It was 11.45pm and still no Wizkid. Red and green and blue lights flipped through the slick crowd as a thousand frenzied fans screamed along to PSquare. There was nothing greater in the universe, no desire more urgent, outside of that moment. Then Wizkid emerged and the girls went berserk.
It had been one year since that night of flashing lights. The night the fascinating girl with the short hair and the yellow dress caught his attention and reshuffled his life. The memory played out in Chuka’s head now as he sat in the freezing cold.
They had arrived at the concert venue, ordered drinks, started to mingle with the buzzing crowd. He’d had to be dragged out of home by his friends Kay and Bambam as usual, denting his car, and his mood, in Lagos traffic. He was a simple man who preferred work and his own company to parties and ceremonies.
Yet there he was.
At least there was wine. The night would proceed the same way as all the others- he’d drink his Jack Daniels until his friends were looped, then get bored and wander back to the car to smoke and catch some sleep until they were ready to leave.
Then he spotted her. Through the chaos, their eyes locked.
There’s something about a bold girl wearing a low cut that messes with a man’s head, or maybe it was the whiskey. When he walked up and tapped her shoulder, three heads, one male, turned in his direction.
‘Oh, I apologize. Err.. sorry’, he mumbled, beating a hasty retreat. Somehow he’d failed to notice she had company. Definitely the alcohol now.
Minutes later, he’d found himself at the car park but his keys were missing. Calling his friends would be useless in the ear-splitting noise so he dashed into the hall to find them. It was on his way back to the car that she found him.
He looked back to see dream girl walking quickly toward him.
'Hello’, he stopped.
'Gave up without a fight there, didn’t you?’, the girl said, finally catching up with him. 'I let myself hope you’d offer to buy me a drink there and you bailed.’
'Hahah..I didn’t intend to humiliate the young man’, he replied after a slight pause.
'You can brag. But you were stammering in a Chinese accent a while ago.’
She was pretty. Her red-tinged hair was in tight curls and short like a boy’s. She’d worn a short yellow dress that heralded her dark skin. But it was the eyes with which she beheld him now, bold and dark and dipped in eye shadow, that did his head in.
'You have a beautiful dimple in one cheek. I’m Chuka, what’s your name?’
The eyes averted momentarily but she quickly, consciously, reasserted her gaze. He didn’t know where his own surprising confidence was coming from but he had an unshakeable feeling this was an important moment.
'Ugonne. Those were my baby brother and his girlfriend, by the way. I came here for Wizkid and I swear if he doesn’t turn up tonight I’m suing for a refund.’
'Wizkid is performing?’
She laughed, a delicate, joyful thing that triggered protective urges. 'Your friends dragged you here!’
‘Nah, I suspect the odds are in your favour tonight.’ She spoke with light dancing movements.
'That’s hard to believe. I might have stayed home tonight and not gotten my bumper bashed in.’
'Aww, I’m sorry. Something good still might come out of it all. Lady luck is just and blameless. Come let’s go find Wizkid.’
It’s amazing how one year can fly quickly by. Ugonne had returned from youth service and she’d dragged him out to celebrate. Kay and Bambam naturally tagged along, and they ended up at a club in Victoria Island.
She was his addiction.
Since that night at Eko hotel when she mischievously declared she’d only see him again if he sang all the lyrics to a Wizkid song, and then Wizkid showed up and she let out such a delighted squeal that he felt his heart tighten in his chest and she hugged him and he thought he might die, from the frantic night in his bed when he traced patterns on the cool skin of her back and placed his thumb in the dimple of her waist and he panicked whenever she moaned too loud, until she moved to another city on National Youth Service and the phone calls came in floods sweeping through every waking moment, desperate quests for meaning and commitment culminating in frequent weekend visits and occasional holiday visits full of declarations of love and urgent need, he knew he had lost his strong grip on the stubborn terms by which he lived his life.
He always preferred to stay at home, but not her. Life was her canvass. Every moment was a dare, every day an opportunity to dance with life to a perennial tune played by chance.
Chuka realized with a start that the club had filled up and he’d forgotten about the cold. His friends shouted conversations and joked over the loud music. He focused his gaze on her and she grinned, flashing her dimple. She mouthed something imperceptible then leaned forward, kissed him, and dragged him up and towards the exits.
They walked to the car and he pulled her into a hug.
'This is much better. I couldn’t hear myself think in there.’
'I know.’ Ugonne replied. She glanced at a depression on the left corner of his bumper and teased him, 'One year later and you still haven’t fixed this bumper. You really can’t do anything without me.’
He remembered the morning after the night of the concert a year ago and smiled. He had driven her home and they’d exchanged shy goodbyes. He’d gotten home, taken an assessing look at the dent on his bumper, and laughed out loud. He wasn’t going to fix anything. The car had a single dimple, just like the girl.
‘I really can’t, to be honest’. He pulled her close. Kissed her, deeply. 'Marry me, Ugonne.’
Wide-eyed shock. Happiness. Wizkid squeal.