It was late. The remains of our supper had been cleared away by that woman. All three of us had stayed together in Garuba's room watching videos and talking generally, me about life in Lagos and the south and how what so far I'd seen of the north, seemed so very different from the south which I was used to; them about how they perceived southerners, and how people from the south seemed to be so much more westernised than they were. Abdulrahman in particular, was keen to show me how westernised I was in the way that I chose to dress and the hair product that I used. But all of this was quite good-natured and amiable and there was a lot of laughter and quite a few jokes. Garuba I was told, was an architect. I learned that he had only just completed his own one year of national youth service and had a few weeks previously, started in a job with a firm of architects established by some chap who having been granted a scholarship by the Bauchi State government, had trained in America and had recently returned. Garuba was still living at home with his parents, but he reckoned that he would move to his own place within a few months. There was a lot of talk about how much there was yet to be done in Bauchi, talk about contributing to the development of the state and Bauchi town in particular, especially in relation to municipal and city planning. Garuba seemed really enthusiastic about his profession and his job and I listened attentively, although I couldn't help admiring his fine angular jawline and the way his lips moved when he spoke. This man is absolutely gorgeous, I thought to myself.
Soon came the moment when that problem of the sleeping arrangements was to be considered. Garuba was our host, but Abdulrahman it was who had invited me here. It was obvious that both of them would have shared Garuba's huge double bed had I not been here. In the room, there was also a chaise lounge, upholstered in an expensive looking damask and I did not think it was customary for Garuba to have guests sleep on it. Anyway, there was a problem of working out where each of us would sleep and as is the custom in most of Africa, the guest is always in an honoured position. So I got first choice of the bed. Abdulrahman kindly deferred to his cousin and chose to lay on the chaise lounge, over which Garuba carefully draped a sheet. Which meant that Garuba and I would share this huge bed and as I climbed into it, I thought to myself that this day must be one of the most eventful I had yet seen.
It was a double bed, you know, with enough room for two adult people. I mean it was quite possible for both of us to have slept comfortably in that bed without once making body contact. But from the minute Garuba entered under the covers, it appeared that body contact with me was the only thing on his mind. Probably testing the waters, the first contact was tentative, watching for my reaction. I pretended that nothing had happened, but I didn't move away either. We stayed unmoving in the same position, our bodies touching just slightly, but we were so close to each other that it was impossible to pretend to be asleep. He moved in closer, such that the whole of his body from shoulder downwards was touching mine. And still I did not move. Actually, in truth I found this quite exciting, but I didn't feel relaxed enough to respond as I should have done. Then I must have fallen asleep, because when suddenly I came to, it was because Garuba's legs were entwined with mine. It felt nice and warm and lovely, but I also noticed that he was asleep. Careful not to wake him and without dislodging his legs, I twisted my torso so that my back was to him and then moved backwards so that my back touched his chest. By then he must have been half awake because at this point he put his left arm out around my midsection. In this position, I drifted off to sleep again. It had been a tiring day after all.
In the morning I woke up to find that I was alone in the room. Shortly afterwards Abdulrahman entered to say that his uncle had requested that he should accompany the driver on an errand down Tafawa Balewa Road, which he explained was in the opposite direction from the house, to the NYSC office. However, Garuba had agreed to take me to the NYSC place on his way to work. This sounded fine, but it was still early and I was sure the NYSC office would not be open for another couple of hours. I lingered in bed, wishing that I didn't have to go out at all this morning. But just then Garuba came in. He sat on the bed and shook my shoulder, obviously thinking that I was still asleep. Garuba said breakfast would soon arrive and that I should get dressed as he didn't want to be late for work. Quickly coming to my senses I made for the shower room and returned to find that Garuba was waiting for me so we could have breakfast together, which had already been laid out. He didn't leave the room as he had done the previous night, and that didn't bother me either. Perhaps, having slept all night in the same bed, there was no longer ice to be broken between us. It just seemed so natural putting on my clothes in his presence. I'd heard of the phrase "sexual tension" and I wondered if that is what this was. There was a feeling, some chemical electrical inexplicable thing... It was similar to what had happened when I had first met Moses sometime ago, but with Moses the attraction was strong and uncontrollable. With Garuba it was more subtle, but clearly there was the potential for this to be even more far-reaching than that with Moses. It seemed more sublime and I was in no doubt that the feeling was mutual. It was like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that fit together without any effort whatsoever from either of the two.
Garuba drove me in his brand new car to the NYSC place. He sat in the car waiting to see that I achieved some success with locating the exact room where my registration would take place. I found the desk of the person who would perform the registration, but was informed by the other person in the room that although Mrs Giwa had not arrived, she was expected within the hour. I could sit and wait, or alternatively I could go and come back. Go where? I wondered. I went back to the car to let Garuba know what the position was and he suggested that he would drive to his office and return in about an hour. My things were still in his room at home, and we would at some point later today need to make arrangements to move them to whichever accommodation I would be provided by the NYSC after my registration.
I waited in Mrs Giwa's office for about half an hour when she finally turned up, heavily pregnant. I started off the conversation with her in as polite a manner as I was capable of, but for some reason, or maybe she was just having a bad day, this woman was so irritable. I told her who I was and then she asked to see my NYSC call-up letter, which is the letter you are given informing you of your posting. I explained that the letter itself did not say that we were required to produce it when reporting for registration. I said I had seen the list on the notice board in the corridor of this building and that my name was on it. She became even more irascible and uncooperative. She insisted that without the call-up letter there was nothing she could do for me and that if I didn't have the letter with me I should leave her office immediately, because she had other things to do. I was despondent. I mean, I had travelled nearly 1000 kilometres only to be told to leave this woman's office. Tears of desperation came to my eyes and I didn't know what to do.
I walked out of the building, dazed, bewildered. When I heard a familiar voice shout my name. It was Garuba. He was sitting in his car parked across the road. I rushed to meet him and as I got into the car and slammed the front passenger door I burst into tears, uncontrollably. Garuba was puzzled. Between my tears I tried to explain to him what had happened and that this meant that I would have to go all the way back to Lagos to look for that letter wherever it was. He put his hand on my thigh and begged me to stop crying. He said he had told his boss that there was a small family matter he had to deal with and his boss had allowed him the day off. He asked me to look at the bright side. It meant that I wouldn't have to go and stay in some anonymous room somewhere in town by myself. I was with him and Abdulrahman and everything would be alright. Even if I had to return to Lagos for a short while, my things would be safe in his room. I looked at this man whom I met only last night and wondered if it was right for him to be offering me so much. I wiped my tears and looked at him again, that thing in his eyes. I really like this guy I thought. Garuba drove off. He didn't tell me where we were going until I asked ... "Somewhere nice", he said, then he moved his hand from the gear lever, held my hand and squeezed it. I looked at him. He was looking straight ahead at the road in front of us, but there was the hint of a smile on his lips...