My best friend, Bami and I were on our way to shop for groceries. It was the weekend, a time when we did our cooking for the week. But this time around, we were cooking for Bami. I was scheduled to spend a few days visiting my cousins in Badagry. I had met Bami at the NYSC camp and we had grown close, so close that everyone believed we were a couple. And each time any of us denied it, they scoffed or gave us look that told us they thought we were being untruthful. It did not help that Bami’s girlfriend was in Benin and I was without a lover. And while I had a slew of admirers, none had aroused more than a passing interest in me.
Bami had picked me up in the black Honda Baby Boy his parents had gifted him. It was an old car but it served its purpose.
As we turned into the adjoining road, we encountered Oge and Chuks, our friends and one of the many couples the service year had birthed.
“Hey, guys, where are you off to?” Oge asked.
“Hey, we just want to get to the mart,” Bami responded.
“Gloria, how far, you look like you haven’t had much sleep,” Oge said pointing to the bags under my eyes.
She was right. I hadn’t been sleeping well.
The man who had been a regular feature in my dreams had shown up again last night.
Each time, he showed me a different part of himself.
When he came last night, it was with initials tattooed on his arm. I had no recollection of any family or friend with the initials C.J.
He never revealed his face.
“Gloria?” Chuks called, “Are you okay?”
“I am fine, yeah, I need to catch up on some sleep.”
“You should do that, you need to get rid of those,” He said, gesturing to my eyes again.
Moments later, as we sorted our buys and poked fun at each other, Bami placed a gentle hand on my shoulders and turned me around to face him.
“You have been tense all day, is it the dream again?”
I stepped back towards the Kitchen sink.
“Talk to me…”
“What do you want me to say? You have downplayed my fears every time I shared them with you.”
“I am sorry, I just don’t want you to dwell on something that isn’t real.”
The zing of the microwave interrupted our conversation and Bami tried to cheer me up with recycled jokes.
As I shut the door behind him hours later, I realised how tired I was. I resolved to sleep early, I had a long trip the next day.
The strange man stayed away this time around. It was a pleasant surprise after many weeks of making a regular appearance.
And by the time I was squealing and sharing tight hugs with the Etes the next day, the man in my dreams was a distant memory.
Bami called to check that I had arrived Badagry safely and after our small talk, I was going to share the good news of having an uninterrupted night’s sleep, but I held back.
I would wait a few more days to see how things went before telling him.
But when the midnight visitor continued to stay away, I was delighted and couldn’t wait to share my relief with Bami as soon as I got back.
“Badagry was good for you, you look well-rested,” Bami said as he handed me a glass of juice.
“Yup, yup, come sit,” I said patting the grey sofa beside me.
He sank his lean frame on the couch.
“Looks like I might be free from my nightmare…I mean the man who has been appearing in my dreams…I haven’t seen in for a while now,” I said.
“See? I told you there was nothing to worry about. In fact, I am almost certain you were hallucinating or something…”
“No, Bamidele. This guy was real, I did not imagine him.”
Just then, the doorbell rang.
“Are you expecting anyone?” I asked.
“No, let me see who that is.”
Bami shuffled into his slippers and made his way to the front door.
I could hear muffled voices. The door clicked shut and Bami came in.
“Hey, some dude says he is here to see you, are you expecting anybody?”
“No, who’s he?”
“Says, you’ll understand when I tell you Chidi Joshua or C.J for short.”