THE UNCLE AND A NIGHT WITH DANIEL
They sat tightly packed together in the overcrowded classroom, eight of them on aged desks made for two people. They were bent over their open notebooks, their elbows jutting out and jabbing each other’s sides. Above them the rusted fan creaked and spun in slow, laborious circles, stirring humid air around the room.
The lecturer, Mr. Amadi stood backed up against the blackboard, reading from a note in his hand. He was in his fifties, a big beefy man with hardly any neck and a long shaggy beard that covered most of his face. His bushy hair was full and graying. It sat on his head, mangled and matted like an abandoned bird’s nest. His guttural voice rose and fell as he read.
“In his book, the man who tasted shapes, Richard Cytowic shows us how unraveling the mystery of synesthesia, a cross modal sensory experience, led him to understand the interrelationships between the organ of rationality, the neocortex and the organ of evaluation and relevance as well as the limbic system.”
He paused and pressed the white handkerchief in his other hand against his forehead. The tips of several dozen pens bobbed and danced wildly across notebooks as the students regurgitated his words in ink. He waited until he had the attention of the class again.
“Synesthesia, while a rare condition, is not classified as a disease.”
He transferred the handkerchief to the pocket of his oversized trousers and set the papers in his hand down on the table that had been pushed to the front of the class for him.
“In the last class, we discussed Mr. Cytowic briefly. Who can tell us what the qualities of synesthesia are?”
There was some murmuring as students conversed among themselves. Mr. Amadi’s eyes swept the room, looking out for a raised hand. Heads ducked and several in the front row avoided eye contact with him.
At the back of the class, Ejiro and her friend Tobi had taken advantage of the break in note-taking to discuss Dami’s invitation to an outing that night. Dami stayed two rooms away from them and had taken a liking to Tobi. That morning she had accosted them on their way to lectures, excusing Tobi to a corner and whispering about a rich uncle on the island.
Ejiro stole a surreptitious look at the lecturer and lowered her head to her friend’s own.
“Will you go?”
Tobi nodded, a frown on her round face.
“Of course I will go. I need money Ejiro. Have you forgotten I told you that I called my father yesterday and he said they have still not paid him his pension money.”
Ejiro looked up just as Tobi had finished speaking. She stiffened when she saw Mr. Amadi begin to approach them.
“Uh oh! We are in trouble.”
“Just look at these two.” Mr. Amadi’s voice boomed around the class when he came to stand beside them. “We are discussing a topic and they are busy talking among themselves.”
The rest of the class, relieved for the distraction, tittered with amusement.
“You are not serious students,” Mr. Amadi hollered a second time, his beard bristling. “Leave my class!”
Jumping at his order and apologizing profusely, Ejiro and Tobi gathered their books and hurried out of the class with their heads bowed. They left the sprawling building that housed the social sciences faculty and walked briskly outside into the hot afternoon sun. Midway into their journey back to the hostel, Tobi saw the humour in their encounter with Mr. Amadi and begin to laugh.
“God, that was so embarrassing,” she said, giggling loudly. “The whole class was looking at us.”
“Did John see us?”
Tobi looked at Ejiro with surprise.
“Are you even serious? I said the whole class was looking at us, you are asking if John saw us. Of course, he saw us.” Tobi made a circular motion in the air with her forefinger. “With the whole class.”
John was their classmate. He was handsome with high cheekbones and sensuous full lashed eyes that Ejiro found attractive. Tobi judged him too effeminate for her liking but her opinion didn’t stop Ejiro from obsessing over him.
“I wonder what he thinks of me now.”
Tobi snorted. “Who cares what he thinks? He is probably thinking of the next skinny jeans to wear to class tomorrow.”
Ejiro laughed. “Why are you like this?”
Tobi laughed with her and they linked arms. Following the long tarred road that led to their hostel, they discussed their plans for the evening. Tobi shared her worries with Ejiro. She did not really trust Dami. She wanted her escapades outside school to remain a secret. What if Dami turned out to be a talkative?
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” Ejiro told her. “She never bothers anybody or follows those wild girls in room 202. I don’t think she will tell anyone about your outing tonight.”
Ejiro shared her concern about her date with Daniel later that night. He would pick her up after work by eight and they would go to his place.
“I think he is a player. He just wants to sleep with me.”
“Of course, he wants to sleep with you, that’s why he is taking you to his house.” Tobi sighed. “I don’t know why you like dating small boys. Old men don’t give you so much trouble. You don’t bother about their motive, just their money.”
“I don’t want to sleep with him,” Ejiro groaned, closing her eyes and throwing her head back to the sky in despair. “I am afraid of what will happen afterwards.”
Tobi slipped one hand behind her back and patted her. “Don’t worry. I will show you what to do and you won’t even be tempted to let him take off your dress.”
They reached the part where the road forked out in two branches and took a left turn towards the plaza where a popular amala joint attracted hundreds of students that lined up, plates in hand like refugees as they waited to be served. Temporarily forgetting their worries about their respective dates, they merged with the student body streaming into the plaza with chaotic purpose.
Evening came and Tobi rode in the air conditioned Toyota Camry that Dami had ordered on Uber for them. They made small talk, discussing the scuffle between two porters at the hostel lobby that afternoon. Then, they complimented each other’s outfits and finally let the silence fill in spaces left by the awkwardness of a new friendship.
The hour-long drive came to an end after they had survived the traffic gridlock and water filled crater-like potholes of Apapa. They drove into the streets of G.R.A and its many ghost neighbourhoods. The shadows of abandoned houses fell behind them as they reached the more inhabited Marine road where cars drove in and out of imposing buildings and fitness enthusiasts jogged in spandex shorts and stretchy tops.
The house where Dami’s uncle lived was a duplex with gray stucco exterior and a red tiled roof. A young man opened the gate for them, bowing slightly at them in greeting. A cobbled pathway bordered by neatly trimmed grasses led them to the front door. Tobi could not help noticing the silver Mercedes benz sitting in one of the bays of the open garage nestled between two large neem trees.
Not bad, she thought to herself.
Dami’s uncle Yusuf was a balding man in his sixties. Appearing with a glass of wine in hand the moment they sat on the white leather sofas set at angles around a brass and glass table in the living room, he waved Dami forward.
“My baby girl! Come here and give your uncle a hug.”
Tobi sat primly, her hands folded on her lap and watched them rock back and forth in a hug. Uncle Yusuf turned to her when he released Dami.
“And who is this pretty young lady with you?”
“Her name is Tobi.”
“Stand up and give me a hug too,” the man said jovially, an encouraging smile on his face as he pulled Tobi to him. She tottered on her high heels towards him, struggling with the shifting hem of her short dress. The air was squeezed from her lungs as uncle Yusuf gave her a tight hug that lasted longer than the one he had given Dami. Afterwards he turned her around, looking her over with appreciative eyes.
“You have a lovely shape.”
He asked her questions about school – what course she was studying, what year she was and if her parents lived in Lagos. Then he and Damil left her alone, disappearing around a corner of the living room. The clock ticked fast and Tobi realized that nearly twenty minutes had gone since she saw her friend and her uncle. She remembered that Dami was almost a stranger to her and began to worry again.
Fear and caution caused her to remove her black sandals and creep in the direction the duo had gone. She followed the sound of their voices and saw them in a place that looked like a kitchen. Uncle Yusuf’s broad back was turned to her but she saw the arms that were looped around his neck. Tobi stared in confusion at them. The hug was nothing like the innocent hug he had given Dami in the living room. Wasn’t the man her uncle?
“Let me do you before you go na.”
Dami giggled. “But I brought my friend for you.”
“That one is for later.”
“Do you like her?”
There was an exaggerated inflection in Uncle Yusuf’s tone when he answered Dami’s question.
“See question! With that shape? Who won’t like her?”
Dami said something Tobi could not catch, but she heard uncle Yusuf laugh
“Don’t worry. I will pay you.”
They had sex standing, Dami bent over and uncle Yusuf behind her. Tobi stood through five minutes of the quiet coitus, shock rendering her immobile. She heard uncle Yusuf’s panting and the smacking he made with his lips as he drove into the girl she thought was his niece. When the elderly man began to make small mewling sounds she recognized was his climax, she crept back to her seat and tried to think her way through her dilemma.
Should she go after what she had seen? Or should she stay and have sex with uncle Yusuf right after Dami had had sex with him?
They joined her again, continuing the farce of kinship and walking with a respectable distance between them. Dami held a glass of orange juice in her hand. She handed it over to Tobi and made a great show of being tired.
“I will leave you two alone and go upstairs and sleep.” She winked at Tobi who smiled wanly. “See you tomorrow.”
A ready smile on his face, uncle Yusuf collapsed to the chair beside her.
“So my dear, tell me how much you want me to pay you.”
Tobi looked at him, droplets of water slipping down the glass in her hand and through her fingers. So, what if she had caught him in the kitchen with Dami? He had money and she was desperate. Her pride would not pay for the handouts the class rep was hawking on behalf of the lecturer teaching PSY 111 or for the bed space she was yet to pay for. She threw back her shoulders.
He picked her up at the time he said he would. She found the air of dignified reserve around him a little unsettling as she buckled her seatbelt. She relaxed a little when he turned to her minutes later, his eyes sweeping over her in appraisal.
“You look good.”
Ejiro’s toes curled in pleasure at the low, suggestive quality of his voice.
Female students trooped past his car, freshly showered and heavily made up. A few eyes wandered in the direction of the car, exploring the insides with curiosity and narrowing with interest when they fell on him.
“We should go,” he said, putting the gear into drive and leaving the grounds of the hostel. They did not talk much until they left Yaba and the car began to climb the upward slope of third Mainland Bridge at Ebutte Metta.
“How was class today?”
Before she could stop herself, Ejiro found herself blurting out to him how she and Tobi had found themselves in Mr. Amadi’s bad books that morning. She began to regret her decision to share that part of her day with him when lines appeared on his forehead and his lips turned in begrudging amusement.
“You seem to have problems focusing on your studies.”
Her shoulders hunching over, Ejiro pushed back into her seat and looked out of the window. She smarted at the tone of his voice. Who did he think he was, talking to her like a child?
“You are pretty when you pout.”
His compliment caught her by surprise. She lowered her gaze, deflating almost immediately.
“I am not pouting, but thanks, I guess.”
Twenty minutes later, they arrived V.I and drove into a gated, six-story apartment building off Bishop Aboyade Cole where two sleepy looking guards waved at Daniel. He led the way, only stepping aside when they reached the long staircase that led to the upper floors. Ejiro walked ahead of him, conscious of his eyes on her behind.
He lived on the front first floor apartment – a two bedroom with curtains of blue and white, gray wood floor, accented white scatter rugs and six pieces of distressed grey leather sofas in the living room. He turned on the television to entertain her and offered her something to eat. Ejiro shook her head. Apprehension and her lunch of rice and stew sat heavily in her stomach, denying her any appetite for the rest of the day. She opted for a drink instead.
“No. I will take malt.”
“I don’t have that.”
He invited her to the kitchen and made her choose from the neatly lined bottles and boxes of drinks in his fridge. They stood close together as Ejiro reached blindly for the first thing her hand touched. Her heart hammering away in her chest, she thanked him and returned to the living room. She pretended to like the tomato juice she took occasional sips from and responded distractedly to his attempts at conversation. Finally he stopped trying. Leaning back in the sofa across the room, he let his eyes travel the length of her body as he had done when he came to pick her from school.
“Come and join me here,” he said, patting the spot beside him.
Leaving her drink on the coffee table next to her, she slipped her feet out of her shoes and walked bare feet to meet him. He was quick, pulling her down to the sofa and rolling her beneath him. Ejiro lay on her back, watching him as her heartbeat echoed in her ears. They stared into each other’s eyes, their faces only inches away.
Finally his head lowered and their lips brushed slightly. Her senses whirled as his mint-laced breath skated across her face. He kissed her right then, his tongue gliding over hers so slowly and stoking the heat that had begun to burn between her legs. His hands moved down her body, cupping her breasts and eliciting a moan from her.
He kissed her bottom lip, the tip of her chin and the curve of her neck. Then his knee urged her legs apart, making room for his roaming hands. Ejiro’s eyes flew open when His hands skimmed the sides of her thighs, reaching upwards for her panties. She pushed his hand away and tried to sit up.
His brows drawn together in puzzlement, Daniel pulled away from her and rested on his haunches on the sofa.
“Are you okay?”
Ejiro swallowed and pushed down her skirt.
“I can’t,” she said, avoiding his eyes as she fixed the buttons of her shirt. “I am sorry.”
He did not try to persuade her to change her mind. They sat in uncomfortable silence. After a while, he asked her if she wanted to spend the night or go back to school. Still aching for him, she chose the former. He took her to a sparsely furnished but comfortable guest bedroom where she stripped off her clothes and stood in silence before the ceiling to floor bathroom mirror.
She stared and stared at her secret – old torn panties that hung off her hips by a stringy elastic band. Alero was right. The torn panties had stopped her from having sex with him. Yet she felt a gnawing emptiness. She wanted him in a way she never wanted any man. He was going to hurt her but she wanted him.
In his room, Daniel was sprawled on his back on his bed, waiting for the call he knew was coming. Folake called five minutes later, her eyes sultry as she panned the camera on her short sleep shirt. He loosened the band of his joggers and reached down to stroke himself.
She did. The camera hobbled and blacked out but she returned again, her attractive body spread out on red satin sheets for him. They went through their routine, talking about what they would do to each other when they met. The camera bobbed between her face and the juncture of her thighs. Her voice stirred lust in him until he felt the tremors of his release. He excused himself to the bathroom. When he returned, it was just her eyes that stared back at him from his screen.
“Do you want me to come over?”
He plumped his pillows with one hand, the phone in the other hand.
“You have someone staying over?”
He grinned into the camera.
“Please don’t tell me it is that secondary school chick you brought to Ebitimi’s party.”
“Same girl,” he said, his grin growing wider. “And she is a student at Unilag.”
Folake rolled her eyes. “She looks like poor trash.”
Daniel laughed. “She is pretty though.”
Folake’s nostrils flared and her lips thinned.
“You are already fucking her right?”
Daniel thought of his kiss with Ejiro.
“Almost did today.”
He began to end the video call but she waved at him to stop.
“Daniel,” she crooned, making doe eyes at him. “Let’s date.”
Daniel couldn’t stop the laughter that erupted in his gut.
“You have slept with every single one of my friends. You still do.”
“Yes but you are the only one I like.”
“Well, you better unlike me then.”
Sleep did not come easy for Daniel after the call with Folake. Tension remained coiled inside him, his thoughts often straying to the woman in his guest bedroom. He remembered the smoothness of her skin and the abandon with which she kissed him. She had wanted him as much as he wanted her, so why had she stopped him? Feeling a slight twinge of annoyance at himself, he turned off the bedroom lights. He did not have time for women and their agendas. The hunt was over. He would drop her off at school tomorrow and that would be it.