Mimi kissed my forehead in that her legendary manner and whispered, ‘You should have seen it coming. You know them by the kind of beer they drink’ and I went boisterous with laughter. It was only Mimi who could make me laugh with a broken heart. Only Mimi who could mention wine and beer and pain in one sentence and still make it sound like jollof rice and chicken. But she was right. Mimi, whose boyfriend was a sucker for a special brand of beer, had dated her for four years, taken her on six vacations all around the world, and had finally put a ring on it. But what do I get? Nine years together and a despicable breakup over four eggs!
‘You need to move on,’ Mimi said, wiping the tears that had returned to my face like raindrops on a sunny day. ‘But how could he?’ I asked Mimi, my best friend of eight years. ‘Or maybe he was drunk when he said that, Mimi. It must be my fault,’ I said, shocked at my words. An insect crawled up my skin and stung my thigh as though it wanted me to feel the pain of my own stupidity. I winced and Mimi shooed the insect off with her hat. The sun was slowly fading away and the beach was getting rowdy.
‘I can’t believe you, Tara! That man drank only a glass of that silly brown goat piss and broke up with you because you wanted to eat four eggs at once and you’re here defending him?!’
The sun had now returned, shining directly at us; bearing witness to my foolishness. I dusted my hat and placed it on my head. ‘You don’t have to put it that way, Mimi,’ I said, crossing my hands. Mimi sighed and held me, ‘Listen, girl, our friendship matters so much to me. You’re a gorgeous bundle of gloriousness and I don’t want you sharing that with men who don’t do quality drink.’
‘But is it really in the beer?’
‘Tara, what does your ex drink again?’
‘What does Eniola’s ex drink?’
I scratched my head, trying to hide cognizance of what she was implying. John – Eniola’s ex-husband, Segun and in fact, all Segun’s friends who shared bottles of Losta Beer with him every other weekend had terrible relationships.
‘What does he drink o?’ Tara’s voice rang through my brain, but I remained quiet.
‘Okay, what does Femi drink?’ Sitting there and questioning me, her right arm on her waist, I remembered the first time she introduced me to Femi, her fiancé. His face wore a huge smile, like one who has had a great rest and the label on the bottle of his drink, “33” Export Lager Beer, matched the wristwatch he had on. I had seen that drink several times on TV, at wedding anniversary dinners and engagement parties, but never at Segun’s.
I sighed. ‘Femi drinks “33” Export Lager Beer.’
But Tara wasn’t done. ‘Do you remember that night we went for Amara’s baby shower? Her first daughter was almost walking into the pool. While everyone danced, someone saved her. What was in his hand at that moment?’
I remembered the night vividly and the speed with which the man gulped down the last content of his bottle, dropped it and veered right off to the corner of the pool, saving the child.
‘“33” Export Lager Beer,’ I said, my voice sad and shaky.
Tara hugged me and let me remain in her embrace. ‘You don’t have to cry, Mimi. Nine years is a long time to be with an asshole. But forever is even longer.’
I was wailing by now, but she continued. ‘You made a mistake and that’s okay. Now you know better. The first time I met Femi, I knew I had found my soulmate from the way he smiled and held that bottle of “33” Export Lager Beer, the way he carried it to his mouth, his lips curling round the…’
‘That’s enough, Tara. You don’t have to paint the whole picture,’ I said, prying myself out of her embrace. ‘But girl, you know this is the truth. Have you ever wondered why we call each other “33”? That drink works wonders in our lives. All we need to get back after a heated argument is Femi sipping a glass of “33” Export Lager Beer and boom, he’s apologising and we are making love!’
I sneered at her and shook my head, ‘Babe, enough of this your “33” Export Lager Beer story. I just want to move on.’ She laughed and pulled me up. ‘Relationships survive when they have a strong foundation. Don’t build your love story on a goat piss drink, girl, when you can build it on a refreshing bottle of “33” Export Lager Beer.’ Her hands formed the shape of a bottle as she spoke.
‘Are you suggesting I date a bottle of beer or what?’
‘Well, that’s better than some man I know. Okay, seriously, Femi has this friend who is single, maybe he can be your “33”.’ She winked, slapped my butt and ran off. I chased her, laughing and thinking about the possibility of a brighter future, of another day at the beach – a beer in hand and my own “33” exporting my body to a happier place, larger than my fears.
Jennifer Chinenye Emelife is a writer, teacher and Lead Correspondent at Praxis Magazine.