I had read this message over and again, and yet it cracked my ribs every single time. She was plainly hilarious and had a way with words you couldn’t fault it. Who would believe that one wrong text message would result in a wonderful friendship… not sure if I dared to call it more.
I had travelled to owerri to visit my girlfriend who was at her place of posting for the national youth service, and was greeted with the sight of another guy strutting round the apartment naked, while she was in the bathroom. As against my usually cool self, a lot of drama went down and in the end I left with a bloodied nose and the satisfaction of putting a guy on his back, possibly with a couple of broken ribs.
The feeling of satisfaction was short-lived however, as shame overwhelmed me the minute I got back to Abuja. I felt terrible, scolding myself for behaving in such an unruly manner. I should have just walked out in silence; I should have kept my calm, my pride… all these thoughts swirled around in my head as I searched my luggage for my phone. Her countless missed calls had left my battery almost flat, but I didn’t care for that - I simply did her a text message and tapped the send icon….
I woke up after a rather long nap, still feeling I had been drugged. My mind and head were in conflict as to what had just happened. I sought my phone, where I had plugged it in before dozing off, for closure. The closure I got was a rather different one, as I tapped on the 1 new message notification on my phone; "While I found this rather insightful, I think you might need to double-check your numbers and send this text again. All the best". I sat there laughing; first a chuckle and then hard and loud. I scanned the number and couldn’t believe all I had missed was the last digit.
I called the number back, hoping to apologize for having to burden whoever it was with such unwarranted message, but there was no response. I sent a message instead and I got a reply. Eight months down the line, we had kept the chats, but had never for once spoken or seen each other. I had come to learn that she was a female - of course it would be weird if she turned out to be a man. I called her “tangerine”, because as opposed to simply telling me her name she had said; “my name is ebbed in the name of the fruit tangerine”, so tangerine it was for me.
We chatted about most things, anything, and everything… and for me it had become a lifestyle. I would love to think she was equally hooked on me, because she has been consistent, even when work keeps me away – her messages always bring me back. Now all we could chat about was how we needed to see, it was eight long months and I didn’t know how long I could bear it anymore. Of course I call myself crazy, but I was good with crazy, or what could possibly be more crazy than seeing another man stark naked in your girl’s apartment. The most important thing was that I was loving this particular crazy.
I remember the last time I asked her again to send me a picture of herself, all I got was; “would it be that if I was pretty, then I should assume that this “thing” we have is based on that I was easy on the eyes… or would it be that if I was less than pretty, then I should assume that this “thing” we have was only because you are probably bored where you are”. My head told me to run, but my heart wouldn’t let me… I wasn’t the mushy type, but this girl had done a number on me and I needed to see this to the end – wherever that was.
Turns out she stayed in Lagos, and I was on a flight to meet with her – “stupid me” I chuckled to myself. The flight was shorter than usual, or perhaps it was just me… I headed straight to the Ikeja city mall; she or whoever got there first would be at a table in front of KFC. I was to hold “First Sight“ a Daniel steel novel and she would simply be wearing a colorful beaded bracelet, which she had sent a picture of. All the planning was entirely her idea and even though I would have preferred holding anything else besides a novel, she had politely insisted.
I knew I was early, but I had planned it so. I wanted to be the first to get there; I wanted to be there to draw out a chair for her, to be able to get a chance to recite the welcoming note I had so aptly prepared. So at exactly 5:45pm, I found a comfortable seat, settled in and waited. I had been engrossed in the novel I had with me, when for no just cause I looked up. I had no idea why I had looked up, or why it had been at that particular moment, but I didn’t have the time to ponder for long… I spotted her. She was dressed in a soft flowing, flowery-patterned dress… “Flower girl” I thought. I watched her elegantly maneuvering her way through the arrangement of chairs and tables and steadily gliding towards me.
My throat constricted as I thought “so this is what they meant by love at first sight”. Fair, slightly above the average height, not the tiniest of waist but one that sat well on her, with other parts filling out in the right places. She had a pleasant smile, darting me one as she walked past me and settled in a couple of seats across of me. I cleared my throat loudly, attracting a couple of stares, and then tried to put myself together. “This was it,” I told myself glancing at my watch. It was 6:05pm; she was relatively on time and sure knew how to make an entrance. I got up from my seat and walked over to where she was, all the while wondering if she hadn’t noticed the Danielle steel novel I had been conspicuously holding.
When I got to her table, all I could do was stare and think “darn! she was beautiful”.
“Is there something I might help you with?”
Startled out of my thoughts, I managed a smile and started to introduce myself when I noticed all at the same time that I wasn’t holding the novel which was to be my identification card, so to say… and she wasn’t wearing “the” bracelet. In that instance my heart sank, I saw the genuine blank and confused look on her face, forced a smile, and apologized for my mistake while returning to my seat.
I had only half-turned when I saw her…
She was seated with her back straight, legs crossed, eyes fixed on the novel I had left open on my table, hands neatly clasped on her laps and the beautiful bracelet sitting gently on her wrist. I paused and gave her a slow look all over again. She wasn’t ugly, but she wasn’t what you would call beautiful… at least not at first sight. She had thick dark hair cut stylishly low; she wore no make-up except for a light shade of red lip stick. She was decked in a comfortable pair of blue jeans, a purple polo shirt and a matching pair of purple sandals… her feet were pretty.
I could either stand there all evening or approach her, I thought to myself. A part of me though wanted to turn my back on her and face “flower girl” - the pretty lady I had first mistaken her for. But this was the woman I had waited eight months and flown from Abuja to see, the woman that just a few hours ago I couldn’t contain my excitement at the very thought of seeing her, the woman whose funny, quirky messages now filled my phone’s inbox… I took the first step forward.
Sensing my approach, she looked up and smiled… I stood right in front of her smiling back. “Hi, my name is Tunji Taiwo, thank you for coming… I suppose you might be hungry, shall we get something to eat”. She paused a while as if in thought and said, “I was asked to wear this bracelet and give you this, if you were kind and polite enough”. Taken aback and dumbfounded I collected the envelope from her outstretched hand and read the note inside…
Originally I had planned to say “sorry” for my reaction at your place, but sitting here on my bed, I realize I’m sorry you wanted more than I could give, I’m sorry I don’t know what went wrong, I’m sorry you probably don’t know what you want, I’m sorry I left you unhurt.. No, I didn’t mean that. I’m just sorry it had to end like this.
This was the text message I had intended for my ex-girlfriend sent to the wrong number, which was now the genesis of all these. Smiling and shaking my head, I looked up to ask who had given her the note, when I saw her again … the “Flower girl”. She hugged the lady that had been seated in front of me, said thank you and took the bracelet from her. Then with a wide and mischievous grin she turned to me and said “Hi, my name is Oluwapamilerin, shall we start again?” “Erin” I muttered over and over again, as the “tangerine” clue, now made sense. I got up from my seat, took her hand in a handshake and looking into her eyes, I saw a warmth that was a reflection of what my heart was feeling.