Hublot wristwatch, check. Ralph Lauren shirt, check. Zara pants, check. Gucci loafers, check. Tom Ford cologne, splash-splash, check. Deji took a long, hard look at his reflection in the mirror and grinned in satisfaction. Thinking about what lay ahead that day, he smiled unabashedly. He had found 'The One'. Just as he was thinking it was about time he settled down but also worried that all the good girls were taken, he found the last one.
Tessa was every man's dream. The kind of girl that made you want to be a better man, the kind who pushed you to succeed, with her words and prayers; yes, she had prayed with and for him a number of times over the phone. The kind that made you suddenly understand what Joe meant when he sang "don't wanna be a playa no more". The kind you pictured yourself holding hands with and mopping sweat off her face as she cried and screamed expletives at you and pushed forth your beautiful children into the world. The kind you immediately wanted to 'wife' before one other sharp guy snagged her. Yeah. Tessa was all that and more. He could not believe his good fortune in meeting her.
They met on a flight from Asaba to Lagos, he had gone for business and she'd gone to visit her parents. He was leaving for India the day after they met and for the next four months would be on assignments in different countries and won't be back in Lagos till he was done. That however was not an obstacle.
They talked everyday and had become a major part of each other's lives. Deji had just got back to Nigeria that morning and was meeting up with Tessa when she was done with work. Anyone could tell he was super excited. Tessa suggested they meet at Bungalow for dinner and take it from there, after all it was a Friday. As Deji got into his car he slotted in Omawumi's CD, Tessa's favorite, and hummed happily, making a mental note to suggest to her that they spend the next weekend in Ghana.
He was thirty minutes early and could barely sit still. He was finally going to kiss those lips. To wrap his hands around that slender waist that flared into the most perfect round hips, and who knew what else. He was so deep in anticipation that he did not notice her standing there, smiling at him.
"Hello Deji" she said in a breathy voice.
He immediately stood, almost jumping up and wrapped her in his arms. Tessa held on to him tightly. The last four months culminated in this moment. As they clung tightly to each other, nothing and no one else existed, the music and voices were drowned out. It was almost like time stood still.
"We better sit before someone hands us room keys" whispered Tessa and they both giggled as she reluctantly let go of him.
It was a beautiful evening, Tessa though in her corporate clothes looked hotter than she did the day they met. There was not a dull moment as they both regaled each other with amusing tales.
Deji took his last bite of fish fillet and he signaled to the waiter to approach them.
"I hope you enjoyed the food. What do think about some red wine?" He asked Tessa. She nodded affirmatively.
"Hello" she called out to the waiter just as he was walking away from the table. She hesitated as though she was unsure of what to say. In the seconds that followed different conversations she and Deji had had in the past few months ran through her mind, he said he loved her unconditionally. She told him she had a few habits she wasn't necessarily proud of, to which he dismissively said "well, don't we all". He followed it up by saying "babes you're not getting rid of me so easily. I love you in your entirety. Good or bad. So get it into your pretty skull that I'm not going anywhere". With this final recollection, Tessa, confident in Deji's love for her, placed her order with the waiter who was almost growing impatient.
Tessa gave it a second thought and wondered if she indeed needed it, her head said No, her body screamed YES! Besides, he would eventually know anyways.
"Do you guys have Dunhill Lights please?" She asked in that soft voice of hers, the waiter nodded and Tessa asked for a pack. Deji was not sure of what was going on. He was about to ask, to gain some clarity, when her phone rang.
"Oops. My boss. Please babe, I need to take this" she said to him apologetically.
As she talked into her phone, the waiter came back with a pack of cigarettes and an ash tray. Deji was still trying to wrap his head around what was going on while he watched Tessa fish around for something in her bag, it turned out to be a gold plated B&H lighter. Resting the phone between her ear and her shoulder, she unsealed the packet and pulled out a stick. She placed it between her lips, lit it and took a long slow drag. Sinking back into her seat like the nicotine suddenly washed over and relaxed her, she parted those full moist lips and let out a steady stream of smoke.
In a matter of seconds, she became someone else. In Deji's eyes she had transformed from his beautiful, decent, wife-to-be and mother of his children to an unattractive, uncouth cigarette-smoking street girl.
"Sorry, my boss sometimes mistakes me for a baby sitter" she said as she placed the phone back on the table. She was about to say something when Deji suddenly grabbed his phone.
"Oh no!" He exclaimed. He immediately signaled the waiter to bring the bill and he grabbed his car keys.
"Sorry Tessa. One of our biggest clients just summoned me. I need to go now, but I'll call you" he said and struggled to his feet.
He moved some steps away from the table and thrust a wad a 1000 naira notes at the approaching waiter, and with that he was gone, leaving a perplexed Tessa with her mouth hanging open with words that wouldn't come out.
He frantically stumbled into his car, quickly shut the door and pinned down the knob as though he was being pursued by robbers. It was only after he securely shut his door that he relaxed in his seat and marveled at the extremely disappointing turn of events,
"I could have sworn she was 'The One' ", he said under his breath and turned on the ignition.
Although it's been a good long while since I last touched a stick I'm still confused about if and why smoking is such a big deal breaker for Nigerian men. As in, I would like to hear detailed rational reasons, not just opinions based on the perception that a woman that smokes must be wayward (which isn't always the case BTW).
A while back I met a young medical doctor (a pediatrician) and she smokes like a Chimney, LOL. She was with her boo, a non-smoker. I wondered if he genuinely didn't mind or if one day he would evaporate into thin air just like the cigarette smoke, because of the cigarette smoke, like the men I used to know.....