We would stay up late and gaze into the sky, telling tales about the moon and the stars. Our most precious moment in those nights was to light up the night with sky lantern. It was a time to catch up on rumours making rounds in the neighbourhood and a time for boyfriends and girlfriends to share intimate moments with each other. Some nights, the sound of kisses coming from the small beach flanking a seasonal river by the edge of my street, would become so rhythmical that you would regret coming out at such nights without a girlfriend or boyfriend.
After we had lit up the sky with the sky lanterns, we would do what we referred to as ‘light a fire’. It was a sustained period of passionate kissing by all those who had their boyfriends or girlfriends around. Those nights were electrical, magical and passionate. Amazingly, majority of the parents in our neighbourhood did not kick against our hangouts. There were days some parents would join us to light up the sky.
Our neighbourhood was one in which everyone claimed to be rich and acted like it, even though most struggled to make ends meet. We drove cars we were going to spend half a lifetime paying for. People openly lied about what they had not and places they had not been to. It was the norm. Everyone did it and expected others to do it.
People would buy used home appliances and then go to big electronic shops to bribe sales girls or boys to help them fabricate receipts to claim the appliances were bought brand new. It was sickening, but back then, it didn’t seem so. It was…a fad! Yes, a fad. With the false receipts, you would fix in any amount you wanted in it and fly it in the faces of neighbours. We were empty, but we never saw ourselves as such. So on the grounds of such vanity, we built our lives and set out to accomplish our dreams.
I happened not to be the gregarious type. I had few friends and read much. Intellectual stuffs were my kick. I went out for the frequent night fun so not to be judged as boring and out of fashion. I didn’t really know how life was going to pan out for me, but just like everyone else, I expected it to turn out right. In one of those nights, my life journey began. It was the first night I lit a fire with a girl. Sadly, my fire burned for years and just won’t burn out.
I had sent my sky lantern into the sky and sat on the ground watching the lantern rise into the sky. Thoughts were zipping through my mind as I worked my eyes like camera zoom lens, gazing from the myriad of sky lanterns in the sky to the moon and stars which hung in the clouds far above them. “These lanterns are like our lives; at the beginning they burn brightly, but how they will burn out and when are mysteries to us,” a girl said, standing next to me. Those were my very thoughts! How did she read them? I turned to see who she was. My jaw dropped and my eyes ravishingly popped out in admiration of the feminine beauty before. I could tell she was aware that I was stabbing into every curve, contour and edge of her body, yet she chose to let me have a fill of her, while she stared into the sky. Her smile was angelic. She seemed to have been carved into the bum short she was wearing.
Her cropped top revealed a flat tummy that would have made even Gigi Hadid envious. The feel of her perfume was like the call of the river bed from afar. It left me dazed as it wafted past my nostrils. Being an avid reader of female fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Glamour and Vogue; I found myself wondering which of the perfumes I had read about she might be wearing. Was it La vie est belle by Lancôme? Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel? Flowerbomb by Victor & Rolf? I settled it must be Black Opium by Yves Saint Laurent. Actually I had not smelt any of those perfumes or handled them; but such was the vanity we lived in back then.
When she looked at me, I asked without intending to move my lips, “How did you do that?” She smiled. Her set of teeth were like light in the dark. “What are you talking about?” she asked. “What you said about the sky lanterns, they were my thoughts,” I replied.
She ignored me with a smile on her face and sat next to me on the sand, her body brushing against mine. My eyes followed her till her butt kissed the ground. “I am telepathic. Most times I feel people’s thoughts and speak them out without meaning to,” she said finally. “That sounds like another way of saying you are a witch,” I said, trying not to sound sarcastic. I think it came out that way. She turned and looked at me. There was no anger in her eyes. “I am not a witch. I was born this way. I often know what people are thinking even when I am on the phone with them.” Willing to keep the conversation going, I asked, “Can you tell me the thoughts on my mind right now?” “This one is too easy. You are thinking about me, and truly you can’t think straight right now because of me.”
I looked her in the eye and did a little of my own mind analysis. I felt I was not far behind her in telepathy. “Why do I get the feeling you are hunting this night? Where is your boyfriend? Wait…you don’t have one, do you?” I asked giggling. She looked down on the ground uncomfortably. “Is it that much glaring that I don’t have a boyfriend at the moment?” “What would you be doing here with a loner like me if you had a boyfriend? The sound of the kisses, it keeps me wide awake almost every night, so when I come here, I like to give the ‘kissers’ a wide berth,” I explained to her. “Well you were right when you said I am hunting. Really I have been hunting for true love for a while,” she said.
“So how would you describe your hunting?” I asked. “In this minute, I would say hopeful.” I nodded my head and volunteered my name, “I am Dennis Eke.” “Camilla Efe.” “Our surnames sound almost alike.” “Yeah and you smile just like my dad.” “I do?” “Yes, you do so much. It made me notice you in the street.” “I thought we were meeting each other for the first time tonight?” “No, it is only for you.” “Your dad must be your idol for you to notice a guy because he has a similar smile to his.” “You said it just right; he is my idol. A few years ago I was afraid I had a crush on my dad…” “And it turned out it was strong admiration for him.”
“How did you know that Dennis?!” she shouted and hit me playfully on the head. “You are not the only one who can read minds here,” I teased. “Oh God! I feel naked before you. Is that how people feel when I do what you just did?” “I believe that is how they feel…well I was joking. That did not come by reading your mind. I read it somewhere that girls need their fathers to affirm them and boys need their mothers to affirm them. When parents play these roles perfectly their children tend to dream of marrying their parents’ ‘types’.” “What happens when parents fail in these roles?” “The kids will look for affirmation in the streets. The girl will go about looking for a father to affirm her in her boyfriends and the boy will do the same with his girlfriends.”
“Did your parents play their roles as they should?” she asked with a knowing smile that she was overstepping her bounds. I obliged her and volunteered the answer she was looking for so I could bait her with it and ask the question I wanted to. “I wouldn’t say my parents played their roles well. If I were to rate them on a scale of one to ten, they would get one over ten.” “Are you kidding me?” “No, I am not pretty. They thought child upbringing was all about providing food, shelter, clothing and education. Whatever else we faced in life was our business.”
“It is a pity your parents failed you in that aspect, handsome,” she said and put her hands around me. I almost shed a tear or two. It had been a long time since a girl showed that much interest in me. I didn’t know if to hug her back or not, so I asked a question.
“Would I be invasive if I ask what made your last relationship fail?” “Hmmm… Well you wouldn’t be. I guess I have gotten over the pains. He was my first love and I loved him like mad. He was the air I breathed. I was sixteen years when we met. He was perfect in my eyes and could do no wrong. He was a gentle man. I was a girl then and believed love could never hurt me…” “Love has never hurt a soul. It is people that hurt people,” I interjected. She looked at me like a deer hit with a flood light. I could tell a lightbulb had turned on in her head. “You know you are right! love has never hurt no one.” “Yeah, pretty love has never hurt a soul,” I emphasized.
“I was afraid he would leave me if I did not give him sex. The fear of his leaving me made me grow thin in just weeks. So I decided to bring up the sex topic…” “How old was he?” I interjected again. “He was 24 and I was only sixteen.”
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