It was said that she brought with her love, sensuality, and fertility. Like others, she’s incarnated through the beings she believes are worthy of her luminescence.
The brown waters flowed peacefully, gently bowing to the rhythm of the breeze, both entwining in a soulful dance as if completely lost to the jivey beats of Gangan and the hypnotic thump of the Omele Bata. The letter written by Efun flowed on the waters, dry, moving with each wave, protected from the wetness of the abundant water.
A piercing voice.
Pain sears through my body, yanking me off from the weirdly comforting feeling the dream offers me.
“Get the hell up!”
And tosses me right into the cold arms of my insufferable husband.
I sit up, jarred by Segun’s voice, my heart thumping in fear. Beads of sweat have broken out on my brows, terror surges through me like high voltage, and my mouth runs dry from trepidation.
“We have a trip to make, abeg. And I don’t intend to be on the road to Osogbo by noon. The earlier we leave Lagos, the better. Remember, this whole journey was your idea, not mine. So, let’s get it over with.”
Electricity is yet to be restored. We haven’t had power in about a week. We live on the outskirts of Lagos, somewhere around Lakowe. It’s closer to all the beaches than it is to the mainland. I work in a media company in Victoria Island, and too many nights have seen me in heavy traffic, my body aching from sitting long hours in buses under terrible conditions. So, if anything, I am fatigued. And last night, I barely got enough sleep.
Last night, it rained heavily, and my umbrella that had holes didn’t help much.
Our bus broke down about forty-five minutes’ drive from my bus stop, and our bus conductor told us to be happy that he at least found a bus that carries poultry to carry us to our stops. “If na other conductor, you go walk reash your house,” he yelled before hopping into the bus. “Madam, dis your umbrella no cover your yansh, o!” he said to me, poking his head out of the terrible-looking vehicle. “Your butt would be wet by the time you get home,” he added in Yoruba. I couldn’t get on the poultry bus. A pregnant woman would have had to stay in the rain, and even though I don’t know what it feels like to be pregnant – Lord knows I have tried – I know what it feels like to be beaten by heavy rain. So, I let her have the space, and I waited.
A sleek black car pulled up a few minutes later. The glass was tinted, and the car looked expensive. I didn’t have a head for cars. That was Segun’s turf. From where I stood, I could tell a few things – the driver of the car looked clean, he smelled nice, and beneath the starless skies, looked as if he had no pores. It was the type of men my influencer kid sister hung around. I said no to his silent offer. He lingered but drove off after a few minutes of waiting.
I couldn’t help but hear the jazz music as his expensive car sped off.
I would have asked Segun what car it was. It was as dashing as the driver, but I didn’t. Segun had the ability to identify luxurious cars, but he also had the ability to suck all the positive energy between us these days.
In the early days when I believed that he loved me, we sat on the stairs outside my grandmother’s home in Osogbo, starry eyes locked as we gazed at each other underneath the dark skies, lips uttering the sort of silliness that came with young love.
We were seventeen. And we had nothing in common except for our continued inability to pass JAMB. Segun loved Tupac, DMX, and Jay Z. I couldn’t resist a KWAM 1 beat, and my body swayed when my ears picked the faintest sound of an Ayefele song. He called me local, I called him London-used Americana.
I picked an interest in American Hip-Hop, he never tried to like fuji or juju music.
Even when my taste got a bit diverse and I developed an appetite for jazz, he never really cared for it. He only liked what he liked. He’d talk about our life when we came to Lagos or maybe Ibadan. He’d talk about the fancy cars that we would drive and the luxury that we’d be able to afford.
We made it to Lagos, not Ibadan. I got a bank opportunity while Segun got a teaching job. Segun’s parents told us that we got our opportunities mixed up. A woman should earn less than her husband. Segun and I agreed and swapped destinies. And that is the thing with Segun and me, I always feel as though our destinies are swapped. Our happily ever after was supposed to come with babies, but it didn’t. It still hasn’t. Ten years after our wedding and we still can’t conceive. I desperately want babies. I need a distraction from a life that held so much promise but now falls like a pack of cards. And so, this weekend is supposed to change everything.
“Have you boiled my water?” Segun asks when I step inside the tiny bathroom we share.
I brought everything to Segun. His meal, his socks, his comb, my vagina. On days when he is in a sour mood, he ignores me and refuses my meals. But our pastor says he’ll come around. And even though my faith is waning, I still believe that he would.
We find a keke that takes us to the nearest park. Segun grumbles and complains that it’s my fault that we got there late. I don’t speak. The last time I spoke, he threatened to slap me. I don’t think I could ever recover if he strikes me, so I just let him hurl the words these days while I remain quiet.
I sleep through most of our journey, and for once, I am grateful that we are sandwiched between strangers as we ride to Osogbo. It allows me time and space to think about the mess that is our life together.
Our finances have taken a hit, we’re heavily buried in debt, and our marriage has no children to show for it. My aunt, an Iya Olosun, asked us to come home to Osogbo for some rites that she is convinced will fix our problems. She asked us six months ago. I pleaded every day for Segun to come with me. I made the trip alone two months ago, but he refused to follow. My aunt assured me that I will return with my true love. The man whose heart is in sync with mine. She says only then will both our paths be open, and the heavens will smile on us. It was the only consolation I had for months.
I catch up on my sleep shortly before we reach Gbongan. A short while later, I am awakened by the familiar noise that surrounds garages in Nigeria. At the bus park in Osogbo, Segun’s teenage cousin, Goke, excitedly waits for us. He rushes to my side and hugs me. He smells of vegetable sauce, and my stomach yearns for a good meal of hot amala or solid eko to go with a steamy bowl of ewedu or vegetable soup.
“Adegoke,” I call, pinching his cheek as I did when he was a kid. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, o,” he giggles, grabbing my things.
He tends to keep a distance from Segun. Segun only tolerates his mother, whom he says slaved and toiled for him his entire life. She’s the only one he listens to. Her presence is so heavy in my marriage that sometimes she feels like an Iyaale, a senior wife, in my home.
“I passed post UTME!” Goke squeals as we wade through the crowd, walk past people hawking water and local delicacies, and make it to the roadside.
“I’m so happy for you. OAU?”
“OAU!” He nods.
I high-five him. “Geniuses go to OAU!”
Segun scoffs. Worried that I may have triggered something, I murmur, “I was only joking–”
“I don’t think you a genius if you must know.” I nod. These days, he has become unnecessarily mean. And I know why.
A year ago, I traded my teaching job for a media gig. I was tired of working in a field where I lacked fulfilment, and the opportunities in media – which I wanted – never stopped coming. Segun loathed the idea though, especially since he was suspended at work because of a massive error that cost the bank millions, and now has had to feed on what I provide for us. He’s also had to live with knowing I balanced the money for the land our house is built on.
“Some big man’s son is coming to town today to commission a water project. Also, because of the commencement of the Osun Osogbo festivities, the traffic has worsened. It’s never this bad here,” Goke continues to explain the traffic situation in Yoruba as we flag down taxis. I wince. “Big men and their spawns are always constituting nuisances. In Lagos, there’s one who is threatening to throw us all out of the lands we bought with our hard-earned money,” I say. “It’s their world. The rest of us are slaves to them.”
Goke nods in agreement. “This one is quite major, and he’s like a son to the Ataoja, so I expect the whole town will be expected to act as though Osun herself has manifested in the physical.”
Goke and I share a laugh.
“I think we may have to cross to the other side,” he murmurs. “The cab we take can always make a U-turn.”
Segun crosses without warning, and Goke and I grab our luggage trying to escape a few errant drivers as we make to cross the expressway. Halfway through, my phone falls, and when I bend to pick up the device, a bike almost runs me over. Scared, I jump back, screaming as a speeding car swerves, almost hitting me from behind. He honks loudly, hurling curses my way. He’s barely moved when I lose my footing, almost falling into the gutter behind me. A feeling of dread grips me. Halfway through an inevitable fall, I feel strong hands grabbing my arms, fingers digging into my flesh to steady me. The hands continue to hold me, saving me from what would have been a terrible fall.
As I gather myself, I look into the eyes of my saviour. He’s more than a few inches taller with a muscular build. From where I am, safely tucked in his arms, I think he looks familiar. His scent tickles a memory, but I can’t really place it.
A warm smile curls the sides of his lips, and a concerned tone hinges his voice. “Are you okay?”
I’m not. I feel as though I’d puke. “Put me down,” I say as my stomach churns.
He’s a towering height. Handsome. Like a young Richard Mofe-Damijo, with the swagger of a Denzel and the impeccable style of an Ebuka Obi-Uchendu. He holds me until I steady myself. Goke is by my side, worried, and across the road Segun watches. I can’t see his face, but I know irritation and frustration are boldly written on it.
“Thanks.” I glance at Goke. “Let’s go,” I say, trying to steady myself.
“Are you sure you’re fine?” the stranger asks.
“Why won’t I be?” I snap.
“You look like you’re about to be–”
I lurch forward, grabbing my stomach as what’s left of my dinner from last night threatens to find its way up my throat. I fight to keep it down because a few people have begun to mutter, casting startled glances. I am surprised phones aren’t capturing this moment for gossip Instagram blogs. Or maybe they are, but my eyes can’t find the camera lens as I try not to lose the battle against nausea. Failure. Grabbing my rescuer’s purple senator-styled shirt, I regurgitate everything inside my stomach on his patent leather shoes.
“–sick,” he finally finishes.
I can’t stop until I have emptied my stomach on what seems like costly shoes. I’m afraid to look at him because the one time this happened with Segun, he almost hit me. I’m momentarily stunned as my rescuer runs his hands down my back.
“Hey, let’s get you taken care of,” he says gently.
“What?” I ask, thrown.
“Come,” he says, sweeping me off my feet and taking long strides to a parked sleek black car that looks all too familiar.
Part 2 will be released on 8 July 2022.