“I don’t think I want to die an unplanned death.” Sade said.
Bubu looked at her with raised brows.
“What do you mean? You want to stage your death?”
“Kinda. Like, I’d love to have a nice dinner and some wine while reading a good book on my balcony. When I’m done, I’d walk to the edge of the balcony; take in a deep breath, and just jump right off.”
“You’re too weird.” He said after a pause.
“You’re too normal.”
They had reached the front of her hostel and it was time to say goodnight.She gave him a tight hug and walked to her room while he headed back to his hostel. It was a couple of days to the end of camp and their goodbyes were getting more emotional.
Sade and Bubu first met in a bus on their way to the NYSC camp in Iseyin. Bubu was already seated in the bus when Sade appeared, dragging a huge box behind her. He watched, amused, as she argued with the bus conductor over the extra fees he wanted her to pay for her luggage. She stubbornly refused to pay, insisting that the conductor was trying to rip her off.
He got down from the bus and offered to pay the extra charge for her. She looked at him as if he had insulted her and said something in Yoruba that could only have been an insult. Even the conductor and the other drivers around burst into laughter as he shamefully returned to the bus to sit down. A few minutes later, she settled her tiff with the conductor and settled into her seat in the bus, her luggage safely tucked into the boot.
Hours later when they arrived Iseyin, he caught a glimpse of her struggling under the weight of her box as they marched into camp with their luggage on their heads as instructed by the soldiers. He smiled, pleased by her discomfort. His own bag was light and barely caused him any pain. He toyed with the idea of offering her help but dismissed it quickly. He wouldn’t let her embarrass him again.
Bubu didn’t see her again until two days later at the swearing in ceremony. He recognized her as one of the flag bearers, holding up a Nigerian flag at the head of the parade. At the close of the ceremony, he ran up to where she was sitting on the grass, massaging her feet.
“I found you.” He said, looking down at her.
She looked up at him, recognized him and smiled, before returning her attention to her feet.
“Ehen? Do I owe you?” she asked.
Bubu sat down beside her.
“Yes. You owe me an apology.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed.
“I’m sorry. I was nervous and in a bad mood.”
“Yeah. About coming to camp.”
“How’s that turning out?”
“My feet are killing me.” she said as she put her white canvas back on and started struggling with the shoelace.
“You don’t know how to tie a shoelace?” Bubu asked, shocked.
“Call police.” she muttered, as she gave up trying to tie them.
Bubu got on his knees and tied them into a knot. He got up and pulled her up when she reached out.
“I’m Abubakar, by the way. From Jos.” He said, as she dusted grass off her trousers.
“Abubakar. That’s too long” she said, “I’ll call you Bubu.
I’m Sade. I live in Lagos. I’m going to eat at mammy, are you interested?”
What started that day blossomed into a strong friendship in the next few days. Bubu and Sade were inseparable and spent every time they could with each other. They talked about everything and argued about most. During the long hours of daily lectures, Sade would sit with her head on Bubu’s shoulders and sometimes doze off, wearing his dark shades. They had their meals together, and attended the same SAED lectures, only parting when they had to go to their hostels. Bubu taught Sade how to tie her shoe laces and in return taught him some Yoruba insults. For self-defense, she said. Everyone knew them, because they were always seen together. When people teased them by referring to them as a couple, they neither denied nor agreed to it.
They spent evenings at mammy market talking about their very different childhoods and upbringing. Sade who had spent a lot of time in Oyo state with her grandmother told Bubu stories about Oyo state and promised him that he would enjoy his service year there.
At the start of the second week of camp, Bubu finally told Sade something he had been meaning to tell her, but couldn’t build up the courage to. He had applied to relocate back to Jos for his service year.
“You’re relocating back to Jos??? And you’re just telling me now???”
“Stop shouting and just hear me out” He pleaded.
They were having dinner at mammy market and her loud voice had already attracted the stares of nearby corps members.
“Okay.” she said lowering her voice, “What kind of animal lets a girl fall in love with him while forgetting to tell her he is going back to the other side of the world?”
Bubu was stunned.
“You’re in love with me?” he asked.
Sade rolled her eyes and got up, abandoning her plate of indomie.
Bubu grabbed their half bottles of fayrouz and caught up with her.
“I’m sorry.” he said quietly.
“Please you’re sorry? That’s an incorrect sentence. English graduate like you.”
He laughed, wondering how she could still make a joke in such a moment.
“I’m in love with you too.”He said.
“I know.” She said, smiling. “Who wouldn’t be?”
He laughed again. Who wouldn’t indeed?
As they walked silently, she took his free hand in hers and squeezed it tightly.
“I’ll miss you.” She said in a low tone.
“We can visit each other.”
She let go of his hand.
“Na so. Why do you want to go back?” She asked.
“I can’t stay here. I don’t like the unfamiliar.”
“I am unfamiliar. You like me.”
“I just don’t know if I can do it. I’ve been in Jos my whole life. It’s my comfort zone.”
“You have to leave your comfort zone eventually.”
Bubu said nothing until they reached Sade’s hostel and hugged goodnight.
“Line up according to your platoon!”
Sade looked around the crowd for Bubu. She had expected him to be with her. She hadn’t seen him all morning and was getting annoyed. How would he disappear on their last day together? She wondered if he had already left for Jos but she quickly brushed the thought aside. He wouldn’t do that to her.
She heard her platoon inspector shout her state code and went forward to collect her posting letter. She unfolded it. She was posted to a secondary school in Ibadan North East LGA. She looked around again for Bubu, but he was nowhere to be found. His phone had been switched off all morning. She concluded that he must have left early to make the journey to Jos without saying goodbye.
The buses conveying corps members to their various local governments were filling up already. Sade dragged her box to a bus that had ‘Ibadan NE’ written on it, paid the fee and settled into her seat.
The bus filled up in no time, and as it pulled out of the camp premises, she let the tears she had been holding back fall freely.
A week had passed since Sade left camp. She had fallen ill the day she left camp and had to postpone her registration while she underwent treatment.
She had just finished submitting all the required papers for her registration and was resting under a tree when she sensed someone creeping up from behind her. She turned around immediately and gasped when she saw Bubu. She jumped into his arms, almost knocking him over. They hugged tightly for almost a minute. When they broke their hug, she punched him in the stomach.
“What are you still doing here? Why did you disappear like that? I swear I hate you!”
“I’m so sorry,” he said, bent over in pain “my phone got stolen on the last night in camp and I couldn’t reach you.”
“Why are you still in Ibadan? I thought you’d be back in Jos by now.”
“I canceled my redeployment in camp. I didn’t tell you because I wasn’t sure it would work out. By the last day of camp, I neither got a redeployment message nor a posting letter. I’ve been trying to sort it out and find you at the same time.”
He stood straight and Sade hugged him tightly again.
“You’re staying back in Ibadan?” she asked.
“Who would let a woman like you go?” Bubu said and kissed her forehead.
Phidelia Imiegha is a young Nigerian writer and lover of literature. She recently completed her NYSC and wrote this story as a sort of tribute. You can find her writings on her blog www.phideliaimiegha.com or follow her ramblings on twitter @thephidelia_
Culled from Issue 16; Featured Image – LoveWeddingsNg