BN Prose: First Fight by Lola Okusami
Ding-dong went the doorbell.
I hurried to open the door before the bell rang a second time and woke up my sleeping 14-month-old. I’d finally gotten her to take a nap and was relishing the slumber which hopefully would last a couple of hours.
Just as I sank onto the couch to see what was on TV — anything, please, but Disney channel — my phone rang. It was ‘Ranti calling to say she was in the neighborhood and was stopping by. There’s only one thing that brings ‘Ranti to my side of town and I’ve long since realized that it’s not me. ‘Anthropologie’ is right down the road from the condo ‘Dute and I bought about two years ago. I introduced ‘Ranti to ‘Anthropologie’ soon after we moved in and boy, have I created a monster. At some point, I was worried homegirl was going to shop herself into some major credit card crisis but I guess marrying Olisaemeka has helped curb some of her ‘Anthropologie’ diggings.
As I opened the door, ‘Ranti practically pranced into my living room like a young deer, wearing an off-the-shoulder white peasant blouse with dark blue jeans. Her lovely thick hair framed her face in a Rihanna-style pageboy. “I had this haircut before Rihanna did, okay?” she always insists, whenever I say that. Whatever.
“Shhh,” I whispered. “The empress is asleep o. If you want to enjoy this visit, you must speak softly.”
“Okay,” she whispered back and we both tip-toed into the kitchen. In hindsight, I have no idea why we were tip-toeing but I chalk it up to the power of the fear of the awakened child who hasn’t gotten enough sleep.
Anyways, she had this twinkle in her eye and I knew she had some story to tell. “Oya, I brought bananas, you got flour?” Right on cue, I pulled out a mixing bowl from the dishwasher and started getting ready to make my world-famous — okay, I exaggerate, but who cares? — puff puff. The secret ingredient is the banana which weirdly enough, takes some people ages to figure out. They’re like, “is it vanilla extract?” Someone even said it was plantain. I think it was the girl with a PhD in physics. I guess sometimes, it’s hard for certain people to see the small picture.
“So tell me, what’s this gist ’cause I can see it just pouring out of your eyes, ‘Ranti.” She glanced at me mischievously from mashing the bananas and half-spoke, half-whispered, “Ollie and I had our first fight.”
“I bet it was after you went over the limit with the poor guy’s card at ‘Anthropologie’, right?”
“No,” she replied. “Actually that will probably be our second fight but anyways, right now, I’m living in the moment.”
‘Ranti and Olisaemeka aka Ollie had been married for about 9 months. They met at an unlikely a place as a protest at the Nigerian embassy in Washington DC. A popular journalist disappeared in Lagos after a visit by Nigeria’s Secret Service. It had been two weeks and her whereabouts were still unknown. There was a big uproar in the press in Nigeria and an organization called ‘Naijas in America’ decided to go bombard the Embassy in Washington, DC, and hopefully get some press attention. In the end, only about 12 protesters showed up and were largely ignored by embassy employees. They definitely didn’t get any attention from the press either but I guess ‘Ranti and Ollie were paying lots of attention to each other. After a couple of dates, they found they were passionate about all things Nigeria except actually living there. Six months after they met, Ollie popped the question, they went home for the wedding, then off to Morocco for their honeymoon and lived happily ever after — or until their first fight, I guess.
“So what happened?” I grinned. I couldn’t imagine ‘Ranti and Ollie fighting, actually. They were the closest thing to soul mates I’d ever seen. They always seemed to find a way to agree on everything.
“Okay, so, remember I was on a diet, right?” she began.
“Mm-hmm,” I replied, switching on the deep fryer.
“Okay, so Ollie had been grumbling about how he doesn’t like me dieting and stuff. Just minor grumbling here and there but I hadn’t been paying him no mind, jare. He’s not the one who has to fit into these jeans.”
“Mm-hmm,” I said, and started to drop teaspoon-sized balls of dough into the hot oil.
“Okay, so last Saturday, I went to the mall to get a maroon clutch for those shoes I was wearing to Kemi’s thing. On my way back, I grabbed a chef salad. You know how I love chef salad. The boiled egg, the strips of ham, the shredded carrot, the slices of turkey….”
“Mm-hmmm.” I started to turn the puff-puff over so the other side could cook also.
“So I get home and something smells wonderful. I walk into the kitchen and Ollie has an apron on and is stirring something. Turns out he’s making Ogbono and I see water boiling for iyan. ‘Honey,’ he goes, ‘I’m making lunch.’ I went and hugged him from behind, all the while thinking, how am I going to tell this man that I love, who has just made a steaming pot of ogbono with some serious chunks of smoked turkey, pomo, and beef, that I’m about to settle down to a salad. So I hugged him, whispered quickly that I was going to eat my salad instead and then dashed to the bathroom because I needed to pee.”
“Trouble,” I said, and started collecting the golden puff-puff with my spatula.
“But seriously, Bunmi, do you know how many carbs there are in iyan? And then all that palm oil with cholesterol and all that iyan taking hours to digest, you know?”
I hid a smile and told her to continue. She reached for one of the puff-puff.
“About three or four minutes later, I emerged.” “Honey,” I apologized as I went to hug him again, “I’m really sorry but I’m going to eat my salad. But we can eat together at the table.” As I said that, I glanced toward the spot I’d left the salad. It wasn’t there.
“Trouble,” I said again.
“See me o,” she said and continued. “I pulled away from Ollie and walked over to push my purse aside. No salad. Without thinking, I scratched my scalp. I could have sworn I put it here. I was kinda talking out loud, but got no response from Ollie. So I ran out quickly to the car and peered through the windows. No salad. I started laughing. My dear husband had hidden it.
So I went back inside and pulled Ollie away from the stove so he was facing me. Laughing, I said, “Ollie, what did you do with my salad?” He went, “what salad?” “Don’t play, jare. Where’s my salad?” I started pulling drawers open and opening cabinets. Ollie stood there and watched me.
Okay, now after a while, I started getting really irritated so I kinda barked, “where’s my salad, Olisaemeka???”
He barked right back, “Don’t yell at me!”
“Ollie can bark?” Olisaemeka is the coolest dude I know.
“If I’m lying make I baf naked for bafroom,” said ‘Ranti. We went into hysterical giggles over that. Of course, we couldn’t laugh out loud because of the empress sleeping upstairs.
“Bunmi, there was something about his tone and the way he was standing that looked like he was preparing for the worst. Like this was some kind of Battle Armageddon and he was prepared to go down fighting.
And then I thought to look in the trash. And there was my salad– I’m not sure I could call it a salad at this point because Ollie had obviously emptied the container into the bin so I was staring at my leaves, shredded carrots, half a boiled egg, nestling comfortably among coffee rinds, scrunched-up paper towels, peels from a watermelon, and other things of suspect identity.
‘How dare you toss my salad into the trash,’ I spluttered. How dare you?! I think I really lost my mind at that point.
I started pulling the leaves out of the trash and placing them on a paper towel.
“You’re still going to eat it?” Ollie asked me.
“Yes, I am and what are you going to do about that?” I replied.
“You’re basically disappearing before my very eyes!” he yelled. “Everything I loved about you is disappearing! You’re always on a diet! I don’t even get to eat with you anymore! You’re either at the gym or trying a new salad! I loved your breasts! Now you’re just one huge plateau of a chest!!!”
Plateau of a what???
”Before I knew it, I ran to the stove, grabbed the pot of ogbono by the handles and emptied it into the sink. I plead temporary insanity, Bunmi. I don’t know what came over me”.
“You did what? I gasped.
She bit into another puff-puff and continued. “He didn’t even say anything. He just stood there and watched me. And I’m totally ashamed to tell you what I did next. I turned the garbage disposal on and very maliciously watched the ogbono slurp down the drain. Of course, the smoked turkey bones ruined the disposal and Ollie had to get someone to come fix it but that’s another story, jare.
By this tiime, I was staring at ‘Ranti as though she was an alien. “So he didn’t say anything?”
“Nothing. It was a wordless fight, really. All we both did was destroy each other’s lunch. He took the apron off, stalked upstairs into our room and slammed the door. Of course, I’m like crap, so where am I supposed to go? So I went into the basement and turned BET on as loud as I could. I think LLCool J was picking his top 25 music videos.
Anyway, about 20 minutes later — I still don’t know what I did for 20 minutes. My brain was in a fog — I turned down the volume of the TV just in time to hear Ollie banging out the front door. I ran upstairs and saw him hop into his truck, reverse and speed away.
”I didn’t know what to do. In the nine months, we’ve been married we hadn’t fought. I went into the kitchen and looked around. He hadn’t cleared up from cooking and the leftover tomatoes he had cut up were still sitting by the sink. I noticed he’d boiled panla and blended the crayfish himself because I don’t like the stuff that’s already ground. Sometimes, it feels like they blend crayfish and add some sand for good measure”.
”I thought of my dear Ollie putting all the stuff together while I was at the mall, hoping to surprise me with a hot meal of ogbono and iyan and I had to be a drama queen. I stared at the sink, wishing I could reverse time, walk back through the kitchen and see Ollie at the stove, still stirring his pot of ogbono. I wish I had just thrown the salad in the fridge, settled down to the iyan and then snuck out to the gym later. So many possibilities. So many different ways I could have chosen to react”.
“I thought of calling my mom but I could already hear her speech about how I finally found a guy who was willing to deal with my craziness and now I was going to chase him away because of salad”.
”Anyways, by this time, I was truly penitent and decided I was going to apologize the moment Ollie came back — if he came back. I had visions of him going to the courthouse, never mind that it was a Saturday, coming back and handing me annulment papers signed by a judge”.
”Why are you looking at me like that, Bunmi. You know how my mind works now”.
”I don’t know how long I stood in the kitchen thinking. But a key in the door aroused me from my thoughts. I quickly pulled myself together and walked towards the door. As Ollie appeared, I started to say how sorry I was, how ungrateful I was and how I didn’t deserve him. He looked at me, reached into the plastic bag he was holding and pulled out an exact replica of the salad he’d dumped into the trash”.
”Next thing, we were in each other’s arms. I’m, of course, crying at this point. You know I cry at the weirdest things. And he was telling me he was sorry for dumping my salad and he had no right to tell me what to eat and sorry about the comment about my chest and I’m saying sorry for pouring your hard work down the drain.”
“Wow,” I said. “You two are a movie. For real. ‘Ranti & Ollie: The Movie.”
“So does he like your aya now?”
“Hmm, I stopped going to the gym o, and now I’m back to a C cup.”
“Hallelujah, praise the Lord,” I joked.
‘Ranti started on her third puff-puff. “This no be joke o. If I had done that to any other man, I don’t know if I would have survived to tell the story.
“Well,” I said, “there is never any justification for that. I don’t care how many pots of ogbono you throw down the disposal.”
“I know now. You know Ollie would never lift his hand to me or any other woman. I’m just saying.”
“Girl, you are crazy,” I said.
“Yes o, you think I don’t know it? Well, so is Ollie. Who throws someone else’s food in the trash. But anyways, I better run to Sears and pay off this Discover balance before we really have a real fight.”
“Take some puff puff for Ollie.”
“You know I’m going to finish it on the way. But I’ll take it, sha. I have to make sure Ollie is not cooking tomorrow ’cause after all this puff-puff, I definitely must eat a salad tomorrow!”
“Take it easy. If the man wants you to eat, then eat.”
“Ehen. Mo ti gbo. You think I haven’t noticed that you haven’t touched the puff-puff at all? Thank you, jare. I dey go. Kiss the empress for me.”
“See you later, ‘Ranti.”
I watched her prance down the driveway to her car and then I saw in my mind, Ollie standing there as ‘Ranti emptied his pot of ogbono into the sink and suddenly, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Photo Credit: http://gainingonesdefinition.com