Diary of a Warri Boy(5)
My cousin, Elvis was an officer in the Nigerian army. He had told his friend who was stationed in Abia to look out for me, so I had a comfortable rapport with the soldiers there, his officer friend was later transferred to the more volatile North East where he lost his life in an ambush by the Boko Haram insurgents.
Next, I was in line for sign-ups’ and registrations, that was the first Time I saw Tolu. She has this queenly beauty in a well-fitting jean and a warm coloured sweater, with her university crest on it. She had just graduated from the prestigious Covenant University in Otta, South Western Nigeria. She had this braid that made me feel some ladies were definitely born with some special features. Our first conversation was on the registration modalities and that was all. I had hoped but never knew I’d meet with her again.
I had told myself before that moment that I was not in camp for women so I was not really moved by the beautiful ladies that were ever present. They must have all been an arranged test to see my resolve, many valiant young men had already fallen from their first day in camp. Paths do cross, that’s true, but I thought that was only in movies. Here I was seeing Tolu again, in my platoon. Oh! What a path-crossing. We were on the parade ground when I sighted her again and I took the manly audacity to walk up to her and say hi. It was a good conversation that afternoon, a little introduction and all of that such. I was impressed by her calibre of person, I had expected a flamboyant, fashion and entertainment craving lady, but I was wowed by her morality and calmness. She was a Christian girl to the inside, so I made up my mind at that moment that I was not going to let this one go by, not this one at least.
I had met Billy at the first day of camp and we eventually became bunkmates, we had travelled in the same vehicle from Port Harcourt but he was calm throughout the journey. Billy had lost both his parents two weeks before camp – I later understood his particular calmness – he still failed not to be an exciting bunkmate. He was a friend, the closest in the boys’ hostel to me. I had gradually formed a team of about five guys, we were envied and more guys wanted to associate with us. They called me the Federal Government, I had a charming charisma, and we made no trouble at least. We got food, a lot of it, from the camp kitchen, and water from negotiations. I had done deals, was close to the soldiers and the doctors too. Those were really memorable moments, moments created with these guys on camp.
In our dormitory, I had also met Osho Samuel, he was also known as brainwave. He participated in the camp broadcasting team, and I had admired his openness and strength. He was a Christian too and had stood for it. I had met a lot of people already, it was an interesting three weeks in camp, it formed memories that could not be scripted, save by the pen that writes on hearts and scribbles on emotions, like a playwright without corrections from the actors of the already approved script.
It was my unkempt hair I remembered, I told myself that I was not going to struggle to impress anyone. Anytime I was with Tolu, I tried to put up a crude behaviour, the pidgin I spoke, and the raw explanation of myself I gave. I only had realized all the more sincerely that I had found something true and special in her. She liked me for who I was and showed me the charm of a pursuit. It was during our posting after the completion of the three-week camp that I was convinced that fate and everything that be, knew that we two, were meant to be. We had been posted to the same local government area.
Gradually our love for each other unfolded finely, like the blooming hibiscus flower and the scent of a fragrance that smelt more strongly as the morning come. It took her some time to believe that she was my first, I had no problem believing that I was her first either. I had kept away from ladies all through my school days, I had been very sure any mutual engagement was going to lead to heart-breaks. I convinced my emotions that I had no cause to go into the books of guys that wasted the time of innocent girls. But most of all, I had met Jesus in school.
I was a Christian. It was on this premise that my first love felt like the strongest of wines to the simplest of beginners that dared to take a big gulp of it.
I once told a lady that she could not ever be what my Tolu was to me, I guess she must have found it hard to understand. She had been interested only in flirting with me. It was laughable but I seriously addressed it. I’m sure that gesture did save me a lot of times. I still get calls from many of the ladies but they would first ask about Tolu.
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Later that evening, I was sitting calmly before the barber, after a long day out, doing chores and basking in the heat of a spirited morning. Like the story of the lamb before its shearers, only that now I had myself, paid for the shearing (barbing). I quietly watched as my hair fell to the ground. It was nothing difficult, it was only a quiet satisfaction of a pronounced commitment to the love I professed to my Tolu. I had taken a few shots (pictures) already and quickly forwarded them to Tolu. I still did pause again, to think “is this how love feels for every man, or is it just me?”
It had been a great day for me today. I could comfortably sit back in the parlour at home and reflect on the events of the day with a broad smile worn gallantly on my face. I had decided to retire to bed in good time today, sleep not calling this time though. I did the calling. And that lovely voice kept echoing in my heart as I took the procession to the bedroom – that sweet voice of Tolu saying, I love you.