Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Reading Event

Last week I attended a book reading in London and it was a book written by Halima Bashir and Damien Lewis titled Tears of the Desert. The organisers had claimed that it was one of the very rare memoirs of a woman born and raised in the conflict-torn area of Darfur in Sudan, so my curiosity was piqued. The reading was quite an eye-opener. Prior to this, I'm ashamed to say, I knew very little about the conflict in Darfur. I just read little bits of information in the newspaper and on the TV without really registering what's going on. The book goes into detail about this young woman's life, how she grew up in a small, peaceful and happy village until the conflict started and tore her community apart. After the reading there was an interview with the writers, and there were questions asked for her to explain things on a clearer level. There was also a discussion on how people in the West can help to alleviate the suffering of countless thousands of people, refugees in their own country. At the end of the event, I bought the book and I have just started reading it and it's so powerful, yet full of hope. I would urge anyone who cares about the state of the world we live in to buy the book and educate themselves. And safe to say that I prefer knowledge to ignorance of what's happening in Darfur.

Well I hope the good weather lasts, it makes such a difference. I have some fun plans for the weekend - a high school reunion and a friend's birthday party so I'm looking forward to them. In the meantime, hope you enjoy the rest of your week.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Short Story - My Dilemma

I was bored and listless at work. It was Monday morning, and I was back in the office after a lovely weekend. The office felt quite empty because three of my colleagues had taken the day off. I didn't blame them one bit. It was a lovely day, the sun was shining brightly outside and the last thing anybody wanted was to be stuck in front of a computer screen on the sixth floor in the City. I tried to concentrate on the row of figures on my spreadsheet, but it was proving too difficult. I shook my head and wished I had requested the day off too. I looked at the time in the corner of my screen and saw it was only 10.22 am meaning the day was still far from over. I sighed, looked out of my window and recalled all the fun happenings of the past weekend and that had just passed.

My good friend Titi had organised a lovely weekend for five of her closest friends to celebrate her birthday. All of us had been excited when she told us the plan, especially me. I had been having a stressful time at work in the last month. A fun weekend was exactly what I needed to chill out and shake off the stress. As soon as it was five o'clock last Friday, I had dashed out of the office, gone home to change, picked up my overnight bag and head to Titi's place. She lived in a lovely 2-bed house in a nice part of North London, with a huge kitchen and garden and she often invited us to hang out there. She’s a lucky girl, while the rest of us were still living in matchboxes and paying inflated rents to landlords, her dad had helped her with a huge deposit and she was able to buy her own place four years ago.

By the time I arrived, my friends were already waiting for me: Dolapo, Funmi, Maureen and Temmy. We were all friends from our undergraduate university days and thanks to Funmi and Titi, we remained a close-knit group. They kept us in touch with each other. After the usual round of hugs, gist swaps and a light meal, we went out to have a good time. First we saw a movie - a hot new chick-flick. Afterwards, we went clubbing and had a groovy time. I had forgotten how much fun it was to just let my hair down and dance the night away with my girls. When it was around 2am, we decided to call it a night, so we all piled into a taxi, fuelled by alcohol and excitement, talking nineteen to the dozen and laughing at the silliest thing throughout the journey back to Titi's place.

On Saturday morning, we woke up early - well if you call 10.30 am early- because Titi was having a party later that evening and she wanted to cook and get her house ready. One by one we stumbled out of bed, cleaned our teeth, washed our faces and trooped into Titi's kitchen to find something to eat for breakfast. Maureen decided she wanted oats and we all agreed with that, so she got to work preparing some. Titi brought out her list and started sharing out the tasks for the day. I offered to help with cooking the jollof rice, Funmi was doing chicken and beef the way we all loved it at her party last summer, Temmy was making salad, plantain and gizzard stew, Maureen was making puff-puff and pancakes, Titi was going to pick up her birthday cake and a few more supplies from the supermarket while Dolapo said she might make moin-moin if there was time, but she would rearrange Titi’s living room and sort out the music. Then I noticed that Titi had forgotten to plan for something.

"Titi, you forgot to mention drinks" I said, looking in her fridge for the milk. "Who is going to get them?"
She turned round and said, "Oh drinks have been taken care of"
"Where are they?" Maureen asked. "Let's put them in the fridge now so that we won't forget"
"Oh, they are not here, somebody is bringing them in the afternoon".
At that point we all looked up and turned to face her.
"Who?" five of us asked at the same time.
"Somebody, a friend of mine is bringing the drinks..." Titi said coyly.
"Who IS that?" I piped up. "Does he or she have a name?"
Titi started blushing and then she finally told us that it was a guy she had just started seeing and he was the most wonderful guy a girl could ever hope to meet. Of course we all wanted the low down on the gist of this guy.
"Hmmm, na wa o Titi" Funmi said. "When did you become under-g like this?"
"I'm not! I only just started seeing him two months ago"
"Eh, is that why you shenked me the last time I asked you to come to the new bar with me, you said you were going somewhere else?" Maureen asked.
Titi said nothing.
"See, she is guilty" Temmy said.
"You guys let's leave her for now" I said "We'll meet the guy today and deal with Titi later"
“So you won’t even give us any bit of information?” Dolapo asked.
“Alright, alright” Titi finally said. “I met him at a conference, I noticed him right away because he was the only black guy there. Throughout the conference our eyes kept meeting and afterwards, he came to say hello to me and we got talking. That’s it really”
“What’s his name?”
“His name is Dayo”
“Hmmm, and what does he do?” Maureen asked.
“He’s a lawyer too, it was a legal conference”
“Cool” Dolapo said. “So why the secrecy now?”
“Well since you guys will see him today, I might as well tell you now” Titi paused for effect. “He’s much older than me”
“How much older?” Temmy asked.
“He’s 35” Titi replied. “So he’s like eight years older than me”
“Wow!” Maureen exclaimed, almost dropping the spoon she was holding.
“I know”, Titi said, looking a bit downcast. “That’s the only problem”
“Actually I don’t see why that is a problem” Funmi said thoughtfully. “Eight years is not that bad.”
“I don’t see a problem either” I added. “When you said much older I was already assuming like fifteen years older”
Everyone laughed and Titi said “Ah! Fifteen years ke, chill abeg Lola. He doesn’t even look that old”
Maureen said, “Okay maybe it’s not so bad. At the very least he should be more mature than guys our age”
“Tell me about it” Dolapo said. “I could do with a mature guy right now”
“Yeah call him and tell him to bring his single friends along this evening” Temmy said.
“Eh Temmy!” Titi said and we all burst into laughter again. Temmy was the only one among us in a long-term relationship.

Later that afternoon, we were almost through with our cooking, Titi’s living room was set-up and she was in the bathroom blow-drying her hair having just had a shower, when the guy arrived. Temmy opened the door for him and he stepped in. We all introduced ourselves.
“Hello, nice to meet you” he said. “Titi has told me about all of you”
“Would you like something to eat or drink?” I offered.
“No thank you, I’m in a hurry” he said politely. “I just came to drop the drinks and give Titi her birthday present. I have to go somewhere but I’ll be back for the party”
He dropped a parcel on the table and turned to leave. “I’ll see you all later. Bye”
“Byeeeee” we chorused and Dolapo locked the door after him.
“Hmmm, he seemed nice” she said, as she came back into the living room.
“Yeah Titi was right, he doesn’t look that old” Funmi said.
I ran upstairs to the bathroom and could hear Titi talking on the phone. She hung up just as I popped my head around the door.
“That was Dayo” she said, looking up. “He said he’s dropped my birthday present and he’ll be back around eight”
“Great. I’m dying to know what he got you so come and open your present”
“I’ll be down shortly, or wait, come and help me with my hair to make it faster”
When we got downstairs, Titi asked, “So what did you guys think of him?”
“He is good looking” Maureen said. “And he dressed nicely”
“He seems nice and laid-back” Funmi said.
“I think he looked cool and confident, like a successful person who doesn’t need to show off”
“Yeah he’s not trying too hard” I said. “He’s comfortable with himself”
“Na wah o, all that analysis in one brief meeting!” Titi exclaimed. “But seriously, I’m glad you guys said that because that’s exactly what I see in him too”
“Then don’t let the age thing bother you” Funmi said.
“Yeah if he likes you and you like him too, just relax see what happens. You might really enjoy his company in spite of the difference in age.” Dolapo said.
“Yeah go for it babe” I said.
Titi smiled and looked relieved. “Thanks girls. I was worried you guys would think it was weird or something.”
“Not at all” Maureen said. “Now let’s go and get ready, your guests would start arriving soon”.

My office telephone rang shrilly, jolting me out of my thoughts. I looked around guiltily, hoping nobody had noticed that my mind had been far away. I picked up the call and it was my boss reminding me that we had a meeting later in the afternoon after lunch. I glanced at the time; it was now ten minutes to eleven. I hung up and decided to get my work up to scratch before lunch time. Time went quickly and before I knew it, it was one o’clock. I decided to take a break so I popped out quickly to get something to eat. I got back to my desk and remembered I wanted to check if Titi had uploaded the photos we took over the weekend. The party had been so much fun; I had danced most of the evening with a guy who had the potential to progress to boyfriend level. But first things first….

I logged on to Facebook and scrolled down the news feed. I noticed a friend had been tagged in an album so out of curiosity I clicked on the photo to check it out. She was a bridesmaid at a wedding and since I loved viewing wedding albums I clicked on. I was thinking:

".... hmmm, I like the bride’s make-up….." "Wow, her jewellery is lovely….." "Although I'm not too sure about her dress ......." when I landed on a photo that nearly made me choke on my chicken sandwich. I stared at my computer screen in shock. Was it…? Yes, the groom in the album was Dayo, the same guy that Titi was dating! My friend is getting involved with a married man! My heart sank.