Saturday, 2 May 2009

Garuba 4

It was now dark outside. It was dark inside too, because we hadn't switched on any lights. We just lay there, quietly, side by side, both of us spent, after the exertions of the last hour or so. I lay on my back, Garuba on his stomach, his face turned towards me. He propped himself up on his elbows and we looked into each other's eyes. I wondered at how I had come to feel the way I did in the presence of this man. Garuba was the first to speak, asking me if I was alright. He seemed to have a habit of asking that question, so I guessed that this was his own way of telling me that he was concerned. I admitted that what had just happened had never happened before, with someone I met only a few hours previously. Garuba suddenly looked worried, as if he had caused something to happen which I had not completely approved of. I smiled and stroked his cheek, saying nothing. He moved closer to me and lay his head on my chest and I put my arm around him, cradling him. Garuba said he didn't want me to leave the next day and asked if I would consider staying with him in Bauchi through the weekend. This man had been good to me. He had been kind and gentle and had even opened up to me, telling me what he thought of me and how he felt. I could not refuse him, although secretly, I was delighted that there would be another few days of undisturbed enjoyment of this lovely handsome man. Of course I agreed, though feigning reluctance at first

I asked if there might not be some concern in the main house since the back house was in darkness, and because his car was parked at the front and they would know he was indoors. At this we both got out of bed and went to the shower room, together. We had the whole evening ahead of us, but night life is almost non-existent in Bauchi, Garuba told me. This didn't bother me because I was with the person I wanted to be with, and it didn't matter what we did or where we went, as long as we remained together. We agreed to spend the evening quietly at home and that is what we did, after supper was served as it had been the previous night. It was explained to me that it is not customary for male visitors to be shown into the main house where the womenfolk held sway. Garuba's father received his own guests in a separate reception area, separated from the main house, although still a part of the main building. The more time I spent with Garuba, the more I fell under his spell. His presence around me was almost intoxicating, and I wondered how I had managed all those years before I met him. I had been in a relationship with Moses, but that was not the same as this. Time spent with Moses was fleeting at the best of times and his circumstances and mine were such that we were unable to take our relationship much further than what we had already done. Personally, I was concerned that if I persisted in that relationship, there could be undesired consequences on his marriage, and this was an eventuality that I was determined would not occur. I had gradually decreased the frequency at which I visited the Shrine.

That night, Garuba and I made passionate love to each other and I went to sleep thinking that I would never ever leave this man. Garuba had to go to work the next day, but he decided that we should go in together. I was glad because the thought of staying alone all day did not appeal to me. I have come to realise that architects have a way of imprinting their own stamp on their immediate surroundings. Despite being over furnished, Garuba's room at home exuded good quality in the items that the room contained. The office was pretty much the same, except that the rooms here were much more spacious and Garuba and his colleagues had ample room to demonstrate what they were capable of. It was a very beautiful suite of offices, occupying an entire floor of a 7 storey building in the centre of town. I noted that even in this environment, Hausa was the language of choice. So very often, I was made to feel like an outsider since anyone who spoke to me would have to make the effort to speak English, a language with which many of them were not very comfortable. I ended up sitting quietly in Garuba's office, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, although I could tell that my presence caused Garuba to be less effective at work that he should have been, since he would every few minutes come into the office from wherever he was, just to see that I was fine. Sometime in the early afternoon, everyone left the office to attend the Friday prayers at the Central Mosque up the road. Coffee and biscuits had been provided, so I remained in the office and busied myself flipping through architectural publications that were sitting on the occasional table in Garuba's office.

We left the office in the late afternoon and drove to the Zaranda Hotel, where Garuba treated me to a sumptuous meal. The society in the north of Nigeria retains vestiges of its feudal past, and Garuba who belonged to an aristocratic Fulani family from which is drawn the Emirs of the various towns, was treated with a deference to which I was unaccustomed. That I was 'on the arm' of such a person, brought to my mind memories of childhood fairy tales of handsome princes and young maidens. This was my own fairy tale and I was relishing every moment. We went back home and Garuba entered the main house, presumably to inform them that he was retiring early, because he soon came back and said that he had cancelled supper. We did retire early and yes, it was absolutely glorious. Later on, while still in bed we agreed that we would drive out of town the next day, because not only would this give us time together alone in the car, he could take us to places I had never seen.

And so after breakfast, we set off on the Gombe Road, towards Yankari National Park, but then we did not turn off towards Yankari but drove past and continued towards Gombe, Bauchi State's second city. Wasting no time in Gombe itself, we continued our journey on the road to Numan, which is in Gongola State, Bauchi's eastern neighbour. We had been driving for several hours and it was in the mid-afternoon that we arrived at our destination, a sugar plantation near Numan. Garuba explained that he knew the owner of the plantation and that there was a guest house here that we could borrow for the weekend. And it was here that we stayed and ate and slept and loved, hardly leaving our room until the next day when we had to return to Bauchi so that I could get prepared for my journey to Lagos, which was planned for Monday. On Monday itself, Garuba again taking the day off, drove me all the way to Jos and the airport. He even paid for my air ticket to Lagos and back to Jos, perhaps to ensure that I did come back. Northern Nigerians are more restrained and conservative than people from the south and it is very unusual indeed for a person like Garuba to engage in an overt expression of affection in a public place. But in the airport lounge, just before I left him to join the other passengers who were boarding the plane, Garuba held me close and I whispered into his ear, urging him to please drive safely. He said he would meet me here on Wednesday afternoon when I returned. He stood in front of the airport building as I walked out unto the apron and towards the waiting aeroplane. I turned around and he was still there, watching me, smiling. Climbing up the steps to the airplane, I turned around again. Garuba was waving to me and I waved back. I took one last look just before I entered through the door and he was still standing there...

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