The almost three years political euphoria and excitement that culminated in the American presidential election of November 4, 2008 did not stir in me much anxiety for two logical reasons: it is America; they always find a way round their dilemmas especially political uncertainties. The alternate rationale was, which ever way victory swung, would have resulted in an American history: it was either a first American president with African background or the first woman president of the USA. History, in my calculation, did not support a Republican success. Even if the Republican had won, the victory would not have been as historic as a Democratic triumph. Reason: as at the time of the impending election, the American economy was in tatters, social and moral well being were tottering, the psyche of an average Yankee was screaming for a redeemer. The culprit was the Republican represented by Mr. George Walker Bush. So deep within me I knew the world would witness a re-enactment of the socio-political exchange between Mr George Bush and Bill Clinton back in 1993. What I was eagerly waiting for was the celebration that was sure to characterize the landslide election (pardon my Nigerianness) of Senator Obama. So, while some of my colleagues were writhing in speculations, I simply went to bed after two bottles of my usual wine (I had started the epic celebrations) with a happy smile on my face, absolute in my confidence that an Obama-Democrat victory was certain. That was in the last week of October, 2008.
Later that week, my good friend Tokunbo Awoshakin announced that he was visiting Nigeria with his wife, Faz. He knew he should get me an American gift; what it should be, we never discussed. But as providence would dictate it, Tokunbo handed me a beautiful black T-shirt proclaiming Obama as the Democratic Party’s presidential hopeful. And the arrival of the apparel marked the initiation of the influence of the President-elect on my escapades. The moment I set my eyes on the T-shirt, my mind told me I should wear it there and then, and in the full glare of Tokunbo and Faz I removed my shirt, donned the Obama T-shirt and wore my shirt on it. ‘Why cover it up with your shirt?’ it was Faz. I shrugged, ‘don’t know; just feel that way.’
Clara was a banker. She became my acquaintance in the course of Tokunbo’s visit to Nigeria in a rather bizarre circumstance: I had gone to visit the gents after a copious consumption of the beverage that was available; unfortunately, very regrettably all the six outlets were engaged; my bladder was bursting so I had no option than to make a quick detour to the ladies, hoping and praying that nothing amiss would occur: a gentleman peeing in the ladies could facilitate some odd conjecture. I was not lucky: as I was finishing the fluvial ritual, the door beside me opened and a bewildered Clara exclaimed, ‘but this place is meant for ladies.’ I squinted my eyes in feigned ignorance, pushed my member into my underwear, pulled the zip up and turned round facing her. The look of bewilderment was still profoundly etched on her amazon countenance. I parted my crotch caressingly, ‘this is meant for ladies too.’ She made a wry face, hissed and slammed the door shut. As I sauntered towards the exit, a small smile still playing on my face, my eyes caught a small leather pouch resting comfortably on the window sill. I picked it and extracted a cute Nokia mobile phone from its inside. Instinctively, I switched it on, Clara’s beautiful face beamed at me. For the second time since my adventure into the ladies, I smiled again. I knew nobody would forget such a dainty mobile set that easily: Clara would get in touch with me soon. I was right; for I was concluding regaling Tokunbo and his wife with the tale of my critical meeting with Clara, when her phone rang. I did not answer the first ring, not even the second or the third. It was the fourth call that I picked. ‘Hello,’ Clara’s sonorous voice was distinct. ‘Hello’ I had contrived my voice to a woman’s. It worked because a lady’s voice breathed in the background: ‘thank God it is a woman who picked it.’ I smiled again.
‘Please, I forgot my handset in the ladies.’ Clara continued, her tone now pleading. Pouring all the feminine softness into my voice, I asked her to describe the phone. She did. Then I described where I was and asked her to come for the contraption in the next twenty minutes. She promised to be there with her friends, post haste.
‘Who should I ask for when I get there?’ the question rushed out of her before I cut the connection. I told her my name and disconnected before she could raise a query about the disparity between my name and voice mien.
She entered the restaurant in a cloud of agitated retinue of four of her friends. The group halted at the mouth of the main door and surveyed the reveling multitude. Tokunbo saw them first because he was facing the door; he nudged me and I turned my head. Clara’s eyes caught mine; I smiled. She frowned while collecting her friend’s mobile phone. I knew she was about calling her number again; my fingers stretched forward and put her phone off. I watched her with the corner of my eyes as she stomped her foot in thorough desperation. Again I turned my head in the direction of the group; again Clara’s and my eyes met; this second time, they buckled. The frown on her face deepened as she led the group towards our table while still calling her number. By the time the group maneuvered its way to where we were sitting, I had switched her phone on. Her ‘hello’ coincided with the ringing of her phone which I had deliberately placed on the table; her eyes instinctively darted to the buzzing handset; she stopped abruptly while her eyes traveled from the phone to my face for more than a dozen times before she found her voice. Even then, she could only manage a ‘So.’
‘So?’ I asked.
She glared at me; I reciprocated with equal measures. Tokunbo saw the exchange and coughed, all eyes turned his direction: ‘ladies, sit down please and be our guests.’ There was a hilarious uproar from all of us which completely diffused the mounting tension when Faz, an American, visiting Nigeria for the first time said: ‘egbe ni gbogbo yin.’ Now, ‘egbe’ in Yoruba language is a socio-interactive parlance with loose meaning ranging from ‘the unserious’ to ‘the meekly stupid’ while ‘gbogbo yin’ means ‘all of you.’ So, such odd encomium coming from the mouth of a person we had all assumed was American through and through sent all of us – Clara, myself, Tokunbo, Clara’s four friends – reeling with laughter. The hilarity was so infectious that Clara collided with me in the frenzy and in the process, three of the buttons of my shirt undid and the portrait of President-elect Obama etched on the T-shirt stood out, starring at Clara and her friends. I did not even notice the change in the euphoria until one of Clara’s friends breathed audibly: ‘good grief’ followed by Clara’s ecstatic exclamation, ‘it is Obama.’
‘Of course it is Obama,’ Tokunbo concurred.
‘Do you expect something less than Obama to adorn his hairy chest?’ Faz who had remained impassive since her comic relief, asked. Clara simply shook her head.
‘Drinks and munch?’ I asked the now sober crowd.
Orders were placed and served. Clara sat right opposite me sipping from a bottle of Guinness. The combined effect of the physical act of the inadvertent unbuttoning and the mild exclamation at the sight of Obama’s portrait had unleashed an inexplicable
passion in me for Clara. Unconsciously, I gazed deeply into her face, it was then I realized she was almond-shaped-eyed; I told her.
She squeezed her face when she asked me what all this was about. I replied her with I- do-not-know mien. She demanded for her mobile phone in a tone suggestive of my pilfering it; and I raised a serious objection to the insinuation. It took the intervention of her friends, including Tokunbo and Faz for her to concur mildly to being negligent in handling the small machine. It was my turn to be a bit passionately hard when Faz asked me to release the phone to her. It was her phone and I knew I had to give it back to her but the cupid which had bitten me when I looked into Clara’s eyes had invaded my armory and destroyed my arsenal of resistance.
I beckoned at her. She shook her head. I grinned mildly and tilted my neck while the tip of my tongue darted between my lips. She got the message and beamed; her teeth gleamed. I then slanted my head in the general direction of the terrace; she frowned. Totally oblivious of the din of conversation around us, I stood up and moved in the direction of the patio; Clara stood up too and followed me. The hubbub stopped momentarily; neither of us looked back; we were aware of what would be going on in the minds of Clara’s friend and my couple-friend.
I was gambling about how to launch my approach three minutes after we had both rested our knuckles on the well scrubbed surface of the terrace when she asked me whether I had come to admire the rancorous scenes under the several acacia trees that dotted the grounds of the eatery: the comment provided me the leeway.
‘I have come to admire you.’
She looked at me nonplussed. ‘Me,’ she touched her voluptuous chest.
I knew she was faking, making-up, because the lascivious look I gave her inside the restaurant must have communicated my real intentions to her; but women can be highly unpredictable: one reason they will ever remain the most unique among God’s creations.
‘Yes, you’ I matched and almost surpassed her make-believe.
‘I like your style.’
‘Thank you,’ was her noncommittal response.
‘Just that,’ I hitched my eye brow.
‘What else do you expect?’
‘Considering the sacrifices I had made for you in the last two hours, I expect a more assuring response.’
The sarcasm in her tone was heavy: ‘what gratitude does your testicle owe hernia than the recovery of my mobile phone?’
I sighed deeply, the implications of her reaction were heavy on my heart, I could not tell her that they mar. So, I knew I should match her response with a commensurable statement but what I could spontaneously utter was to ask whether the recovery of her phone was not heavy enough to justify a better response. She appraised me curiously and made it clear that she had thanked me for the good gesture. She asked what else I expected from her to give me.
I told her: ‘your heart.’ She touched her generous chest in a pure display of an unconcealed excitement, and exclaimed: ‘my what?’
‘You heard me.’
‘Yes, I did and I understood the magnitude of the implication very well.’
I became enthusiastic, ‘so what are we waiting for? Let’s hit the road galloping.’
She replicated my enthusiasm by frowning and told me that I was making a poor job of the whole enterprise. I then asked her how I should have approached it. I will tell you on one condition. I shook my head slowly and pointed my index finger at her to emphasize my determination to do whatever she wished. My finger had not dropped before she raised hers and pointed it at the portrait of Obama on the T-shirt. ‘Give me that T-shirt,’ the submission in her tone was total.
I stood still for moments, confused, undecided. Being between the devil and the deep blue sea hit me with dry intensity. I looked at her: the almond shaped eyes, the liquid dancing around her eye balls and the heaving of her mammary glands as she met my challenging gaze melted my resolve: I became a Romeo!
‘I will give you, we will go to my place where I will take it off and present it to you. An Obama portrait is a very valuable prize to give away without some ceremony.’
And that was how it went. Thank you President Obama for giving me Clara; Oh, I almost forgot; thank you Tokunbo, too.