Read the first part here
Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
I look at Abigail pointedly.
‘What happened to dinner with Dotun?’
She sighs with a bit of drama. ‘Today is your birthday. I can always have dinner with Dotun later this year. You only celebrate your birthday once a year. And I came flashing my ring in your face.’ She purses her lips. ‘You really need to get dressed. Fifunmi and Enkay are on their way’
I wring my hands. I am utterly broke. I don’t think my budget can survive anything extravagant. Actually, the pity party I had earlier in the day was just perfect for my budget. She reaches out and takes my hand. ‘Let’s go and dress you up’.
While dressing up I keep asking a very important question. ‘Where are we going?’But nobody is answering me. Even Enkay. Ordinarily, she can’t keep a secret even if her life depends on it. I endure the beauty ministrations and even strut into the Uber cab my friends hired. Of course, the place of the celebration is Breathless – Ade’s desserts and sweets outlet. My stomach growls in anticipation. I look at my friends. I sincerely hope that my purse survives this birthday bash. Before we step into the Breathless, I say to my friends in a loud whisper. ‘I am a broke-ass’. They all laugh while Fifunmi pats my shoulder and Enkay winks. Abigail whispers back, ‘Just try to enjoy yourself’. I reply with an uncertain nod.
The whole place is silent and unlit. It looks like Ade has not yet opened for business. I am about to ask why everywhere is silent when the lights come on and I am treated to a resounding ‘Happy Birthday, Mario!’ I stagger backwards in surprise, only to find myself wedged firmly between Enkay and Fifunmi. And I am receiving hugs and kisses from everyone. There is Ade, Leke and his fiancée – Torera, there is Buchi and Helen and Mike, and Morolake and Feyi and Carl, and Hermes – his real name o, and Lara, and Phillip and Mbata and Bishop, and Abigail and Dotun, yes, and their friends, and friend of friends. And I am just there with this huge grin on my face and tears streaming down my face. And there are variants of cakes – they all taste divine, ice-cream, candies, cookies, chocolates, truffles, puddings, and some other things that I don’t know their names. And there’s me having a bite of everything.
And then everybody has to say something about me. And my heart is beating fast in my chest because honestly, what could they possibly say? And they say really really nice things that I begin to wonder if I am the same person that is being talked about. And halfway into the speeches for the celebrant, I begin to relax, and enjoy myself without trying so hard.
Today was really amazing. I never expected the surprise party, and because of my worry over my budget I nearly didn’t have a good time. But I eventually relaxed. I cried when Ade said the Breathless’ special was named after me. I spent one year building that place from the scratch. But the truth is, ‘someone else’s dream can never be your dream’. I cried when Enkay talked about when she lost her dad. It was just her and her five siblings left. There was no money anywhere, and she thought she had no other choice but to sell her body to raise money to cater for her siblings. I remember that I decided to help contribute some of my earnings. I got some of our other friends to pitch in now and then. She thanked me for being selfless. I cried a lot then. I cried when Feyi talked about how she stayed in my house all through her stay in the University because she couldn’t afford to pay for hostel. And there were a lot of other things that I had forgotten about, like that time we – me, Buchi and Hermes – went for a job. I cant remember now. It was those hustling days. And we were coming back late and we got robbed. And I was really really calm. Buchi and Hermes said the robbers were really amazed and tried so hard not to let their surprise show. I guess it comes with having to raise your siblings, being responsible and growing up under my parents. I don’t know how my turmoil always projects itself as some form of calm I don’t feel at that time. And Leke, Leke made me cry so hard. He said that he would never understand my obsession with Forbes’ lists. Actually one of my goals in life is to end up on one of the lists, any list actually. And I was really eyeing the Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, but that is not possible. I can settle for YNaija’s list though. But I won’t be on the list because I don’t match the ordinary profiles that end up there. I have no business, no NGO, no project, no social media following etc. Hearing Leke say it made it hurt the more, but he put a smile on my face when he said that in that room alone, everybody had things to say about roles I played in their lives that nobody on any Forbes’ list could have done. And for that, they were very grateful to God for my life.