Excerpt: When Did 30 Become a Big Deal

It was a given. Life took the opportunity that you’d crossed the big three-oh threshold to kick you in the nuts and hold you in a chokehold ’til you tapped out.

I hated wrestling, but even I got that analogy. I tried to take in my surroundings, bleary-eyed as I listened to Bidemi on the other end of the line yapping excitedly, and realized that analogy was my life at the moment.

On the mat trying to tap the fuck out. Except life was laughing and pinning me down even harder. Plus, Bidemi, although he’d been my best friend for two decades ‘had a voice like gravel when he was talking at a time when man was supposed to be asleep. It grated and infuriated and filled me with the need to get myself a drink at twelve-oh-three in the bloody morning.

“It’s twelve-oh-three in the bloody morning,” I gritted, hoping my dense friend would get the message and hang the up so I could go back to blessed sleep.

“So what?”

That asshole even sounded preppy. And trust me: preppy and that gravelly voice didn’t go well together. He sounded like a frog with an excited croak.

“It’s your birthday!”

Who gave a fuck? It was a regular day like any other.

“Don’t be such a grumpy puss.”

I could be anything I damn well wanted.

“Especially not on your birthday.”

Ha! Like I would be any different on this day my mother squatted and finally pushed out the parasite that had been mooching off her for the last nine months. Okay. That was a lie: the squatting part. My mother delivered me at Oluyole Medical Center, a very big deal then.

Oluyole was the cream of hospitals in Ring-Road, an area in the big city of Ibadan, proclaimed the largest city in West Africa. In the eighties, it was a hell of a big deal. I mean the hospital, of course. If you went there, it was a guarantee that you had money and would spare no expense in the delivery of the child you’d labored over. A great start to give your bouncing bundle of joy. Ibadan was still a big deal. If you were interested in retiring. It’s that kind of city. Peaceful. Serene. With brown roofs that stretched on for miles if you happened on Beere, Molete or Moniya. Go to the more recently upgraded areas and there wasn’t any brown roof to be seen.

Such a pity. The eradication of the things that made Ibadan, Ibadan.

“Yoo-hoo. Earth to Sanmi.”

I plopped right back to earth, suddenly feeling nostalgic for the city of my birth. I needed to go home. Visit sometime soon. Lose myself in that first love.

“Sorry. Was lost in…” I trailed off and remembered. Fuck this. It was now twelve-oh-six in the morning. “Why the fuck are you calling at this hour. Your mates are sleeping, preparing for Lagos madness.”

Bidemi chuckled, and I suddenly had the urge to reach through the phone and strangle him. Either that or just toss my phone out the window. Not like it was something I wanted to do or could do. It was the just released iPhone 6s and I loved it even more than I loved the arm that was currently holding it. And that’s saying a lot. I loved that arm. It fed me. Helped me in writing. It helped me change the remote and helped me drive around. It brushed my teeth and wiped my ass. It was a very highly respected hand. But my new phone trumped it with its grey shell and magnificent processing speed.

“Earth to Sanmi.”

See? That’s what I had to deal with. That gravelly voice interrupting every time I sought a way to escape the fact that it was now twelve-oh-nine, and I was still fucking awake. “Go and sleep, Bidemi,” I said and yawned. Talk of sleep always had that effect on me. Made me as sleepy as a newborn baby. “You might be able to function on as little sleep as possible but some of us are not so fortunate. Why are you calling me, sef?”

Bidemi snorted. The little shit. “Why else? Ogbeni. It’s your birthday or have you forgotten?”

Ogbeni ke? I’m fucking older than him. What the hell does he mean calling me Mr. Man in that tone? “Ogbeni,” I said just as snidely. “I. Don’t. Give. A. Fuck. Man has gatz to sleep so get the fuck off my phone and let me do just that.”

“But it’s not just any type of birthday,” he whined.

Wait, what? It wasn’t? I racked my brain trying to come up with something, anything that would give me an idea of what special birthday it was and how I’d missed the memo. Besides, why hadn’t mother said anything? She’d spent all of yesterday yapping on and on about Gbemileke, my younger sister’s engagement party. Why hadn’t she thought to—I don’t know—say something about this earth-shattering event Bidemi was referring to? What a mother. She should have her motherhood re…

“Wait, what?” I said, bringing Bidemi’s stream of words to a halt. “What did you say is so special about this birthday?”

“You’re thirty. The big three-oh. Talk about a milestone.”

I was thinking of a milestone right then. More importantly, I was thinking of tying it around his scrawny neck and dropping him in the ocean, in a part of the sea where he wouldn’t have network reception to call me back and utter such bullshit.

“You have got to be shitting me,” I said. “You called me at twelve to tell me that? I’m turning thirty? Whoopdedoo. Get the fuck off my phone,” I snapped.

“Yeah. Thirty. The big three-oh,” Bidemi carried on, not remotely affected by my snapping. That was what I got for having one best friend for two decades. They didn’t jump when you snarled. He’d gotten used to me. “But it’s not just the number. It’s the significance. The memory. The pact.”

“What are you yapping about now,” I muttered and sank back against my pillows with a sigh. It was all my fault. If I’d simply set my phone to ‘do not disturb’, I would have been on my way to la-la-land right now.

“You. Me. Us. At age seven. Remember?”

Remember us at age seven? “Sure. You had braces, the only boy in Bola Immaculate Primary School with those shiny things. Everyone teased you, and you cried every day. I had a giant hole in the middle of my hair from where Teacher Bisi had caught me chewing gum in class and stuck the gum in the middle of my hair.”