We have spent most of tonight driving around the Abuja metropolis. Mallam Hassan is feeling a little out of his skin tonight and musters us to try somewhere other than the Metroville lounge.
When he’s in this sort of mood, we can tell he’s ready to splurge on our excesses. It’s always a good time. Eddie clandestinely suggests to me that Mallam has just closed a deal on one of his properties at Jahi and we are having a little celebration. Mallam Hassan is typically not one to reveal specific details about his business, so he doesn’t mention it himself.
We ask Mallam Hassan where he wants to go tonight and he says he’s not sure, that we can suggest somewhere. We ask him what type of place he was looking forward to going to, and he asks us to take us anywhere that matches his architectural taste. We all take turns suggesting places that we think would satisfy his aesthetic craving.
Eddie suggests a lounge at Maitama. Tokunbo suggests somewhere in Wuse, and I can tell it’s a loud place because she’s an outgoing girl who never lets go of an opportunity to turn up.
We are all driving around in Mallam Hassan’s SUV, with Alhaji choosing to drive himself tonight; a rarity. I’m hobbled between Tokunbo and Eddie at the back while Mr. Cele takes the passenger seat. The glasses are wound down because Mallam wants an unobtrusive view of the Abuja nightlife.
When we drive through Tokunbo Ademola, just past Cilantro, Eddie suddenly slouches on his seat and starts breathing heavily. We ask him what’s happening but he says we should just keep driving. That he’d explain later.
A few moments later, we arrive at a cozy lounge in Wuse, littered with skinny kaftan-wearing men with mahogany skins. I instantly understand why Tokunbo would suggest this place for us.
Eddie swears that Tokunbo’s attraction to this spot has more to do with the men than the architecture. Tokunbo replies that good-looking men make up good architecture too.
Mr. Cele asks Eddie to explain to the forum why he was ducking under the seats moments ago. Eddie informs us that he might have lied to someone about being out of town currently. Some woman he’d scooped off Tinder and brought to his home once, and afterward had made it a ritual to visit his home all the time.
We all take our seats and we ask for light orders (since we still have other places to visit tonight). A svelte young woman with a perm and mauve overalls comes to take our orders. An amorous glint lights up in Eddie’s eyes and I instantly know that his fornication radar is up again.
Mallam Hassan is leering at the marble finishings of the bar area. I ask for his opinion of the lounge and he says he cannot get past the lousy job done on the tiles. To my uninitiated eyes, all I can see are the very expensive furnishings lavishly spread across the lounge. But the good Mallam sees things that we can’t, because his taste bud is at a range our finances have not attained yet.
I ask Mallam Hassan what’s wrong with the finishing. He says that the first thing he looks at when he’s in a place of expensive design is the tiling. That the tiling is a pointer to the level of expertise deployed, and that expensive materials can never replace skills.
Just as our mocktails arrive, Eddie picks up his glass and leaves the table for the bar. Tokunbo asks him where he’s going and he says that he wants to get a better view of any woman who’s coming in.
Mallam Hassan slurps his drink and beckons me to lean over. I do, and he points me to a door that leads into a staff recess. He tells me that I should study the tiles along the doorjamb and tell him what I notice. It takes me a moment before I see it. The tile edges are butted up against the doorjamb instead of tucked underneath them. I instantly see his point.
We’re still on the first mocktail when we see Eddie flirting with a middle-aged woman probably 10 years older. Eddie looks really comfortable in his elements, leading the conversation with the flamboyance of a man in his own turf.
Tokunbo tells us very quietly that the woman’s husband is a Major who frequents here too, and is often not very far from his wife. Just before she finishes speaking, a tall slender man wearing a sparkling white jalabiya steps into the bar with a uniformed orderly walking in behind her. Tokunbo quickly taps Mallam Hassan and Mr. Cele to notice the unfolding drama.
The soldier walks to the bar with a gentle but infectious demeanor, and stands beside his wife. We see Eddie going over himself to greet, clearly fidgeting. They all have a brief conversation before Eddie jets back to join us. Tokunbo is heaving with quiet laughter, leaning over me and wiping her tears.
Eddie is insisting that he stood his ground, even though I can hear the thumping of his heart from where I’m sitting.
As soon as we finish our glasses, Mallam asks us to check somewhere else. So we head to Eddie’s Maitama spot. I make a mental note to check out the tiles when we get there before Mallam Hassan points out anything.
Before we get into the ride, Eddie excuses himself to the loo, and we instantly remember what anxiety does to one’s bowels.
It’s 9 P.M. when we get to Maitama. It’s a minimalist lounge, with chess marbles and crimson-coloured scoop cushions. The lights are blue and white and love. The music is cozy and it’s the perfect spot for intimate dates.
Without anyone saying a word about it, we all understood what Eddie would be doing in a place like this. There aren’t many people in the lounge, just pairs scattered across the aisle.
We take our seats on an executive sofa and rummage through the menu. Mr. Cele says he likes the place but he cannot see Dawadawa rice on the menu, and his deaconess wife has instructed him to get some when coming. I inform him that we are at a lounge and domicile dishes aren’t sold here.
Mallam Hassan offers to call home and have his chef make the meal and pack it. We are all grateful on behalf of Mr. Cele.
Eddie asks Mallam Hassan what he thinks about the architecture. Mallam Hassan asks for a moment, and starts tracing the symmetry of the marble floors and tiled walls with his eyes.
Tiles are centered and symmetrical according to the unique layout and features of the interior, he would later inform us while inspecting the chocolate tobacco wrappings of his shinny Cuban spliff. He also points out that the pattern is consistent throughout the room.
Just as we settle into the night, a sturdy looking lady saunters into the lounge. She’s dressed in a shimmering green knee-high Bardot gown. She’s approaching the bar when she suddenly pauses and starts to stare in our direction. Eddie is still very distracted by his phone so it takes him a while to be on his guard.
Eddie, the lady in green calls out. We all raise our faces.
“Is this the Lagos you told me you were going to?”
We all turn to look at Eddie, who is suddenly pale from embarrassment.