Two Significant Figures by Bunmi Oke


I always wondered why she had issues with the arithmetic. It just didn’t suit her. Maybe, she was too good at her teaching career to tolerate any inaccurate application to real life. She taught maths.

“Like how’d the Vicar say after joining, ‘The two are become one?’ If the two are one, then they are one, not two, innit?”

I would nod.

“So why’d he still say during sermon, ‘A couple came for counselling and both of them…’ See? Isn’t ‘a couple’ more like saying 1, 2?”

I would nod again.

“So we could well go 3, 4… since we’re counting partners now. Mschew.” “Nonsense marrymatics,” she’d say.

Father was a fictitious figure. Not around, never had been. I wouldn’t know when or how he left (the scene), but she always said, “He’s dead.” I’m sure I once caught a lower-volume, …to me., somewhere. Did she mean dead to this world, or just her world? Whatever, she never really told, but I could tell he didn’t do right by her. It is just no use being hooked to another person. At dinner she would ask me, “Vicky, how did you think this fish ended up dead and on our plates?” I would give her the premeditated response: “It did so…,” while she joined mid sentence, “…by getting hooked.”

Saturdays are for welding ceremonies, as she called them, where fake alliances are forged for an impossible length of time: Forever, and where a man in robes officiates the summation of standalone problems, and multiplication of mutual baggage. One time, the ‘Just Wedded’ sticker on a couple’s car lost its adhesion and dropped, she went, “We’ve not yet left the reception venue, things are collapsing.” She downed more wine, her guffaw rippling through the air, coalescing with that of other attendees laughing for a different cause.

“Flirtations don’t leave you clean,” she once admitted. “Flings leave certain recurrent decimals. The best is doing your maths and approximate to no-more-than-a-couple-serious-men a time. A manageable two significant figures. Why d’you think God gave two breasts, two arms, two alluring laps and, er, two openings down there?”

I would cringe at the visual possibilities of her insinuations. Aren’t certain imageries off-limits, mother to daughter?

So when, twelve years later, I receive a call that her STIs are back and more brutal, I wonder why she would attempt to mop up all the vitriol she had infused me with. Despite her wasting frame, she sounds all preachy and advocates true love and faithful relationships. Convincing speech quite alright, but if only she knew wise words won’t fix me, routine abortions, a wasted womb, and one incurable virus later. But I swallow those details away, and mask them with tears, holding my handbag closer to conceal my anti retro-viral pills.

Our mutual secrets aside, we are the only significant figures in each other’s lives. It’s all that matters now.

Bunmi OkeBunmi Oke scribbles flawless, norm-bending, and record-shattering stories, er, in his head. Every once in a while, those scribbles truly coalesce into cohesive stories. His tales are strewn over daily WhatsApp statuses (It’s a platform, believe me.), TNC Stories app, AFREADA, African Writer, Boston Literary Magazine, 81words, Drablr, 101 words,, and someplace else he can’t recall. He writes from Nigeria and tweets at @bunmi_oke.

Creative works (literature, art and culture) emerging from Nigeria.

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