Ronke (Part 2 of 2)

I took a bus to the island and tseexted Mr. Falade from a small supermarket off Idejo

“Please I need your help sir”

His texts had become erratic and less frequent, from meeting every night to just weekends.

Perhaps another clue for me, maybe he had found someone more satisfying.

There was no reply after an hour.

I debated returning to mother, I imagined her going through the compound screaming “Ronke!”

Maybe she wouldn’t notice today. I wondered if her eyes would swell with tears when she found my empty wardrobe or if she’d say a prayer and move on.

The sun was setting accompanied by panic. I started walking home, walking slowly, what was I thinking going this far. I thought of mother gloating loudly in my ears, screaming her testimony about how God arrested me found a cheap hotel halfway home.

The receptionist eyed me and my belongings suspiciously but decided to slip me his number whispering “In case your body cold for night”

The next day Mr. Falade texted where to meet him as usual, my prior text unacknowledged.

He didn’t acknowledge the text in person either, demanding I turn my face away this time. He barely ever looked at me. As he thumped into me from behind I kept my eyes fixed on the red curtain, it didn’t hurt anymore. I felt myself in the room, then far away. I wanted a way out, all my life I just wanted to escape. When he finished, I began speaking still looking at the curtain.

“Sir please I don’t have anywhere to go from here. Please help me”

Silence

Tears filled my eyes, how did I get here? To this red curtained room and then he spoke, not hiding the irritation in his voice

“How old are you?”

“16”

“What do you think I can do for you? Don’t I already pay you?”

He was right

“I just thought…” I trailed off… I didn’t think

“I can give you somewhere to stay. In Ikorodu, one of my businesses, you’d work for your rent and we won’t have this arrangement anymore. You’d deal with my manager”

I agreed with silence the way we always had.

That was how I met my first family, Oga Salim who was like a father, making sure we got paid in full. Chioma in the opposite room who taught me to count my money before sex. Lade gave me a pocket knife. Cynthia borrowed me her shoes on my first night out.

I didn’t see Mr. Falade anymore but once in a while Mr. Salim would give me envelopes with cash from him. No notes attached, the silence that assured me he hadn’t changed.

Akin was my real promotion, randy as they come. Years later he picked me from the roadside, slipping his hands into my skirt as soon as I got in his car. He was a real bastard

He liked to talk about power and how he owned it, snorting drugs off my stomach after I undressed. The world was divided into hunters and meat for him and I was just another bush rat, some days brought ropes and whips, binding me before fulfilling his appetite. He was an insatiable man.

I tried to stop him, begged, begged Oga Salim who screamed that I was ungrateful.

Lade dabbed my bruises and handed me a gun one night, shouting in pidgin

“Ronke! Off that bastard!”

The last night Akin hunted meat was in his own bedroom, he was demonstrating how he was going to choke me with his belt, the white powdery drug around his nostrils. I sat in the middle of his bed, clutching my bag, my hand on a gun I had never fired. I was shivering.

He must have noticed my fear, I remember his cackling laughter

“Don’t worry the belt will only make it more enjoyable. You’re a common ashawo, this is the only thing you’re good for”

I aimed straight at his head.

I can still remember the panic in his eyes as I pulled the trigger.

Oga Salim visited my room not long after handing me two hundred thousand naira

“We were paid good money for Akin. Tomorrow you’d meet Charles Ekeh.”

Ronke (Part 1)

People obsess over things like justice or morality. I don’t have that luxury. What is right has always been about survival. So many fools try to sugar coat it, try to make us think there’s more, but in the end it is what it is.
I started this job maybe 5 years ago, it was an accidental employment. Maybe not that accidental; my father used to say a liar is also a thief. My point is that some professions are separated by blurred lines.

Akin liked to grope at my butt even when I wasn’t on duty. I mean it, the bastard would take trips to Ikorodu when he needed his fix. The motherfucker didn’t even pay much for the long sweaty nights he spent on top of me, his hands around my neck as he shook violently. I’d learned to stay put just as he liked. He was a bastard and I’d put a hole in him again if I have to.

Mother says bad things happen to wayward women. After my WAEC examination as if to help me cast my doubts the many E8s assured me I had peaked in education. I never had the head for school. My mother always prayed to God for first positions, I sometimes wonder why she didn’t pray for average. The excesses in her requests, for riches instead of food on the table, for dead enemies instead of apologies. It’s useless thinking about that now.
I have always followed my mother to the market for as long as I can remember, we own a big umbrella, a plastic chair and stool. It was my job to go about beckoning women to come fix their hair, which went full time after WAEC.
“Aunty please come, I fit braid well”
I stared at all the “aunties” passing by, trying their best not to meet my eyes as they ignored me. The haughtiness on their faces reminded me of how insignificant I must be to their worlds, no one remembers the market girl hungry for work.
It was in that same market I met Mr. Falade, it was already time for the market to close and I was going to return the bottle for coke I bought from Iyabeji. He was seating in his benz and honked as I passed by. I knew better than to answer so I kept walking till he stuck his head out and shouted
“You with the bottle please come”
I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t used to hearing please or maybe he looked like he had the type of money I could only dream of, either way I went to meet him. He asked for my name and where I was going, he spoke in a thick Yoruba accent, not pronouncing the H’s and switching between Yoruba and English. I knew what he wanted the way he looked at me, like he could see through my clothes, then straight in the eyes like it didn’t matter what I thought anyway.
I got into his car the same day, lucky mother wasn’t in the market. He took me home and made me wash in his bathroom before shoving his fat penis in my mouth. That was our formal agreement. No words and I left with thirty thousand naira afterwards.
I went home and tied the money in an old under pant. Tucking it in my wardrobe as mother brought down God’s wrath on me for coming home so late.
“USELESS GIRL. YOU WANT TO BECOME AN ASAHWO IN THIS HOUSE!”

I continued to make hair at the market then see Mr. Falade afterwards, each day he did something different, some days he just wanted me to touch myself as he watched, other days he would pound me senseless from my butt.
He didn’t talk much so after a while I started working out by myself what it all meant.
The large family portrait meant, he was happily married with two sons.
The fact that he was fucking me in his house meant that his family was abroad. I know some rich men do that.
After a while he got me a nokia phone and would text me the address of where to meet him; Maybe his wife was back visiting.

I began to stay out later and mother got restless, she began to hit me again, slapping sense into me. I didn’t mind all the beatings until she began looking through my things, then the time she found 50 thousand naira in my wardrobe and gave it to the church.

That was the last straw for me. I couldn’t stand this woman, I didn’t care she was my mother, we didn’t agree much on anything. Without really thinking it through, I packed a small bag and walked out on a Sunday morning.

Maybe Mr. Falade will help me, maybe not.

I had my dreams and I refused be contained…

Stench

Bola discovered early that death was a shameful thing, and not just because the day after Biodun died, mother came home and threw out her belongings, it was mostly the prayers, the endless rejections of being cut off from respiration. Biodun was just another instrument God had created. Mother fainted in the same hospital, her knees buckling as they wheeled Biodun’s cold body past. The next morning Mother ripped off her IV line and headed home, red eyes swollen shut but she’d be damned if she did not accept the will of the almighty.

Comforters came in flocks, many pastors too but that was a long time ago.

Bola witnessed many more deaths, learned to smell it on the living, it was her curse, and she could tell when one was called by the inevitable.

It started with the neighbor, Mama Pelumi who wore expensive lace and fortified her marriage with tithes, the pastors saw the young witch who wanted to break her home but did not foresee the heart attack; maybe it wasn’t what they were looking for. But Bola heard it when she spoke, the resignation she tried to cover in prayers, the misplaced restlessness, the stench.

There was also the boy in class who always carried extra bottles of water, he had a loud voice and played ball as much as he could often missing classes. Bola imagined he knew he was going too, maybe he also recognized the stench in his sweat.

Bola tried to dismiss them as coincidences at first, then she told her mum who bathed her in oil and brought down fire from heaven.

“Don’t say such things! Only God knows our end”

Then she tried to live with the stench but ended up living despite it. How could one learn to live as death’s gossip buddy? It wasn’t specific, she couldn’t tell exactly when or how they would die. A useless talent, she couldn’t warn anyone. She once told a boy from the other school, Dozie, who ran the 100metres on inter-house sports to “Stay Safe” and he threw back his head and laughed.

Years passed by, sometimes the stench went away, returning briefly, from the woman with the engagement ring at the cinema, from the bus conductor ilupeju, who she slipped five hundred naira before walking away.

Ninety Eight

I did not deserve you.

I was a coward. I didn’t give you any explanations because I couldn’t face the truth. I couldn’t face that I had betrayed you. That I was such a disappointment. I was so ashamed. I had no excuse for leaving like that, I failed you.

I got married in 2004. Her name is Elizabeth, I don’t think she’s happy, she treats me as one would regard a houseguest, formal but polite. Perhaps I’ve failed her too.

I remember what early 98’ felt like, and I realize that being with you is the only time I ever felt alive. I often remember when you started teaching History at the government school, when I stayed home most of the day filling out applications, the evenings we laid naked in bed for the heat. The memories still create a dull ache in my chest. I long for every moment we had, even the not so good ones when you complained about the school for hours. How you hated when the principal called you a liberal extremist. I’d give anything to hear you complaining while I held your hand one more time.

I’m sorry I left like that, I thought of you often, I still think of you. How you saw me as much more than I was or ever would be. I could not bear watching your dark eyes fill with disappointment. I’ve not been able to forget the days we spent under the birch tree. The first time your lips touched mine, the confusion, and the denial. The realization that we craved the forbidden. I long for the past.

Life has taught me a lot of things but I can’t get over the regret, the feeling of going on so long without what I truly wanted. I must sound ridiculous hurting for 16 years ago. This isn’t the first time I’ve written to you, there have been hundreds of letters, written and destroyed. Perhaps I would destroy this too.

I wonder why you never got married, if you ever had another lover. I wonder if you still think of me.

I’d give anything to get you back but I know that isn’t fair to you. I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to stand up for what I wanted. What we wanted.

I wonder how things turned out for you. You were always the bigger man. I once came across a paper you wrote on Abacha’s foreign policy on the internet and I remembered the day you took to the streets celebrating his death. Sometimes I think the universe is chuckling at his own brilliance.

I’m not asking that we pick up from where the past but…I’ve been unhappy for a long time

I don’t know how to explain that the worries of yesterday pale in comparison and I can’t help thinking “What if?” I’m constantly haunted by the things I wanted most and ignored.

You may think me crazy but please I’d love to hear from you.

Maybe one day you could forgive me.

Your Old Friend,

Dapo.