soon came the moment when that problem of the sleeping arrangements was to be considered. Garuba was our host, but Abdulsalami it was who had invited me here. It was obvious that both of them would have shared Garuba's huge double bed had I not been here. In the room, there was also a chaise lounge suite, upholstered in expensive looking Damask leather and I did not think it was customary for Garuba to have guests sleep on it. Anyway, there was a problem of working out where each of us would sleep and as is the custom in most of Africa, the guest is always in an honoured position. So I got first choice of the bed. Abdulsalami kindly deferred to his cousin and chose to lay on the chaise lounge suite, over which Garuba carefully draped a sheet. This meant that Garuba and I would share this huge bed. And as I climbed into it, I thought to myself that this day must be one of the most eventful I had yet seen.

It was a double bed, you know, with enough room for two adult people. I mean it was quite possible for both of us to have slept comfortably in that bed without once making body contact. But from the moment Garuba entered under the covers, it appeared that body contact with me was the only thing on his mind. Probably testing the waters, the first contact was tentative, watching for my reaction. I pretended that nothing had happened, but I didn't move away either. We stayed unmoving in the same position, our bodies touching just slightly, but we were so close to each other that it was impossible to pretend to be asleep. He moved in closer, such that the whole of his body from shoulder downwards was touching mine. And still I did not move. Actually, in truth I found this quite exciting, but I didn't feel relaxed enough to respond as I should have done. Then I must have fallen asleep, because when suddenly I came to, it was because Garuba's legs were entwined with mine. It felt nice and warm and lovely, but I also noticed that he was asleep. Careful not to wake him and without dislodging his legs, I twisted my torso so that my back was to him and then moved backwards so that my back touched his chest. By then he must have been half awake because at this point he put his left arm out around my midsection. In this position, I drifted off to sleep again. It had been a tiring day after all.

In the morning I woke up to find that I was alone in the room. Shortly afterwards Abdulsalami entered to say that his uncle had sent him on an errand with the driver to a location down Tafawa Balewa Road, which he explained was in the opposite direction from the house to the NYSC building. However, Garuba had agreed to take me to the NYSC place on his way to work. This sounded fine, but it was still early and I was sure the NYSC offices would not be open for another couple of hours yet. I lingered in bed, wishing that I didn't have to go out at all this morning. But just then Garuba came in. He sat on the bed and shook my shoulder, obviously thinking that I was still asleep. Garuba said breakfast would soon arrive and that I should get dressed, as he did not wish to be late for work.

Quickly coming to my senses I made for the shower room and returned to find that Garuba was waiting for me so we could have breakfast together, which had already been laid out. I started to dress, but he didn't leave the room as he had done the previous evening and this didn't bother me either. Perhaps, having slept all night in the same bed, there was no longer ice to be broken between us. It just seemed so natural putting on my clothes in his presence. I had heard of the phrase 'sexual tension' and I wondered if that is what this was. There was a feeling, some chemical, electrical, inexplicable thing. And I was in no doubt that the feeling was mutual. It was like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that fit together perfectly. It was comfortable being in his presence.

Garuba drove me in his brand new Honda to the NYSC place. He sat in the car waiting to see that I achieved some success with locating the exact room in the NYSC building where my registration was to place. I found the desk of the person who would perform the registration, but was informed by the other person in the room that although Mrs Giwa had not arrived, she was expected within the hour. I could sit and wait, or alternatively I could go and come back. Go where?, I wondered.

I went back to the car to let Garuba know what the position was and he suggested that he should drive to his office and return in about an hour. My things were still in his room at home and we would at some point later today need to make arrangements to move them to whichever accommodation I would be provided by the NYSC after my registration.

Garuba left me and I returned into the NYSC building. I waited in Mrs Giwa's office for about half an hour when she finally turned up, heavily pregnant. I started off the conversation with her in as polite a manner as I was capable of, but for some reason, or maybe she was just having a bad day, this woman was very irritable. I told her who I was and then she asked to see my NYSC call-up letter; the letter you are given informing you of your posting. I explained that the call-up letter itself did not say that we were required to produce it when reporting for registration. I said I had seen the list on the notice board in the corridor of this building and my name was on it. She became even more irascible and uncooperative. She insisted that without the call-up letter there was nothing she could do for me and that if I didn't have the letter with me I should leave her office immediately, because she had other things to do. I was despondent. I mean, I had travelled over 1000 kilometres from home in Lagos to Bauchi, only to be told to leave this woman's office. Tears of desperation came to my eyes and I didn't know what to do.

I walked out of the building, confused, dazed and bewildered. Then I heard a familiar voice shout my name. It was Garuba. He was sitting in his car parked across the road. I rushed to meet him and as I entered the car and slammed the front passenger door I burst into tears, uncontrollably. Garuba was puzzled. Between my tears I tried to explain to him what had happened and that this meant that I would have to go all the way back to Lagos to look for that call-up letter, wherever it was. Garuba put his hand on my thigh and begged me to stop crying. He said he had told his boss that there was a small family matter he was to deal with and his boss had allowed him the day off. He asked me to look at the bright side. It meant that I would not have to go and stay in some anonymous room somewhere in town by myself. I was with him and Abdulsalami and everything would be alright. Even if I was to return to Lagos for a short while, my things would be safe in his room. I looked at this man whom I met only last night and wondered if it was right for him to be offering me so much. I wiped my tears and looked at him again, that thing in his eyes. I really like this guy, I thought. Garuba set the car in motion and entered the traffic. He wouldn't tell me where we were going even when I asked.

"Somewhere nice..." is all he said.

Then he moved his hand from the gear lever, held my hand and squeezed it. I looked at him. He was looking straight ahead at the road in front of us, but there was the hint of a smile on his lips.

We drove up the Jos Road and then turned right at the roundabout unto the Darazo Road. Bauchi was a far cry from the rowdy, noisy, unruly chaos of Lagos to which I was accustomed. It was a pleasant change, although as this was just towards the end of the rainy season and being so far inland and with it proximity to the Sahara Desert, temperatures were higher than in Lagos. But the roads were broad and traffic was light and there were not very many people about. Altogether, it was pleasant. And I was with Garuba in this car with powerful air conditioning, who surprisingly had just put on an Anita Baker tape on the car stereo. Somehow, it was not easy to find a connection between the American songstress and this Fulani man, dressed in a caftan made from the most divine white guinea brocade and tan leather sandals that revealed perfect toenails. Garuba was not tall. Indeed, I was just a little taller than he was. But he oozed masculinity.

I was lost in thought, thinking about everything that had happened since I left home in Lagos, thankful that by chance I had met Abdulsalami at the motor park in Jos yesterday when suddenly I heard Garuba's voice, but as if from afar. He was asking me if I was alright and I apologised, saying that my mind must have been elsewhere.

"I know I'm not working today, but there's something I want to show you", Garuba said in a gentle voice. "A pet project of mine on the outskirts of Bauchi. Do you mind if we drive there?"

I turned in my seat to look at him as he stared straight ahead, appearing to be concentrating on his driving.

"I'm not exactly in a position to object, am I?" I replied jokingly, watching him as he broke out into a smile, still staring at the road ahead.

We continued down the Darazo Road, which is one of the main roads leading out of Bauchi towards the north east.

"This road leads to Darazo, Potiskum and Maiduguri", Garuba informed me.

We drove past the Awalah Hotel and I marvelled at how beautiful the scene was, the building positioned as it was, nestling precariously in the shadow of a huge rock. The rocks were another feature that were in abundance here in Bauchi and the wide expanses of grassland too. After about 20 minutes of fast driving down this wide and nearly empty road, Garuba turned the car to the left into a narrow road, which one could see was relatively newly constructed. The road twisted and turned and we were surrounded by rocks and grassland on both sides and as far as the eye could see. When we had passed the Awalah Hotel a while back, Garuba had said that we were already outside the city limits. So now we were well out of town. I was curious to see where Garuba was taking us and was just about to ask him when we turned a final corner. In front of us was the imposing fa├žade of what was eventually to become a magnificent building. The road we had travelled on ran straight to this building and ended right in front of it in a clearing, with mounds of bricks stacked to one side and lifeless cement mixers, abandoned wheelbarrows and other such construction equipment littered about.

The building had clearly not been completed, but the site was completely deserted. It was silent, save for the chirping of birds. Garuba stopped the car in the clearing and we got out. It had been the plan he said, to establish an entire residential estate here, complete with shopping, cultural and recreational facilities. This building was the first structure put up, but the state government had pulled the rug out from under the project and this uncompleted structure stood as a monument to the dream that Garuba once had, his first major project in his professional career. He said he came here often when he wanted to be alone. This is such a sensitive, deep man, I thought.

We stood by the car, me leaning against it when Garuba started to speak. Garuba revealed to me that from the minute he saw me, he saw in me something that he had been searching for for a long time. He said he saw immediately that I was open and sincere and he knew when we had our first conversation that he would want to get close to me. He said he had to say all of this to me now, because he knew that I would soon have to go back to Lagos and the south. And there was no telling what would happen when I returned to Bauchi, or even whether I would return at all. He said he believed that Providence had brought me to him and that he would do everything in his power to keep me close to him. He admitted that his parents had recently put him under considerable pressure to get married and that his father had even begun arranging a bride for him. He said that his parents had substantial influence over him and that traditions in this part of the country are strong. He would have no choice but to do what was expected and marry his bride. However, he wanted to leave this as late as possible.

Hearing Garuba say these things to me, to say that I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. What on earth could have spurred this man to say such things to me? Was I not almost a complete stranger? As if he knew what I was thinking, he said he knew from when we slept in the bed last night that he could talk to me. He said if I was not happy about what he had said, I should forgive him. But he had never met anyone like me and since he thought I might soon be leaving he needed to say what was on his mind.

I was shocked! I wasn't sure if I had truly heard what Garuba had just said to me, or if I could handle what I had just heard. But here he was standing in front of me, closely gauging my reaction to what he had just told me. I was lost for words, dumbfounded. I just stared at this man whom I found so attractive and wondered at the fact that he had made himself seem so vulnerable. I could now understand why he had brought me to this deserted place. This was a matter that could only be spoken in a place like this, where it seemed as if we were the only two people on the planet. I didn't know this man well enough to give him any firm answers, but I liked him a lot and it felt uncomfortable to see him so exposed. I held out my hand to him.

Taking my hand Garuba moved himself towards me and held me. I sensed that he was relieved that I didn't rebuff or reject him. In truth, I would never have done that, because this was a man that I really liked. We just held each other for a while saying nothing. Then I tried to assure him that he had nothing to worry about and that even if I did go back to Lagos, I would be back in Bauchi within a week. In any event, I was stuck in this state for the next one year or so, so he would probably see more of me than he could deal with.

We drove back to town in complete silence, heading straight home since it was lunchtime. Somehow, Garuba's ambiance had changed and he had become noticeably more protective of me. Abdulsalami was still out and Garuba went into the main house to arrange for lunch to be brought over to us in the back house. He joined me and fussed over me in a way that I found almost uncomfortable because I wasn't used to it. But I didn't mind being doted upon as he was doing. We watched TV, we ate and before Adbulsalami returned, Garuba suggested that we go for a drive. I sensed that he possessively wanted to keep me to himself.

We drove around town for a while. This is a quiet little city where traffic jams are unknown and it felt quite cosy sitting in the car beside this very handsome man who had told me only a short while ago that he was crazy about me. It was Thursday and we both agreed that I would return to Lagos the next day, Friday, but that I would be back by Sunday or Monday at the latest.

We returned home to find Abdulsalami packing his bag. He was returning to his university in Zaria. Apparently, he had come to Bauchi to collect pocket money for school from his uncle. He had done that and now was returning to Zaria, this afternoon. I told Abdulsalami what had happened at the NYSC office, but that I intended to leave for Lagos the next morning. Mine was a much longer journey than his and I would need a whole day to complete it. Abdulsalami bade me goodbye and Garuba offered to drop him off at the motor park.

I was left alone in the room and being a bit tired I got into the bed and slept, but I do not know for how long before I was awakened by a warm body in the bed beside me. Garuba had returned from dropping off Abdulsalami and was now in bed with me. It was still light outside, so I knew it was not yet bedtime. As I turned to face him in the bed he lunged for me... (To be continued)

Garuba was written by Anengiyefa Alagoa.

Copyright © Anengiyefa Alagoa 2010.

AnengiyefaI grew up in a suburb of the city of Lagos, Nigeria in the 1970s and spent all of my childhood and formative years there. That city more than any other, is my home. I fulfilled my childhood ambition of becoming a lawyer when I was admitted to the Nigerian Bar sometime in the mid 1980s and went straight into law practice. But it was not very long before I became disillusioned with the system in Nigeria. I persevered for as long as I could, but seized the opportunity when it came to relocate to the UK in 1996. I have been living in London, UK since then and have since re qualified and been admitted to the Roll of Solicitors of England and Wales. I enjoy the challenges thrown my way in the work that I do and my profession is a big part of my life.

But then I've also discovered another love, a new found love of creative writing. In February 2009, I surrendered to a long held desire to start a weblog. In writing the blog I gradually drifted towards writing stories, episode by episode, making up the details as I went along. The stories I have written and the ones that are still at the embryonic stage in my mind are all based on real life experiences and situations, of myself personally or of others I have known. But the accounts are fictionalised.

I stumbled upon ST while on one of my web surfing expeditions. I was moved by the fact that several other African people were similarly motivated to write creatively such that I felt a compulsion to join this group of African writers. And I was pleasantly surprised when Ivor Hartmann read one of my scripts and thought it good enough for me to be admitted as a ST author. I have never had anything published previously, save for the odd contribution here and there to Nigerian and British newspapers and magazines, usually one strong opinion or the otherr. ST is the first venue at which my creative writing is published and I cannot say how pleasing this is. I know this is supposed to be an autobiography, but I was not going to let slip the chance of expressing my immense pleasure.


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