“How long am I going to have this thing for?” I whispered to myself.
My door creaked open and I threw the ring under my blanket. My grandmother entered the room, a smirk on her face.
“Grandma, I’ve told you to always knock before you enter my room.” I said.
“Why?” She asked.
“What if I was naked?”
“Naked?” She scoffed. “I bathed you for years, remember?”
“Well, a lot has changed since the last time you bathed me, okay? Come on.”
“Remember when you were very sick two years ago and you vomited all over yourself, who do you think changed your clothes?” She asked. “Including your underwear.”
I closed my eyes. “Can we not talk about this anymore, please?”
“All I’m saying is, I can enter this room anytime I want.”
I shook my head and sat up on the bed.
“Okay, I hear you. What do you want?”
“May I sit?” She asked.
She sat before I replied.
“Thank you.” She said and I laughed. “I want to ask you something important.”
I moved closer to her.
“It’s been six months Samuel, what’s going on?”
I raised an eyebrow. “What’s going on with what?”
“I gave you that ring six months ago and I thought we both agreed you were ready to use it.”
I leaned back on my bed and laughed. “Are you serious? That is what you want to ask?”
“Stop laughing at something that has been giving me sleepless nights.”
“Sleepless nights? I’ve been checking on you at night and you have been sleeping soundly.”
“Okay, I have been having metaphorical sleepless nights.” She said. “I am serious Samuel, what’s going on?”
I looked at my grandmother and wondered at her. It was almost as if she was psychic, she always knew when something was disturbing me. I was not sure I wanted to discuss this with her though. I could laugh it off, buy myself a few more weeks, or maybe it was time to face this and talk to the one person who would understand.
“Samuel, I know you are thinking whether to talk about it or not.” Grandma said. “You will have to at some point, why not do it now?”
“You read my mind again.” I said.
“That’s what grandmothers do.” She moved closer to me and put a finger below my chin and pushed it up. “Talk.”
“Okay, I will.” I said. “I’ve looked at that ring every single day since you gave it to me. I know what I should do with it but I keep asking myself if the time is right.”
“And you tell yourself ‘no’?”
“Not really. I tell myself ‘I don’t know’ because I don’t. What if I think I am ready and she isn’t?”
“That’s a good point, she might not be.”
“You think so too, right?”
“But you’ll never know except you ask her.”
“That’s very risky? What if I ask and she says ‘no’? You think I have insecurities now? I will be worse than a country in the middle of a civil war.”
She laughed. “Getting a ‘no’ is not that bad. I said ‘no’ to a boy once.”
I gasped. “No way.”
“It’s a long story, definitely not for today.” She said. “Look dear, the whole idea of marriage is a risk. A lot can go right and a lot can go wrong. But unlike that useless IPad you bought me, marriage doesn’t come with warranties or guarantees, you have to take a chance.”
“Okay, first of all, never call an IPad useless, that is a sin. Secondly, if marriage is such a huge risk, why does everyone seem so eager to jump into it? The odds of dying from base-jumping from a plane are lower than the odds of getting a divorce but I don’t see many people base-jumping.”
“Please don’t ever do that thing, I’m not ready to bury little pieces of you.” She said, squeezing her face in disgust. “You want to know why everyone is jumping into marriage? Because if you get it right, if you make it work, it is the best thing in the world.”
I opened my mouth to respond but my phone rang and I reached for it. Pam was calling.
I showed Grandma the phone. “I have to take this.”
“Okay, I will leave. Just remember what I said and don’t be a sissy.”
I smiled as she walked out of my room.
I answered the call. “Sweetie.”
“Hello dear.” She sounded so excited. “So I know this is last minute and I’m so sorry but Bola is having a show today and we have to be there.”
“Wow, this is really short notice.”
“I know, I know, I’m sorry but we have to go.”
“I don’t know…” I started to say then my eye fell on the ivory box on the edge of my bed. My eyes brightened, I had an idea. “You know what, I will pick you up. Let’s do it.”
“Are you serious?” She asked.
“Yes I am. I have to go, I have to do some things real quick.”
“Okay Mister Flash, see you later then.”
She ended the call and I threw my phone on the bed. I sprang from the bed and ran through my door and to the living room. My grandmother was sitting, staring at the television.
“I’m going to do it today.” I shouted.
“Calm yourself, what are you doing today?”
“I’m going to ask her to marry me today.” I said.
I sighed. “The queen of England.”
“Isn’t she a little too old for you?”
“Come one grandma, I’m asking Pam today.”
“Are you sure? You didn’t want to just a few minutes ago.”
“It is a risk and I’m willing to take it.”
“Do you want to come?”
She shook her head. “No way, it will be too much of a risk for my heart if she says no.”
“Didn’t you just say it is good to take risks?”
“I’m old, I can’t remember what I said.” She stood and hugged me. “I’m really proud of you dear.”
“Save the hugs, I might need them more if she says no.”
I dashed towards my room but stopped and returned to the living room.
“Grandma, you really said ‘no’ to a guy?” I asked. “Not cool, not cool at all.”
I ran back into my room, picked the ivory box and put it in my trouser pocket. I really was going to do this.
‘’I don’t like the thing you do with your nose when you get frustrated.’’ Sam said.
I was navigating with google maps and he was driving, we were trying to locate the venue of Bola’s show, it was a Jazz night with a number of other Lagos based Jazz musicians.
It felt like we had being going in circles for the last 30 minutes and we were already late for the show.
‘’In 200meters take the next exit.’’ my phone chimed, I closed the Google maps app and connected my phone to the car charger.
‘’We should call a bike man.’’ I said
‘’In this century? We would be ‘dashing’ people money when we can figure it out ourselves? Please keep navigating.’’ Sam said.
‘’Sam we are already late, the map has sent us up and down this bridge three times, please can we just call a bike man?’’
‘’One more time with the map and we would call the bike man.’’
I decided to indulge him and opened the map.
‘’So the next exit?’’ He asked
In no time we were back on the bridge
‘’I’m sorry we are late.’’ Sam said.
‘’It is fine, as long as we get there before Bola performs.’’
The map chimed away, giving us directions. When Sam didn’t understand a direction he asked for clarification and I gave it to him.
‘’Your destination is to your right.’’ The map sounded.
I looked from my phone and out the window, this wasn’t our destination.
‘’This map is pointless.’’ I said.
Sam tapped me and pointed out the building to me
‘’The Old Hunt.’’
In usually Lagos style there was no visible parking space and it took another ten minutes to find a place to pack the car.
We walked side by side, no body contact, I made sure of it. Why didn’t he just let us call a bike man and we would have made it here in time. Sam could be so stubborn.
‘’I’m sorry we are late.’’ Sam said.
I didn’t look in his direction or acknowledge his apology. He covered the distance between us in one swift movement and draped his arm across my shoulder and drew me into a side hug and kissed the top of my head. I didn’t have the energy to be angry after that, I wrapped my hands around his waist and we made our way to ‘The Old Hunt’.
As we walked in I noticed my sister was seated at one of the tables with two of my cousins. I’d told her about the event but it as a formality because she never shows up when I invite her for events.
Sam found an empty table at the back for us to sit, my eyes met Bola’s and she came over to greet us.
‘’Where is John?’’ I asked.
‘’He is helping the sound guy, one of his guys didn’t show up.’’ she replied.
‘’This feels different in a really good way.’’ Bola said
‘’Once you are happy I am happy.’’ I said and I meant it.
‘’I’m up next, got to go.’’ She said.
“Good luck.” Sam said.
She walked back to the stage and took her place in front of the microphone. The first song on Bola’s set was one of my favourite songs. ‘Make You Feel My Love’, I made her do a duet of the song with me in our first year of University at a departmental variety night. She’d managed to incorporate a trumpet solo into the song.
The next song was the song we used to call our break up song; ‘Blow me one Last Kiss’ by Pink. Her next two songs were original songs; we co-wrote one of the songs. The last song on the set to my surprise was ‘Where I Sleep’.
In the aftermath my big fight with Sam, this became our song. Sam loved the song, I’d never heard the song till he played it for me one evening after our visit to his parent’s burial ground. It didn’t take long for it to become my favourite song also.
Who told Bola about this song? Why was it even on her playlist?
‘’Sam, why is Bola singing our song?’’
Sam shrugged like he didn’t know what I was talking about.
I looked up and my cousins, sister, Phemie and his girlfriend materialised around our table holding up IPads with one word each on the display screen coming together to ask me the last question I expected Sam to ever ask;
Pam, Will You Marry Me?
Everything had gone as planned up till this point, it was my turn now. I stood away from my chair, went on one knee, my heart pounding and removed the box from my pocket. I opened the box and echoed what the IPads already asked.
“Pam, will you marry me?”
She looked at the box and looked at me and her hands went to her mouth. She stood still, looking at me for an eternity, two centuries and four days. What was going on in her head? Was she going to say no? My smile was starting to disappear and my pounding heart was starting to ache.
“Pam?” I said, my voice shaking.
“Yes Sam, of course I will.” She said.
I closed my eyes and thanked God, my ancestors and whoever else had just saved me from having a heart explosion.
“Give her the ring, you idiot.” Phemie’s voice brought me back.
I dipped my hand in the box to pick the ring, my hand found nothing. I turned the box to face me and looked at it, the ring was not in it. Oh lord, what was going on? I bowed my head, how did I blow this? Did I lose my grandmother’s ring?
“Sam?” Pam called.
I could not look up at her.
“Sam, the ring is beautiful.”
What? I looked up and there it was, the ring was on her finger. How on earth did that happen?
“I’m sorry people, my idiot grandson left the ring under his blanket at home.”
Grandma! She had saved my life once again.
She leaned close to my ear and whispered, “You better thank God for Uber and that useless IPad you bought for me.”
“Aren’t you going to stand up?” Pam asked.
I hadn’t realised I was still on my knees. I stood and drew Pam into my arms.
“Are you sure you want to marry a guy who needs his grandma to save his proposal?” I asked.
“If you have any of your grandmother’s genes in you, then I’m sure I won’t regret this.”
“I guess we will be fine then.”
I saw the way she looked at me and I was sure this was a risk worth taking.