Happy Valentine”, another neighbor greeted. This time it was the girl- neighbor with the numerous girlfriends. We became close friends after the blocked toilet system saga last two months. At the end, I had told her the truth and she had taken to me afterwards. Now, we live more humanly- saying and responding to greetings like we are enamored to each other.
“Fine sisi, come first make I sama u small talk”, I called to her. She rushed half ways, and turned, running back towards her flat.
“I dey come, make I carry sumtin for house first”, she answered as she rushed-in and came out momentarily toting a large polythene bag. As she swayed towards me, I smiled, recalling that not until last two month did we ever talk or become friends. Before then, we were a “cat and dog” bunch- waging a cold war against each other over the repetitive blockage of the toilet system.
She was against me, her case being that I bring so many girls home. It wasn’t just the moans and catcalls that did her in. But the thought that I was actually disposing the condoms I used into the toilet bowls and flushing them down, thus causing the frequent blockages.
I was not fazed by her insinuations after all, she did her moans too- she and those barbie-type, doll-like lesbian friends of hers. It was unimaginable what those girls were doing to each other’s bodies and emotions behind that door. They’d turned her accommodation to a Gommorrah of sorts
Unlike her, I had a stronger case which was beyond the din of humming vibrators over their loud moans every time they got to play house. My case was that I suspected those girls disposed their sanitary pads into the toilet and flushed them down. I was sure it was the cause of the blockages. Gradually, the malignant cold-war festered and broke into an open sore of hatred between us. It was our version of the “War of Sexes”
After the last cistern blockage, we went verbal. She rained several curses; I sent a score of abuses back. Her dolly-girls cooed in their slanderous side talks. The plumber eventually arrived and I decided to stand guard. When she joined me, I realized she was equally worried about the issue. There was no pretense here, we both had to ascertain the root of the problem. It is a shitty work plumbers do- shitty and smelly too- and it takes courage to stand the odour oozing from an open toilet inspection tank. Yet, we stood our grounds. It didn’t take long before the problem was traced: a blocked piping in the cistern drainage caused by two soggy sanitary pads jutting out from the pipe arm connecting her side to the chamber.
Immediately, she had started fuming and swearing to her innocence about the matter. Seeing some honesty in her denials, I instantly hushed her and told her that I knew it wasn’t her. She was so taken aback by my words that she stood there muted for a long moment. “I know it’s not you. Rather, it is those friends of yours. They have been throwing their pads in there and it’s a shame we have been accusing each other over other people’s transgressions”, I had continued. She had apologized after we shared the bills and paid up the plumber’s exorbitant service charge. Then, we became friends.
No sooner had we started talking than her friends started thinning out on their regular visits. Soon, nobody came at all. Soon enough too, she had worked herself to the top of my rung of female friends. She not only became my friend, she also became a cook, my personal laundry woman, a movie rental and a home-cleaner. When I realized that I had a place to eat in, someone to play cards with after work and a good friend in her- all without incurring the bills that I would have with the other girls- I decided to give a break with the strays that I brought home. That was since last December and our friendship has been waxing stronger daily. Now, as she advanced towards me, I was pondering over what she had in the bag.
“Make we fa enta inside, I wan show u sumtin”, she said in her fabulous pidgin-english. I always marvel at the way she speaks her pidgin like it was french or latin or spanish- a kind of language she went to school to learn- taking time to draw out the phonetics. Her shoulder brushed lightly against mine as she passed me by the door. Her cologne had a strong fragrance of meadows and wild flowers. I followed the perfume inside.
“Happy Valentine”, she said for the umpteenth time.
“Wetin be valentine?”, I asked.
“No be today be dem- lovas day?”, she asked back settling noisily on the bed. In our conversations, we had come up with a way of answering questions with questions and yet keeping up the dialogues.
“Na em u come tell me? I be ur lova?”, I asked again, as I moved to the opposite side of the bed.
“E-for kokuma pass dey salute give dem lesbi-chicks were una dey do that thing that year”, I continued. We have always been honest with our talk and we know better not to be infuriated over such careless chitchat.
“No be u use ur village-juju pursue dem?”, she querried, fumbling under the pillow for the television remote. “For wia? No be dia shit and pad pursue dem?”, I countered faking a frown.
“But u follow small; no be why u come dey colombi me kpata kpata like say I be your wife?”,
“Wife ke? Make I hear word, abegi! U no wan show me wetin dey bag?”. She paused from switching channels on the TV and answered back, yet with another question.
“No be Val gift were I buy for u?”.
“Na him u come dey hide? Do make I see am.n o’jare”, I teased. She carried the bag from the bedside where she had kept it, pulled out a box-like package dorned in neat glittering wrapping paper and threw it over the bed towards me.
“Wetin e be sef?”, I pipped as I started opening it. I was shocked at what I saw. There was a huge blue-hued teddy-bear with shiny brown eyes. It wore a pink ribbon with “I love you”boldly written over its belly. As I dragged it out, a wine opener fell out of the package; and a pack of condoms too. The elation that washed over me was indescribable.
A wine opener was the single most important item I had wanted and had always forgotten to buy. Red wines were my specialty. At any given time, about a dozen of the long bottles were always standing in the little wine console I hung by the wall at home. When she became my friend- and after I had given her a good lecture on the science of wine-making, the nutritional value of red wines and the health benefits of its consumption- she joined in. Thus, it was a shame to see me struggling to push wine corks into the bottles with spoons, knives and even my thumb, instead of pulling them out with a simple wine opener. I stood up momentarily, a wide smile plastered across my face as I advanced towards her. She addressed me- in good English this time.
“Bae, I’ve had a good time for the past two months with you and I hope the goodwill you show towards me will continue”, she paused and adopted a more serious tone.
“You must’ve observed that my friends have stopped visiting. That is because news spread- around in my school that I had a boyfriend next door. So in a way, you have stopped me from lesbianism. I can’t say how sorry I’ve been eversince I realize that I had been accusing you wrongly over something you didn’t do. I thank you for letting it go so easily and having me as your friend. To that effect, I bought you those condoms. You can use them and dispose them off in the toilet, if you wish to get even…”, her voice trailed off.
“In that case, I guess I will use it with you, since you’ve used your village juju to pursue the ones I would’ve used them on”, I answered tersely, taking over from her address.
“I appreciate these gifts dear. But I must admit, I don’t do Valentines; so, I didn’t buy any gifts to return the favour. But, I will find something when I go out in the day”, I held her hands.
“On that note please, may I exploit this moment to say that I want you more than an ordinary friend- it has always been on my mind, but i’ve been cowering about letting you know”, I looked deep into her eyes. I saw a dint, a spark lighting up her eyes and spreading like a wild fire through her face.
“Does that mean you were serious about wanting to use them comdoms on me? For real?”, she querried looking deeper into mine.
“I thought that was a joke”.
“Assuming I say yes, how long will you be warm to these thoughts? Will it last past the Valentine?” her voice became a hum. Like a morning bird.
“Not just for Valentine, dear. I want to clog up the toilet drains with you. So we won’t accuse each other wrongly again”, I cooed seductively.
“Yea! For real”, I answered.
She melted into my arms, whispering “That is so sexy, Bae”.
I reached out and held her face in my palms. She was beautiful. My senses were suffused in the rich wildness of her cologne. Meadows and wildflowers. Our mouths found each others. Meadows and wildflowers.
The plumber had to work and feed, so we fell on the bed and did it- for Valentine’s sake.