Out in Abuja: Afternoon ‘waka’

The author describes her hanging out experience on a Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday. I was free as a bird. I took the day off to hang out with my friend, Aisha. Actually, we had won an award with the British Council and were headed there to claim it.

I left home very early so had no chance to get breakfast. I got a chance to fill my stomach with some small chops at the British Council though. Big mistake.

Around noon, we were headed back home when we decided that the small chops were not actually “food” and we needed real food. By then we had met up with our friend, Emmanuel.

On our search for great “swallow” and good soup, we happened to pass by Cubana on Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Wuse 2. One of us remembered that Cubana, which is a night club, a lounge, and probably every sort of entertainment space you can think of, also had a restaurant behind the main building and the food was good; so we branched.

It was that period of the day when afternoon looked no different from the morning – or maybe it was just the weather. Anyway, it felt weird to me going in to eat pepper soup in the “morning.” That was what I planned to order. I wasn’t that hungry.

Pepper soup is an evening dish, a “groove food;” you know, open air beer parlour/pepper soup joint, under the stars with great palm wine or beer… Some highlife playing… and after drinking your pepper soup you could also order for some nkwobi to keep ya mouth in motion while you relax with ya friends… Chei. Groove things!

But there we were around 1 p.m. at a “club” that serves pepper soup in the afternoon and our weird afternoon groove was about to end even before it started. As we parked at the entrance, we noticed that some task force people were trying to shut down the place. But mehn, when a man/woman wants pepper soup, a man/woman wants pepper soup. So, Emmanuel and I determinedly got out of the car to confirm that the place was still open for business.

Once we entered, the compound, it was hard to tell whether it was a serious raid or just some friends dropping by. An employee at the club came out of the building and shook hands with a member of the task force, “You,” he said. And the way they both laughed, it was more like, “You know, we are friends but I have to do my job”/ “I know you came here for the usual kickback.”

The main body of the task force was actually at the side of the building, talking with the club’s management. Even here, it was still hard for one to determine the true nature of the task force’s presence at the club.

When Emma and I got to the back of the building where the dining area is, al-fresco, there was only one guest there. The guest was unaware of the whole “raid” happening almost under his nose.
“Are you guys closed?” Emma asked anyway.
The guy that looked to be the top boss, who was standing with the task force peeps actually called out, “No.”

That settled, it was on!

We went back to get Aisha, came back and settled ourselves nicely at a table.
Immediately, a waitress came to take our order; young girl in her early twenties, very pleasant with lots of smiles. Her name was Aisha too.

Emmanuel ordered for semo and egusi soup. Aisha ordered ox-tail pepper soup. And I ordered for my first love, catfish pepper soup though I still felt full from the small chops I ate at the British Council.

While we waited for our food, we ordered for drinks. Aisha went for coke and lime, Emma, plain Fanta, and I, plain water. Then Aisha’s coke and lime came and it evoked “drink envy” in Emma and me. We insisted on getting the lime treatment in our drinks.

Have you ever drunk lime and water? It’s divine. Emma’s fanta and lime, on the other hand, looked like something a baby threw up. He didn’t care. It probably tasted nice but – nah, not for me.

Meanwhile, I noticed that the only other guest besides us was working on his computer.
“Is there Wi-fi here? Is it free?” I asked eagerly.

Aisha the waitress gave us the password and soon a picture of my lime and water was up on Instagram.

My pepper soup was the first to arrive. It looked heavenly and the taste was sublime. The fish was well-cooked and the spices were just the right amount. The sight of it brought on catfish pepper soup envy from Aisha, then her oxtail came and it was equally saliva inducing. Emma got his egusi and semo and we all soon engrossed in stuffing our mouths. Well, me, not so much.

I was taking pictures for food porn on Instagram; #foodie #pepper soup #cubana #heaven!

“This soup must be drunk,” I captioned the picture of my pepper soup which in truth was hardly getting any drinking action.

The small chops had truly ruined my appetite. I could only sip at the soup and hardly touched the fish. But my pictures of Aisha’s and my pepper soups got lots of likes anyway, same for our drinks.

The atmosphere in the alfresco restaurant was chilled and relaxed. Being nearly the only ones there, we talked almost at the top of our lungs, the other guy didn’t mind nor did the restaurant staff.

There was music coming out from the speakers but it wasn’t loud and could be ignored.

It was like a lazy afternoon under the shade in front of the house, on semi-sunny day, gisting with family. I almost felt that I could get a mat and just lie there. No, not really.

Finally, when it was time to leave, my soup still sat there barely touched. Aisha had enough remaining on her plate too so we asked for take away packs. Of course, Emma demolished his semo and egusi down the white china .

As we left the restaurant/club/lounge/whatever, the sun was still being intimidated by the clouds. The weather was still cool enough that I wished we could just keep driving around town and hanging out in semi-empty intimate spaces. But work called for my two friends so I headed home to sleep and finish my pepper soup, of course.


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