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Fiction Friendship

The first time Obi heard Ken discuss business outside office was when Ken told him to quit working at the consulting firm, and take up cooking as a business, create an extension of his wife’s bar, rebrand it, and generate more revenue. After having a taste of the savoury meals Obi prepared, he stood, following Obi like the way egrets followed a cattle, and trying to make him see reasons to venture into cooking. Obi knew him well, and could tell when he was serious or not. And this time, he was serious, trying to find the centre of my eyeball – in such a manner like he did when he offered professional services to clients, but Obi barely responded. In fact, he had wished that he hadn’t cooked in Ken’s presence, although he had told him that he was a great cook, and he loved cooking. And sometimes, prepared meals at home, especially during weekends when Mma was very much busier at the bar.

It was the first day, too when Obi finally agreed to join Ken and play football at the pitch in a government primary school, where they played with other men, based on random selections that even Ken didn’t know their real names – they had not planned to give themselves new identities – names that were given based on how they behaved on the pitch or physical features or facial resemblances. Ken bore Torty – a short form of Tortoise – an animal widely believed in many folk tales of South-Eastern Nigeria to be very cunning. They had given him the name because his style of playing was unpredictable and superb. Even that day, Obi was called G-string, because his big buttocks had moved freely while he ran up and down the pitch. After the match, Ken sat on a stone, while Obi sank in the bare floor, with his arms stretched apart, and backwards for balance.

“This is not Lagos o, So, there are no hawkers selling water or even drinks here.” Obi said. He looked around breathing somewhat heavily. “There’s no hawker here at all.”

Ken looked around in amazement. “It’s unusual o.” He looked at Obi whose head was now tilted towards the right – his direction. “They want you to pass out, or even die of thirst after playing ball.” He chuckled. Ken muttered something the didn’t even know the meaning. 

“Let’s start going. We'll buy across the road.” There was an indistinct chatter amongst the other players near the school gate. They were not sure what had caused what seemed to be now like a fuss, but they were sure it was about money – gamble.

 When they approached the gate, Obi’s teams goalkeeper ogled at his buttocks, tapped it, then moved to his back and shoulder, and said, “G-string, your face is new here. At least, you made me shine today.” He smiled. “Your defence is like the walls of Jericho. I had a clean sheet today.” Obi said nothing, and reluctantly gave him a handshake which the goalkeeper held for reasonable length of seconds, and said a few things Obi didn’t even listen to.

“On a normal Saturday like this, there are usually many hawkers around, that you might even find one under your feet.” 

After they had bought a bottle of water eac, Obi told Ken that if he knew that the primary school's pitch was used on Saturdays to play soccer, he would had been coming often. And its proximity to his house was favourable, too.

“Since a year I got married, I have been staying here in FESTAC and you’ve not been to my place.” Obi said. “Even to say, hello to Mma. You know, she often asks about you.”

“I will try and come next weekend. You know my babe usually visits during weekend, but she’ll be going to South Africa to see her parents next week. So…”

“You can’t come with her?” He interrupted. They were both inducted into their consulting firm the same day. Obi was in technology advisory unit, while Ken was in business consulting unit. After one month into their job, they became very close, perhaps, after they knew they had many things in common: same birthday, same course of study, had twin sisters, keen interest in football and politics and loved Friday hangouts. They loved Afro-pop and rap, too.

They had a sloppy handshake that earnestly, none of them wanted to have, said a boring joke which substituted the men folk's goodbye, and gave cosmetic smiles and chuckle to the joke they had said – for humour sake. Obi turned in the opposite direction, and started walking when Ken asked, “you’re not waiting for Okada? You’ll walk under this sun?

“My house isn’t far from here at all, It’s very close. At 23 Road.”

“Is that so? Let me use this opportunity and know your place, then.” He joined Obi as they walked with the same pace. Ken was light-skinned, not so tall, and he looked brawny. Obi had sand colour that had been mixed with olive oil. He had a very smooth and attractive skin. In fact, he was beautiful. And the dirt that had stained his short when he sat on the ground, mixed with his sweat accentuated his buttocks while he worked. Obi was surprised that Ken hadn’t teased him about the men calling him G-string. Ken had told him several times, at the office that he had a bigger buttocks than his wife, and it was the reason his trouser often tore underneath.

“Bro, please! Stand up from my cushion.” Obi said when Ken sank in his cushion with his body soaked in sweat.

“You should be happy that I visited you.”

“Do you know what? Defecate on my cushion, too. I’ll eat your faeces.” Obi said humorously.

“I’m hungry.” He looked inside the fridge at the dining table, and found nothing, but carbonated drinks, beer and water. “You don’t have food here? Obi pretended not to hear. “Ee? Obi? By the way, where’s Mma? She has gone to her beer parlour?”

“Yes. She is with her younger sister who Covid-19 lockdown had kept away from school. She’s helping her at the shop. I want to go to the market, and buy ingredients to cook. You’ll come with me, right? Ken just stared at him, with his palm on his head, and the arm, resting on the cushion's arms. “Oh!, You can wait for me. I won’t be long. I just want to buy mainly, vegetables, other ingredients are here.”

Ken walked to the bathroom, had his bath, went to Obi’s wardrobe, and wore his short and polo. When they returned, Obi dashed into the kitchen, prepared ingredients for cooking three soups, spaghetti and beans and flour sauce. After the power was interrupted, Ken took the small wooden kitchen chair, and sat at the entrance of the kitchen, entertaining him with random gossips, arguing football and news. Ken could talk for hours without response from the other party. What he just needed to begin a chat was another person’s presence.

Bitter leaf and oha soups got separated after their leaves had been added. Spaghettis were giant worms that stuck together when cooked with beans, and it was by grace that it wouldn’t get burnt. The perfect blend of the aroma from different meals that Obi had prepared simultaneously – two at a time, was good, and they fought for dominance. Anyone’s hunger would be triggered by the wonderful aroma in the nook and cranny of his flat, and the building. The Okra soup was a perfect draw soup that one could hardly raise a spoonful, with the contents remaining there after a second. The leaves were perfectly shredded and cooked. They weren’t alive, they were not too soft, too. Flour sauce was like phlegm mixed with fried liver, green pepper, carrot and sweet corn. Obi was very fast in cooking. Ken had thought that he would spend the whole day if he were the one that prepared the meals. It was striking that Obi didn’t taste anything he cooked, even for salt, though he had eaten the dried and stock fish before adding them to the soup to check how salty they were. When the power was restored, he went to the sitting room, and said, “I need fresh air.” 

The power was interrupted when Ken sank in the cushion, with his big calves, balancing on the centre table, watching premier league's football highlights on the TV. He hissed loudly, and now reunited with the aromas that fought for dominance in the atmosphere. Before he blinked an eye, he was in the kitchen, holding a ceramic bowl plate, taking a small portion of what Obi had prepared. He started with spaghetti and beans, and it was so perfect that he wished he could take the pot to his house. The next was okra soup. He liked the way it tasted, and it was like his tongue had affinity for the soup, that it took him time to swallow. After having a taste of the bitter leaf and oha soups, and the flour sauce, he stood akimbo, at the entrance of the kitchen, his gaze following Obi as he walked about the kitchen transferring the soups to different bowls to preserve in the freezer. 

“Guy, your food is grea-ti.” Ken stressed. “You could actually relieve yourself of the pressure, and fear of working for someone. Venture into this, bro.” He said sententiously, gesticulating, his fore finger pointing at the meals which were in different bowls, lined up on the wooden table, which were uncovered for them to get cold before being transferred to the freezer. 

“So, what will we eat?” Obi asked him.” 

Anything.”

“Anything?”

“Yes, I truly can’t choose.” Obi had planned to dish spaghetti and beans. He just asked him that to interrupt what he was saying, but he continued while Obi was dishing the food. “You know your wife has already started the business, and she already has servants that help her out. You can create a section there from your wife’s bar, and sell proper food. You said she only fries meat, and sells beer, and wine and wine spirits.”

“I might one day get tired of it. It will be very stressful. And I don’t want to do any physical activity for a living.”

“You’ll just do the cooking. The servants will do the preparation and cleaning and serving and the rest of the work.” Obi sat on the other side of the table where the bowls of soups were, just close to the window, while Ken sat at the small wooden chair Mma's mother had given her when she got married – a normal tradition in some South-Eastern states of Nigeria where the mother of the bride gifts her a small wooden oche usekwu – kitchen chair. Obi even seemed more serious when he talked while masticating the food. “At least, you’ll put your smart brains used in immersing yourself in other people’s businesses, and maximizing their businesses into yours. And without pressures. And threats. 

“Bro, leave this talk for another day.”

“I’m interested in making more money for my friends and I. I can even offer free consulting services to you, perhaps you might think that you wouldn’t be objective in maximizing your business.” He finished the plate of food, paused for a while, and said, “you’re damn good. And you know it. You’re just so great at cooking. I’m sure this one didn’t happen by chance. And having known you, you avoid self-praise, but you've told me several times how food ingredients obeyed you.”  

He asked Obi for more food. “If you don’t know the pot, then, drink water.” Obi said. “I wonder the proportion of your money that you spend on feeding.” He said when he saw the mountain of spaghetti and beans he dished for himself. 

Ken waltzed to the dining table, took a bunch of banana from the basket, and ate it with groundnut. Obi went to the backyard to put on his generator, and Ken followed him. How noisy the backyard was; almost every flat had their generators on. The walls of Obi’s flat could absorb noise that one could barely hear the sound of several generators from the room close to his backyard if the door that led to the backyard were shut, and windows, too, closed. After Obi put on the generator, he saw Ken throw an empty can of beer that he had finished into the thrash, at the backyard there, opened another one, and drank it like water.

They relaxed on the cushion, watching Al-Jazeera, until Obi lay flat on the tile, and slept. He woke up, and rushed to the restroom, substituting the faint aroma of what Obi had prepared a couple of hours ago, with the repulsive smell of him faeces. He had even left the door ajar. Then, Obi came and jammed the door.

“Do you want to kill me?” Obi said, and Ken laughed hysterically. “I thought your babe was coming today?”

“She has her own key. Night is more important, you know. We’ll see at night.”

After a few seconds, Obi opened the restroom's door.

“It seems you like the smell,” Ken said. He smiled, and chuckled.

“You left your phone on vibration, and you just missed your babe's call twice.” He threw the phone at his catch, and jammed the door.

Ken dialed her number, but the service failed. She called back. “Where are you?” Linda asked.

“I’m at Obi's”

“Is his place far from here? I forgot my keys.”

“I am coming. Right away, please.” He pressed the button of the closet, but it didn’t flush. Apparently it had spoilt. There was a small empty bucket by the wall which he was meant to use and flush, but he couldn’t wait for Obi’s tap that ran slowly. “Bro, please help me and flush. Linda has been waiting for me for over an hour at my doorpost. 

Obi smirked. “You’re owing me your month's salary for this.” He said wryly. Ken chuckled at his countenance. He wore Ken’s clothe that he had worn to the market, and put his dirty jersey in a nylon.

“I’ll return your clothes later.” He left.

January 29, 2021 21:09

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2 comments

Rachael Mungai
07:58 Feb 04, 2021

Great story!

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Dozzy Nika
13:08 Feb 04, 2021

Thank you

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