“Guy, what happened? We’ve all been waiting here for over one hour. You can’t blame traffic na, this is not Lagos. ”
“Nor vex, I bin dey find shoe wey I fit wear.”
“Guy nor be so o, you know say nor be everytime we dey see, this kain thing you suppose ginger put, even arrange yourself like two days in advance sef.”
“Bros, nor vex na”.
That was typical Charlie, never shy to express tough love and be brutally honest. It was Easter, and every member of “The Fellowship”, the only group of friends that you had somehow managed to still be part of, was in town. Paul’s fiance had given him the night off, Efemena’s boss at the law firm where he worked (or rather, slaved) had given him some unusual room to breathe, Obinna had come into town from Abuja, and by some miracle, you, anti-social, couch potato you, decided to visit from Lagos. There was Laura too, the one who could confidently offer lap dances to the rest of you, the one who had “brother-zoned” you all, the one that by virtue of an unwritten bro code none of you were allowed to date, the one who didn’t mind that she kept losing boyfriends who got fed up with being jealous when they saw her with the lot of you.
You were not sure of Barnyard ‘s DJ on a day like this, and you could not trust the temperature of Y2K’s bottles either, so you had all opted for Westpoint. The ambience was familiar, the atmosphere almost spiritual, and that blue plastic table to the extreme right felt like home : it was where you all played ‘truth or dare’ before you ditched Asaba for Lagos three years earlier, it was where you marked your twenty-fourth birthday which had your two girlfriends (at the time) in attendance, and it was where Paul had once thrown up after gulping up ten bottles of “33” Export Lager Beer.
“Borromeo, ehen, Ese still dey work for here? ”
“Guy, stop am na!”
Charlie, the entrepreneur in the squad, didn’t particularly like the reference to his baptismal name, Charles Borromeo, which he felt was too old-fashioned. In any case, he had not stepped foot in any religious gathering, save for his father’s funeral, in nearly six years.
“OK, Charlie, nor vex. She still dey here?” You ask again.
“No o, e don reach like six months now wey she comot. I hear say she born for one keke man like that, so she just move.”
Ese was a dark-skinned attendant whose hips always made her jeans look shrunken. You remembered how you regularly slipped one thousand naira notes into her back pocket in a bid to acknowledge her efficient service, you remembered the winks you both exchanged, and you wondered what she would be up to, with motherhood in the mix now.
Your order came in soon enough. This particular bottle of of “33” Export Lager Beer was not exactly morgue temperature, but it was pretty chilled nonetheless. As your lips flirted with the beer froth, you took a quick look around, and you eyes toyed with the idea of going moist as the memories began to flood in, memories that pointed to lingering friendship.
You recalled how you quit your job at that media firm where thirty thousand naira per month would still be subjected to delay. You questioned your ability, and then you plunged into depression, causing you to withdraw from the group. You packed your bags and left for Lagos without any notice or goodbye hangout, and even when you continued ignoring their calls, they never stopped reaching out. They were quick to re-integrate you when you showed up during Christmas of that year, and when you were unable to return to base after the holidays, they pooled funds because they cared, because they loved you even when you had become difficult to understand. Of course you had found it hard to forgive Efemena for snatching Chidinma from you when you switched cities, but when Laura ‘s mother slumped to her death at a traditional wedding two years ago, The Fellowship gathered and you both had to bury the hatchet.
A lot had happened since the days of having to drink full bottles of “33” Lager Beer after losing out at a game of cards or “concentration”. Paul had given up on the playboy life and was looking to settle down, Laura had finally decided to try out her first job since completing service year, Obinna had switched careers from engineering to music, Efemena had put a lady in the family way, Charlie was looking to expand, and you were finally getting around to navigating life in Lagos even though you just seemed unable to hold on to a relationship. You still had each other nonetheless, and that was pretty much what mattered.
“Hey, waitress, another set o. ’33’ for everybody, except Efemena wey dey like Heineken. We nor dey comot here today.”
Obinna had called for another round of bottles, and if you had your way you would ask that all the drinks be on you, but it was Fellowship practice to contribute jointly when it came to nights out in town (except for Laura, whose bill would be taken up by any of the boys). You were not always in this mood, and you were not quite sure when next a full house would converge, so you sipped some more, raising a cold glass of lager to subsisting warmth, drinking to friendship that you hoped would survive the decades.