In January 1996, right after an extended holiday in Saudi Arabia with our father, Dolly and I started our new lives in Unilag.
I can remember only too well the excitement with which we descended Akoka, with our fresh baffs, thanks to our dear father, who had indulged us on this last trip. Dolly and I were ready to take Unilag by storm!
Well, at least Dolly did.
I found out the hard way that secondary school fame did not necessarily translate to popularity in University. Yes, a few people recognized me as ‘Fola the dancer’, or ‘Fola, Niyi’s sister’, but it was nothing compared to the uproar caused by the beautiful JAMBITE called Dolly.
Yep, Dolly was the name on everyone’s lips, male and female.
Dolly, Dolly, Dolly! Everywhere you turned, her name was being called. Everywhere you turned, there was some lovelorn male trying to get her attention. My sister, Dolly, was, without a doubt, the hottest JAMBITE. In fact, some even said she was the prettiest girl on campus, period!
Yep, she finally found the fame she had always longed for. And she loved every minute of it!
While it took me all of 15 minutes to throw on one of my numerous shirts, jeans and a pair moccasins, Dolly would be in front of her mirror for at least an hour, primping and propping herself into perfection. By the time she eventually stepped out of Moremi Hall, she would like she was fresh out of a magazine cover.
But the funny thing is, I didn’t mind. As a matter of fact, I was amused by it. My dry friends and I would be seated at Senate (the gathering spot for all the ‘cool kids’ on campus), and would giggle as Dolly and her posse of friends breezed past us, feeling like they owned the place. Sometimes, she would acknowledge me, other times not…but it didn’t matter. At the end of the day, we ended up in the same room anyway, where we were bunk mates…ironically.
“You and your sister are so different!” one of Dolly’s toasters had remarked one day, when I had bounced into the room after a day full of lectures; my hair scattered, my shirt billowing and the laces of my shoes untied.
Dolly had grunted and given me a look I knew too well. It was the ‘You are just hopeless’ look.
I had ignored them both, and leapt on to my spot on the top bunk with more force than I had to, shaking the entire bed in the process, and giggling as Dolly and her guest ranted. Tough for them, if they thought I wasn’t up to par. I wasn’t here to please anyone, least of all them. I was there to be nobody but me!
Just as I had resigned myself to being one of the dry girls, one night, I got an invite delivered to me from one of the boy’s clubs on campus; Foads. It might not seem like a big deal…except it was. Only the cool girls got invited to club parties. And the fact that they had deemed me worth an invite was enough to send me and my friends squealing for joy. Of my three close friends, two of them, Bimbo and Lilian had gotten invites, but even the one who hadn’t, Demi, was just as excited for the rest of us. It was that big a deal!
“Oh, please! Let’s hear word!” Dolly had retorted, cutting into our excitement. “You people are dancing on top of Foads party? Foads?!”
“Didn’t you get an invite?” I asked, bemused.
She laughed. “Don’t ask the obvious, Fola!” and then she pointed at the bin, where her own invite had been discarded. That was when I recalled that she and her friends felt that the only cool guys Rho guys, and that Foads and ABC boys were razz.
Razz or not, I was hell yeah going for that party! Whaaat!
On party day, as I got dressed, Dolly had stared in shock at my attire. “Folabomi! Don’t tell me that’s what you’re wearing?!”
I looked at my bottom-box Tommy Hilfiger shirt, one that had cost me a fortune and that I had never worn before, which I had tucked into a pair of also brand new white jeans. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
She had sighed in exasperation, and thrown me a leather mini dress, one of her favourites. “Please, don’t go and disgrace me there.”
“First of all, this won’t go past my thighs. Second of all, you have worn this enough times for everyone to know I’m doing borrow pose!” I retorted back.
“Borrow pose is better than dressing like a boy for a club party! Don’t you want them to invite you again?” Dolly retorted back.
“Dolly, I’m not going to change the way I am! You know I’m not the fru fru dress type! If they don’t like me like this, then they shouldn’t invite me again!” I clapped right back.
She’d thrown her hands up in defeat and let me be, and my friends and I had joined the convoy of cars headed for the party. Once there, I’d been pleasantly surprised that a lot of the guys knew of me from my dancing days, and soon I was laughing and mingling with them like we were old pals.
The music was great, and the food was even better. I was having the time of my life. It had been a long time since I’d danced, and I did so to my heart’s delight, and everyone’s entertainment. As the party wore on, I took a break to rest my feet. Sitting with my friends in a corner of the garden, we couldn’t help but squeal, still not believing that we were actually there! In a Foads party! We were beside ourselves. Soon, MC Lyte’s Cold Rock the Party came on, and we all started rapping along, still excited to be there.
And mid-rap, I saw him…standing a few feet from us, a drink in his hand, watching us with a smile on his face.
Jimi Fajobi. The legend!
I need to press the pause and rewind button right about here…to the very first time I lay eyes on him…in October 1990. There had been a function in Queens College and, as usual, I had tagged along with Niyi. I’d been in J.S.S.2, and Niyi in S.S.2. Most of the other secondary schools in Lagos were there, and Niyi and I had a good time giggling at most of the dance performances from the other schools. We felt that none of them had moves half as good as ours. And we were right…
Until the K.C. guys got on the stage. Led by a Bobby Brown lookalike, Jimi Fajobi he was called, they had performed Every Little Step to perfection. As young as I was, I hadn’t been able to take my eyes of the lead singer/dancer. From the haircut, to the moves, right down to the gap in his teeth, he was Bobby Brown’s replica. And my heart had melted.
“That guy can dance!” Niyi had exclaimed, also in awe of him.
After that day, synonymous with Niyi’s name, Jimi Fajobi also gained repute state-wide. I would see him at other functions and parties, and each time, he blew my mind more than the last time…
And it was only because of his dancing.
What started as admiration soon blossomed into a full-on crush. But I knew it was a pipe dream to think he would ever notice me. Not only was I sets below, from the girls that flocked around him, he was into the conventionally pretty type…which I wasn’t. I was a minion, in the grand scheme of things.
About the time Niyi left for University, I stopped seeing Jimi around. I heard from the grapevine he was in Unilag, so I used that opportunity to kill whatever infatuation I had. Luckily, out of sight had gotten him out of my mind.
Until that night.
Upon seeing him, my mouth went dry and I forgot the lyrics to the rap…first time ever. And then he had walked over to us, still smiling.
As he approached, my friends also stopped rapping, all of us staring at him, star struck.
“Is that not Jimi Fajobi?” Bimbo had almost whimpered.
The way we were acting, you would have thought we were in the presence of a rock star. Except he was a rock star…to me, anyway.
“A dancer and a rhymer…nice!” he said, smiling at me. “Fola, right? I remember you and your brother from back in the day.”
At that point, I could have literally died and gone to heaven. Jimi Fajobi knew my name??! Whaaaat!
“How is Niyi?” he asked, still smiling.
I forced myself to nod and act normal. “He’s fine. He’s in U.I.”
“Yeah, so I heard.” Jimi said, still with that smile.
Bimbo and Lilian exchanged a look, excused themselves and walked away, leaving me alone with Jimi.
“Nice shirt. You don’t see many girls dressing like that.” he remarked.
“Thaaaaanks.” I said warily, not quite sure if he was being sarcastic.
He smiled and took my hand. “Let’s see if you still have those moves.”
My feet wobbled so badly, I thought I was going to fall down. Somehow, I managed to make it with him to the dancefloor, and luckily, it was the midtempo LL Cool J song Doin it Well that was playing…which allowed me gain my composure.
And that was how Jimi and I danced straight through to the break of dawn.
“Let me give you a ride back to school.” he offered.
Seeing that Bimbo and Lilian were already booed up with some other Foads guys, I accepted Jimi’s offer, and happily hopped into his Nissan Bluebird car.
On the ride back to school, I found out he was in his 3rd year studying Architecture. We exchanged anecdotes of some of the parties we had attended growing up, and by the time he dropped me in front of Moremi, we were gisting like old pals. And when he asked for my room number, I happily gave it to him.
Walking from the car park to our room in F-block, I was literally floating on air. My heart was singing and I had butterflies in my stomach. You know how you have a crush on someone, and then you finally get to know the person, but get disappointed? With Jimi, the opposite was the case. He was so much better than anything I had ever fantasized.
Dolly had been impressed, when I gave her the gist. “Eeeehn?! So Jimi Fajobi toasted you in your shirt and boots?” she had giggled, and had proceeded to tell me how I had to refine my looks before he came visiting, lest I lose his attention.
And for the first time in my life, I listened.
The next evening, in anticipation of his visit, I wore a lycra top and a fitted pair of jeans. I had also taken the time to even apply a dusting of brown powder and some lip gloss. By 8pm, I feared I had prepared in vain, but he walked into our room shortly after, sending my heart into a tailspin. The smile on my face could have lit up Lagos State…heck, it could have lit up Nigeria! That’s how happy I was to see him.
“You look different!” he remarked, still smiling.
“Different, good? Or different, bad?” I inquired, wanting to know.
“Just different. You were pretty yesterday, and you’re pretty today. I like both looks,” he said, and I think it was at that point, that very point…
That I fell in love with him.
He drove me not far from school, to a joint called Flavours, and there we’d eaten burgers and laughed over shared stories. I was amazed at the clarity of the memories he had about Niyi and I, even remembering once when Niyi had crashed to the floor during an elaborate MC Hammer routine. And he too was surprised that I remembered him so vividly.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say maybe you had a crush on me!” he teased, smiling.
“I did, actually…” I shocked myself by saying.
And we had stared at each other, neither of us knowing what to say. Then he leaned over, and planted the most gentle of kisses on my lip…so gentle, it was like a feather. But it was enough to send me straight to the heavens.
We held hands as we walked back to his car…and even as he drove, he had one hand on mine. My heart was beating so fast, I thought it would pop right out of my chest. I’d never had this feeling before…never even had a boyfriend before. And here I was, with the boy I’d loved since the age of 12, who, could you believe it, seemed to love me too! What were the chances?!!
He walked me back to my room, and as we entered, from Dolly’s voice I could tell she was back from the outing she and her friends had been on earlier, with someone’s toaster or the other.
“My sister is back!” I whispered in excitement, as we walked to our corner, happy Dolly would see that I wasn’t lying, and that the cool Jimi Fajobi was actually into me.
“Dolly, I’d like you to meet Jimi. Jimi…Dolly, my sister.” I introduced.
My sister looked up, and smiled, extending her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Jimi. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
I smiled and looked at Jimi…but when I saw the look on his face, the smile died on my lips.
As he stared at Dolly, clad in a flimsy, floral summer dress, her fruity perfume enveloping anyone within a 12-mile radius, the light that hung overhead giving her an ethereal glow, her dimples digging even deeper than they normally did…I knew I had lost him to her.
Photo / Image Credits
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