Moshud had just left his workspace and he sincerely wished he hadn’t. He wanted him to linger at his table, perched by the edge, cracking silly jokes. But admitting the fact is the last thing Adameji Gabriel will do. He knew for certain that if he asked Moshud to stay longer, he would drop one of his tacky proud lines like, ‘I’ve always known you can do without me,’. Gabriel would not have Moshud gloat over him.
It bothered Gabriel that loneliness was becoming his shadow in recent times. This new shadow was always throwing a dark shade on everything he did. It was there during lunch when he walked with his colleagues to the café across from the office -even when in their company, he still felt alone. It was heavy in the hollowness his apartment. Returning home from work had stopped being something to look forward to. He had always believed he was a private person, he still did, but now he found that there was a hankering for connection down deep in his soul. And Gabriel knew why he felt that way, it all boiled down to the fact that he was a singlet like Moshud would say.
Perhaps it was because he wanted to run from his shadow that he agreed to do dinner with Moses, Eniola and Tonye later today. On a normal day he would have passed up on the offer, but when Eniola suggested it on Sunday after service, he thought to himself, why not? He really didn’t have much to do with his evening anyway. So going against the grain of his reclusive self, he jumped on it. Now, Gabriel wondered if he hadn’t made a mistake. What will they discuss over dinner?
It’s just dinner. It’s Moses, Tonye and Eni, you know them well. Stop over thinking it. Just go out and have fun tonight.
Gabriel decided to take his own advice. He returned to the AMCON report he had been working on before Moshud stopped by. He had to finish it up before the close of work which was 45 minutes away. By the next morning his boss will be asking for the report and he’d be done for if it wasn’t ready.
Tonye stepped out of the bathroom wiping her hair with a white towel. Eniola stood behind her, arms akimbo. Tonye rolled her eyes, she knew the look she could see on Eni’s face reflected in the mirror.
“I don’t know why you’re self-sabotaging, to be honest. You like this guy, why don’t you just reach out?” Eniola asked with a huff and then she added dramatically, “Oh I know, you don’t want to come across as desperate or pushy or yada yada yada”
“Yes!” Tonye turned to her friend. “Yes! Making an overture will sell me as desperate and no! it’s not old wife’s tale. I have a brother and I know how he reacts to ladies who are all up in his face.”
“I’m not asking you to be all over him, I’m not even saying you should flirt. All I’m saying is make this guy aware of your presence. Strike off a conversation with him, platonic of course but it’s still something. Who knows, he might feel the same way about you”
Tonye bit her lower lip, considering. Eniola smiled.
“Look, maybe next Sunday after church you could just go over to say hi to him or something”
Tonye smiled. “Eniola, you like this. Thing is, I don’t know if this is the Christian thing to do”
Eniola shoulders slumped. “Now, I don’t know about that. Have you prayed about him?”
“Nothing. You know what, I’m just going to trust God and rest like I’ve been doing. My crush on Stephen will probably melt away like the many others before it”
Eniola sighed. “It’s good jare. God will sort you out my dear. I just want to see it happen already”
Tonye smiled. “I get it. You want something for me like You and Ebube. Well, we should start getting prepared for our hang out”
“Eh ehn, about that. I will meet you guys there. I have to quickly go to Onikan to see my mum. I called her this afternoon and I have to go over”
Tonye hissed. “Oh! In that case, I go wait for you, when you return we go face JTQ together”
“No, no, don’t worry. You just hurry along, okay, we go jam for the restaurant. I need to even be on my way to Onikan now.” Eniola hurriedly picked her bag and made for the door. “So you later”
Tonye hissed again. She didn’t want to go without her friend.
Gabriel walked into the restaurant, it was bright with lights and artistry, filled with a balmy scent admixed with the aroma of different dishes. It looked upscale and that meant one thing: he will pay dearly for every breath he drew in there. The miser in Gabriel immediately regretted agreeing to come here. Gabriel had arrived five minutes to seven, he wanted to be the first. One thing he hated was being late, actually what he hated was the self-consciousness that made him almost forget how to walk whenever he had to walk into a room of people waiting for him.
He found a good booth with four seats and settled there. He was looking through the menu when his phone started ringing. He picked it.
“How far Moses, where you dey?”
“Guy I’m sorry o, I won’t be able to make it to the dinner outing tonight. Something just came up”
Gabriel felt deflated. Now he knew for certain that his decision to do this was a huge mistake. How was he meant to do dinner with two ladies? What kind of image was that going to present of him to everyone who saw him? What will they discuss? Gabriel drew a hiss between his teeth.
“I’m sorry men, but I’m sure the girls will be with you shortly. Enjoy the night bro”
Pissed, Gabriel cut the call. He decided to leave the restaurant and go back home, and then call Eniola to tell her he too will not be able to make it to dinner. Gabriel quickly got up and stepped out of JTQ restaurant.
“Someone is about to run?”
Gabriel whipped his head around to see who spoke, was the person talking to him? It was Tonye, her head was now bent as she rummaged her purse for some money. She took out the notes and gave them to her UBER driver.
She walked over to Gabriel smiling. Gabriel fiddled with his thumbs nervously. What was he going to say?
“You got tired of waiting?”
“Err.. no, I got cold feet”
Tonye chuckled. “The AC in there must be really angry then”
Gabriel chuckled, easing out. “Let’s go back in”
They had just placed their orders when Tonye’s phone rang.
“Eni, are you almost here?”
Tonye was silent as she listened to Eniola. Her face fell.
“Oh, Eni now”
She paused again.
“Don’t tell me sorry jo”
She cut the call. Gabriel could already guess what the call was about and he secretly rejoiced that Eniola won’t be coming. At least it would be less awkward, if it was just him and Tonye. But then again, it occurred to him that having dinner alone with Tonye made it look like a date. And oh, how he hated dates. He had never really had a hang on going out on dates.
“What of Moses?” Tonye asked.
“He also called to cancel. Actually that’s why I wanted to run”
Tonye scoffed and then stopped suddenly, her eyes dilating with realization.
“Eniola, I see you. this is no coincidence.”
“What do you mean? Wait, are you trying to say our friends set us up to a date?”
Tonye nodded. “This is very much like Eni. I’m just surprised I didn’t see this one coming, I usually sense her antics from afar.”
Tonye saw that Gabriel was fiddling with his thumbs again. And then he sat erect in his seat, spread the napkin over his lap with a theatric primness before he asked her to tell him about herself.
Tonye smiled. “Look, our friends might have intended this to be a date but we don’t have to play their script, do we? Let’s just eat and talk like normal people without the tell me about yourself thing”
Gabriel relaxed and burst into laughter. “God knows I hate dates. I think it’s one of the reasons I’m still single. I always mess up my dates. It’s either I knock a glass over, step on her shoes and cut it on our way out or realize by the reflection on a glass that I’m wearing my shirt inside out, men, I should make a series out of my date experiences”
Tonye was laughing hard. “Hang on, you wore your shirt inside out?”
Gabriel nodded, also laughing.
“What was her reaction like?”
“Please don’t make me remember” Gabriel shook his head, “My sister, life is tough, twice as tough for the singles”
“Not really” Tonye took a swig of her wine. “I am learning to enjoy my single days”
“You are a pretty lady, why are you still single tho?”
“This is one thing guys say that I don’t think I will ever understand. You are a fine man, why are you still single?”
“Oh well, I will take the compliment and leave the question”
Tonye smiled. “My last relationship was a really sweet one. We were in love, he was good by my every standard, but as we continued in the relationship I became more and more obvious to me that I didn’t have peace about the whole thing in my spirit. So I did what I should have done in the first place. I prayed about him and I knew he wasn’t who God wanted for me. Hard, but I had to opt out”
“Wow. You seem very at ease being single. Don’t you get lonely? Don’t you get anxious?”
“Oh sure. Those where the things that made me hurry into that relationship. But right now, I’m learning to lean on God’s arm. I will trust him to perfect all that concerns me and while he’s at it, I will delight in him. How about you, have you been praying or you’ve just been going on sporadic, disastrous dates?”
“Sub caught. I’ve been praying o, but God will just be telling me to trust him, talmbout his plans and purpose for my home. But brah, I just want to know who she is! I just want to get this singlet phase of my life over and done with”
Tonye laughed. “And so you go on your random dates to sort things yourself, right?”
“Wetin man go do? I’m 32 o, if you open the skin of my neck you will see my mum standing right here” He touched his jugular notch.
“What God has ordained; he will bring to pass. Gabriel, trust him. Stop all these your fretting and agitating. Rest!”
Gabriel dropped his glass. “How come I never knew you were this wise? How old are you again?”
“Thirty. And you don’t ask a lady for her age.”
“I actually wasn’t expecting you to answer. This is good food. And this night is going down as a beautiful one”
Tonye saw that Gabriel was struggling to eat with his fork and knife. A lot of his pasta was on the napkin on his lap, some on the table. Tonye smiled, compassion springing in the pit of her stomach.
Gabriel saw how Tonye ate her basmati rice with her fork and knife, gracefully, effortlessly. He wished he had taken Mr. Gbangbade seriously when he taught the students in his secondary school to use fork and knife in the dining, perhaps he won’t be struggling and making a fool of himself now.
Tonye dropped her fork and knife, she picked the spoon that was wrapped in a serviette. “This fork and knife life stressful. I will just use the spoon”
“Thank you Tonye. Thank you. you have saved a local man from himself, now I can enjoy my meal” Gabriel dropped the knife and continued with his fork. That little thoughtful gesture touched him. And it was silly, but he felt drawn to her, he felt a gush of affection run in him for her.
When they were done eating, they clinked their glasses to friendship.
No sooner had Tonye entered the room she shared with Eni than she ambushed her with questions.
“Tell me how your date went”
Tonye gave Eniola a straight look.
“Oh, Tonye, don’t tell me you messed it up” Eniola facepalmed.
“You set me up, Eniola!”
“I don’t see it that way actually. I am nothing but a pencil in the hands of the creator” She said with a silly grin.
“You don’t ever quit, do you?”
“Oh, I will quit o, when you are hooked, I will surely quit”
“Stop trying to match make me, Eniola!”
“Who is match making you? see, Tonye just tell me how the date went o”
“Which date? There’s no gist. All you need to know is-”
Tonye’s phone started ringing. It was an unknown number. She picked it.
“Hello, sorry who’s this?”
Eniola goggled at Tonye and started making silly faces. Tonye had to look away from her friend so she wouldn’t burst into laughter. Eniola came to stand in front of Tonye and started whispering ‘Love wan tin tin’
“I don’t remember giving my number o”
“Well, I got it from the worker’s group chat”
“Oh, I was starting to think Eniola gave you. cos that’s all she does.” Tonye eyeballed Eniola.
Gabriel laughed over the phone. “I just wanted to be sure you arrived home safely”
“Oh yeah, thanks. What about you?”
“Caught in traffic, but in another 15 minutes I should be at home. Thank you for tonight Tamunotonye, I really enjoyed it. We should do this again”
“How come you know how to pronounce my name so well?”
“We could start our talk from there the next time we get to hang”
“Now, you are being a typical guy, Gabriel. You are getting greedy”
“Oh you should blame yourself for being so irresistibly intriguing”
Tonye blinked. “Gabriel, you should get some rest. Good night brother”
“Putting a zone on it, innit. I see you sister. Good night”
Tonye smiled as she dropped the call.
Eniola started dancing and singing so loud that their next door neighbor had to stop by to know what the good news what.
“Tonye is getting married soon” Eniola replied.
“What?” Tonye screamed. “Uncle Jude please don’t mind her, she’s having one of her Eniola episodes”
First off, we all need friends like Eniola. Okay, that’s a joke.
But trust God and wait on him. He makes all things beautiful in his time.