Forums Stories (drama) MR PERFECT SHOES

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    Itzprince
    Itzprince
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    “A donkey?”
    No one answered.
    “Medium Caramel Latte for ‘Ah-
    donkey?’ ” the barista called out
    again.
    This time, a tall, slim woman with
    golden brown skin who sat by the
    window raised her hand. Then, as if
    she remembered that this was not
    classroom attendance, she quickly
    put it down. A few quick, bold
    strides later, and she was at the
    counter, face-to-face with the sour-
    faced barista.
    Adunni was used to people
    butchering her name, but this
    particular barista was the official
    pourer of sand in people’s garri at
    this café. No matter how many times
    Adunni enunciated her name,
    painstakingly drawing out each
    syllable to show just how easy it was
    to pronounce, she never got it right.
    When she shortened her name to
    “Dunni,” the same barista called her
    “Doom Day.” So, Adunni decided to
    keep all three syllables intact.
    She must think this is a game.
    The other day, the barista had
    announced that the small flat white
    for “A Dummy” was ready. The week
    before, it had been “A Dolly.”
    How? Why? Where did they jam each
    other?
    That evening, Adunni decided it was
    time to return the favor.
    If civility will not work, we will play
    this game together.
    In her strongest Yoruba accent, she
    said:
    “Oh thank you, Ashy.”
    Ashy scowled and blinked twice.
    Then, she ran pale fingers through
    her blonde hair, as if the answers to
    life’s questions were buried in her
    scalp.
    “It’s Ashley. Ash-lee,” said the barista.
    “Oh right,” said Adunni. “Ban-shee.”
    They may have stood there for
    another five minutes playing this
    game, if not for another customer
    behind Adunni, who complained that
    his dark roast tasted more like burnt
    toast.
    “Ashy will fix it,” Adunni chuckled to
    herself and went back to her seat.
    No one would spoil her mood today.
    She gently lowered herself onto the
    hard wood chair she had been
    perched on for close to 15 minutes.
    That was 15 minutes fumbling with
    her laptop while she stole glances at
    the well-dressed guy across the
    room.
    He seemed nervous and kept swiping
    on his phone. Anytime he did,
    Adunni asked herself what he was
    doing there. He just looked like he
    did not belong in this café. Well, not
    the Red Rooster Café, at least.
    Most of the regulars took what
    Adunni termed “extra casual” too
    far. Some people actually came to
    hang out at the café, wearing
    pajamas. On a good day, maybe a
    tracksuit (the kind with white stripes
    on the sides), would make an
    appearance. And there were always
    people in jeans. Lots of jeans.
    But this guy was different. He gave
    off this “not the café type” vibe, like
    he would have been more at home in
    a bar.
    Adunni noted that the Red Rooster
    sounded more like the name of a bar
    than a mid-town café.
    This guy had short brown hair that
    fell across his forehead in neat,
    careful layers, warm brown eyes, and
    a distinct sense of style. He wore a
    navy blue suit with a blue and pink
    polka dot tie and a matching pocket
    square. Adunni felt his pocket square
    alone was nicer than her own
    blouse. He looked to be in his late
    ‘20s.
    But the absolute best part was his
    shoes.
    He wore cognac Oxford dress shoes,
    which were so well-polished that in
    her friend Tade’s words, “they shone
    brighter than some people’s future.”
    Adunni wanted to ask which tools or
    technique he used to get his shoes to
    shine like that. But, she didn’t.
    Instead, she marveled at the guy’s
    beard. It was short, neat and well-
    groomed. He didn’t have that
    homeless guy look, which seemed to
    plague many bearded men.
    Adunni almost forgot that the paper
    she came to finish writing at the café
    was due in less than 24 hours.
    “Don’t finish your paper, you hear?”
    Tade’s voice echoed in her head.
    “Continue watching man like TV.
    Shebi it’s man that will write your
    finals for you.”
    Adunni chuckled. Tade’s voice always
    helped her re-focus, even if the said
    Tade was at that moment, visiting
    her older sister in New York.
    While typing page 6 of 20, with
    multiple, wavy red lines scattered
    across, Adunni looked up from her
    laptop screen, and in that moment
    locked eyes with Mr. Perfect Shoes
    across the room.
    She expected one of three things to
    happen.
    One, he would tear his eyes away
    from her and resume staring at his
    phone screen. Yes, too many people
    were locked in an enduring romance
    with their phones.
    Or two, he could tear his eyes away
    and focus on something else, like the
    coffee roaster behind her or the shelf
    of bagged coffee to her left.
    Or three, he could keep looking, hold
    her gaze and smile, until either one
    of them looked away.
    Mr. Perfect Shoes did none of those
    things.
    Instead, without taking his eyes off
    her, he got up and strode, crossing
    the room in a few steps, until he was
    standing right in front of her.
    Adunni was sure her mouth was
    hanging open, but she didn’t care.
    Was he lost or about to borrow
    something?
    “Hey! You’ve got the most beautiful
    smile. I just had to tell you,” he said
    breezily, as if it was completely
    normal to tell a complete stranger
    you liked her smile.
    The wattage of Adunni’s smile went
    from double figures to triple figures.
    She couldn’t seem to stop herself.
    “Chai, you don fall my hand. See as
    oyinbo boy turn you to mumu,” said
    Tade’s voice.
    “Shut up, Tade!” Adunni blurted out.
    “What was that?” Mr. Perfect Shoes
    asked in surprise.
    “Oh nothing,” said Adunni quickly. “I
    mean … umm … thank you.”
    “Yeah. No problem. My name’s
    Phillip, by the way.”
    “Adunni. Ah-doo-nee,” she said,
    falling into the pattern she did when
    pronouncing her decidedly Nigerian
    name to an outsider.
    “Oh, that’s different. Where are you
    from?” Phillip asked, sitting down at
    the only chair at the table.
    Something is off …
    Even as he sat down, Adunni couldn’t
    shake that feeling that something
    was not right. Phillip seemed like a
    nice guy, but …
    “So, what brings you to the Red
    Rooster on a Thursday night?” she
    asked.
    “A date. She stood me up though,”
    he added, sadly.
    Adunni winced. “That sucks.”
    “It does. Hey, I think she’s from
    Africa too. Her name’s Adwoa. She’s
    a nurse.”
    “Really?” said Adunni. “What are the
    odds? Yes, Adwoa is a Ghanaian
    name. I’m a Nursing student too.
    Senior year.”
    “You’re kidding!” said Phillip.
    “Nope. I kid you not,” said Adunni.
    And then, for some inexplicable
    reason, he smiled. It was that smile
    that creeped her out, gave her the
    heebie-jeebies.
    “So, what do you do? Are you
    coming from work?” Adunni asked.
    “Oh, you mean the suit,” he
    chuckled. “Well, I do a bit of this and
    that, you know, do what I gotta do to
    pay the bills and such …”
    And for the next few minutes, no
    matter how hard she tried, Adunni
    could not get a straight answer from
    Phillip on what he did for a living.
    Once again, she heard Tade’s voice in
    her ear:
    “If a man cannot tell you in one
    sentence what he does for a living,
    be careful. So ra e.”
    But Adunni didn’t need to take Voice
    of Tade’s advice. Phillip’s phone rang
    at that moment. He glanced at the
    phone and let it ring, while he
    silenced it.
    “Can I get your number … or e-mail,
    or IG handle or Twitter handle … or
    something,” Phillip began.
    “How about I just see you around,”
    said Adunni, rummaging through her
    brain for a follow-up excuse in case
    this one fell through. But there was
    no need.
    Phillip’s phone rang a second time.
    “I gotta take this. Excuse me,” he
    said before stepping outside.
    He never came back inside.
    When an hour later Adunni was
    leaving the café, she saw him
    chatting with Ashley. They each held
    burning cigarettes and he waved at
    Adunni as she walked to her car.
    That was the last time she saw Phillip.
    As Adunni passed by, she took one
    last longing look at his perfect shoes.
    “I’d still love to know how his shoes
    shine like so … Even if I own just two
    leather shoes,” she said to herself.
    * * * * *
    Two weeks later, while real life Tade
    was watching an episode of “The
    Bachelor,” Adunni was scrolling
    through her Facebook timeline.
    “How can people expect a person to
    find love on a TV show?” Tade
    grumbled.
    “And yet you own all seasons of the
    Bachelor. See your life!” said Adunni.
    “I love all the drama jare. It’s
    delicious,” said Tade.
    And then, Adunni screamed.
    “What? So she didn’t get a rose?
    That’s kind of the point of–” Tade
    began.
    “No!” Adunni shouted. “Come and
    see.”
    Tade ran to her side. Adunni pointed
    to a news clip of a man arrested for
    strangling his girlfriend. She was a
    Nursing student.
    “It’s Mr. Perfect Shoes!” said Adunni.
    “Na God save you,” said Real Life
    Tade.
    And for once Adunni did not try to
    shut her up because she was right.
    ###

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    Jehliohn
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    na God save you true true

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