Safaya Story

The Corridors of Coincidence: Episode 1

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A ‘Pizza’ Her Heart

“I can’t marry him Gracie,” Deola said as she examined her long and beautifully manicured nails.

Hay! Stories that touch…why don’t you like him?” Gracie her friend asked.

The duo who had been friends on the Samaru Campus during their undergraduate days at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria had just reconnected again in Zaria after the year long mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

Zaria, a major city in Kaduna state in Northern Nigeria was home to ABU Zaria, the largest University in Nigeria; second largest on the African continent and other top institutions of learning in Nigeria. The University operated two campuses; Kongo and Samaru campuses. Needless to say, ABU Zaria was a big deal and the Samaru Campus an even bigger bargain.

It was while they were waiting for their meal at a popular restaurant opposite the university’s North Gate that Gracie had ventured to ask about her friend’s relationship.

“Answer me nau,” Gracie prodded a second time.

“No reason…I just don’t think we are a fit. You get my point? He’s not my type of guy jare.

Deola paused, examined a finger and reached for the nail polish in her bag.

“Every time I call and say ‘Darling can we go out for pizza?’  he says ‘Adeola Adenike Olayemi …pounded yam would be better. Shogbo?’  Who chooses pounded yam over pizza for the love of Yoruba Demons?”

Her hands fell to her side in exasperation.

Deola continued. “He even sounds like a sugar daddy…mtchew! Calling my name like my grandfather would…what happened to Deola Bunnie or  Ife mi, ehn? They went on vacation abi? Rubbish!”

Gracie looked at the ceiling.  After having to sit and listen to these same rants from their undergraduate days, she decided it was time to rid her friend of the madness that must have gotten to her head.

“A correct Nigerian man, Deola.”

“What?” Deola dropped the nail polish in the bag.

“ I said a correct Nigerian man would reach for pounded yam in an ocean of pizza any day.” Gracie said flippantly.

She continued.

“Deola I hope you know these standards you are setting are too unrealistic for the average man out there.”

Deola looked at her, a stoic expression on her face.

Beeni! That is exactly why they are called standards Gracie – quality control – to help keep the average at bay and make way for the one. Pass me that glass of zobo please.”

There was a dreamy look on Deola’s face as she delivered her ten second speech.

“What has come over you sef? You want a ‘Made in China Bae?’  AliExpress does not sell men my dear.”

Grace was annoyed.

“So you don’t like Kay because he what? Prefers pounded yam to pizza? Deola, Kayode oooh! Do you even know how you sound to the rational mind right now? Jeeez! Who would rate a man based on his food preferences?”

“Standards Grace, standards.’ Deola shot back.

Gracie knew the lines even as she repeated them in concert with Deola but she also knew the way Deola was going about finding a mate was going to land her in trouble sooner than later.

Growing up, they had shared those dreams common to young girls who had hoped for a knight in shining armour, preferring men who smelled like freshly fallen snow  to the boys that hung around the never minding the fact that they were yet to cross the River Benue much less the Atlantic.

However, life had happened and they had learned that not all stories in the Harlequin and Silhouette Romance their teenage minds had devoured were wont to happen in real life.

And so, Gracie had quickly moved on to more realistic choices like Alexander; the cheerful and always ready to help usher in their local assembly back at home.

Gracie remembered the first time Deola had met Xander (Zanda) as he was fondly call by his circle in the same restaurant. Deola had turned her nose to the high heavens and acted like a fish out of water the whole time the three were together.

Alex at the time was a student of the department of Electrical Engineering while Gracie and Deola were third year students of Chemistry in the same university.

In an event that Deola always referred to as “A Match Made in the Corridors of Coincidence,”  Gracie had met Alex while walking through the infamous long corridor behind the Ribadu Girls Hostel. She was on her way to the Faculty of Engineering to use the Wi-Fi at the Engineering Students Garden.

Gracie in her haste to secure a favourable spot at the garden had collided with Alex who had stepped out of his class to buy popcorn and a bottle of Coke from the vendors at Social Centre; the University’s Students Hub.

Coke and popcorn was the recipe students in these parts employed to stay awake and study all night. Hardcore ones included coffee in the odd mix although constant usage sometimes did more harm than good to their ability to concentrate.

Xander was preparing for the coming first semester exams hence the need for the sleep-preventing cocktail. Gracie’s phone which had fallen on impact had unfortunately slid into one of the many complex drainage systems that snaked its way around the entire campus.

Alex had promptly jumped into the water-filled drainage while a shocked Gracie had looked on, unable to even utter a word. As he waded ankle-deep in the murky waters, Gracie had wondered who he was and whether to be angry he had bumped into her or amused he was rescuing her phone from the dirty water.

Fine boy inside gutter, she thought.

She quickly wiped the smile off her face, replaced it with feigned anger, squared her shoulders and began to tap her right foot on the floor. Wahala go dey if this phone does not work today, she thought to herself.

Alex had retrieved the water-logged phone and as he made his way out of the waist deep drainage, he noticed Gracie was tapping her right foot.

I just hope this girl is not from Ribadu Hostel especially that last block overlooking the road to engineering else I’m doomed in this school. Those girls are a pain in the neck. His heart skipped a beat.

“Errrrrr…here is your phone. I – don’t – know – whether – it would – wwwwork sha,” he stuttered.  “Perhaps you should put it inside a bag of rice, do you know rice acts as a desiccator? It would help dry off any hidden water or moisture.”

He was nervous and the girl was freaking him out with her silence.

“So I should carry the phone you just fished out of a drainage containing all the sins of ABU and dump it in the rice my mother just sent from home? What level are you sef? Add your department to the answer while you are at it. I am pretty sure you are in 100 level sef, it explains why you didn’t know where you were going when you bumped into me.”

She stopped when she realized he was staring at her as if he had seen a ghost.

“What?” she barked.

The voice sounded familiar; like someone who sang in his choir back at home, like sister –never mind. These girls looked pretty much the same, he thought, blame it on their identical eyebrows.

“I’m sorry, you just went from a silent stranger to a fire spitting warrior in like ten seconds. I’m sorry about your phone.”

“Ehnnnn? Mother of dragons abi?” she sarcastically replied.

An oncoming car shone its’ light on her face. Wait a sec, he thought, Sister Grace?  Xander caught a glimpse of her face before the lights dimmed.

“Sister Grace! Ahnnn!  Good evening ooooh, recognize me? Alex; Tayo’s elder brother, Academic Unit in church. I knew the voice sounded familiar! I am soooooooo sssssorry about your phone.”

Bro Alex? How? Why? God! Church members who know Jesus but don’t know their way around school –wait! Didn’t he give a testimony in church while they were at home for the mid-term break about being on a fully funded scholarship from when he had started his undergraduate studies up until…arrrrrrrrrgh!

Too late, she had realized her blunder. Dude was a bonafide FYB (Final Year Brethren) as the final year students in the university were often called and to make matters worse, Alex was even a first class student of Electrical Engineering, the type who taught at tutorials organized for the younger generation of students even when he had exams the next day.

Yay! She raised her hands in a bid to put them atop her head but on a second thought folded her arms across her chest.

This isn’t happening; my village people have finally done it, she thought. CGPA they will not allow to increase, business they won’t allow to grow. Now I’m bumping into strangers turned church folks! What do I do now!

*****

Episode 2 comes up next week!

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