Banke probably doesn’t know I exist but I have had my eyes on her since that day in the market square. I forget things easily but that first encounter is ingrained in my memory. I was young and like everybody else was intrigued with playing with my friends manufacturing various contraptions which we rolled around the street. Out came my mother suggesting I followed her to the market, at least that’s what I thought but it turned out not to be a suggestion, so begrudgingly I followed her but I guess my non-smiling face got to her so she promised to buy me Baba Dudu. Pronto my mood changed and I followed her with a skip in my step as we went from stall to stall buying this and that – yam flour, garri, yam, etc. my excitement was slowly fading until I came across a stall that had Baba Dudu and the other variant Baba pupa – a dilemma arose, which do I choose? She must have read my mind when she said “ you can buy them both and lick them together you know”, as I looked up and behind the wares, words caught in my throat as I gazed into her eyes, she had those large yet beautiful eyes that tell you everything was alright and something shifted in my heart. Honestly, I bought both not because of variety but because she suggested it.
I was about going when I remembered my manners and offered her one each; she turned down the offer because her mother wasn’t around so it wouldn’t seem as if she was consuming what she was meant to sell. That thing that shifted in my mind shifted again and I could swear if it was a compass, it was pointed straight at her. We were looking into each other’s eyes and my mother chose that particular moment to interrupt our reverie “Banke Mama e da? (banke where is your mother?)” asked my mother “good afternoon ma, she went to the harbor to get more wares and stuffs for my brother’s birthday next tomorrow” she turns to me and asks “will you come” I almost said yes before she finished but I stifled it and managed a nod. “Greet her for me when she comes back” my mom just has this knack of interrupting moments, she placed the sack of yam flour on my head “you will sha eat out of it” with the load on my head, I looked back to see Banke smiling (or was that a smirk?) as she waved goodbye. I couldn’t wave back without risking the load on my head so I returned her gesture with a tepid smile.
On reaching home, I dropped the sack on the kitchen floor, went to my father’s room, prostrated “Eku ile sir (good luck saying that in English but it means good house-staying or something like that)” and showed him the stuffs mom bought for me. “Have you said thank you to your mother” he says I turn to her and say “Thank you maami”. I turned on my heels heading for my room to go and lick my Baba Dudu and Pupa in peace, I looked back to see my mum lean into my father and I saw an image of an older Banke leaning into me. With that I remembered the birthday and went to my box in my mother’s room to search for what to wear, I chose the shirt I wore last Christmas as it had only been worn once – it still had that new look. The birthday couldn’t come any faster; on that day I adorned my Christmas wear, went into my mother’s room to use the mirror. When she saw me, she smiled and rubbed my head just the way I like it rubbed. “omo akin, omo mi, omo bi adiye ba ku, ata laa lo si” she eulogizes, you look just like your father. So I left for the party feeling like the son of my father.
I got there just as the opening prayer was being said; I took my seat and said responsive Amens between closing my eyes and searching for Banke. I found her in the front row; I sauntered over to greet her. We went through the motions, we sang for the birthday boy together, I particularly remember dancing round the chair, she probably didn’t notice but I let her win after like 3 times and nobody was getting the upper hand. We took photographs together, I also remember her giving me her food while she took mine, very naughty girl she was. I then stole her meat and ran, she gave chase immediately, catching up with me at the back of their house where I tried to put the meat in my mouth and it fell to the ground. “God catch you” she said. I ran again and we got back to our seats rather exhausted. I got back home that day exhausted but really very happy. I was looking forward to seeing her in school but I was shocked to hear her parents had sent her to a boarding school in the city and I didn’t see her until 5 years later which is where we are and I have no idea if she still remembers me.
My walk back home was nothing compared to when I left, I crawled into bed that night and as I gazed at the stars through the open window, I fell asleep with thought of Banke on my mind