You’re about to give up and go home when you see her. At first, you only notice a bright purple head coming in your general direction, then, as if by divine intervention, the path clears, and you see her in all her glory.

By the time Fumnaya gets to you, you have been waiting for 4 hours. Only a minute ago you were fuming, anger threatening to topple you, now, with Naya in front of you, all your anger disappears. You can only think of how beautiful she is, how her eyes sparkle. You barely hear her apology and excuse. You smile and say it’s okay. You were also late; you lie blatantly so she feels less bad.

You open your eyes when the sun rays hit you, groggy and annoyed. You are not a morning person. You look at your phone, it’s 6:50 am, you smile. No, you’re not happy to be awake this early, you’re happy because you’re finally going to see her.

You and Fumnaya met three months ago, on a dating app that does not allow users post or send images. She introduces herself as Naya, you think your app has glitched again and matched you with a white person. She laughs when you tell her this, says Naya is short for Fumnaya. You laugh along with her; your conversation is easy from then on.

On the third day of your nonstop texting, you tell her how you think the developers are dumb because you really want to see her face. You hope that she will ask to exchange numbers, or at least send you to her Instagram. She does neither. Instead, she says she agrees with the developers; people get too hung up on looks that they miss out on amazing people. She says “we all have our spec, and we close our minds and hearts to people who don’t fit into that criteria. What we don’t know is that there are so many people who can give us what we need in a partner but they’re not our physical spec, so we never get to experience them”. She then makes you agree to a no pictures rule. No pictures at all till you meet in person. You think it’s sketchy, but you agree anyway.

Two weeks into your friendship you’re ready to meet her, but the COVID-19 pandemic is still in its peak and there is a nationwide lockdown. So you wait, and you pray, and you wait some more. Your relationship moves from the dating app to iMessage, to FaceTime audio calls. You stay on the phone for hours, often late into the night. You would complain, but you don’t have anywhere to be in the morning anyway. You give in to the urge to video call her one day, she does not pick up. She doesn’t pick up your calls or respond to your texts for three days. You learn your lesson.

Those three days are the worst days of your life, you feel like your life is crashing. It has only been a month since you met but she has become such an integral part of your life that being without her feels like your oxygen supply has been cut off. When she finally texts back, you beg for forgiveness and ask her to promise to never do that again. “I make no promises” is all she says. You’re careful to remain on her good side.

A month passes and the restrictions on movement and restaurants are relaxed. You ask her to go on a date with you. It has now been two months of falling in love with a faceless person. She refuses. “The outside just opened up,” she says, “give it a few weeks.

A few weeks turns into a month, the exact day you met three months ago. You roll out of bed with a cheesy smile on your face, you’re finally going to meet the love of your life. You text her good morning and she responds immediately. “Excited for today💛” is all she says. Your date is for 10 but you start to prepare anyway. You never know with Lagos traffic, so you have to leave as early as possible. You’re meeting at the mall. The plan is to eat, play some games at the arcade, and eat some more. You would rather have a nice picnic and a walk, but Lagos isn’t known for its parks.

You picked your outfit a week ago. A Zara shirt you’ve barely worn, your favourite pair of jeans, and sneakers. You don’t want to do too much, but you also don’t want to be underdressed. You think you found a sweet spot.

As you predicted, there’s traffic on the way to the mall, but you’re still an hour early so you sit around and wait. At first, you’re sitting on one of the benches, most stores aren’t open so there’s nothing else to do. You text her to ask where she is. She says she’ll leave soon and be there in a “jiffy”. She is the only person you know who still says jiffy. An hour passes and she’s still about to leave. Something came up, her mum. You keep waiting. Hunger knocks at your door, so you go to the food court.

Two hours. You begin to wonder if you’ve been ghosted. She’s not responding to your texts or picking up your calls. What if she’s had an accident? Or been kidnapped?

Three hours. Your worry turns to anger. She could have at least texted to let you know she couldn’t make it instead of ignoring you. You’re filled with rage, but you keep waiting.

Four hours. And then you see her. She was right when she said you wouldn’t miss the purple hair. She is everything you imagined and more. You want to kiss her on the spot. Profess your undying love. Ask her to marry you. But you’re two women in a mall, and this is Nigeria.

Student of law, writer.