Mathew guffawed over his phone screen. He lurched out of his bed excitedly and dashed to the living room where his friends were.
“Guys, I no fit laugh alone o,” he chuckled. “Come see wetin the yeye girl don post for Facebook.”
They circled around the phone and one of them read it aloud.
“Men are evil,” he read. “Men are more dangerous than snakes. They are liars, pretenders, monsters! They walk around in fake shirts, looking for a girl to declare fake love to and promise what they’re not even intending to ever give. God is very patient. If not, he should have stricken all of them down.”
“But this girl sabi grammar sha,” said Demola. “Wetin be stricken again now?”
“Olodo!” spat Akin. “You no know strike? When thunder strike person, past tense is stricken.”
“Look at you too,” snickered Mathew. “Past tense or past participle?”
“Who cares?” mumbled Akin. “Who part-party-people epp? So, na because of you the girl dey write all this stricken?”
“Na so I see am o. Na so the stupid girl dey blame me like say she no chop my money too o. No be she wan date banker?”
“But you too don stricken that girl’s heart too much o,” cracked Demola and they laughed. “Truth-truth, you do that girl bad. Person wey dey yarn grammar like this and you just… chai, you’re a wicked somebody.”
“E gbami,” said Mathew. “Come see this yeye pot wey dey say kettle yansh is black. How many belle you don terminate in your life ehn? You fit count am? My own is not even up to five and you dey talk nonsense.”
“Abeg, gimme remote joor.” Akin snacthed the remote control from Demola’s hand and returned to his seat where he was watching highlights on TV.
“Omo,” Mathew told Demola. “I knack that girl gan o. I start to dey knack am from the second week we met. On Sundays like this, before meeting, I go knack am. After coming back from meeting, she go don cook finish, I go still knack am. Throughout the night, she no dey tire. On Monday morning before we comot for house, I go enter again. Every time, pakam! The thing come be say, with the bountiful population of those knacking-lation, she no dey tire o. She go ben-down on top bed like when Muslims dey pray and I go enter from the back, pakan-pakan-pakan, gish-gish-gish, mehn, that girl nearly finished my life. The stupid girl come dey use belle bobo me. Who belle epp? I just pack my stuffs, I enter factory settings pa-pa-pa, make dem go look for me on Jiji.”
“Bad guy!” Demola laughed. To him, it was such an interesting story.
Just then Mathew’s phone rang.
“My mum will arrive tomorrow,” the caller told him. “So, come on Saturday and let me introduce you to her. I’ve got to go. Laters. Love you.”
“Okay, that’s good news! Love you too bae. I’ll call you later.”
The call ended.
“Ore,” he told Demola. “Guess who jes called. Na Bola o. She talk say make I come meet her mum this Saturday. She dey come Naija all the way from Minnesota.”
“Wetin be Minnesota?”
“See your life outside. You no know Minnesota in America.”
“Minnesota in America. Who Minnesota epp? I know my papa’s village in Nigeria?”
“Na you sabi jare, free me.”
“Who hold you before, stupid boy? So, you wan go alone abi?”
“Go alone ke? I dey go with you guys nio, I dey craze?”
“You no go wan enter Evans’ market naw, you dey mad?”
“I no wan offend you o, oga Evans. Akin, stupid boy, you better off that TV and go iron that okrika shirt you bought yesterday. We dey go meet my fiancée’s mum on Saturday o.”
“Thunder go fire your mouth, who dey wear okrika shirt? Na designer shirt you dey call okrika, where you come from sef? Village boy.”
Bola was his girlfriend. He had been with her far before he met Kemisola and was still with her after he left her. They went to the same Fellowship. They were both Jehovah’s Witnesses and in fact, gone out on evangelism together times without number. Mathew knew her parents even though they hardly attended the weekly Kingdom Hall meetings because of their travellings from one country to another. He wouldn’t be sure they knew him too, the Fellowship was one of the most populated ones in Lagos. Bola was beautiful, she studied Petroleum Engineering and was already working for an oil company. She was a rich young lady and he was proud to be her boyfriend.
Saturday came, Demola and Akin accompanied their friend to the Lekki mansion and they were warmly received, entertained, interviewed and treated with respect. Bola’s dad was not around, he was in India at the time but he wouldn’t care about such things anyway, it was always the mothers that wouldn’t sleep unless they see their children happy. So, at the evening after everything, Mummy Bola asked her driver to return the guests to their neighbourhood, and then, Bola and her mum took seats to talk.
Her mum was a shrewd business oriented woman who wouldn’t hold back the major points when she talks merely because they could hurt. So, she looked at Bola squarely and told her, “You can’t marry this kind of person, I forbid it.”
Bola was startled, like, what is this woman saying again now?
“What do you mean I can’t marr- I’ve been with him for five years! I love him!”
“Oh my poor daughter, look at you!” She rolled her eyes. “You’re so unlike me! How blind you are! Look at these boys! Look at the way they devoured the food we gave them like they’ve been starved for a millennium. By mere looking at them, their cheap shirts and wooden shoes, I knew they’re far below your league.”
“Shut up! If you don’t have sense, I’ll install one in your head. Do you think your dad would’ve come this far if he’d picked a girl from the gutter as wife? He was smart! He came to take me from my parents in Ferrari and Lamborghini, and you know your mum was never born a plebian either. We’re a respected family in Lagos. Now look at that, can you now see it is just most logical that one sails with his likes and not some… Jesus Christ!”
“But he’s educated. I’ve known him for five years, I know him better than you could ever do. He’s brilliant! He can become anything he wants in life.”
“Not him, Bola! He can’t become anything he wants. He can only become what is available in his slum. Did you not hear what he said when I asked him what his parents do? His mum is a retailer of Ankara clothes in some… God knows, a woody kiosk in Ipaja. His dad is some public school teacher earning stipends for salary. What good future could possibly be in that kind of, uh, uh… inequality? Equality of unequals is inequality they say! Bola, I know you’re encumbered by… by a mawkish as love at first sight but one’s trajectory must be moving up, not down. He’s not that man you need, trust me.”
“But he loves me, mum. It’s not a mawkish whatever you called it. He’s always cared for me. Isn’t that what all women want?”
“Women who are stupid and bred in poverty! Are you even listening to me at all? These boys don’t love anyone, he’s only after you because your parents are rich. That’s what boys of his class do. He wants to play his way into money, he doesn’t love you! Look at the friends he’s moving with, their spoken English for Christ’s sake! Are you even anything like your mother at all? Your trajectory should only be moving up, that boy with that hungry look could only drag you down, never up. Smart women don’t marry because of love! Love is never going to be enough! Love has never been enough! Where there’s no money, there’s no love and that boy, that boy… I don’t need to have known him for five years, the moment I saw him, I knew he’s an opportunist, a bloody gold digger. I’m not going to open my eyes and let my daughter fall into some gallows bird’s antics and subterfuges!”
“Mummy! You’re just talking like this because you don’t know Mathew. And besides, Late Chief M. K. O Abiola of the blessed memory was poor when he met his wife. She never rejected him because of that? And eventually, he became a very rich and respectable person, even richer than his wife’s family. What do you say on that?
“You’ve been reading too much of newspaper lies, haven’t you?”
“Mum, I’m not going to leave Mathew o. He’s even a Witness, so, you don’t have a tangible excuse to reject him.”
“Yes, he fellowships with us at the same Hall.”
“Okay then. It must have been easy for him to cast his net for the biggest fish. I don’t want to see you with him again. If you want to be with someone who’s qualified to be called a fiancé, come to Minnesota, you’ll meet boys whose trajectories are moving up impressively.”
“Trajectory, trajectory, trajectory! What’s this trajectory you keep repeating anyway?”
“Use your sense, that’s what it is. Don’t even bring that boy into this house again, trust me, you don’t want your dad to see you with that kind of person. He would just shoot him. Use your sense.”
Bola lurched out of the chair and surged to her room tearfully. How would she tell Mathew that her parents weren’t going to accept him? She threw herself into her bed and cuddled a pillow to sob into it. Mathew’s face flashed in her head. How sweet that boy is! Probably smiling on his way home then, poor Mathew, not knowing that his love story had met its end already.
They loved each other but Mathew’s trajectory was down; he was only jumping from one contract job to another with Banks and Telecommunications. He bought no land, he had no car, he built no house, he bought no shares, he had no investment, all he earned, he spent on primary needs like rent payments, recharge vouchers, renewal of DStv and internet subscriptions, wears, clubs and feeding. And with that, a rich woman had looked at him and disqualified him from the nuptial race for her daughter’s hands in marriage. And once again, for the umpteenth time, your choice of marriage is often influenced by your wealth status, for you might tread the whole of Lagos from point A to B, you won’t ever come across Femi Otedola, Folorunsho Alakija or Aliko Dangote’s daughter anywhere unless you’re rich too. They don’t patronize the clubs you go; they don’t shop at the boutiques you go; they don’t go the same school you go; they don’t take your usual public transports; they won’t accept your friend request on Facebook; you won’t ever get their phone numbers. Albeit you’re in the same country and probably speak the same language as them, there is a tall huge wall separating you from them, social scientists call it class, I call it money, they don’t allow riffraff in their neighbourhoods, if you wander there, you’ll be arrested, I’m not joking. Social class has impeded the progress of romance as it often does, money has beaten love, but this is not the end.
…to be continued!
-Lord eBay (and his random ruminations, 2017)