You are in search of an apartment in Lagos. You’ve been rejected four times and the excuses were flimsy.
So when on Friday the agent sent you a picture of an apartment, tiled and cleaned up. You call him to ask where this apartment is. He says it’s at Command; close by.
You jump on the next tricycle.
You are there when another agent shows up. He smiles at you and asks if you’re married. You answer in truth. No. He leads you to the apartment. And you know, fire is on the mountain. You amble in, reluctantly. It’s a fenced house. The gate has locks. You smile and pray that God answers your pleas. The agent opens the door. The walls are painted. The place is well ventilated.
You ask for the price. He answers. It’s well within your budget. Then the agent says he knows you because his son told him good things about you. You ask what the son’s name is and he says, Joshua. You describe him and he nods.
“And for that, I’m going to tell you a secret,” he leans in and whispers “When the landlady asks if you’re married, say yes.”
You nod and he puts a call through. The call connects and he briefs the woman about the necessary information. He even tells her you helped his son which is true but the woman insists the phone be passed to you.
You grab it and she repeats all the necessary questions; your name, tribe, occupation, address of your office and relatives in the city. When she gets to your marital status, you answer yes, you are married. She chuckles and asks you to bring your wife on Sunday, which is when the payments are to be made.
You grimace and think on your feet.
“She’s in school at the moment ma. I’m not sure she can make it.”
“If you want the house. Bring your wife along on Sunday,” she repeats.
“Ma, what I like, she likes with me. She’d be good with my taste… And besides, the journey is a distant one.”
“Young man,” her voice tightens, “Come with your wife or forget it.”
You swallow hard and relay the message to the agent. He advises you to recruit a random girl.
You gasp, “hah.”
But the apartment is worth the risk. The agent muses over the problem, your head bursts with a plan too.
Who do you pick? Uju? Ebere? Cynthia? Joy? Seyi or Damilola? The list is endless but these six can risk their neck for you.
You heave. The first three might take it seriously and jeopardize your chance but the last three will do anything to help. You settle for Seyi. A light skinned Yoruba girl with the right amount of flesh. She’s your neighbour at the office.
You call her and she agrees. There was no persuasion. And you knew that moment you made the right decision. You’re Igbo but many people think you might go the “Ofe-mmanu” way.
Sunday comes and you call her at four. She answers and you both journey your way to the house. You lay the plan before her and she nods her understanding.
Your hand is entwined with Seyi when a girl opens the door to the landlady’s house. You sit together and wait for the woman.
A few minutes later, she emerges from a back room, all decked up. She is supposed to be old in your calculations but damn, she’s pretty young for a landlady. You greet with your mouth while Seyi does the same with her gestures.
You stare at her.
She matches your gaze but you’re relentless. She moves her eyes to Seyi. She’s always been feisty and she shows it by starting the conversation.
“You asked for me ma. I’m here,” her sweet voice breaks the silence and everything is fine again.
The landlady smiles.
“Welcome, Mr Stephen. Your name is?”
“Seyi, his wife. You said you needed to see me before renting the apartment to my husband. And I went through the trouble of travelling from Ekiti to be here.”
The landlady grins. At that moment you wondered if she’d make a good one. “Sorry for the inconveniences,” she tugs at her dress. “I need to be sure he is not playing me. By the way, when was your wedding?”
“We had our…” you try to say but she cuts you off.
“I’m not talking to you, sir. I’m talking to your wife.”
Seyi, a born actress, gives a knowing smile.
“Oh, it was on June 19. And you know, that was the happiest day of my life.”
“I know that feeling,” the landlady chimed in “The feeling of snatching him off the hands of your competitors.”
“Hello!” you snapped your fingers, “I am right here ladies.”
They stared at each other and laughed.
And at that moment you knew, you got the house. You signed the documents, took your copy of the rules and made payment.
When she handed you the keys, Seyi wanted to see the apartment. You smile and tell her you’d invite her when it’s all set up. She insists and your landlady overhears you.
“Mr Stephen show your wife the apartment na. Is she not the one that owns the place?”
You nod and bite down your lower lips. You know how this is going to end. If Seyi knows your place. She’d make it a habit to drop by unannounced. But the gaze burning at the back of your head makes you stride towards the apartment.
You don’t just point. You open the door and usher her in. This time you don’t like her acting because she’s suggesting where you should put the bed, the television, fridge and the rest.
You wear a smile all through. And when she was done inspecting she says, “Oko mi, you get taste sha.”
You smile and she blows a kiss. Your body is telling you this girl is becoming serious with this wife thing but you keep mute.
“When I come around, this is where I’ll like to rest,” she points at a space beside the window. You swallow and say, “I will be here whenever you come.”
You leave the apartment the way you came; hands entwined, talking all the way home.
You decide to buy her ice cream for the troubles since she refused to take payment but she declines and says, “We will make a good couple.”
“You and who?”
“Me and you.”
“Are you still acting? Because we are on the express. And there’s no landlady.”
She laughs, “You wish.”
It’s been three months since you packed into the new apartment. Things are moving on fine except that Seyi has been to your apartment six times without prior notice. The only hint she gives is calling you when she’s near your house to ascertain your whereabouts.
The last time you lied, she told you three of her friends lived in your neighbourhood and can easily spy for her. She doesn’t just drop by for check-ups or pleasantries. No. She comes like a wife with nylon and leaves like a hoodlum with bigger nylon or nylons. Twice she has even slept over. Not to talk of her beautiful relationship with your landlady.
You’re wondering how you can end the charade for good.
So you put out the question: How do I make ‘Seyi’ stay away for good?…
© Stephen Toochi