Their widened eyes and furtive glances made me smile. We made an interesting pair. Where I was petite and fair, Bella was tall, dark and towered over most men.
Bella took a swig of the“33” Export Lager Beer she was holding and grinned at me in understanding. The cold, fiery liquid was the cradle of our weird friendship. It was the essence of our mutual existence.
“You remember, don’t you?” Her eyes held a glimmer of mischief.
“You know I do.” How could I ever forget the night we met?
Since I could remember, friendship had been a luxury I couldn’t afford, because unlike my earthly possessions, happiness was fleeting and the control reins were completely out of my hands. So, I was alone, no family around and no friends.
Perhaps that was why it was assumed I was an easy prey.
It was about 8:30 that night, when I decided to take a stroll down my neighbourhood in search of hot akara and the fresh, soft bread, the bakery on my street blessed us with. My fridge was already stacked with cans of “33” Export Lager Beer and the thought of washing down the meal with the cold liquid, shut down my lids and curled my toes.
As I basked in orgasmic expectations, a tiny ruckus filtered through my clouded brain. It sounded like the low growl of a large animal and my tightly shut eyes sprung open in alarm.
Before me, stood a magnificent mountain of snarls, hot breath and black fur. My feet got rooted to the ground and I began to recite the Lord’s prayer. If I was to die, hellfire wasn’t an option.
Amidst my feverish recital of the prayer and the snarls of the wild beast before me, I heard a sound that surprisingly resembled laughter. My head snapped up and behind the animal stood the hateful face of a male neigbour, Jide.
I immediately knew what was going on.
“You should see the look on your face now, hard girl.” He sneered as he held back the dog that was already barking explosively.
I couldn’t take my eyes away from the animal. All I could think of was, “How did he know about my terror for dogs?” “How did he know the sight of a puppy could send me scurrying into fire?” “How did he know about my unreliable bladder when I heard the bark of dogs even behind closed gates?”
I tried to push past the lump in my throat. “Please….”
“What? What did you say?” He relinquished his hold a bit and the wild beast lunged. I staggered backwards and let out a scream.
“I SAID PLEASE!!” Tears were already threatening to spill and I hated myself.
Jide had been a bone in my neck since I moved into that street. I had tried to endure his idiosyncrasies till I could take it no more and let him have it some days back. I held nothing back as I called him names, from Community Penis to the Illegitimate son of a cross-eyed camel, as he stormed away from my door where he had come to knock at about 11pm. He had given up on his relentless pursuit since then, until now.
He was laughing really hard now. Enjoying my misery and shame.
“So you can beg? You need to be taught a lesson. I chose this spot so no one can save you. Have you ever been bitten by a dog?”
As he spoke, I could see his hand releasing its hold on the chains and my legs instinctively readied itself for a run. That was my only option.
Then I heard a voice behind me, “Hey guy, e don do you, bounce!”
Without waiting to see who it was, I ran towards the voice and hid behind its ginormous owner.
“See this one o, who you be?” Jide’s voice was a bit uncertain now and I noticed he still held on to the barking dog.
“Release the dog na, then you go know who I be. Dem don shoot you gun before?!”
Jide seemed to think twice about the whole thing, as the barks of the dog reduced like it was being soothed.
“I am not done with you, just thank your stars!” Jide raised his voice, letting me know he was referring to me.
I could only come out from behind the stranger when I couldn’t hear his receding footsteps anymore.
“I am very grateful.” I said quietly and gave a start when I saw it was a woman. Her slightly deep voice and gigantic stature made me assume it was a man. I felt more ashamed of myself.
“Oh don’t be! I was just on my way to get a beer when I saw you guys. That guy is a total jerk.”
“ If you wouldn’t mind, I have a stack of cold beer at home, you could have some.” I murmured gratefully.
“Oh, that’s kind of you. But not everyone takes my brand.”
“That’s true. “33” Export Lager Beer isn’t what you usually see at the top of the menu?”
“33 Export Lager Beer?!”
I could see it in her eyes then; The understanding, the warmth, the awakening, the dawning realization that a new friendship had just been birthed.
Now sitting in the dimly lit bar as we sipped on our beers, I couldn’t help but marvel how Bella had become the true definition of a friend. She had shown me that happiness was a luxury I could afford. She had made me realize that in the quagmire of life, she was my anchor. I could do anything for her.
She raised her beer glass and I raised mine.
“To friendship.” Our eyes said.
Written by: Eunice Ekelaka
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