Lara and Seun 10

Lara was driving into her street, nodding to a soulful tone from her stereo when she heard the smashing sound of metal behind her. It hit her faster than she could imagine, vibrating her, and smashing her into a Tin-Shop.

The owner of the Shop, a petty trader, who was outside at the time, hearing the smash and seeing a car destroy her shop, started running towards it, screaming ‘Egba mi o’, lifting her hands to her head, vibrating her bulky body and drawing people towards her.

As a crowd gradually formed, the man who hit Lara slowly climbed out of his car unharmed, and began to apologise. The people rushed him, forgetting Lara who had fainted inside her very damaged car.

‘Help the woman first!’ The man managed to raise his voice amidst the yells, pointing towards Lara and momentarily pausing the confrontation.

Two men from the group quickly rushed into a nearby compound, drove out a car, and with the help of some people, they broke out Lara from her damaged vehicle, carried her into their own car with her handbag, and rushed off to the hospital.

‘Sorry, please we’re calling all the people on her call log…’ was all Seun heard from his caller without understanding a word, nor asking for clarification, or even looking at the phone to know who was calling him. He was in a meeting and didn’t want to be distracted.

He however tried to re-dial Lara’s line after the meeting, after finding out that it was her number that had dialed him, but he kept cutting the call immediately because it was a male voice he heard at her end of the line.

‘Come to Spring Field Hospital Ikeja if you want and stop flashing. It’s an emergency’ was the text that came into his phone as he walked towards his car to head home earlier than usual. He paused at the ‘stop flashing’, irritated by the sender, and took his phone to speak some sense into whoever was at the end of the message. After ringing up thrice without any success, the man at Lara’s end picked on the fourth ring and without letting Seun as much as exhale, he narrated the whole incidence, stating Lara’s accident and her new location.

Seun was running down with his car from the Island, grateful that it wasn’t the rush hour and that the roads were free, and as he neared Ikeja, he realised that he had forgotten to ask for directions to the hospital. He tried to dial the number again but his calls were ignored. He tried to search for the place via Google but his efforts were futile. He drove into a restaurant, rolled down his window, and tiredly muttered some prayers for Lara.

‘Hello sir, you’ve been merely sitting here close to an hour now…’ a security man said to him through his window, and as he looked up at the elderly but friendly looking guard, he explained that he had been searching for a hospital that he wasn’t sure existed, chipping in a bit about Lara’s incidence.

Sympathising with him, the elderly man let him stay and turned to leave, but suddenly turned back again.

‘There’s this “Sting Free Clinic” down the road, just in case’ the elderly man smiled and left again. Seun smiled back at him, amused at his sense of humour.

As he was driving home some minutes after, he approached a hospital with a water fountain in front of it, and while he wondered at the reason behind having a fountain in a hospital, he suddenly saw the sign board that read “Sting Free Clinic” and was shocked that the elderly man’s words were no joke. He drove into the driveway, and decided to check inside.

‘Please was any Lara Balogun brought in some hours ago?’ he asked a nurse, but a slender lady that looked familiar walked passed and as he looked at her, he discovered that asides the fact that she was shorter, had a different hair style, and had a quiet look, he would have mistaken her for Lara.

He caught himself staring, and turned back to the woman he was speaking to, but it was already late. She gave him the stern ‘so you’re also a womaniser look’ and he carefully replied with a gentle ‘I’m sorry, it won’t happen again smile’, and pleaded to no avail with her to let him see Lara after she affirmed that Lara was a patient in the clinic.

He slowly walked away, knowing that this woman that thought him to be a womaniser wouldn’t change her mind, and as he stepped outside, he stopped to watch Lara’s look-alike arguing with two men- arguing just like Lara would.

He heard ‘we would have left her dead to avoid this drama’ from one of the men and listened harder. They kept repeating the same things- the men describing an incidence exactly like Lara’s, adding that they had to deposit all their money, and needed it back; and the lady promising to give them all and more the next day, explaining that she just came in from another city and had nothing else apart from a few Naira Notes.

The men were gradually increasing their voice when he turned and faced them, then drew near without their notice.

As he drew closer, they gave him an unfriendly glare and he merely smiled back at them. But the lady spoke out, stating that he was not welcome into the discussion, and he was almost sure that he just heard Lara’s voice.

‘Sorry, are you related to Lara Balogun?’ was all he said and their stares grew sterner, especially the lady’s.

‘I’m Seun, Lara’s friend’ he gently continued, and got on the lady’s good side immediately. She quickly assessed him from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet, and with excitement, brought out her hand for a hand shake.

‘Seun! I’m Lara’s sister’ she exhaled warmly to the surprise of the furious men. They were angry that she had the nerve to ignore them for social purposes. And in the calmest way he could, Seun led the 3 adults to his car, and led them further to a resolution- he added some more cash to what Lara’s sister’s had, and gave the men half of what they needed, and they gladly agreed to return the next day for the balance.

‘You kept flashing’ one of the men whispered to Seun, irritating him again.

But Seun smiled and teased him, pointing at the hospital’s sign board ‘You couldn’t read and write anyway.’

The man got edgy and loudly defensive, but when he started to draw the attention of his friend and Lara’s sister, he shut up and smiled shamefully.

‘She’ll have to tell us herself to let him in’ the nurse repeated to Seun and Lara’s sister despite Lara’s sister’s vote-of-confidence for Seun. But Lara’s sister immediately ran to the office of the Doctor on duty to seek permission for Seun.

‘She needs her rest so you will not engage her in any conversation for now’ the female doctor warned Seun while permitting him to visit Lara, and they thanked her and moved on, but not without Seun winking and smiling at the stern nurse.

Lara was lying down peacefully on the hospital bed in a private ward without any pipe or tube fixed into her, and as the door opened, she opened her eyes to behold her sister leading Seun in, and coyly smiled. Seun walked towards her and gently squeezed her hand.

‘I’m fine’ she began to mutter and he encouraged her to postpone the talks and continue with her rest. He gave her hand another gentle squeeze and proceeded to sit at one end of a long sofa inside the room, with her sister at the other end.

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Dear Diary…

I’m here again like I’ve always been since this week. Once again arriving early, before the staff of Admin and Records.

I’m now waiting patiently for the particular woman who handles the files of my department.

She has finally arrived, and again, I have told her that I need my file, so that the secretary can ‘write’ an ‘attestation’ for me.

She has agreed, and has instructed that I wait outside for her.

I’m sitting with some other people; my fellow clients that have also been coming since monday.

(The way things work here, even when you apply for ‘a thing’ online or no matter the amount of mails you send, you still have to come yourself – and sweat- for whatever it is you think you need).

We are waiting. Some are murmuring and some are merely sitting quietly.

I am sitting quietly.
Not like I’m expecting the woman to suddenly announce that my file has been found.
But I’m silently watching ‘the staff’ manifest their really funny way of living(and working) here:

They

Arrive LATE(!): from 9am- 12noon(as against the stipulated 8am);

Ignore you, until you work up to them and tell them why you came;

Eat (breakfast) immediately they arrive – a period of 2hours during which you dare not disturb them;

Stroll AIMLESSLY down the waiting hall, seeking whom to devour-
And should you mistakenly slip in attitude, they’d pick you as their prey;

Buy crayfish/groundnut/moringa( or whatever is being sold) in front of you, all the time ignoring you;

Rush to assist ‘big men’ as soon as their ‘vehicles’ are sighted (from afar).

My fellow clients are turning desperate- they’re now knocking on doors, meeting up with the women(and men) in their offices, cursing the system (a little bit loudly).

The woman in charge of my file is out, carrying files.
I rush to her with hopes that mine is included, and as usual, I am told (harshly) to sit down and wait (and I cowardly obey).

I am becoming restless.

I pick my phone and smile again- People are unleashing funny stuff on social media and I’m being entertained.

“Dang!” – battery is drained, and phone shuts down- the devil is at work.

Frustration!!!

I start to look again (- I’m with a book to read, but unfortunately, the atmosphere chokes the option).

A staff is yelling at a client; ” it is the lunch break and we do not need any disturbance!”

One of us launches out and returns with five wraps of moin-moin and a can of malt for ‘a staff’, and is immediately attended to (despite the break).

Others start to murmur loudly.

Another writes his name in a paper and wraps it around N500, and slips it into ‘the file woman’s’ hand…- He leaves us shortly (and we’re still on the lunch break).

It’s 2pm, I remind ‘the file woman’ again. She ignores me, but I remain fixed at her door.
A ‘big woman’ arrives and they(she, inclusive) rush out to assist her, shoving me away from their office.

I know my fate- they’ll come (again) and announce that fridays are merely half days of work, and that we should return on monday.

I am now remembering Rita Domnic’s THE MEETING,
and I’m laughing so hard that they staff start to glare at me.

Then, they start to comment on my hair- (“is she carrying ‘dada’ or what?” “Is she mad”)- I care nothing about the comments; they label me as ‘ba kwomi’, and because I do not know the meaning of the phrase, I remain indifferent- they start to abuse my choice of hairstyle (I still say nothing!).

‘The file woman’ comes to me:
“Write your name on this list” she says handing a paper filled with a hundred names to me.
I look up at her in shock but she smiles away, mocking.
I pen down my name as she asks me to return on monday.

I am sober.
My phone is dead, I have no one to call.
I need to let out my emotions, and wincing does nothing to help me.

I lift my bag and quietly leave.
I am too down to speak to anybody, which implies that I’ll have a bad communication with the commercial drivers, so, I decide to trek for a while and let off some steam.

But, I end up trekking home.

I have 3 options

A. Forget the ‘attestation'(and start up a business or something that is also time consuming).

B. Return on monday with ‘greased paper’ or a ‘big man/woman’.

C. Burn down the ‘Admin and Records’.

Lara and Seun 9

Mrs Faloye entered into the living room and found Lara standing and staring blankly into a window.

“What’s the matter?” She inquired, but Lara was so far off that she didn’t hear a word.

She asked again, touching her shoulder and slightly shaking her.

“Nothing ma” Lara shivered and arranged some straying twists on her head.

The woman sat down on a sofa, pulling Lara down next to her.

” We need sanity when our men offend us. It is necessary; if not, we may not forgive them” she told her, rubbing her knee. And as Lara squeezed her face in confusion and wonder at the statement, Mrs Faloye got up again and walked to the television.

“Then we don’t fail to remind them that it is very healthy for them if we are always in a good mood” she completed with gestures and a wink, and turned the television switch on.

She returned to the sofa with remote controls in hands and began to surf blank ‘foreign’ TV channels.

“I don’t think he subscribed” Lara jumped in, helping soothe away the rising wrinkles of irritation on the woman’s face.

“Oh!” the woman replied, hissing and navigating to the local stations with another remote control, and fortunately landing on a wedding ceremony.

“Oh my!” she nudged Lara in gladness but Lara winced.

She laughed hard and waved Lara’s wince aside. Then she ignored Lara and began to comment on the show:

“Lovely gowns”

“I don’t mind one of those gele styles”

“That is the best colour blocking so far!”

“Pretty lady… So happy…”

But Lara was indifferent about her comments and the entire wedding ceremony.

As soon as the bride’s mother was called to dance into the hall, Mrs Faloye got up again and began dancing to the tone of the music, causing Lara to laugh hard.

“Oya! Let’s not waste this dance” the woman declared.

“I should teach you some Owambe steps” she continued, pulling Lara up by hand, but Lara went stiff.

“Come jo!” She dragged her up with force, and left her standing like a stick.

The woman continued her dance, nudging Lara’s hips once in a while, and Lara just stood, giggling.

“What’s happening here?!”
Seun asked as he entered without their notice, laughing at their antics.

“Nothing oh!” Lara burst out in shame and walked back to her seat.

Seun shrugged, gave Lara back her phone and headed to the door out of the house.

“Where to?” His mom asked.

“Downstairs” he replied, looking at Lara, and when she said nothing back to him, he left the house.

“You can still join him o” Mrs Faloye whispered into Lara’s ears.

“The music is wasting ma!” Lara distracted her, laughing and rising up in mock readiness to a dance.

“Ah! Is it the young peoples’ turn now? Jumping up and down in the name of dance” Mrs Faloye teased, laughing.

“Yes oh!” Lara replied in laughter and Mrs Faloye joined in her laugh.

“I should teach you that Etighi style” Lara said pointing to the couple’s train that had begun to dance into the hall.

” Ah! I don’t think my hips will take this one o” Mrs Falayo laughed her off.

“You should come again before I travel” Mrs Faloye told Lara as they walked down the stairs holding hands.

“And again and again!” Lara added.

“Yes o” the woman replied.

“I should even travel back with you” Lara teased and they laughed.

“Definitely!” she responded.

“Thank you ma’am!” Lara replied in mock jubilation and they continued in silence till the door step.

“You are welcome my dear” Mrs Faloye said warmly as she stopped, squeezing her hand and looking into her eyes.
Lara knew she meant more than a response to her ‘thank you’ and slowly slipped off her hands and took a step forward.

“Wow!” she screamed and Mrs Faloye looked up to what she had seen and began a round of applause.

Lara rushed towards her car, touching the washed body, then towards the foot mats washed and spread besides the car, on a flower bed, and screamed:

“Thank you very much Seun!”

And rushed towards him, where he was cleaning his own car.

“What?” He began to ask as he climbed out of his car, leaving what he was cleaning inside it, but Lara jumped onto him with a hug before he could stand strong, leading them to crash on the car bonnet with force.

And Mrs Faloye burst into happy laughter, still standing at the door step.

“Thanks for washing my car” Lara shyly mumbled, squeezing his hands.
Seun smiled and retrieved an arm to nurse his hips.

Then, he whispered into her ears:
“The gate man actually did!”

And Lara hissed, snatched herself away from him and walked briskly towards her car.

“Hold on” Seun yelled, following her.

She stopped, turned to him, and snatched the car key from his hands.

Seun sighed and continued following her, listening to her rants:

“And you just took my hugs like that”

“And even smiled for that matter”

“Happy that I was mushy over you”

And she hissed again, longer this time around.

And Mrs Faloye’s eyes fell in confusion while she remained standing on the same spot.

Lara started to roughly gather her foot mats and rugs, but Seun took them from her and carefully placed them inside.

She rashly entered her car as soon as he was through with closing the other doors of the car, banged her door, and inserted the car key.

But Seun knocked on her window for her to wind down, and as she obeyed, he took key from her.

“That’s mine… I used the spare you gave me to wash yours” he told her calmly.

She hissed again and retrieved her key from her purse.

Seun held her hand and looked into her eyes; “I gave him the key to help me do it.”
And Lara’s stares became soft and unsteady.

“I have to go out soon and my car is dirty… And I couldn’t just let you drive home with a dirty car” he explained and Lara felt foolish for being angry.

“I appreciate…” she stammered, holding his arm.
“And I’m sorry…” she completed in shame.

He smiled, patted her arms and whispered; “don’t forget to thank the gate man.”

“Yes boss!” she smiled back

And Mrs Faloye’s confusion widened as she watched them smile easily again at each other.

“We’ll talk soon” Seun said as Lara started her car, and she winked at him.

She waved goodbye to a ‘dumb founded’ Mrs Faloye, and drove to the gate

(NB: thanks for your patience and love despite my inconsistency)