By Taju Tijani
My phone rang early Saturday morning. I ignored it and returned to the kitchen to prepare a cup of early goodness – camomile and mint tea. Each Saturday that is my routine. I detox and flush my system from the week’s indulgence of food and more food.
I barely sat and the phone rang again. Reluctantly, I picked up and waited. “Baba Teejay, Baba Teejay,” the voice boomed out. I recognised the caller instantly. “Iya Legba, ki lo nsele, you still dey this country?” I teased. “Mowapa, Baba Teejay, papa ni mowa bi ibon,” she responded laughing.
Oluwabori “Bori” Owolabi had been my cross for over 30 years in the UK. I knew Bori in 1993 in Ladbroke Grove. Tall, intimidating, intelligent, domineering, average beauty, dutiful and funny. She always made me laugh to the early hours of the morning when we met at parties. Those roaring period in London was marked by careless abandon. The soulish nighties were a period of soul, rhythm and blues, bohemianism, jazz and the rise of brutal hard work among Nigerians. We were our brother’s keepers. We shared our food and spread beneficial information among ourselves.
“Party wa ni Saturday ni Peckham”, Bori announced still laughing. “I want you to come. I want you to leave your duvet and forget the cold winter and enjoy yourself. Also, I want you to meet my friends. One of them surprisingly said that she reads you. She was excited when I told her that I will invite you to the party. So, ko gbe agbada e jade jare,” Bori reeled away encouragingly. I was lost for word. I scanned my calendar. I paused and did not know what to say. I like Bori a lot. She is a safe bet anytime.
On the day of the party, I groomed like a bridesmaid waiting to receive his bride. I pampered my face, trimmed my moustache, ironed my black linen buba and sokoto and polished my shoes. I complimented the whole self-care with Club De Nuit perfume to smell heavenly. Being winter, I donned one of my ofi cap and practised some dance steps just in case I might want to impress them at the party as a good dancer. Towards the evening, I grew anxious and began to think what if the party was not my kind of go-to gathering.
The majestic event centre looked intimidating from its exterior. Rows of shops decked it on each side. I saw party goers milling outside. Some were talking on their phones directing those who were on the way. Some were in groups and looked regally in colourful aso ebi. There were clash of perfumes as each guest left a sweet trail of either Prada, YSL, Paco Rabane, Dulce & Gabana or Gucci. I guessed the celebrant must be a woman-about-town judging by the sea of heads entering the party haven. As I was about to approach the party door, a Nigerian bouncer frisked me. “E wole sir,” he intoned.
Five huge chandeliers beamed their colourful light on the guests. It was an expansive and tastefully decorated venue with a relaxing ambient of opulence and decadence. Bori had instructed me that once I arrived the venue, I should proceed to the reserved table appropriately named “Bori’s Friends.” Row after row of reserved tables had different appellation on them. One reserved table had “Emi Lokan” written on it. I smiled at that sense of humour as I continued to look for Bori’s elusive throne arena. Then, eureka, I found it. Two guests had been on seat. I greeted in Yoruba language and sat.
The table was a sweeping, unrestrained glamour. The plates, cutleries and cups were all gold. The murals on the huge walls depicted pictorial history of Peckham and London in general. I yanked open one of the table waters on the table. I gulped it all in one go. Then my phone rang. “Teejay, so ti de party yen,” Bori inquired. I answered in the affirmative. “Ok, I’m on the way…. Just looking for where to park my car,” Bori informed. “Alright, take your time, I’m here. Later,” I answered.
Ten minutes later a bevy of heavily bedecked women came into the hall. Bori led the pack of friends. Tall, fat, short, slim, fair and dark colours. Make ups were crying for a rescue. I fixed a smile and adjusted myself. Bori gave me a long and satisfied smile. She grabbed and embraced me warmly. She thanked me profusely for honouring the party and offered a short prayer. Four friends were waiting at her face to offer welcoming pleasantries when she was talking to me. Turn by turn, I heard the cry of “Ore mi o, sowapa.” Bori sat them all and excused herself for some minutes.
Bori later returned and brought the celebrant Wumi Wande to our table. She introduced her to us, and she effusively thanked us all for coming. Bori sat beside me and began a roll call of her friends’ names to me. “Teejay, let me introduce to you Abimbola “AA” Adelaja, Bukola “BB” Bamidele, Eniola “EE” Emmanuel, Seun “SS” Sokoya, Kemi “KK Kanimodo, Jaiye “JJ” Joseph, Temi “TA” Ajakaiye, Sola “SO” Oludoyi, Dotun “DS” Sekoni and Modupe “MM Magregor. The last to be introduced was my alter ego, my unknown reader who had been rooting to meet me. “Teejay, here comes your number one fan, Tokunboh “TT Temidire,” Bori announced. READ ALSO:
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I stood up and went to meet her. She held my hand warmly and gave me a liking and penetrating look. She blushed, gushed and dissolved into laughter on meeting the muse who lightens her Sundays. “I’m happy to meet you sir. E pele sir. I have a story for you. We must talk. A lot is happening among Nija men in London. Oti su mi.” Tokunboh whetted my appetite for a gossipy and thoroughly human angle story in the capital. “TT, don’t worry, we are all going to tell Teejay our matrimonial horror in London, for now enjoy yourself,” Bori announced.
TT had been on a wheelchair for ten years. The muse in me was burning to hear this amiable but disabled woman recant the horror she had suffered from her last Nigerian husband.
…To be continued next week.