Today will be the fifth year since I last smelled the melody of her aroma. And it hasn’t been easy -I swear. The other day, about 20 years ago, she walked into my life like a divine blessing. It was a Saturday morning. Those types of Saturdays that watched idleness dangle from the cloud as it shit relentlessness on our bald heads. As kids, we sat in front of the gate playing cantas. I was loosing to my brother that day, because the Pepsi cantas that I had didn’t bend enough at the tip, so it didn’t win, and it was easy to be won.
Kpa kpa kpa, the fork beat the glass that housed my darling. I raised my head up, my mouth dropped ajar. She looked so perfect for a Saturday morning lover. From afar, I saw her sit relaxed and majestic, shining like the glory of the sun – except, she smelled too. Her scent spread its wings as her carrier drew near. If I remember well, it was the smell of imported oil, heated in a frying bowl of divine condiment. If not, how do I explain what her aroma did to my tummy that morning? And may you, my dear reader, find a food that makes your tummy rumble, wamble, and churn at the same time. Amin. Because the aroma, that day, did something no food ever did to my tummy.
I stood up, rub my hands over my naked thigh. I beckoned the carrier. “How much is she?” I asked, close to tears -tears of joy. If you’ve ever seen Flash run before, and you saw me run that day, you will know the author of Flash was inspired by my speed. The plan was simple: I had to sneak into the house, without my mum noticing. I had to draw a chair, as stealthy as I could. I had to reach for our Kolo with a broom in hand. I had to pull out enough to buy my brothers’ conscience. And all this, I did perfectly. Now that I write about this, I realized Puff Puff was my first of everything. It was my first love too. Or what better word describes a first love other than stealth and secrecy?
Outside, my brothers and I walked the carrier to a safe distance away from home where we can savor the taste of manna without fretting over being caught.
“Give us fifty Naira own”
And know, my dear reader. Fifty Naira back then was not as small as it is now. And a taste of paradise was as cheap as 5 Naira. In fact, if you bought enough, the carrier would give you fisi. And if you are cheerful enough to ask, maybe jara. So he unseats the glossy glass from his head. And I knew, that moment, that this love was here to stay. It felt like my head was knocked into a nanosecond of comatose. My mouth dropped ajar again. And I swear I don’t know why. I watched as he punctured the face of the round balls, pull them out, and collect them in a newspaper. I think I drooled. It was the closest I was to the smell of divinity without Mums peering eyes. I swallowed hard. Twice. No. Sorry. Thrice. Yes, I swallowed my spit, three times. The first was unconscious; the second was to wet the way; the third was to double-check for any hindrance.
I held the oily, shiny, aromatic brown ball in my hand as if asking if she would stay by me through thick and thin, for better and for worse. When she said, “I do,” I closed my eyes to chew this lover. They say the best things in life are better enjoyed with our eyes closed. I swear it is true. In my closed eyes, I saw stars and constellations, rolling in a delirious ambiance. My teeth bite into the fried flower, munching it carefully. And so it started, my love affair with the divine fried brown balls.
My darling first love, if you happen to hear of this nostalgic piece I wrote in your honor, please know that: today I thought of you. And I thought of your fondly. And know too that what you said when I walked away from you is happening. Because in five years after I took off, I’m yet to find a lover like you. Plantain chips tried, she failed. Meat pies tried, she didn’t last long. Scorched egg came along, she broke my heart. Doughnut came as a friend, but her words are too sweet. If it is possible my dearest love, come let us renew our vows.
I’ll be waiting, patiently.