My boyfriend, last of his mother’s six children, fourteenth of his father’s nineteen, bought his mother a house. So, we drove amped on psychedelics and youth, in a seven-car convoy to a club to celebrate.
The song of our convoy’s sirens cut through the muggy night and mingled with the random bursts from the guns of his boys. As we watched people scramble, terrified by the goings-on, an indulgent smile lingered around my boyfriend’s mouth; a gently helpless shrug of his lips, which seemed to say: I’m humble, they’re the crazed lot.
Wads of money was tossed at the crowd that swarmed our entourage, trying to catch a glimpse of the revered billionaire, a frail, skinny boy with a limp. Behind velvet ropes his boys poured drinks all over their watches and phones, washing them with drinks from gilded caskets.
It was a big thing to buy your Mama a house, an achievement that was more about them and their hip-hop dreams than their Mama. I perched in my place at his side in an outfit that exposed enough to hold his reputation steady. It was the way of the night to declare yourself belonging or any son of a bitch would shoot you in the back or stumble by with beer breath and drag you down a street to a toilet, a hotel, or a bedroom. Fights broke out regularly over territories; bodies and turfs.
“More money, less problems”, he toasted, and cheers erupted. He liked his shots; I drank my wine and got drunk enough to want to fuck him. The manager knew to put everything on his tab. He’d call around midday the next day and be received with a flurry of insults for having the audacity to assume he wouldn’t pay without a prompt.
In the house he bought me in Eden–an estate–he reminisced about the first time he’d met me; he had felt so nervous he drugged me and had sex with me; he liked to call it our love story. I smiled and stroked his hair. He kissed me on the mouth then stumbled kisses along my neck, before he skimmed over my nipples like a man forced into foreplay. The wine always wore off before this was over, but he ejaculated quickly enough to make it bearable. I could have broken up with him, but I was lonely; when we were alone, he said things that would keep a woman around. I had the nights to myself; I thought about masturbating but was too depressed. I watched the news over the insistent noise of the generator. The way things were looking, we still had three to six years to party, two to four for me to get out of here.
The only airport in our dingy town was a small domestic airport that stood in the forest, twenty minutes out of town. Trees lined the unpainted fence that led you in and out. The parking lot that encroached the entrance of the building was so small we had to be strategic about pick-ups and drop-offs.
My best friend who just descended from the second flight of her journey home from Dubai was a beautiful woman, her body spread and curved, taking up space and screaming its own announcement as she moved. Her face had that sort of childlike innocence that made clients empty their pockets into her bag.
“Biker shorts and a bodysuit?”
“‘Keeps me fed”, she laughed.
“I missed you Ashawo.”
“I missed you too, Writer.”
Her head rested on my lap as she talked about desire and the body as a tool.
“Some people live in an actual fairytale, a lie built on the backs of others.”
She was exhausted. The years hung around her neck, beneath her eyes, held up her lashes, lined her lips, arched her back; it took a while to undress when men dressed you. I stroked her hair gently, trying to soothe her as we drove to her Magdalene, a sultry, quiet apartment, designed to seduce and keep her locked in.
“You have to do what has to be done because we no fit die here. When Eve say ‘god, god’, e no answer, she chop apple.”
We settled in with wine and chocolates to watch cheetahs hunt.
“Where is your boyfriend?”
“May God keep us.”
“Break up with your boyfriend and date her husband.”
Once we’d arrived, she plied me with pills and powders, promising me the best euphoria I had ever experienced, hearing a saxophone playing through the heavy sound of oil tankers lumbering across bumps on the road, I knew it had begun. Childhood memories of my mother’s proud sweet voice flooded in. I was safe in a forest, singing with the birds around me.
Morning saw us going to pay our tithes. We sat solemnly in the office of The Pastor who was also her father, buoyed by Dream; pills we took to stay awake. He was happy to see the two big girls that hadn’t forgotten their humble beginnings. The envelopes were respectfully dropped on the edge of his desk as he updated us about the happenings of the church and outside, peppering his narration with anecdotes of the days of our burning zeal in the church.
“David just dey aim na Papa God dey kill Goliath.” He told us as he asked us to kneel for prayers.
At Mallam Jaru’s flat in the heart of town, we dropped more envelopes in a chalk-drawn square and stripped naked for the rituals. We stepped into a basin of blood, and he made three shallow incisions on the backs of our thighs, singing and muttering incantations to draw out negative spirits we may have gotten during sex.
“Who is pregnant here?”
I had heard nothing about this pregnancy. He washed from her stomach to her feet with lime water then gave us halves of a groundnut to eat, before rubbing salt behind our ears, between our toes, our palms and on our chests. We washed in the river that ran behind his temple; reminding the gods of our existence and asking for their favor. Returning to the temple, we drank a bitter concoction of blended leaves and readied to leave. Our phones were beeping as we drove off to her doctor’s.
We were leaving the doctor’s with her no longer pregnant when my boyfriend called to tell me of the fish that ate it’s body but left its head during starvation; he was that fish.
“How are you?”
“I’m fine. You?”
“I’m fine. I miss you.”
“You have no idea.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
We couldn’t tell if the fish story had been a threat or just random information.
In the kitchen of one of our girlfriends, we sat as she shuffled around readying to bake, her belly big enough to tumble her over.
“Are you having twins?”
“You’re going to push that out of your vagina?”
“No man is worth it.” She liked to poke at her.
“It’s not about the man.”
“Hell it’s not.”
“You know I love kids.”
“More than your own life, yes, but nobody does anything for themselves that will kill them. it’s always for someone else, even if that someone is a greater self. ”
“what the fuck? Just call her a whore and be done with it. No need for all that haiku wisdom here.”
“I’m not a whore.”
“Yeah, you’re a wife.”
She was a Kalahari housewife. She was poised and enjoyed only the finest of pleasures, catering only to her husband. Her marriage contract contained a love and business clause that did not permit infidelity, emotionally or financially. Her husband’s ex-mistress had paid a fine and spent a year in jail. Her crime: heart break and distraction. Her husband had bought gifts and provided for the mistress financially and had to pay back the money used for these expenses. Our friend whose skin had been brown hued, was now a bronzed yellow. She spoke eight languages and ran a foundation sponsoring the education of impoverished orphans.
Once when I was drunk and sad, I said people like her used the poor to dab their tears. She cried at my words while her husband laughed. My boyfriend slapped me for being insensitive and left, leaving me stranded. That night, her husband and I had sex in his car.
“Where’s your husband?” My best friend asked, picking through a box of chocolates.
“I don’t know, somewhere abroad.”
“Why didn’t he take you?”
“I hope you’ll be present for the filming of my home birth.” She rubbed her stretched abdomen. “This is such a spiritual event for me.”
“Sure.Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
We knew we were not invited; no dates had been given.
“Please, try to look nice.”
“Break up with your boyfriend and marry her husband,” she said as we drove away.
“That was just spite.”
“It was. She makes me so sad”
“I don’t know.”
We drove past a billboard advertising cheap migration to Canada as Handkerchief blared through the speakers:
“Boys don vex with god, but he’s been waiting for it (waiting for it)
Post image by Emilee Seymour via Flickr
Sharon Rose is a teacher, an art enthusiast, and writer. She was born and raised in Lokoja, Nigeria. She has worked as a photographer, a teacher, scriptwriter and director. She loves to travel and garden