I was stuck indoors, held captive by extreme lack of money, and as such I couldn’t escape the girls’ drama. I dared not even take a walk outside to get away from them. I was avoiding the girl who sold me the things I wore to First Lady’s party and I was also avoiding our landlady’s son – but that one is another story.
They were not the only people I was avoiding. I was not taking my mum’s calls as well, as much as that filled me with guilt, and I was also not so keen to bump into First Lady and her crew or anyone who could recognize me from that party. I still hadn’t come up with a perfect lie to explain away my behaviour that night.
After the girl had been to the BQ like ten times to collect her money, I finally told her to come and collect her clothes. She told me I had worn them and I told her I would have them dry-cleaned. The poor girl looked at me like she was going to cry. I boned and told her I would find someone to buy them from me and then return her money.
It wasn’t a fair thing to do, I know, especially to someone who had been so kind to sell me things on credit, happy to wait for me to LovePeddler myself before paying her out of my service charge, but I was broke. And when I say broke, I mean I had less money than the money I didn’t have. I owed so many people and so many things had to be paid.
It was a Saturday night. Kike and Mama were totally tuned in to their Blackberries, both following the latest insults in a twit-fight between two girls on campus.
It made interesting reading, at least the bits I’d seen on Kike’s phone – my BIS service had expired.
The warring girls were Jambites. Whatever started their fight was long lost in a series of poison tongue tweets, but what was clear was that one girl felt betrayed by the other while the betrayer felt strongly that the self-proclaimed aggrieved party was an ‘Ashewo that sleeps with Northerner for recharge card.’
Her adversary had responded to one of her rebuttals by tweeting that “2day u can have more followers dan me, but tomorrow I can have more dan u” – Twitter followers, that is. She followed this with “No condition is permanent,” and her opponent promptly pointed out how she was even so bush, she couldn’t spell. Like that: ‘Speel’!
This for me was the highlight of watching the two girls reveal each other’s secrets to the whole world, never to be taken back, never to be secret again. I lost interest and decided to sleep, even though it was only like 8 pm. But sleeping on an empty stomach is not easy, mehn!
When my phone rang I just knew it was good news. I knew it wasn’t my mother calling again, hoping that I would take her call this time. I knew it wasn’t the girl chasing me for money. Somehow, I just knew it had to be a call that would make me happy. I was right, it was Johnny!
I need to explain Johnny.
Johnny is… Well, first, Johnny is not Nigerian. He’s Lebanese. He’s a short, stout, 40-something-year-old Lebanese man so in denial of his balding head that he wears what remains of his hair in a long shinny mass pulled back into a juvenile ponytail.
I met Johnny at a party he had supplied drinks for. That’s what he does; he sells booze. He’s actually like the biggest importer of French wine into Nigeria but you wouldn’t know it from the way he dresses like a small boy, in his baggy jeans and football club jersey tops, and from the way he behaves like a tout. In fact, he’s a tout.
Johnny is as much a Naija boy as any Lagosian born into an Isale-Eko family. His parents, he claims, were born in Nigeria, as were his grandparents. But it’s Johnny, you can never tell when he’s joking and when he’s been serious. He once told me he was dating Babangida’s daughter, only for him to have forgotten completely about it after I’d spent a whole week telling my friends how I knew Babangida’s daughter’s boyfriend and how he was Lebanese. Anyway, I met Johnny at this party about four years ago. I was there as an usher.
He was pouring wine into glasses and placing them on trays for the ushers to take round. I walked up to him with my own tray of empty wine glasses but he pulled me by the arm and told me to stand by his side.
He kept on pouring his wine that he kept telling one guy was the best wine he had, and I kept standing there balancing the tray on my palms and wondering why he made me stand next to him.
When all the girls had been sent out with wine that the party organisers hadn’t paid for but Johnny wanted to promote, he turned to me and said: “Fine girl, it is you and me this night.”
I’d never been so insulted. He read the look on my face and quickly explained himself, sort of.
“Omoge,” That’s been his pet name for me since then, “I want you to help me take some people’s contact details.”
As he spoke, he poured red wine into the glasses on my tray.
“This is very, very good wine. I import my wine in special refrigerated containers, that’s why they’re so good. Not like all those people who just ship wine in ordinary containers. Those things are like ovens. By the time the wine reaches Nigeria it would have cooked. The taste would have changed.”
I followed him around the party as he mingled with guests and charmed them into tasting his very, very good wine. He had a way with people.
In between forcing alcohol on willing strangers and taking their contact info, he kept talking to me about wine. He told me about grapes and regions and vintage. All, things that were totally lost on me at the time.
He did not talk to me in a condescending way, or even in the manner of one person lecturing the other. No. He talked as if the difference between Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau was something we normally discuss as a matter of everyday talk.
We became friends that evening and my love affair with red wine began.
He told me I was his aburo, and in fairness to him, he treated me as one. I’ve lost count of the times he’s been there for me. He moving to Abuja was one of the most devastating things that have ever happened to me because we stopped keeping in touch as much. But every once in a while he’d pop up out of nowhere and we’d start talking and calling each other again, till life gets in the way again.
And another thing about Johnny, he seems to have a sense of when I’m in trouble. No matter how long we’ve not seen or spoken, he seems to always reach out to me just when I need him the most.
He just did it again. I saw his name on my ringing phone and I prayed he was calling from Lagos. I could do with a friend right then.