I walked into the party thinking “what have I gotten myself into?”, it was the usual MD crowd, some of them I’d gone to church with, I said hi to my friends across the hall, it was really hard without my glasses, I barely made out their lemon green Geles from my end of the room.I half expected someone to ask me where my date was and I already had my go-to-hell answer prepared, “he’s not here because I don’t have one”, with a say-something-else-and-I’ll-stab-you look.
It was a fairly large hall, it had about 20 round tables surrounded by chairs covered in white cloth and a peach satin cloth, the centerpieces were to die for, the soft light filtering from the bulbs in the room gave the room a calming effect. The center pieces each had white and pink lilies surrounded by tropical looking leaves, and the occasional hibiscus, it was breathtaking to say the least, and the high table had a more elaborate center piece, a broader centerpiece with more flowers and gold and pink ribbons over a beautiful glass vase.
The guests had started coming in, I hoped B would call me soon, we had agreed to meet at the reception, I found a table close to the door so I would see her when she walked in. There was an older lady on the table, she smiled at me as I approached, her Gele was really nice, if I hadn’t decided to start wearing western outfits to these parties maybe I’d give her a run for her money. “Is anyone sitting here?” I asked smiling at her, “no there’s no one there”, she said smiling back. “Thank God”, I thought, I was dreading walking from table to table asking for a seat, the hall was almost half full, and people were marking their territory by taking tables for their cliques, it wouldn’t be a cake walk for the latecomers from what I saw.
Then I heard the faint ring that I had on my phone, I was the only Nigerian I knew who has Latin Loops as her ring tone, I quickly located my purse on the table and flipped open my phone, it was B. “What’s up, where are you” I asked quickly, signals were funny in these parts and I wanted to find out how far she was before the almighty click came, “I’m on 495, what exit is it again?” she asked, “it’s exit 20B, it’s the same hall where the Falano’s had their wedding, hurry up, you know I can’t get food till you get here”, “I know” she chuckled, “I’ll be there before you can say Jack Robinson”, “Very funny, just hurry up and get here”.
I put my phone away quickly and looked around, I had on my hot pink dress and a pink plaid jacket, I had started wearing foundation a few months before, and the lady at the Mac table made sure I was clear on the proper use of eye shadow before I left. Experimenting is good for the soul, what was a girl to do? My makeup was flawless, I just had my hair done that morning, I had lovely ringlets of black hair with blond highlights, experimenting was really working for me. I had my Pink eye shadow and sandalwood lip-gloss, the Mac foundation wasitchy around my nose, my skin was a little sensitive, but I was going through with this, I looked absolutely fantastic, the liquid liner felt like a layer of shellac on my lids, but it was definitely worth it.
That’s when I saw him, he had on a really nice suit, it was dark gray and it fit perfectly, he looked like a GAP ad, he would certainly make a good spokesperson. He had on a light blue shirt and a dark blue tie with light blue dots, I had to look at his shoes. That’s when he caught me, looking at his shirt, I was going to look away quickly and act like I was actually focusing on something on the other end of the room, but it was too late, he smiled, I had to smile back. He had a nice face, his nose was round like mine, and his eyes were smiling at me, he looked like a cool breeze, like fresh rain on a summer morning. He had good teeth, and I could tell even without my glasses.
Just then I saw B coming in through the double doors in the middle of the reception floor, I rushed over to get her, there was no way she would see me through the crowd. The wedding party came in, they settled into their seats and the Chairman was giving a speech, I could see him look at him from the corner of my eye, he was saying something to his friend, I hoped it was something good because I really couldn’t tell if his friend went to my old church or not. Once the Chairman was done, there was the first dance, the couple looked so lovely, my friend Veronica and I had gone to the same college, we were in the same program and had taken several classes together, her younger sister even went to my high school in Nigeria, she was lucky to have found such a wonderful man, he seemed so into her. Once the floor was open, B and I went to grab a bite, that’s when I saw him again.I tried to look away again but he caught me, “Hi”, I said sheepishly, I was trying to fix my eyes on the table, I tried to turn to B, she was behind me and it would be a welcome distraction, I felt the nudge, there he was behind me smiling, “hi, are you enjoying the reception”, “oh it’s great” I answered, “Whoever did the decorations really did a great job” I said looking at him now, my heels made my eyes almost level with his. ” I know, the place really looks nice, so how do you know the couple”, “the bride and I went to the same college, and her sister’s my friend also I’m sorry I didn’t get your name” I said holding out my had, “Sorry about that, I’m Ike, what’s your name?”, “I’m Toni, my name is actually Anthonia but most people call me Toni, do you know the couple?”, “Yes, I’m actually Sammy’s cousin”, Sammy was the groom.
I liked looking at his face, he wasn’t exactly Boris Kodjoe or Morris Chestnut, but his face just took all the butterflies, known and unknown, away.
“So what are you up to?” he asked.
“Getting food obviously, have you met my friend B?” B had been silent the whole time, she threw me a puzzled look.
“Hi I’m B” she smiled, “nice to meet you Ike”.
Nice to meet you too B” he smiled back.
“Well, I guess I’ll catch you guys later, Toni that’s a really nice dress” he said as he walked off.
“Th-thanks”, I said, he walked away quickly.
B and I went back to the table, but she had to help out for the wedding and I was by myself again. By this time our table was full, I didn’t know anyone so I silently ate my food, B’s chair was empty so I put my jacket and my purse on it while waiting for her to get back.
“Can I sit here?” I heard a voice behind me say.
I turned quickly and there he was “of course you can sit down”, “are you having fun yet” he asked laughing, “not yet, but I will before the end of the night”. I moved the jumbled mass of jackets and purses so he could sit down.
“You look absolutely stunning, are you sure we haven’t met before?” he said looking admiringly at my outfit, “no I don’t think so, did you go to my old church RTC” I asked while still chewing my food, “My friend Jide did, I’m sure you know him” he said, ” Jide Lafeni, he’s over there at my table”, he said pointing, I looked over and there he was, I didn’t recognize him from earlier, he looked really different, he seemed chubbier and lighter, maybe it was the suit, I usually saw him in a shirt and slacks.
I looked back at Ike “of course I know him, so he’s your friend”, he looked at me and started talking, he told me how Jide was his buddy in UNILAG, they had both lived in quarters and been in engineering together, he and Jide went to Believers’ Love World till they left. He told me he was 33 years old, he had come here for his MBA at Harvard and he decided to stay, Harvard got him a pretty good job at the Price Waterhouse Cooper, he loved working there, he didn’t know if he was going home anytime soon.
“Home is where the heart is”, he said looking at his hands, “or wouldn’t you agree”, he was looking at me now, I was moving the food around my plate and thinking, “definitely I would”. He asked me about myself, I told him I went to UNILAG too, but I was in the MEDILAG campus, I left after 2 years, the strikes weren’t really doing it for me, I finally co
nvinced my mum to let me go, I started over and went to college in the US, it wasn’t quite the fairytale that Cosby’s “A Different World” painted, I had a pretty good job working as a Network Administrator, it was a far cry from my original medical school dreams, but the job paid the bills and working in information technology gave me some flexibility, I cold get certified in something else if the need ever arose to change my career path, he knew a couple of my friends from UNILAG and I knew some of his friends at MEDILAG, he was surprised we had not met before, we exchanged phone numbers and we were definitely going to chat again. Then he asked me how old I was, I looked at him “how old do you think I am?”, “you look like you could be 24 or 25, tell me how old are you?, I looked at him again, his face was expressionless, I was trying to figure out what he was thinking, but I had to say something, my throat was starting to itch, my foundation seemed to hurt my skin a little as I got the words out, “I’m 30”, he looked surprised, “really?”, “Yes I am, do you want to see my drivers license”, he did so I showed it to him.”So why aren’t you married?” the age-old questions, the reason why I avoided these parties in the first place.I moved the food around my plate as I thought, there was nothing left but I needed to do something while I thought about my answer, I felt my eyes burning as they moistened, “nothing, life happens, you know how it is” I said looking up at him, “yeah I know”, he said while looking at his hand’s, I was trying to see what he was thinking from his face, I used to be good at that, I really couldn’t tell, “well call me when you get a chance, I was nice talking to you, he said as he walked away, ” I will, nice talking to you too”.
I looked back at my almost empty plate as I thought about everything, about my life, where I had been, where I was going, “why aren’t I married?” I asked smiling to myself, I felt the warm tears form on the corner of my itchy eyes as I stared into space.