She met him in a lecture hall. She was attracted to his youngish face which contrasted with the jagged line of grey hairs scattering across the front of his head, almost shaped like a perfect bolt of lightning. He spoke his words like they were his children; letting them out of the nest that was his mouth slowly, lacing each word with a smile, a gesture, the raise of a perfect eyebrow or a simple pause afterwards. She fell deep and teasingly slowly.
He taught her Psychology but every day after her classes, she couldn’t say what she’d learned, in Psychology that is. Because she learned that he didn’t like to wear ties, he loved teaching, he wasn’t married. The first time he said her name, she knew she didn’t want anyone else to ever say it. She wanted him to own it, the saying of her name- Efosa- the ‘o’ lilting in the way only a soft British accent combining with a Nigerian accent could conceive.
She did not tell anyone. How did you tell someone else you had something a little more than a crush on your teacher and not seem like an opportunistic slut who had no respect for ethics or consideration for her parents who were paying her through school. No, you didn’t tell anyone that. You completed the course with your dignity intact, maybe graduated and then maybe you’d have a chance.
She completed the course, dignity intact and was in her last year before she saw him again. Tall, dark and almost handsome. He was interesting to look at, the straight nose, the bright eyes that she knew denied his age. And that dark skin, premium chocolate.
Efosa doesn’t remember exactly what words she’d said to him that day, but he’d remembered her from his class and they’d spoken not about Raymond Cattell or Kurt Lewin but about their love for old movies and Ludovico Einaudi. Before she’d done her best sashay out of the library, he’d asked if she’d graduated. She’d said yes. Then he had taken her number. When he called the next morning, she was in bed, her voice in its most unsexy state. She said yes to lunch.
Olusola remembers it differently. He remembers things she didn’t see like how her coral dress became her and how her brown skin looked like it was made to be washed, oiled, revered. He still remembers her smell; vanilla. He remembers her fingers touching the spine of the books like a blind woman feeling the face of her child. He remembers wanting to be the books. He remembers seeing her face and feeling his stomach drop after recognizing her and then his heart soaring when she said ‘university is over for me’, smiling that gap toothed smile.
He calls the next day; he can’t seem desperate, he’s far too old for that. Her voice, the right degree of husky, throaty. She says yes. Lunch today. He floats till lunch, no, the whole day. He has never laughed this much with any woman, never marvelled at such brilliance, such beauty. He never wants to leave her. Wants to spend every second talking, breathing her scent, holding her hands, hearing her laugh.
Two weeks of Efosa .
Mr Samuel calls him outside the office. He’s seen him with a student of his. He should be careful, even if he doesn’t teach her anymore;
‘We don’t want people thinking her results were unmerited’.
‘Efosa isn’t a student anymore, she graduated’.
‘No, I teach her, every Tuesday. She’ll be done in a few months though. She’s in her final year’
He thanks Samuel.
She knows something is wrong the minute she sees him.
‘Did you think I wouldn’t find out? Are you trying to destroy me?’
Yes. The moment of truth.
‘No. I didn’t think it would matter. You’re not my teacher anymore’
‘Everyone isn’t going to know exactly when we started’
She hadn’t thought of that. She apologizes until she has no more words. Pleads for him to stay. For her. For them. He wants to do the right thing. Wait. ‘It’s just two months. And you’ll have your degree’.
She spends the evening alone for the first time since she’s met him.
Olu never knew how long two months could be. He now sees Efosa everywhere. He hears her voice and smells her on his clothes and yet he misses her voice and her smell. And her laugh. His heart aches literally and sometimes he fears he’ll have a heart attack. He rarely smiles anymore.
But two months pass.
In a library again, he sees the coral dress, but he doesn’t smell vanilla. It’s not her. He goes home.
And at his door, in a yellow dress, holding a bottle of champagne, is his vanilla.