I was the first person in, just before 4.00pm. I had no choice but to RSVP in the affirmative when my friend O.’s invite to his house warming party finally arrived, largely because I had
harassed encouraged him strongly into putting it together. He had just bought a house on the other side of town, and starved of hanging out time, I’d seized upon that as an excuse to badger him into setting something up.
Pumping his hand, as I kicked off my shoes and stepped onto his lush persian rug, I could just make out the silhouette of his daughter and her two friends playing in the back garden whilst their mothers put the finishing touches to the cow leg pepper-soup that would be our starter. The room was already infused with the smell of lemon grass and suya spice as the large cauldron of pepper soup just about began to simmer.
F., Uncle Seni’s here…. O. hollered as I made my way to the back garden. I had to duck as an inflated rubber ball, a felele, bounced up in the air in my direction. The kids had been starved of attention before my appearance and seemed very keen to engage me in a game of football. I had to oblige, alternating between playing the goal keeper and the penalty taker as we ran up a small sweat in the back yard.
So engrossed was I that I didn’t know for how long the other woman helping with the cooking had stood in the doorway watching us play. She did clear her throat to get my attention eventually, simmering plate of pepper soup in tow for a first bite of the evening. At that time it was just past 4.45pm, and I was still the only guest around for a party that was meant to have kicked off at 4.00pm.
The next guests to arrive were N. and his wife, strolling in at ten minutes past five, a bottle of red wine in tow as their contribution to the festivities. Cork popped, and glasses passed we all stood round the kitchen table chatting and catching up on all things that we’d all missed in our corner of the world. Soon after, another young couple arrived with their rambunctious toddler in tow; sometime after that the first big plates of fried rice had begun to wing their way for us to dig in and savour; proper Nigerian fare.
Sometime after 7.00pm, we had a full complement , as with all things Nigerians, the men had somehow drifted away into a small huddle as did the women. The bottles of beer might have had something to do with the loudness of the conversation, the virtual table banging and the wrought emotions as the conversation segued into the murky waters of the intractability of the Nigerian problem, corruption and all the other safe topics fairly well-off people in the diaspora moan about their home country.
I found the noise a little too much for me, ending up in the extension to the living room, next to the garden. A few minutes later, baby K. sauntered in, extending her arms wanting to be carried. I obliged, just before she promptly fell asleep on my lap.
I may have fallen asleep myself because the next thing I remembered was Mrs N. plumping into the seat next to me. She, ever the gracious seeker of introverted partiers, had noticed I wasn’t amongst the guys talking loudly and gesturing wildly, and had taken it upon herself to find me.
She relieved me of baby K, laying her to sleep in her cot nearby and then returned to converse. I’d been itching to have a conversation with Mrs N. about B. the current cause of my latest phase of over-thinking :”>. She obliged, listening graciously as I moaned about her penchant for not responding to text messages in a timely manner or her extreme attention to work (she’s the one person I can safely say is more of a workaholic than I am, no mean feat).
It was past 9.00pm when the crowd began to thin out. Baby K. was still asleep, peacefully oblivious of the ruckus we’d kicked up. As I dropped off what must have been my third plate of fried rice, I remember being thankful that I would have no part in the clean up after the storm.