Theirs is a spacious car park unprotected from the glare of the sun and the noisy wind that ushers autumn in. Hers is the silver-grey Toyota Aygo, that ubiquitous city-car that cushions Europeans from the perils of economic recession, road tax, fuel costs, and ah yes, carbon emissions. His is the black Mercedes, that German beast that roars.
Having never seen him before, she wants to say hi, and make small talk, for the benefit of their mutual skin colour, if only for a few moments, so they can put up high walls against the cold and enjoy the warmth of solidarity.
Instead, she walks past him, and quickens her steps, the koi-koi of her heels, lost in the now harsh whispers of the wind, her mind replaying images she had thought long forgotten.
She is ten again and in the country club with her mother, in front of her soon-to-be swimming instructor, who took in her thin frame, and let his eyes linger, then wander, and then linger on the small mounds on her chest, which strained against her one-piece suit.
Her mother followed his gaze. What was supposed to be a conversation about swimming timetable, changed to a conversation about swimming lessons ending. The uneasy feeling that followed her relief and disappointment, which she could not define, she submerged in that room in children’s heads that they do not like to visit. Years later when she understood the term, dirty old man, she remembered the way he had moved his bushy eyebrows up and down in quick succession, as first her mother turned and then she turned to leave.
That thing that was in her swimming instructor’s eyes, she now sees in his. His eyes, they reduce her to a piece of meat. They touch her the same way that women and men haggling over meat in Lagos markets grab the meat from the wooden tables, slap the meat on the wooden tables, and push the meat on the wooden tables, wooden tables with fissures that are smooth with age and vegetable green at the edges.
Reflex causes her to tug at her skirt, to pinch the fabric in front of her thighs and try to drag it down, as though she can turn her mini skirt to maxi, as though her legs are not encased in black tights and boots.
His eyes drill holes in her back. She nearly misses her step. His laughter is low, but to her ears it is as loud as those of the traders who called her Shabba, and tried to grab her hands as she shopped at Tejuosho market long ago, wearing a long skirt with a thigh-high slit.
All the way to the traffic light where they encounter one another again, she thinks of his greedy eyes, his hungry smile, the shape of his gorimapa head, and the shiny darkness of his skin. She divides Africa into four: east Africa, south Africa, north Africa, and west Africa; he resembles her, but she cannot decide where he belongs.
She pulls up slowly beside his Mercedes and stiffens her neck. She wills herself not to look at him. But she does. You see, the force of his gaze, and everything intangible that had transpired between them is like a horse’s bit. His handsome features do not captivate her. His smile does not captivate her.
It is his left hand. The way he raises his shoulder and bends his elbow so his fingers rest on the steering wheel in the 12 ‘o clock position—that unmistakeable way Naija boys with new money driving new cars with shiny alloy wheels, hold the steering wheel—that is what captivates her.
So now, she knows where he belongs.
She begins to laugh and laugh and laugh some more as his brows furrow in consternation. She continues laughing as the traffic light turns green, and he speeds off. She laughs as the cars behind her pull out into the other lane and the drivers stare at her and shake their heads, before they zoom past. She laughs until the traffic light turns red. Then she stops. She is no longer a piece of meat.
Chaos defines her Mondays, but the chaos lights her fire and adds purpose to her steps. The only thing that halts her fall is her desk, which is behind her. She feels its edge cutting into her thighs as she stumbles backwards for safety and support. Her gaze meets his and holds while they shake hands. When Ben gestures to another employee and whisks him away, Ben’s words hit home. With vast experience in mergers and acquisitions, he comes highly recommended from J.P. Morgan. He is her new manager.
© Timi Yeseibo 2013
If you loved the photo of the suya as much as my post or more than my post (how dare you?), if you miss suya and live where you can’t buy it, if you’re adventurous, if… if …, whatever, okay, read Kitchen Butterfly’s post about suya.
Photo credit: © Kitchen Butterfly
Original photo URL: http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/2010/07/15/how-to-make-nigerian-suya/
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