We drove up the Jos Road and then turned right at the roundabout unto the Darazo Road. Bauchi was a far cry from the rowdy, noisy, unruly chaos of Lagos to which I was accustomed. It was a pleasant change, although as this was just towards the end of the rainy season and being so far inland, temperatures were higher than in Lagos. But the roads were broad and traffic was light and there were not very many people about. Altogether, it was pleasant, I thought. And I was with Garuba in this car with powerful air conditioning, who surprisingly had put on an Anita Baker tape on the car stereo. Somehow, it was not easy to find a connection between the American songstress and this Fulani man, dressed in a caftan made from the most divine white guinea brocade and sandals that revealed perfect toenails. Garuba was not tall. Indeed, I was just a little taller than he was. But he oozed masculinity.
I was lost in thought, thinking about everything that had happened since I left home in Lagos yesterday, when I heard Garuba's voice, as if from a distance. He was asking me if I was alright and I apologised, saying that my mind must have been elsewhere. He told me that although he wasn't working today, he had a pet project on the outskirts of town he wanted to show me. I wasn't exactly in a position to object, I told him jokingly. So we continued down the Darazo Road, which is one of the main roads leading out of Bauchi towards the north east. The road leads to Darazo, Potiskum and Maiduguri, Garuba informed me. We drove past the Awalah Hotel and I marvelled at how beautifully the building was located, as it appeared to be nestling precariously in the shadow of a huge rock. The rocks were another feature that were in abundance here in Bauchi and the wide expanse of grassland too. After about 20 minutes of fast driving down this wide and nearly empty road, Garuba turned the car to the left into a narrow road, which one could see was relatively newly constructed. The road twisted and turned and we were surrounded by rocks and grassland on both sides and as far as the eye could see. When we had passed the Awalah Hotel a while back, we were already outside the city limits, so now we were well out of town. I was curious to see where Garuba was taking us and was just about to ask him when we turned a final corner and in front of us was the imposing facade of what was eventually going to become a magnificent building. The building had clearly not been completed, but the site was completely deserted. It was silent, save for the song of birds. Garuba stopped the car and we got out. It had been the plan he said, to establish an entire residential estate here, complete with shopping, cultural and recreational facilities. This building was the first structure put up, but the state government had pulled the rug from the project and this uncompleted structure stood as a monument to the dream that Garuba once had, his first major project in his professional career. He said he came here often when he wanted to be alone. Garuba is such a sensitive, deep man, I thought.
We stood by the car, me leaning against it when Garuba started to speak. Garuba revealed to me that from the minute he saw me, he saw in me something that he had been searching for for a long time. He said he saw straight away that I was open and sincere and he knew immediately we had our first conversation that he would want to get close to me. He said he had to say all this to me now, because he knew that I would soon have to go back to the south and there was no telling what would happen when I returned to Bauchi, or even whether I would return at all. He said he believed that Providence had brought me to him and that he would do everything in his power to keep me close to him. He admitted that his parents had put him under pressure recently to get married and that his father had even begun arranging a bride for him. He said that his parents had substantial influence over him and that traditions in this part of the country were strong. He would have no choice but to do what was expected and marry his bride. However, he wanted to leave it as late as possible.
Hearing all this, to say that I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. What on earth could have spurred this man to say these things to me, since I was almost a complete stranger? As if he knew what I was thinking, he said he knew from when we slept in the bed last night that he could talk to me. He said if I was unhappy about what he had said, I should forgive him. But he had never met anyone like me and since he thought I might soon be leaving he needed to say what was on his mind. I was shocked! I wasn't sure I could handle what I had just heard. But here he was standing in front of me, gauging my reaction to what he'd just told me. I was lost for words, dumbfounded. I just stared at this man who I found so attractive and wondered at the fact that he had made himself seem so vulnerable. I could now understand why he had brought me to this deserted place. This was a matter that could only be spoken in a place like this, where it seemed as if there were only the two of us on this planet. I didn't know this man well enough to give him any firm answers, but I liked him a lot and it hurt to see him so exposed. I held out my hand. Taking it he moved himself towards me and held me. I sensed that he was relieved that I didn't rebuff or reject him. In truth, I could never have done that, because this was a man that I really liked. We just held each other for a while saying nothing. Then I tried to assure him that he had nothing to worry about and that even if I went back to Lagos I would be back within a week. In any event, I was stuck in Bauchi for the next year or so, so he'd probably see more of me than he could handle.
We drove back to town in complete silence. We went straight home since it was lunchtime. Somehow, Garuba's ambiance had changed and he had become noticeably more protective of me. Abdulrahman was still out and Garuba went into the main house to arrange for lunch to be brought over to us in the back house. He joined me and fussed over me in a way that I found almost uncomfortable because I wasn't used to it, but I didn't mind being doted upon as he was doing. We watched TV, ate and before Adbulrahman returned Garuba suggested that we should go for a drive. I sensed that he was possessively wanting to keep me to himself. We drove around town for a while. This was a quiet little city where traffic jams were unknown and it felt quite cosy sitting in the car beside a very handsome man who had told me only a short while ago that he was crazy about me. It was Thursday and we both agreed that I would return to Lagos the next day, Friday, but that I would be back by Sunday or Monday at the latest.
We returned home to find Abdulrahman packing his bag. He was returning to Zaria. Apparently, he had come to Bauchi to collect money for school from his uncle. He had done that and now was returning to Zaria, this afternoon. I told Abdurahman what had happened at the NYSC office but that I intended to leave the next morning, since I had a much longer journey than he did. Abdurahman bid me goodbye and Garuba offered to drop him off at the motor park. I was left alone in the room and being a bit tired I got into the bed and slept but I don't know for how long before I was awakened by a warm body in the bed beside me. Garuba had come back from dropping off Abdulrahman and was now in bed with me. It was still light outside so I knew it wasn't yet bedtime. I turned and faced him in the bed and he lunged for me, climbing on to me, pressing me down in the bed. I was loving every minute of this..