A margarita is your joker. It is what you order when the drinks menu is too creative for your liking, the list containing bewildering to ridiculous names for drinks and cocktails you know by other names. You don’t understand why a bar would want to confuse people; you have stopped vituperating about it because your friends give you that stop-being-an-activist-about-everything look, a look that says, chill man, all we want is some booze and light conversation. ‘Besides,’ Adamma told you once in a bar on Ademola Adetokumbo Way, ‘the names are quite sexy’. You almost launched into an argument about how we like complicating simple matters and how the problems of Nigeria are really straightforward if we just think of it, but she gave you that look and you realized you would be the one complicating a simple drink. You just closed the menu and asked if they had a margarita.
Sometimes you wonder if you aren’t becoming like a mango that has stayed too long in the fruit basket- soft and without character. You wonder if the people in your parents’ generation you often criticize weren’t once like you would like to be thought of now- resolute in the determination not to take less than what is proper; if Nigeria didn’t act upon them like a big wooden bat used to soften meat, if they just stopped trying to complicate things and went with the flow, just like you are now going with the tide and drinking only margaritas.
Some sort of reluctant margarita connoisseur is what this has made you. You know to order anything but a margarita in the bar downstairs at the Hilton since they served you something tasted more like an insult than a margarita. Now you have grades. C+ for Hootas Bar and Grill and A- for the bar on the third floor of Silverbird Galleria- you don’t give them an A+ because sometimes, it gets hot inside.
You argue today with Tony at Hootas about your mutual friend whose father is a Senator and long serving politician- part of the sick system of filthy politics; your friend who always talks about the problem with Nigeria. It sometimes irritates you when he intelligently does the liberal activist our-problem-is-not-corruption tumble. And it annoys you more that Tony agrees. Tonight you feel you are too tired to explain your point and answer those really difficult questions like, What do you want him to do? Renounce his father? Say his father is corrupt and part of Nigeria’s problem? Move out of the nice house in Apo Legislative Quarters and take a revolutionary vow of poverty? Tonight you just want to have a margarita, especially after just watching the nerve-fraying Olympus Has Fallen in the cold cinema. You concede that being the child of a less-than-exemplary politician is a difficult position to be in.
The bar tender walks over to your table and bends over to ask if Tony likes his drink, with a look at once kindly and stupefied. The stupefied look transfers to your face when the bar tender walks away without even looking at you. Often you forget that Tony is white. Today you feel like the people who take photos with celebrities wearing an eternally-grateful smile and end up being ‘and fan’ or ‘and friend’ when the photos make it to the tabloids or papers You turn to Tony and he is already wincing in preparation for your usual righteous vituperation.
As you leave the outdoor bar, Tony wonders why you didn’t say anything. ‘Or should I have said something?’ he asks, apologetic. You smile the half-smile you wear when you are trying to hide your irritation. Tony knows that smile. ‘Nah,’ you say, ‘sometimes one just gets tired of fighting all the time.’
It shocks you when you say it. It leaves a rotten taste in your mouth. You feel a sudden trepidation, along with that irritated soft-mango feeling. You breathe. And downgrade Hootas to a D-. In your head.