The train hurtled away from London Victoria coach station towards East Croydon. Outside, the heavens rained down snow icing and turned the world into a frosty cake. The unfolding vista opened up like beautiful flower petals, ephemeral beauty that was hastily swept away by impatient rushing winds. The young man, head leaning against the window was not feasting on the beautiful panorama as he was wont. Today, he was in another place, another time….
The red, sleek, Range Rover Sports stopped in the car park as he watched through the open windows of the lecture theatre. He usually wondered what it would be like to have a ride in one of those and almost burst out laughing at the audacity of his faith. It seemed his thoughts had developed a will of their own and were on a rampage this morning. His lot as far as he could remember was a cocktail of walking, “Molue” hanging, “okada” hopping and “Keke Napep” swinging.
She came out and her dress as usual swirled around her like colourful wind, she was so gorgeously dressed that he found himself swallowing. The only person that came close with such divine dresses was a gospel musician he followed called Glowreeyah Braimah, @glowreeyah. Such dresses made him feel that beyond Gabriel, the angel of communication and Michael, the one for war, there must be an angel, a …….el the bible did not record who designed dresses. She walked out of the car alone seemingly floating, so quietly, you could almost not hear the dress rustle. He always felt compared to her dainty steps, a dropped pin would sound like a bomb.
He was always surprised she did not have body guards considering how stupendously rich her father was. She walked into the lecture theatre, clouds of perfume all around her like fragrant ghosts and as usual made a beeline towards his row of derelict seats. Having her close usually made him quite self conscious since what he wore was usually the fragrance he got from some “mola”, Hausa hawkers on the road. Most times, he felt he had been baptised in an ocean of incense but that was what he could afford. Her sitting position also drew the ire of the “happening “boys in his class. The ones who had swag and sagged their jeans, the collars of their Polo t-shirts lifted in swaggering arrogance, the dudes who bounced around decorated in fake bling. They were the ones whose fathers were relatively well off and they felt they deserved her not him, a hillbilly.
They could have her for all he cared. Her being around him made him very uncomfortable. Thing was he had never been able to understand Grace. Her father had the wherewithal to send her to some of the most uppity schools abroad or at the most a very expensive, private university in Nigeria but here she was in Lagos state Polytechnic in Ikorodu. The whole thing derailed the train of his mind but she had told him that her father wanted her to feel the economic infirmities of the less privileged folks of the society. This was supposed to make her more useful to the nation as a whole in the future, give her a sacrificial mindset. He usually reiterated that Nigerian politicians were heartless because they did not feel the pain of the people. Most of their children schooled outside the country, so they would never know that most public schools had no chairs. Their hearts were cold, devoid of empathy.
It made a bit of sense to him but he still wondered. Of course, relative to someone like him, she had it much easier but in the light of her background, it was suffering! The sweltering lecture theatres packed fuller than “Titus” sardine cans without cooling systems. The rocky like benches that made the posterior erupt in rashes, the evil traffic and network of bad roads she had to traverse all the way from Banana Island. It was madness!
As she came close, an errant thought escaped from the pen of his subconscious, that she seemed to be quite fond of him and this time, he actually covered his mouth to prevent himself from roaring out loud. He surreptitiously touched his own forehead to ascertain there was no beginning of a fever. They were from two different planets as far as earth is from Pluto. He grew up in Bariga, Abule in Lagos, precisely, Tabale. He lived in a one room apartment with six other siblings inclusive of his parents. The occupants of the house shared one “shalanga”, pit latrine. His father was a gate man in one of the government primary schools and his mother sold akara (bean cakes) while her father was a real estate magnate with properties all over the world.
Ever so often, he heard people making fun of his thick Yoruba accent when he spoke English. Someone had said he dropped his aspirates hence having a bad case of ‘H’ factor, the guy had insisted albeit cruelly. One day an English Teacher had stopped in the middle of a lesson to teach him to say “Motor” instead of “Mutor”. This had gone on for the rest of the period until he finally got it. He had also been made to know in the past that he said “enri it the ammer on the ead instead of Henry hit the hammer on the head” and “let hus hall go into the all instead of let us all go into the hall.” Funny thing was that, where he grew up, people where in awe of him when it came to having mastery of the language, earning him the moniker, “Oloyinbo,” English-man.
Furthermore, you did not even want to talk about the second hand clothes he purchased at various bend down boutiques also known as okrika all around Lagos. From New Garage, Tejuosho to Badagry, he knew them all. From these he concocted some dangerous combinations in his fashion lab, utterly mind blowing and senses jeering stuff. For example, green shirts on red baggy trousers with white shoes. To make matters worse, he was scarred. His face was criss-crossed with tribal marks of the worst kind (this was the only grudge he bore his parents).
She was soooo POSH!!! Having being born abroad, he did not even understand her sometimes. She spoke with a lot of “phonee,” a sophisticated clipped accent that he was only able to make sense of after she had patiently repeated herself a couple of times.
After another uninspiring estate management lecture, it was finally time to call it a day. As he made his way down the lecture theatre, looking forward to his normal meal of N100 amala (yam flour meal) with N50 meat at “Iya Ibadan’s” canteen, he heard his name.
“Mufu, hold on,” came the sing song voice.
It was Grace again! Whatever did she want now? The more he tried to create some distance, the closer she ran towards him. It just did not make sense.
That day she offered to drop him at home but not before she had taken him out to lunch at a swanky Chinese place in Ikeja. When the waiter dropped the menu on the table and asked him to order, he started making for the reception to ask them what they had. He thought it was the same way one ordered “Buka” food over the counter. Until she painstakingly explained to him but even with that, the whole menu thing was still like Latin. She finally had to choose for him and the gastronomic experience was heavenly especially the ice cream.
When she finally dropped him off at home, it was like the president had visited his street. His status was further elevated beyond the one that been in Lagos State Polytechnic afforded him. Her generosity knew no bounds.
They became closer after that even though he remained guarded. He knew his level and was not ready to cross his boundaries. Wisdom dictates that one cuts his coat according to his size. However, she stuck to him like a barnacle to the hull of a ship, smothered him with affection. His mind could not just wrap around the whole situation. She was goddess like, while he was the dregs of humanity. People like her did not love people like him. The gulf could never be bridged.
On their wedding day, he still had not come to terms with the inexplicable love thing and knew he would never understand. He kept looking at her during the vows to see whether she would come to her senses. After signing the dotted lines that day, as flash bulbs exploded in an internecine war where one desperately wanted to outdo the other, he knew he would never be the same again; he had become a new person. He felt like a new creation.
He came out of the train and rushed into the waiting arms of Grace. She had been waiting for him on the platform. Both of them were doing their masters in the UK but she had gone ahead to see her brother in Croydon. They would be going back to Nigeria in the New Year to assume their new duties in her father’s real estate company. Mufu had become a joint heir of the trust fund that his father-in-law had set up for his love and also a major share holder of the listed company. He had also been made a director and would sit in during the board meetings in the highly elevated pent house of Abraham Towers, the flagship building of the company.
They both went shopping in the Croydon city centre. He particularly liked Debenhams and as they were coming out burdened with shopping bags, he caught a reflection of himself and could not believe that getting married to Grace had transformed his life that much. He cut a resplendent figure in his woolly coat, cardigan and scarf. A Liverpool cap covered his head and his brown Timberland boots completed the whole ensemble. Much more glorious than his reflection was that of his wife. He dropped all the bags, swung her up and kissed her.
“Thank you,” he said, looking into the oceans of love that constantly rippled in her eyes.
She had changed everything, made all things new. Her love had bridged the gap. Grace! Truly amazing!
COME CONNECT TO GRACE THIS WEEKEND
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©2015 Ekpo Ezechinyere