Good week everybody. I’m sure everyone’s begun the year with that typical sombre look that always heralds the aftermath of an indulgent festive season. Most patriarchs or matriarchs of families bear that look of, “I shouldn’t have eaten that much! How in “$@#’s name am I going to lose this fat?” Or, “You’ve done it again, Father Christmas! Gone and given all your money away to grabbing relatives that would sooner pour wet concrete than throw in a rope were you to be stuck in a hole! How are you going to pay the children’s school fees now? God, shoot me dead if I ever, ever go to that village again for Christmas!” Fortunately, for now, I have no such worries; I’m still single but heck, who knows, might have enjoyed my last Christmas of irresponsibility and by God I did, hopefully, go out with a bang! So, where was I?
I sneaked out of the hotel in disguise and jumped straight into the waiting arms of my friends who were waiting for me in the parking lot. I made sure I dived into the car before the three sisters knew what hit them and before we began smothering one another with hugs and kisses. The reason for sneaking out? Well my reason for being in Calabar was supposed to be kept secret and to hide my identity, I was to remain in the confines of the hotel until the carnival was over. Try entrusting a tuber of yam in a goat’s care! The congregation of even the mildest hedonists, sorry, revelers would not have forgiven me if I’d stayed cooped up in that glorious tomb during such a festive haven. We went to the cultural centre first, I think it was because one of the girls had a stand there, to have a drink or two. I, for some reason, stuck to water for the duration of my time there. I tried some ram suya but abandoned it almost immediately on account of the meat being too tough. Why people love to punish themselves I’ll never understand. They might as well season it with salt and pepper and eat it raw; that way you know you are suffering for suffering’s sake. But, being in the company of such a bevy of beauties more than made up for the lacklustre stimulation provided by the beverage and I really hammed it up as they jostled one another for my attention. Hehehe, king of the hill! We went to one other bar, where I stuck to my water before being dropped off at the hotel at about 1am. There was a sticky moment on our way to the hotel though. A friend of theirs, who offered to drop me off at the hotel before dropping them off at home, while at the steering wheel, suddenly turned back to me and asked how I was. I said I was fine hesitantly, observing he had a knowing look in his eyes. “Do you remember me?”, he asked, a smile playing on his mouth. “I, I’m not sure…” I hesitated. “We met at Annie’s baby’s dedication”. And then it clicked! “Ah, yes I remember! How you dey now?” And then I sank my foot in it. “How’s Christie? She didn’t come with you?” I could kick myself in the shin ten times. What if he had a girlfriend among the five ladies that were with us? What trouble had I brought upon him? “She’s in Lagos .“ was all he answered, and smoothly too. I slept very fitfully that night because Christie happens to be like my baby sister; always extorting money for phone cards from me and gives me a lovely hug and a smile whenever I go to see her in the bank. But, that is a matter for another day.
The next day dragged in at about ten in the morning. I had a lazy breakfast with the ubiquitous twins, Uti and Ajibade, the two rascals shown in the pictures with me in The Carnival 1, before going off to the stadium for the dress and tech rehearsals in preparation for the night’s kings’ and queens’ competition. Our band leader, the senator, came with us and made sure we were comfortable with the size of the stage. The stage. I had been stumped by that phenomenon once before in university and I was not going to let it happen to me again. This time I drank in the vastness of the intimidating arena and also made sure I was well accustomed to its every corner. As if that wasn’t enough our leader came up to me with the theme music for my appearance and told me I would have to dance to the rhythm with the grace fitting for an obong (king)! Me, Kalu, that am famed for dancing with two left legs, dance to the rhythm? Well, I tried to do as she asked and got laughed at to derision for my troubles. I looked at the senator and saw the genuine fear in her eyes. “Aunty”, I said, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Don’t be afraid, I never go into anything and expect to lose. I will uphold my own end of the bargain. Don’t mind these faithless hooligans”. I know she didn’t believe me but hey, what else could I say?
The kings’ and queens’ competition that night? Well that will come, hopefully, at the same time next week. In the meantime, have a blessed week everybody!