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Image Source: I had a glass of wine in hand as I chatted with my friends from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone...

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I had a glass of wine in hand as I chatted with my friends from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. We had just met up in the student hall of residence. For most of us, the few weeks we had spent in London was already taking its toll. Personally, I was missing home terribly. No day had gone by without me talking to my parents and siblings. Thankfully, my friend John whom I had known from my first degree back in Nigeria was on hand to help me get used to my new environment. First, I was missing Naija food. Second, the weather was rapidly getting cold as the winter announced its rival. Nothing you had been told previously makes sense when you experience winter for the first time. They said that winter was the coldest to be recorded in England yet…And it had to wait for me to arrive. Anyway, my African brothers and I were consoling one another with some drinks and jokes.

There were laughed and chatted loudly as they entered the bar. There were three of them; American girls. They went straight to the bar man and ordered beer for themselves. “Can we join you?” They asked us. “Sure,” we echoed. Surprisingly, we all had much to share. The laughter increased as we told jokes after jokes. One of the girls, Allison got up and headed for the counter. “What are you drinking?” She asked as she left for the counter. “Red wine,” I said. Soon she returned with a glass of wine for me and a glass of beer for herself. “Thanks!” I said, knowing that I would have to reciprocate the gesture shortly. My brother who used to live in London had told me so before I left home. As soon as I saw her beer drop below a certain level, I went to the counter and refilled her glass for her. Slowly, she edged closer to me on the couch. It was one of them cozy bars with couches instead of stools.

“So what are you studying?” She asked me. I could sense she was trying to cut me off from the wider group so she and I could talk by ourselves. The bar was inside the student hall of resident, so most of the guests were students. I told her. “What about you?” I asked. “Geography,” she told me. “I study at the University of Wisconsin back home, but we are here for a three-month exchange program,” she explained. “I see. Hope you like it?” “Yes. I love London!” She yelled. “We love London!” Yelled her friends, in reponse. “What makes you like London that much?” I asked. “Don’t you like it?” She answered my question with a question. “Well, it is too early to say. I have been here a few months only. I guess I will be able to find out if I really love it or not after some time. It is great I guess for the consistent power supply and the orderliness. I lived in a city called Lagos back home before moving to London. It is quite a busy place, but I still miss it all the same. I miss my family most of all,” I explained. “The weather in Wisconsin is worse than what you have here, so I can’t complain about the weather. But you know what?” She asked. Her voice was increasing in volume with every sip of beer. “Tell me,” I answered. “I can drink as much as I like in London! Back home, I am not old enough to drink yet!” She shouted. “Yes, we can buzz!” Her friends followed up like backup singers.

My African friends and I took a subtle look at one another. Drinking was the least of our worries. She got up and headed for the counter again. “I am not having another drink,” I told her. “Come on…have another drink on me. One more!” She persuaded. “No thanks. I am not really the drinking type,” I explained. “Then you cannot live in Wisconsin.” “Just because I don’t drink that much?” “Yes!!!” The three girls echoed. “Have one more. Please, for my sake,” she pressed even harder. “No thanks, Allison. I have had enough already.” “I will get a drink for me then,” she said as she dangled to the counter. Earlier, she had told me that they had been drinking at another bar before heading back to the student bar. The power of alcohol was taking its toll. She became more boisterous as she gulped down her next big glass of beer. She sang, clapped, stood up and danced and then collapsed into me. A few times I had to catch her as her body went through a free fall towards me. “Are you alright?” I asked, concerned that she had fully entered stupor land. “I am great!” She shouted. She did not look great to me.

Her friends were in the same mood too. I began to think of retiring to my room. Besides, the music was getting louder that we needed to shout to hear one another. Allison went on a dancing session with her friends. “Come dance with me,” she said pulling me towards her. My Cameroonian friend and the guy from Kenya were already waltzing on the dance floor with her friends. “No thanks,” I said. “Are you shy?” She said quite boldly. “Not at all.” You don’t like to dance or you can’t dance?” “I am African,” I said. “Dancing runs in me.” “Then come dance with me.” “I don’t feel like.” “You don’t like me?” I was not quite sure where that question was coming from or where it was going. Reluctantly, I went to the dance floor with her. She made sure she held me close enough to her during the dance. I was already thinking of the trip back to my room. “So do you stay in this building or the other one?” She asked. “I stay in this building for now, but I should be moving down to the other one soon.” “How soon? I stay in the other building. We can see each other more,” she said excitedly. I was not sure how much of that was due to alcohol. I had not seen her before and she already had big plans for us. “In a few weeks,” I replied. “Awesome! My room number is B442. You have to come see me as soon as you move in to my building.” ‘Sure,” I said in return, feigning excitement.

“So what are you doing tonight by the way?” She asked. “Sleeping I guess.” “How would you like to share a bottle of red wine with me? I see you are a wine guy. I have a bottle of red wine siting in my room. We can chill out with the wine to ourselves.” She looked me straight in the eye as she said that with her hand on my shoulder. She moved closer as she spoke. I could tell what she was driving at. Boy, I am African…very African. I was not used to being approached very boldly and openly by a girl like that. “So what does my African guy say?” She asked seductively. I began to pray in my mind, “Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come…” I cast and bound all principalities in the neighborhood. All the things my papa and mama told me before I left home began to resound in my mental ear. I could see my papa holding his ear as she warned me against this kind of situation. I remembered as my mother laid her hand on me in prayer. ‘Holy ghost fire!’ I declared mentally. “Do you mind if I visit the bathroom for a minute?” I asked “Yes my dear,” she answered, smiling broadly. “I will be waiting for you right there,” she said pointing at the small locker room where coats were hung.

She was under the impression that I was coming back after visiting the bathroom. I did not want to hurt her feelings, so I quietly went to the bathroom for a few seconds. When I came out, I peeped into the bar to see where she was standing. She had her back to the door waving at her friends. I guess she was telling them that her trap had made a catch. I crossed the lobby as quickly as I could and made my way straight to the elevator. I rode to the third floor, ran to my room and locked myself in. I walked through the valley of shadow of death and God delivered me safely to the warmth and peace of my room. I tucked myself into bed and coiled under the safety of my thick, wooly duvet. I did not see Allison until two weeks later. I had just moved into the building where she was staying. That evening I was leaving the building and she was coming in. I ran into her right at the entrance. She was in the company of her usual gang. She gave me a nasty look that nearly shot holes through me. Her eyes were fiery with anger. I smiled from ear to ear. “Hi Allison,” I said. At first she did not say anything in reply. She just looked me over, scrutinizing me as a doctor would scrutinize a patient. I could hear her saying in her mind, “who the h**l do you think you are?”  

She was probably contemplating what to do…ignore him or talk to him? I went on to say hi to her friends. It was somewhat awkward. From the look they gave me, it was obvious they had analyzed the event of the other night extensively. “So what was that you pulled on me the other night?” She finally asked. Her voice was packed with rancid rage. “Where I come from, what you did the other night does not quite happen,” I said. “It was quite overwhelming. I did not want to hurt your feelings, so I took off. It was the most reasonable thing I could think of. I like the idea of asking a girl out like a lady and not the other way, especially when it entails jumping into the sac under the warped guidance of alcohol,” I explained. “Rubbish!” She said and walked away briskly. I quietly walked into the biting cold outside with gladness in my heart. My African friends made fun of me in the weeks that followed. “You ran away from a girl,” they teased, but I was quite happy to stick to my old school African style!

This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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