Stay

It’s been a year since you moved back home from the electrifying fullness of New York. You hated that city, so full of people, so lonely, a year since you last cried in a filthy subway. Metro cards to distant places filled with light, music and madness, full of empty.

You wanted to hear your name in a way you could understand.

That’s why you came back

Why you wanted back in your own madness

Abuja with loneliness, yes, but not enough to swallow you, familiar in a way you could navigate.

You went back to your old office and nights at strange bars, bars still filled people who seemed to be in exclusive groups whispering secrets you had to live without.

Then the bar where you met Dapo.

Dapo with a limp, Dapo who drove new cars to Cotonou every other weekend and was a life assurance marketer by day.

Who started the conversation in the bathroom?

The bathroom at a new bar lined with little figurines, Dapo on the corridor, you at the sink. You both look in the mirror. He doesn’t look at his reflection but at yours, you smile emboldened by vodka.

He smiles back and moves closer, there’s a pin in your hair, then your back on his wall, your hands on his back. He’s kissing the nape of your neck in his badly lit room, it’s easy to forget with him, taking off your bra, his hands feel good everywhere. Large hands, his finger in your hair, his fingers in you, Dapo whose name you just learned in between your legs taking quick shallow breaths.

You do not want to sleep over, you pick up your dress feeling a little raw. His room is littered with half-drunk bottles of water.

He begs you to stay.

You refuse but lie in his bed anyway, you notice scars on his hips, the bed is large enough so you don’t touch each other, and you wished he wanted to hold you.

It’s 6:30am when you leave, you didn’t get much sleep, spent most of the night staring at the paint chipping on the wall and counting his breath.

Dapo calls a cab and doesn’t say goodbye, he doesn’t make any plans to see next time, doesn’t promise to call, it’s awkward, you wish he hugged you or said something. Human contact. You held his hands, he didn’t even look and you got in the cab.

Dapo shows up in your tiny flat 2 weeks later, he has alcohol and apologies.

You tell him you understand and let him in. You get two glasses and he tells you about his trip from Cotonou last week, smuggling new cars into the country, something he did for the money, he narrates with an air of pride how he drove with the lights off at night to evade the customs police. You tell him it’s dangerous, he replies that that was obvious.

You ask about his limp, he tells you about his surgery, tells you that his bones were rotting from the insides, and tells you that his red blood cells are ill shaped, you get him water.

You tell him that alcohol dries up his insides. He laughs, just like the day you met and says that too is obvious.

You ask if he’s afraid. He doesn’t answer. He tells you he’s lost two brothers. You assume he isn’t

When he rams into you on your living room couch, you try to hold your breath, try not to ask what the fuck you’re doing. You have your hands around his neck even though you know he isn’t something to hold on to.

You ask him to stay after

He doesn’t.

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