“Leroi, why do you think you can get a girlfriend in Nigeria with your smooth chin? Don’t you know that it’s only the members of the beard gang that get all the girls these days? Growing a beard is an indication that you are classy, trendy, capable and mature enough to take care of a lady. Guy, join the beard gang today and any girl you want will come running to you!”
Dennis said with a degree of authority in his voice to me after I had finished narrating my sob story to him.
A new family had moved into our estate three weeks ago. They moved into the house directly opposite mine. I counted six of them the day they packed in; Husband, wife and four kids. I soon got to know the name of the eldest child. She is Ella, a beautiful young lady with dimpled cheeks and curvaceous hips. I pegged Ella’s age to be around the early twenties range. I had fallen in love with her right from the first time I set my eyes on her while observing the happenings from my balcony.
Have you ever seen a girl with a chocolate complexion that is so fresh and delicate? Have you ever seen a girl with long curvy dark hair that flows down to her waistline? Ella has tiny white eyes that shone and lit up a fire in my heart when I first saw her. Should I talk about her adorable lips that curve out in a seductive and teasing pout? Should I mention her regal like composure and graceful footsteps that would make many young men want to worship the ground she treads upon?
I tried establishing contact with Ella for two long weeks to no avail. She was so close yet so far away. When I finally met her in front of their house, I began a quick chat with her but the only reply I got was a cold “good morning” from her. She banged the gates of the house shut and the deep growl of two German shepherds inside reminded me that I would be risking my life if I dared ventured inside the compound.
Ella seemed too classy, far above my level.
She became the subject of discourse among the young men in Jangala estate. Young philanderers wailed their frustrations at the obstinacy of the new girl. Ella was Marilyn Monroe, a star, powerful, tempting yet aloof.
“I am telling you bro, a thick beard is more than a fashion or grooming statement. It is a fierce masculine symbol that enhances your chances of success with the opposite sex. A beard gives you a larger than life image. Why do you think I am growing one? Look around you in this city, every young man is walking around with a beard for the same purpose. Join the beard gang and you will get this girl called Ella” Dennis instructed with a degree of finality in his voice. I nodded my head in agreement. This smooth chin of mine would have to make way for a beard.
Dennis is my closest pal in this estate. We are like brothers and partners in crime. When we have issues bedeviling us, we seek advice from each other. Our regular hangout spot is DE FRAZZER BAR. We go there in the evenings to relax, chatting on topical issues while guzzling down some bottles of beer and munching on barbecued chicken meat or isi ewu peppersoup.
I began growing a beard. I monitored my facial hair growth jealously. I applied generous doses of hair growth cream to my chin and cheeks. After three weeks, a thick mass of luxuriant black hair was sprouting on my chin. I smiled at the reflection of my face in my bedroom mirror.
I had finally joined the beard gang and was ready to make the mother of all advances on Ella. She won’t resist this bearded and dazzling young man.
On the eve of the D-day, a cool Friday evening, I had a dream in the night.
Ella and I were seated at a table in a swanky but dimly lit club house. She complimented me on my looks most especially on my beards.
“Let’s dance” Ella leaned over and whispered into my ears. She suddenly grabbed my hands and pulled me up to my feet. I could hardly believe my good luck. She slowly led me to the dance floor. We joined the other night revelers swaying and shaking their backsides, and all movable parts of their bodies to the upbeat music emanating from the turn table of Dj Magic fingers.
“After the reggae play the blues
The blues a blues
Make you do as I do
I do, I do
Enjoy yourself baby boo
Bae boo, Bae boo
Cos even your boo get a boo
A boo, A boo
Share the gala, Share the booze
The booze, The booze
Everybody wanna groove
They groove, They groove
As far as E-money dey pay
Dey Pay, Dey Pay
Skiibii o pop champagne oh ah ah!”
Ella moved closer and pulled me to herself in a tight hug. As I tried to reciprocate the action, I found her dissolving and melting away. She fizzled out like carbon dioxide gas escaping from a coke bottle as the lid is opened. I woke up with my arms wrapped around my body in a tight hug. I sat up on my bed and glanced at the wall clock; it was 5 am.
Saturday met me giddy with excitement and anticipation. I had carefully groomed and packaged my beard. I looked like Casanova in all his dazzling and seductive glory. There was no way Ella would be able to resist me.
From my study of Ella’s habits, I knew she would be heading to the market by noon. Yes, she never missed the Brown lane market that blossomed every Saturday.
By 11 am, I had taken up vigil in front of my house spying on the opposite house. I would accost her as soon as she walked out from her gate and declare my love for her.
Anyone who passed by No. 42 Jangala estate at 11 pm that Saturday would have seen a bearded young man of about 5 ft 6 inches tall, wearing a blue Levis tee-shirt atop a black Jean pacing up and down in front of the black gate.
I had carefully rehearsed the wooing lines that I would use on Ella. “You are my flower in the desert” sounded catchy and interesting.
My intuition and calculation was correct because at exactly 12 noon, the gates of Ella’s house swung open. She stepped out in a body fitting top and pencil jeans that accentuated her body curves. She was walking in her regal steps. Ella seemed to be doing the ground a favour by walking on it. I quickly crossed over to her side of the pathway and waited some few metres away from her gate.
I was blown away with her beauty, my heart was in jitters and the butterflies were holding a party inside my stomach. Ella’s eyes met mine, she seemed to be walking directly towards me.
All my wooing lines escaped from my memory. I stood there with my hands in my pocket, breathing nervously while a Michael Jackson’s song played furiously in my head.
“I am speechless…speechless that’s how you make me feel
When I am with you I am lost for words, I don’t know what to say”
I was grinning like a bumbling fool as she approached me. Ella soon met up with me and gave me a quick side glance laced with curiosity and walked past me.
Jeez! The angel was slipping away….
I came back to my senses and ran up to her.
“Excuse me, excuse me?”
She stopped and turned round with a raised eyebrow.
The words poured out from my mouth like water gushing out from my bedroom shower cap.
“Ella, I love you, I can’t hide it anymore!
Please be my girlfriend, please, I love you very much”
“Who are you?” she questioned me with a look of incredulity on her eyes.
“I am Leroi. I am your neighbour, I live opposite you, in that house” I pointed across the road to my house, a nice one storey building painted with a maroon colour, fenced around by a white fence with tall almond trees at the edges.
“Oh, so what do you want me to say?” she asked.
“Please say Yes! I promise you that I will love you with all my heart! I will never break your heart!” I proclaimed while wondering if my beards were making things a little easier for me.
“Wow, you must be crazy to walk up to a total stranger on the road and ask her to be your girlfriend and expect her to accept just like that” Ella sharply said and swiftly turned around, moving up ahead.
I ran up and blocked her passage.
“Ella, look at me, I am handsome, I’ve got all what you want and need in a man…look at my beards” I was almost yelling in frustration.
Ella took one look at my beards and laughed. She pushed me aside and shrugged her shoulders in a show of contempt. I stood still and watched her walk away.
“….Wait! You are my desert in the flower!” I heard myself saying.
My spirit sank, my ego was deflated. I slowly dragged myself home like a wet chicken rescued by a good Samaritan from the depths of a big basin filled with cassava water.
My heart was broken. I stayed indoors for two days.
On the third day, I went out with Dennis who had come to cheer me up. We went to the birthday party of a mutual friend. By the time we left the party for home, it was few minutes to midnight. Seven policemen accosted us on the road and we had a long time explaining to them that we weren’t arm robbers or boko haram members. Our long beards had put us in a big risk.
We had to part with all the money on us; N5000 or face the risk of being shot by the trigger happy men of the force.
When I got home that night, I took my clipper and shaved off all my beards and side burns, heralding my exit from the beard gang.
By Iniobong Umoh
THE CONCLUDING EPISODE>>> BEARDS AND LIPS (2)
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