Tag Archives: Friendship

Speed dating can be dangerous to your health.

The host shushed the crowd and went through the rules.

“I know a lot of you are excited but listen carefully so that we can do this properly,” he said in Igbo. “The women are to remain seated on their tables at all times, the men will move in an anti-clockwise position once the bell rings. Do not ask for or collect numbers, just mark down on your cards whom you’d wish to contact. Be polite, be courteous. You are selling yourself after all.” He paused. “You have eight minutes.”

I looked over at my friends and smiled. The bell rang and the first man sat down opposite me.

“Hi,” he pushed up his glasses.

“Hi.” I sized him up. He was as dark as coffee and at a first glance he seemed slight, but I detected his muscles bulging beneath his shirt when he touched his face. Think Henry the accountant from Ugly Betty. He gazed at a point beyond my left ear.

“I’m Nwunye. What your name?” I shifted in my seat until I was in his line of vision. He moved his eyes again.

“I’m Odinaka.”

“So what do you do?” He took a deep breath.

“I’m training to be a doctor.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. What kind?”

“Pediatrician.”

“Excellent.” My cheeks hurt from smiling. Eight minutes stretched before me like a lifetime. I knew his type. I had tried to speak to him during the workshop but he ignored me or said very little. I thought he liked his women a bit on the quiet side.

“Would you like to know anything about me?” I tried again. He might have been uninterested but the least he could do was be polite. It wasn’t like he was my kind of man either. He must have caught something in my tone because he looked at me then.

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a journalist.”

“Ah, no wonder.” He smiled a little.

“No wonder what?”

“You’re very…outspoken.”

“Yes. Yes, I am. Thank you for noticing,” I gave him a chance for a zinger. He said nothing. I glanced at my wrist lying in my lap just as the bell rang. He jumped up.

“Pleased to meet you.” I didn’t realise I was holding my breath until he moved to the next table. No wonder I was light headed.

“Well, that was awkward,” said my next date. He settled as if he was in his living room.

“Great smile. Are you a model?”

“With this coconut head? Who’d take me?”

“You should stand up and let me take a look at you,” I joked.

“Alright.” He stood and turned around slowly. He was about 6″5 and immaculately groomed; his blazer/jean combo looked like it was hand made in some Italian village by peasants earning less than minimum wage. I became aware that he had stop turning when I eyeballed his crotch. He raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to twirl too? No double standards.”

“Nice,” he said when I sat down. “So you’re a journalist. What kind?”

“I didn’t say I was.”

“No, but my date was boring, so I eavesdropped on yours. Sorry.” He looked anything but.

“That’s my friend you’re talking about.”

“Oops. Well, I can safely say that there were no sparks there.” He winked at my friend who batted it away. I noticed a man come up behind him. He saw me looking and turned around. “Can I help you?”

“No, I am just waiting for the bell to ring,” the man said. My date looked past him. “Shouldn’t you be on your seat? I followed his gaze and noticed the man had jumped the queue. It wasn’t his turn to speak to me next. Just then the bell rang and my date stood. He kissed my hand. “I’m Kalu. It was a pleasure. Maybe we’ll be matched at the end.”

“Maybe.” I said.

“Ol’ boy jus’ move. I wan’ talk to her.”  The intruder pulled the next candidate aside and made a few gestures. “Hello, I’m Nonso.” He sat down and scrapped the chair across the floor.

“Hi, Nonso. I hope everything is OK now?” My rightful date settled himself elsewhere.

“Yes, I am here now. So talk to me.”

“Pardon me?”

“I have seen as your mouth has been working ‘kpara kpara kpara’. You think you can intimidate me? You can’t intimidate me.”

“Excuse me?” It began to feel dangerous. What did I have to do with making him feel intimidated?

Biko, just give me your number and stop all this pretense.” He whipped out his phone. “Where is your phone?”

“We’re not supposed to collect numbers until after this session.” I flashed my eyes around. My new friend caught my gaze and took off his blazer. ‘Are you OK?’ he mouthed at me. I nodded.

Abeg, stop this nonsense.” He was almost shouting. “This is my number.” He scribbled it on a piece of paper and pushed it towards me. The bells rang. “Aren’t you going to take it?” I put the piece of paper in my pocket, resolved to bin it later.

“Eh hen. Where is the number na?”  He said as a conversation started when the session was over. I turned from talking to my friends.

“Errrr…I have yours, so don’t worry. I’ll contact you.” I tried to move away but he blocked me.

“No.”

“No?”

“Either give me yours or throw mine away.”

“Ok, I will throw yours away.” I made for the bin in the corner of the hall. He grabbed my elbow and pulled hard. I fell against him.

“Give it back to me. Now.” I gave him the piece of paper with his number on it. He ripped it to shreds and walked off. My new friend is walking towards me in long strides which eat up the hall.

“What the hell was that about? Are you alright?”

I am speechless.

When he is good, he is very very good…

There was a tap on the door. “Come in?” I wasn’t sure I should be telling him to enter in an authoritative voice, after all it was his house.

“I just wanted to find out if you needed a towel.”

“No thank you. I brought mine.” I placed a shower cap over my head and tucked my stray twists under it. “Thank you for giving me your bed again. I hope you won’t be too cold in the living room?”

“No, I have a pull out sofa, it’ll be fine.” He paused and adjusted his glasses. “Well, good night then. See you tomorrow.”

“Good night. Try not to sneak in while I’m sleeping.” He rolled his eyes.

Sleeping in the bed was strange. The sheets were fresh and clean but there was an under layer of…man that filled my nostrils each time I took a breath. It was not unpleasant. Reassuring somehow. And yet I could not relax. The moonlight from the French doors flooded the room and the shrubbery cast long shadows over the bed. I couldn’t see the mini gargoyle from earlier in the day but I knew it was there. I imagined it coming to life, crunching on the gravel in the narrow back garden of the basement flat. I hoped the French doors were locked properly. I turned my mind to my host.

He was kind. We knew we were going to be back late from a Young Nigerians event so he had offered me his place that I wouldn’t have the long, expensive journey back to my place in the early hours of a London winter. I had packed a small knapsack with my things but I still made sure not to have too much of a presence, to keep myself as small as possible. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I mean, he was my friend, but there was no need to draw attention to the fact that I was female. In my nightgown. In his bed. In his basement flat.  I had an idea and scrabbled out of bed.

“Great.”

The door had no lock.

With the gargoyle outside one door and my host behind the other, it was like I was in a nightmarish episode of Blind Date. There was a good chance I would either be mauled or shagged, which in the case of a lot of Nigerian – Igbo –  men, added up to the same thing. Savaged.

I burrowed deeper into the bed, cocooning myself tightly in the duvet. I was reminded of the story an ex-boyfriend had told me of the girl who had spent the night with his friend, an Igbo man who was ‘toasting’ her, on the condition that he not touch her during the night.

“Ooooh.” She complained when he reached over to run his hands over her body.

“Sorry….sorry.” He withdrew and turned over. Soon he was snoring again. She went back to sleep. It happened a second time. The third time she said ‘Ooooh’, he said “Sorry now. I can’t help myself, you’re so beautiful.”

“But you promised!” She wailed. She didn’t leave his room the same way she came in.

I consoled myself with the thought that at least my host and I weren’t in the same room or on the same bed. That was a start. Still, I couldn’t sleep. Every noise startled me. By the time his projector clock flashed five-thirty AM with its red beam, I was frazzled from imagining the worst. A lot of Igbo men didn’t believe men and women could just be friends after all; would he risk our friendship for one night of action? And what would I do? Was his friendship that important anyway?

It was eight o’clock when I finally woke up. The house was too quiet. I flashed my eyes around the room and tested my limbs to see if anything had changed…then I laughed at myself for being so stupid. He wasn’t a rapist after all.

There was another tap on the door. “I heard you moving around.” He looked at me and a frown creased his brow. “You look…did you sleep well?” he asked.

“No, not really.”

“Why not? Was the bed too hard for you?”

“No, it was fine…I just…you’re going to think this is silly but..” I told him my fears. I made light of my earlier issues by laughing. By the time I had finished, the sleep was no longer lurking around his eyes. He stood to his full six foot plus height, arms folded in front of his chest.

“I think that says more of you than it does of me.” He looked angry. “I will not take what I am not offered, that is called ‘maturity’. What the hell kind of men have you been dating?”