By: Samson Adebayo
“Pink Lips, pink lips!” I felt the voice calling out to me. It sounded like the voice of a pastor making an altar call. I have not been this drawn towards a call since my Christian Union days when the pastor (not the one that talks like an American rapper) described my exact location and called for my “repentance”. Of course, my sin was “having a lustful heart”.
I escaped from the Lecture Threatre which doubled as a church through the nearest door and here I am, under a bridge in Ikeja, feeling that pull again. This time around, from a guy that could help make my lips pink.
This problem started about 15 years ago following a conversation I had with my younger sister’s friend – Kemi. I had a thing for Kemi, that thing that makes you change into your newest shirt, brush your teeth again, apply a little of your mum’s powder, spray the perfume you saved your lunch allowance to buy at the news of her coming to the house. That same thing puts a lump in your throat, makes you sweat profusely and makes your heartbeat sound like the neigbour’s Vespa motorcycle. Something I later learnt is called “crush”.
I remember running my hand through the small patch of hair the barber had left on the front part of my head at my request. “I like boys that are tall, dark and handsome” replied Kemi to a question I asked when I found my voice around her two minutes ago. Those lines sounded familiar, I could swear I knew the exact page of the Mills and Boon novel where she saw it. My mind quickly evaluated myself against Kemi’s parameters. I was neither tall nor dark. I did not like my reflection in the mirror either.
“…and pink lips too” she quickly added. It seemed she was intentionally reeling out the features I lacked. I was not bold enough to think about a follow up question, I knew my chances of being with Kemi the way I wanted had just become slimmer. I could only smile sheepishly and stare blankly in response to her comment.
That encounter left in me a feeling of utter inadequacy, Mills and Boon and the Cinderella story had messed up my chances of having a girlfriend. I carried the feeling and the accompanying low self-esteem to the university years later.
In the University, nobody agreed to date me till I got to 400 level. Let me say, I never asked anyone out after my encounter with Kemi in SS2. Tutu was a friend I met through a friend – the Tutu that made me graduate with a 2:2. We woke up one day and found ourselves in a relationship – nobody asked, nobody consented.
Two weeks into our serendipitous relationship, Tutu jokingly called me a flat person. She said I looked like a plank. In that moment, I knew all I had to do was to embark on a mission to grow my six packs and abs. Apart from the excruciating pain I felt the day I started lifting bar-bells, I felt myself emaciating. I started feeling dizzy while I walked. I stopped trying to be the man of Tutu’s dreams – you don’t lift weights or work-out when you are malnourished, not when your relationship runs on recharge cards and a large part of your monthly allowance from home finances it.
Tutu could not cope with my extreme thinness, lack of six-packs and flatness – we stopped dating as unceremoniously as we started dating.
The voice of the guy calling out “pink lips!” every 20 seconds jolted me back to the present. The prospect of getting one of the features that would make me an eligible recipient of a “Yes” from daughters of Eve filled me with excitement. I took a bold step in the direction of the guy who later introduced himself as Kelechi.
Kelechi brought out a battered piece of paper which is meant to be a catalogue of colours. I picked the shade of pink closest to red as the new colour of my lips. I hated myself for not knowing early enough that my life would have been different with just eight hundred naira.
I followed Kelechi to the basement of a computer warehouse in Ikeja, his colleague (probably the pink-lip surgeon) was wearing a boxing glove when we came in. They whispered to themselves in igbo, the only familiar word they said was “rayd” – the igbo pronunciation for colour red.
The pink-lip surgeon came to me, I caught a glimpse of a swift movement from below. The uppercut hit me when I was smiling. My mouth suddenly tasted salty. I was losing blood. I felt the room whirl a little, darkness crept up on me and I felt nothing more.
I woke up without my phone and wallet. Where my wallet had been, I found a note on which was scribbled the lyrics of “The Way You Are” – a song by Lighthouse Family. I was left with very pink, swollen lips and a permanent dent on my forehead. I got what I wanted even though the lips were pink for only two weeks.