People are cute. They whisper and call you weird because of what you told them. We both know when people begin to tag other people as “something” it’s because they are afraid.
Maybe, just maybe if I were someone else, and I had to listen to me, I wouldn’t believe me.
But I have a perfect Onyx ring to prove it. I’m not mad. People are just afraid.
“Love me riiiight here, right nooooow!” I sang. I was on my back with my legs thrown up against the wall. I’d just finished my last paper for the semester and I had looked forward to this precious moment with my cosy mou-mou and sheets of velveteen for three weeks.
Was I filing my nails, or noticing the ceiling crack for the umpteenth time, or wondering why Jerry hadn’t called me back? Well, I wouldn’t know because Ruby couldn’t even let me have the smallest of joys in my own bed.
“That’s not how to sing it.” Ruby turned around from the dresser drawer to spank me with her malicious hair brush. I dodged it, and stuck my tongue out at her.
My Ruby. Grammarnazi. Feminazi. Correcticon.
“Here we go again” I sing-songed.
“I bet Seyi Shey said ‘rai na na na na…’ which is stupid… the idea, and the request in itself. Love is stupid!”
“I like my version, and no, love isn’t stupid.” I sat up to add some more spine to the case I was defending.
“I don’t know who stole your joy, but they should do right and give it back”
I don’t know if love is stupid, if pretty Jerry was obeying the three days rule to call back, but it would be nice to share a little something-something with someone special who would just buck all the rules, pick me up and tell me I’m the best thing since sliced bread and melting butter.
But it’s final year, and even “love” season and it was not happening. Maybe when I’m old and wrinkled, you know? When my clothes smell like camphor and my mouth tastes like sour pap. Just maybe.
It would be nice to fantasize in a Ruby free space. Who puts a hopeless romantic in the same space as a muscled forehead cynic anyways? Hostel wardens of course.
No pretty boy posters, no loud music. School could be torture, and a roomie like Ruby gave no relief.
I cleaned out my sneakers, and threw on one of my million basic tees. Beige this time, and no bra. God knows we have nothing to pack.
It was early Saturday morning, and I headed out with no particular destination in mind. The idea was to plug in and put my favorite playlist on eternal shuffle, hoping I don’t go around the hostel block and then return to my room in 10 minutes, tail tucked.
This happens all the time. You step out of your room and you begin to wonder, “Where am I going sef?” The life of a socially impaired lab rat has caused me to find me by myself more often than not. I blame that for my datelessness. It’s the 13th of February, and no pretty specimen is calling us back.
Amphitheater? No. Student Fellowships colonize the amphitheater on Saturdays with cheesy smiles and corny lines like “You’re blessed” and “Oh sister, the Lord led me to you”. Nah!
I turned left instead, and kept walking, thankful that the sun was not blazing. I had nearly reached Omogunwa junction when I remembered Oscar and his clique hang around there all the time, playing loud music from his Benz speakers, and hooting at every girl who walked by.
No. Not me and Oscar today. I am in no mood for his stupid dreadlocks and talks of Aquarius and Saggitarious being soulmates made in heaven. Nah.
I took another left, thinking to myself: Maybe the problem is you, Simi. Your dreadlocked classmate with a ratty moustache and weed cologne wants you but you want coke bottom glasses uncle in the Law department. Why?
“Well, because I like the way he pushes back the heavy glasses up the bridge of his nose with his pinky than the way that one runs his fingers through his loc’d hair of lice.” I said out loud. The girls passing by looked back at me but I walked on unfazed. I’m not mad. These small conversations with myself are healthy. They bring clarity.
Iya Pato sold mini burgers at the corner just next to the senate building. She would like some, that “phat” bottomed cynic I call a roommate. She was probably waiting on her rump to ask me “back so soon?” with a smug smile on her face the moment I took the next left and walked into that hostel room. A mini burger or two should shut her up.
“Give me four mini burgers, and two bottled water.” I say to Iya Pato. On second thought, I requested that one bottle be replaced with soda. I’m not on any weight loss journey, so Ruby could have her miserable water alone.
If you take four left turns – or right turns – you’ll find yourself right where you started or close. But immediately I took the left turn at the ATM junction after the Senate building, I did not find myself anywhere close to Amina Hall.
Instead I was suddenly standing underneath a flickering neon sign I had never seen before. It said “U.D.E”.
My soda had gassed up so much it burst through the cap and foamed all over like it would when you’ve been shaking it way too long. It was not raining but was I drenched from head to toe. It felt awkward to be so wet when everything else was dry, but what was worse was looking around and not finding anything familiar.
One minute, I was on my way to the hostel, listening to my songs, and the next minute, I was standing under a big red neon sign with my phone all out of wonk, raining stupid radio static in my ears. I pulled out the plugs, and tried to retrace my steps.
With my arms wrapped around myself for warmth, I walked along the rough cobbled pavement, trying to find something familiar. The buildings were tightly packed and loomed over me like a forest of stone and when I looked up, I could only make out a sliver of the blue sky that was mirrored by the tiny stream of light that trickled along the cold stone ground.
What part of school is this? I wondered.
The road twisted and turned back on itself, first to the right, then to the left, and by the time I had gone back and forth for 15 minutes, and out of the maze, my feet had begun to ache. Wherever I looked, I saw nothing but stone, tall buildings and a narrow empty road that would comfortably fit one Prius, but not two side by side.
There’s was nothing to retrace. It was clearly a bad dream. A supreme case of “WTF?! – I – was – just – returning – to – my – room – and – suddenly – I – have – no – idea – where – I – am”
I had seen too many movies to recognize it was definitely a pipe dream. So like every pipe dream, I started to do recon like Tom Cruise would.
I looked at my wristwatch. It was 1:00pm, yet it looked like it was evening already. There was no sun in the sky, no moon either. It wasn’t hot, it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t dark either. It was just evening, minus a red descending sun.
Talking about the sky… it was waffled like one of those big meshed things that photographers use with bright lights behind them. Yes, it was a sky-colored waffled mesh of bright lights and endless dark hexagons.
It was a wonder. This is definitely a pipe dream. I was still staring up at it in awe, and wondering how the smokeless cars manage to sneak by without making a sound like hostel laptop thieves when this big human body checked me.
“Hey! Watch it!” I snapped, wondering why a normal human being would wear snow cone coloured check clothes.
Do you want people to stone you? I wanted to ask. But this could be my savior and I shouldn’t be rude.
In fact, taking a closer look, I wondered why he was at all. He was a good head taller than me, and he had on a weird chest brace I had never seen in my life, it looked like a science project gone wrong developed from what YouTube vloggers film their mundane activities with. And there was light in his eyes. Literally. This wasn’t a “his eyes sparkled” moment, his eyes had actual light in them.
“Who says “hey” anymore? Where are you from? He chuckled, giving me a quick glance from head to toe, reminding me that I looked like a wet dog.
“What are you doing here looking like that?!” He whispered, pulling me into a corner where the ATM should have been.
“‘scuse you?! I can’t take a walk round school again?”
“Shhhh. And stop with the weird first millennial slangs!” He stared at me again, and gasped. “Seven Jakes! It’s you?! Follow me!”
His “follow me” was not a request. He just pulled me along, avoiding the small sprinkle of people on the street.
We weaved in and out of the crazy tall buildings, till we arrived at a black glass door with Number 8 written on it.
“I just needed to get away from my roommate and his griping, and look who I find.” He was punching some numbers in the door and clearly not talking to me. Is this how I sound?
“Oh griping isn’t millenial? Please can I gripe?! You’re holding my hands too tightly, you’re rude, and your face looks like a baby’s bottom.” In my defense, his face did look like a baby’s bottom.
The door literally yawned, and then we were in. If I could describe what I saw properly, I would, but I can’t. It looked like a cockroach’s egg casing with 16 pods metrically laid on either side.
Mr. baby bottom face with the chest brace was taking me to a pod and I was letting him. It’s already clear that this world was not my own and there was no point struggling.
“Please what is happening? Where are we?”
“This is my hostel” he said carelessly as if this thing that looked like a futuristic Japanese experiment was supposed to be a “hostel”.
“This is not “hostel” this is one of those places lodge boys bring girls. Places we never hear of because those who could have told us didn’t make it out alive! Hey God!! This is how I finally die. Not blown up in the lab, or infected by one of my alfalfa viruses in the Petri dish. No. I waste away like that slay queen in Moremi hall that disappeared and turned up cold, dead and by the roadside, missing her nose.”
“Keep quiet. I can explain!”
“Oya! Start explaining. Because I still have my phone and my roommates know where I am!” He didn’t need to know my phone was still out of wonk.
We arrived at the last of the pods by the left; this time he used a key and I noticed just how delicately manicured his fingers were. He crawled in and gestured me to follow, like I had a choice.
A yellow room. Pristine. But looking like someone plastered fresh custard all over the place.That’s what the room was. She picked something up and he took it and placed it back. He had a dimpled smile and everything she did seemed to amuse him.
There was someone else in the room. She figured he must be the griping room mate. He had light in his eyes too. He sat by the table staring at her. Studying her as she studied him.
She was the perfect description right up to her flared nose and the tiny specks on her face.
She said they both looked and smelled like Varys. A character from pre millennial literature that had been studied analysed in many literature classes over the years.
“What do we do now?” She asked after Joni managed to explain it all to her. She had a heavy shawl draped around her shoulders.
“I don’t know. What’s your favorite color?” He asked smiling at her sheepishly. He had taken off his chest brace, and weird outfit. He was wearing something a little bit proper. A shirt that was soft like cotton but the yarns were too tightly woven to be cotton and the shirt had no seams.
They had given her more than enough reason to believe it was not an occultic kidnapping.
She had just happened to time travel by taking four left turns. All the logic behind the transportation of particulate matter seemed to fly right over her head. She was just as curious as Joni imagined.
It was an experiment. Part of the perks of year 2245 is that you could practically make anything happen.
“Did they mould this shirt too?” She asked, running her hands over his chest over and over again.
“Kinda. It’s the same textile tech I explained. “
“You explained a lot of things. This is too much”
“Yes. I’m sorry. It was strange for me too. I didn’t expect it.”
“Please can you explain it again?”
“First millenial slang “ she pointed out
“No. Er made it through the ages. But Hey, what’s up, and others didn’t. Was completely lost by the 22nd”
“Okay. 22nd century. But English still made it.”
“No. No one says 22nd , and English didn’t make it.” Malaki explained.
“Babylon tech. I can understand whatever language you speak. The message is interpreted in the atmosphere, and my ears interpret it in my preferred language.
“No. That’s just rubbish!” She laughed.
“You know how people of your time say things like ‘That’s not what I meant when I said-‘ well let’s just say a group of researchers found a way to improve upon that, and you can understand perfectly what I say and mean”
“Ended a lot of wars in your time.”
“There was no war in my time.” She quipped defensively
“Really? All that fuel scarcity, political terrorism, diseases and being subjugated to a system where practically nothing worked was not war?”
“Exactly. This is a stress free zone. Everything works.”
“That’s impossible, but go on.” She said, kicking off her shoes. Malaki picked up the left foot, studying it closely.
“I swear. One in five guys” She said, rolling her eyes.
“So like I told you before. Nobody does the biological baby thing anymore. You just place your order.” Joni started again, and she paced.
“I’m listening. “
“You have that look on your face again.”
“Should I be smiling? You’re telling me I time-travelled like McFly to a time where people print babies and you expect me to be smiling?”
“Not print exactly. You just get to work with a DNA engineer and decide sex, temperament, career, you know, small things like that.”
“Yea. Small things indeed. And this is a DNA engineering school… in Naija?”
“Yes. This is the U.D.E. We are final year students people in your era would call us Laboratory doctors of some sorts. Joni and I came up with the crazy idea of interpolating the U.D.E tech with dating sites algorithm.
“So uncanny!” The roommate said again, inspecting her shoes.
“I used the baby tech and entered everything about the love of my life and how I wanted to meet her.
You’re the love of my life. And this tech is so balanced that I’m yours too. ” Joni explained with so much urgency in his voice that the light in his eyes gave a tiny spark.
“Aren’t we so lucky?”
“That we find true love but we are worlds apart.”
” Some people never find it.”
“But I’ll be dead by the time you’re born. Like I’m not your mate. I’m the ultimate supreme sugar mommy.” She laughed. Disbelieving yet entertaining the idea that maybe it was possible.
They both stared at her.
“Sorry. Sugar mommy — It’s a slang for.. “
“No we understand perfectly. Tech. They both pat their skulls
“Yeah. You guys have wires in your heads”
“Not exactly. But okay”.
“Take me home. Please” she said to Joni
“I just need to make a few adjustments” Malaki said, and that’s how she spent 3 days in a pristine yellow pod that had everything including mini burgers.
Maybe it was impossible, maybe it wasn’t but she spent 3 days learning about Joni. She couldn’t believe how he was so perfect right up to the crook in his front tooth. She memorized everything, most importantly that his walls were custard yellow and it smelled like rain when she landed in his world.
It was bliss, and it was torture at the same time. How they were so perfect for each other, yet generations apart.
“This is a perfect onyx. All the sides are directly proportional” He whispered, slipping it into her finger.
“It’s time!” Malaki announced on the third morning and they quietly cursed him.
“If you’re gone by my time, I can always find the ring” He muttered as he watched her take the fourth right turn and she was gone.
My great great grandma was so cute and people say I look just like her. Mom said she spent all her time in the mycology lab, and she never touched sugars. She excercised 3 times a day, and was always the first to jump on a health fad.
“Grandma wants to live forever.” They would tease her, to which she’d respond “I just want to see 2245”
Great Great Grandma had a popular story, one no body believed. But she died at the ripe old age of 105, mumbling something about walls made out of custard and the smell of rain, and I never got a chance to hear her story.
My first day at the university, mom wrapped her hands around mine, and said;
“Maybe you will find that thing my great gandma was looking for in 2245. I wish you all the best in U. D.E. When I opened my palms, I saw she had left great grandma’s Onyx ring with me.