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époque press
pronounced: /epƏk/
definition: /time/era/period

I am six rows behind you. I can perceive your after-shave: the one with the mild mint, and a hint of lavender. It has morphed to become one with your perfume, creating an entirely new scent — the same scent that envelopes my pillows and sheets, heck, my entire house. It took a while for me to get used to you invading my heart, but in my house, you took up more space than I thought I had, and I don’t mind it. Now, I step in, waiting for your hugs even though you are not there.

     I can see the back of your head. You have one fold there, but I guess it’s because the cap you have on is a little snug. I would tell you, but this is not the time or place. But I would tell you. You’ve always asked me to tell you before your stomach drooped over your belt, or if your trousers fit too tightly around your bum or man hips. 

Six months into knowing you, I became your weight watcher, even though you didn’t return the favour. One time you tried, and we didn’t meet at my house for two weeks. Yes, I was mad at your erroneous liberty to be my weight watcher, although I had enrolled in the gym close to my house and started a two-week green smoothie challenge. It was for a good cause, but there was no need to tell you that you were right, or else, you would have tried it again.

     The man in front of us is speaking into the microphone, but his eyes, I believe are boring into your forehead. Right where I’m seated, I can almost see the hole he is making at the back of your head. I can only imagine your face – all emotionless and blank. You are probably doing that thing where you stare at someone, but really, you are looking inside them and labelling their anatomy. 

     I know you, that’s the point. I know you because we had spent the last five years off and on in what our friends tagged a prolonged fling. I guess they knew we weren’t meant for each other but would rather let us have a go at it. We really did have a go at it, three times. Each time, we thought - this was it!

     We were grown and smart enough to navigate love and relationships. Each time we failed and fell on our faces; but we were never ashamed. We were only on our faces because we’d rather stay there than look at each other, only to see that we still cared for and loved each other. It was our curse. Our bane. So, we tried and tried — ran away to different parts of the world, dated the most out-of-our comfort-zone persons. Still, it was as though the universe knew we were on holiday because our reunions were always seamless, you know?

     Our first reunion was when I met you at my boss’ daughter’s wedding. You were a distant family friend to the groom, which I should have known, but I couldn’t because the only talking we did was with our bodies, with exceptions of exclamations that incensed the neighbours. You spotted me first, and like the perfect gentleman, you walked up to me from behind with a glass of my favourite drink in your hand.

     ‘Champagne for my Champion.’

     That was our line. You knew it and it did what you meant it to do because, at the end of the day, we were giggling like long-lost friends. Everyone at the party thought a new couple had been born from the celebration.

‘I can see that my wedding has done the matchmaking without the lift of a finger,’ the groom winked at you and scurried away to his yearning wife.

     We erupted in a knowing laugh because we had longed to meet again, and we knew we’d talk each other into giving us another go, whatever that meant. Maybe it meant another chance to give our hearts yet another round of healing tablets in different dosages or another chance to fail at something we both clearly wanted; but for the life of us, could not will into existence. Our careers, family and friends laughed in the face of our relationship every time, and we let them. We hated it, but we let them.

     You're standing, facing the man with the microphone but the fold at the back of your head is no longer there, maybe it was the way you sat. I hope you always remember to sit straight because I won’t be there to give you endless rounds of massages every other week. The man with the microphone does not look as stern as earlier. He now looks relaxed, and I think I spotted a smile or two, but I don’t think you are smiling. You are trying to hold your shit together and get this thing over with. I can tell because you tap your feet every now and then — yet another thing that I know too well. It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t know these things or when I didn’t find the most pleasure in reading your mind without so much as a word.

     ‘I don’t want to do this, but I cannot continue on this merry-go-round that leads nowhere,’ you told me a few nights ago as you laid your head on my breasts and I stroked your afro, raking my manicured nails through your hair. You liked it there. You liked it on my breasts, with my fingers inches deep in your hair; your safe space you called it. You had spoken without looking at me, and I had responded without lifting you from my body. 

     ‘I know. I can act surprised, but who would I be deceiving? We both knew this day would come.’

     You lifted yourself and stared daggers at me as if daring me to speak one more word of the truth. I didn’t say another word, not because I was scared you might leave, but because you never left. Even on days when we fought and boiled with passionate ire, you remained smack in the middle of our rage and never moved. Olumo Rock, I called you at those times. This time, I didn’t want a fight because there was no use rolling in the mud with the truth. It was already distasteful enough; dirty and glaring for everyone to see. It was a battle we both lost the day we met; we just didn’t know it.

     The day we met at the restaurant at the insistence of our mutual friends, I had scheduled some Chinese rice to be delivered after the date. To say that I had the littlest hope for our date would have been an over-compensation. Until I met you, you were one of the Femi’s and Tunde’s, the famously proclaimed Yoruba Demons. This was more reason to be weary, especially because there were no demons from other tribes, just the Yorubas. I was sure I wanted nothing to do with a demon, let alone a demon I already knew out of the gate. You walked in in a dark suit that criminally blended with your dark, shiny skin and your hair. Speaking of your hair, that big ball of lush and strength like that crowned you like a celestial being, a beautiful black god. Black had never shone so bright. I caught myself staring so I asked you a question to unnerve you.

     ‘So, are you a Yoruba demon?’ 


     That hadn’t gone my way, you know. At worst, that should have been interpreted as a joke, but you gave me a response that stood true in all the years we were together. 

     ‘Just No? No explanation, no chuckle. Just no,’I probed.

     ‘To be fair, if you had made up your mind about me before this date, there is nothing I can say now to dissuade you. And even if you haven’t, I think my best chance with you is taking that question as serious as a heart attack because I know what you mean,’ you replied without interrupting your gaze, and that was when I began to fear for myself. I began to fear for what you held for my heart.

     That night, we had sex at my place, because even though I believed you not to be a Yoruba demon, I wasn’t sure of your other extracurricular activities. Better safe than sorry, but sorry was I when two months into “what” we had, I knew I had fallen but never said anything.

     The man with the microphone is not saying anything now, but he is grinning from ear to ear, even though you aren’t. You are smiling, but it is the same smile you had told me you gave your boss whenever he cracked his usual dry, crusty jokes that didn’t deserve a fake laugh, so you always offered a bland smile. 

     I know you want to look at me, but you aren’t going to. You are walking past my seat, and I am dying to have you look at me. How can you be so strong against me? Against us? I know we talked about the ceremony and how it should go, but I cannot help it. Here and now, I want a sign that we had what we had and still have it. I don’t want the world to know, but I want to be reminded.

     Look at me!

     You walk past my seat and without a backward glance, you step into your ride and zoom off. I know we talked about it, but it shouldn’t be this easy to look over me. You shouldn’t be so skilled at blocking me out, especially because you couldn’t get enough of me some days ago.

     ‘You must go back to your hotel now. Everyone will be looking for you,’ I pried you from your safe space, but you refused to budge.

     ‘Let them. Any second that keeps me longer with you, I’ll take. Are you sure about this because I can cancel everything, and we’ll run away together? Are you sure?’ 

     You stared into my eyes and for a moment I considered the possibility of not seeing those deep brown eyes ever again. It took the message notification on your phone to plant my feet on solid ground again. 

     My Love. You saved her name as My Love.

     Babe, I feel anxious. You?

     ‘I’m sorry,’ you had said, but you didn’t have to be. 

     Olumo Rock never moved. I was the one wavering like the waters in a tempest. Although you weren’t happy, you never accused me of being selfish or wicked. Yes, sometimes you got on a plane somewhere, just to clear your head. Still, you never moved.

     You didn’t move three years ago, on the night you had proposed to me in Cape Town at a private, exquisite dinner you had gone above and beyond to plan. I know because the live band had performed my favourite Yoruba love songs even though you understood none of it. You had gone down on one knee and did the most unexpected. Well, I responded with the most unexpected, and that was the beginning of our third breakup. You had sent the band home and spent the night in silence. You didn’t say a word, but we slept on the same bed. 

     You know, our friends are wrong. We are not non-committals. I am, but you never told anyone because you never moved, my Olumo Rock. The tremors and earthquakes came, and you shook, but you stood firm for us.

     You zoomed off in your ride without looking at me. If you did, I didn’t see because people were piled up at the entrance waving at you and screaming well wishes; others yelled the filtered version of what we had done in the hotel. A tear slid down my eye because although I didn’t want to believe it, and we didn’t say it to each other, we knew Olumo Rock had moved. 

     Everyone is cheering for you and the lovely lady as you glide to the floor and waltz so effortlessly. I remember when we had our first waltz. You had crushed my toes in my heels with your boots because we were not dressed the part, which only added to the ridiculous glares we got from other couples in the hall. 

     We didn’t finish that lesson, instead, we found our way to a club nearby and did our thing. We hopped and bopped all night till our feet hurt, and not because we stepped on our toes. Now, you are gliding through the dance floor, holding on to her waist and whispering some sweet nothings I am sure I have heard before. I am clinging so hard to my glass of champagne because no one would ever tell me Champagne for my Champion. You are gliding through my side of the room, and I am hoping, once again, that you look at me. One harmless glance would not undo the decisions we have made.

     Look at me! I scream inside, but my lips are curled in a smile. My heart is screaming but I also don’t want you to look at me because it would take a miracle to peel me off your body when I lurch at you from my pathetic corner of the room. I would push her aside and cling on to you for dear life. I don’t care! She looks beautiful, doesn’t she? 

     ‘She is not as beautiful as you are Baby,’ you had said to me moments after you showed me her photo. You had said, ‘This is the woman I am going to get married to.’

     ‘Hmmn,’ I sighed.

     ‘She is not as beautiful as you are.’ As though you heard me ask the question, you defended your love for me once again without having to say a word.

     ‘She is very beautiful nonetheless,’ I said.

     The air was cold that night and silent. It was as though the clouds knew that plans were in motion to finally terminate our prolonged fling. We finished our drinks in silence because what could have been said, we had known for years. Our last hurrah at the hotel was our final act and scene to speak the known and we did that all night and day until it was the eve of your wedding.

‘Here, have this. I don’t want to lose you.’ You gave me a ticket to Santorini.

     ‘Your honeymoon?’  I asked because you had told me that she always wanted to have her honeymoon in Santorini.

     ‘Yes.’ Your eyes begged me to come. You pleaded for me to come with you to your honeymoon.

     ‘I’ll think about it,’ I said. I really did think about it. In my twenties I would have been repulsed at the mere thought of being a mistress. It was against my feminist stance, I presumed. But really, it was my religious side that informed my disgust. One man, one wife – no side-chicks or sugar daddies. But there I was, giving it more than a thought. I didn’t have to be your wife, but I could still have you in the many ways she could not because I held your heart, I thought.

     Finally, you look at me and you smile, but it’s pregnant. ‘You were longing for me,’ you said. ‘You wish you were holding me,’ you said. ‘You still love me,’ you said. ‘We can still run away,’ I think you said, but I am sure you said, ‘I will love you forever.’ I couldn’t tear my eyes away even though I could see her making her way to me, pulling you behind her.

     ‘Hello. Hi. I’m Teniola.’

     ‘Hi, I’m Simisola,’ I responded to your stunning wife.

     ‘You are friends with Segun, my husband, right? We met at the hotel reception some days ago, remember?’ Your wife tried to yell above the music and the cheers of everyone on the dance floor.

     ‘Yes, yes. We did. Congratulations to you and my friend, Teniola.’ I look at you for a second before hugging your wife. You reach for a hug, and we melt into each other. I forget your wife standing beside us, as you hold me, and I hold you on to you. At this moment, I remember the ticket to Santorini burning a hole in my bag. I thought about it, and I am still thinking.

     ‘You should join us on the dance floor.’ Your excited wife is almost squealing.

     ‘No. Not at all. I really have two left legs.’ One of our favourite songs is on, and I could not bear for your arms to stay on her waist as I danced to this song.

     ‘Common! Simi. Two left legs are not an excuse not to dance at my wedding.’ You grin because you will carve out time to hop and bop with me on the dance floor, leaving your wife to dance with your best man.

     I close the gap between us to whisper in your ear.

     ‘I can’t.’

     ‘Please,’ you say. 

     ‘I’m sorry,’ I say.



     Your wife draws you away from me and I let her. I just gave my Olumo Rock permission to move. She drags you to herself and whispers something into your ears. Your heads are thrown in laughter, and it is as though no one is in the room – just my Olumo Rock and his wife.


Priscilla Temitope Keshiro is Nigerian and the oldest child and daughter of the family, a daughter to a Preacher, and a niece to an Orthodox Uncle. Priscilla  graduated from Covenant University with a BSc in Policy and Strategic Studies, and Coventry University with an MSc in Disaster Management and Resilience. Following the completion of a Master's degree, ‘Dubem’, one of her short stories, was accepted for publication in the Commonwealth Writers journal, Adda. One of her short pieces, ‘Dusty Memories,’ was also published in Nigeria's online journal Mbari. 


Of the story featured here, Priscilla states:


‘I have loved and written stories since I was a child but I only started calling myself a Writer during the global silence the pandemic afforded and I have loved every moment of my growth as a Writer. Olumo Rock is predominantly the musings of a woman at the wedding of her former lover. It centres on love, longing, and a pinch of regret.’

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