(An excerpt from the novel AFTER THESE EERIE DAYS by Abiose A.Adams… continued from last week)
I stared at the girl in the mirror and the clothes she was asked to wear. She was supposed to wear them so she can feel sexy. It’s the first rule in the art of seduction -to feel sexy, love her body, touch her body, and to believe in the product she’s offering. And these clothes are supposed to do just that- rouse the libido that had been mortified by doctrines of sanctification.
I picked up the clothes, examined them one after the other- the red, y-shaped, G-string, looked to me like the catapult that would immediately spike me into the abyss. The brassieres looked like two halves of a pretty butterfly’s wing; though pretty, the hawk would soon prey on it.
So I sampled them –a mock of what the night-out would be, but also a mockery of myself. For to be dressed in these clothes is an admittance of adherence, of concurrence, and of how I will be addressed, thenceforth.
So I yanked off the clothes and flung them at the wall. I wasn’t going to touch them anymore. Instead, I settled for one of Chisom’s dirty legging, matched it with a round-neck t-shirt that bore the inscription, ‘Kick Polio out of Nigeria.’ I pulled my hair to the middle and held it with a rubber band.
No wigs. No make-up. No perfumes. I was determined to appear raw, smelly and unattractive. And I was going to tell Mama Tee that I couldn’t get any guy. Little did I know that would be my biggest undoing. For the men, I later learnt, loved the rawness and the odour.
At around 8pm, the girls were getting ready for the nightout.
“Angel, you no fit follow us like this oh…” Uju started. The jest in her voice, like spikes, poked at me in all directions.
“Eeehh eehh…what is this,” Chelsea picked up Uju’s mockery of me.
Chisom laughed. Meanwhile, they were decked up for the night; in pieces of clothes that hung loosely on their bodies like rags, tacky earrings, noisy bracelets, and cheap perfumes, that smelt like air-freshener.
“That is what I feel comfortable in,” I retorted, taking a step towards the door.
“Abeg, abeg, no come go spoil market for us oh,” she said, shaking her head vigorously.
“What is your business by the way? Are you Mama Tee?”
“I no be Mama Tee, but I am in charge here.”
“Oh you are in charge?” I said. And I felt ashamed for saying so, because the tone indicated I regretted relinquishing the leadership thrust on me, the first day.
“ Shebi you be bornagain,” she continued barking. “You be bad market. Bornagain wan go club…oooh,” she yelled.
“Babe, e don do,” Somto and Chelsea held her. At that moment Zainab too rushed into the room. Zainab was one of the girls transferred from another of Mama Tee’s network. She looked experienced and her voice conveyed it. She was the first dark skinned woman I would see in that network -an uncommon dark skin with uneven texture- bumps here, acne there. She said she preferred to be called Zain. And she was as vain as she was called Zain.
They pulled Uju out and all left for the club.
After they left, I sat back panting and sweating profusely.
Her words rang again, ‘bornagain wan go club’ and the veil of shame fell over my face. It was a place of self-defeat and humiliation, not for dressing up for the club, but that my identity was under attack, and I could not do anything to defend my title. I loathed myself for this choiceless posture that I had assumed. I felt my conscience whipping me with a rod. I cried and cried.
Alas, I went, believing in my heart that the Lord has not left me alone and would see me through this trying time of mine.
As I entered, I choked on the cloud of cigarette that billowed in my face, and I was momentarily deafened by the loudspeakers. Red clouds of smoke hung low over heads like big cotton wool balls. I saw them- men and women, lost in lust; men and women, who have put their faith in the hands of alcohol, which had the power to temporarily erase their sorrows. Throughout the night, my buttocks remained glued to one bar stool, sipping Cocacola.
And then around 3am, a guy in a yellow Nike t-shirt, walked up to me, half-dancing, half-staggering, half-singing.
“Hello Pretty,” he said.
“What you doing here, yah?” he lit a cigarette, and puffed the smoke into my face. I wanted to tell him how stupid he was, but it would be a waste of time. This must be the work of alcohol.
I did not answer.
As the orgies wound to a close, around 4am, I walked out of the dance-hall to the quieter part, waiting for Chisom. The guy in the yellow Nike t-shirt approached again.
Sitting across on a white plastic chair, he began to rant in all sort of confused accent -American, British, German, Swahilian, Bulgarian and Barbarian. In all, none did he get right. His words were like strong winds before the rain. With him, a sentence is not complete until he introduces the word, yah. He boasted about his brother that deals in cars; another that sells refrigerators, another that sells chemicals and acids. And how he can bathe girls that jilt him with acids. He bragged about his power to send me to Europe in a few days. I looked through him to the skein of lies he had woven around himself. He must really think I am a fool, for anyone in this situation was probably fooled, chose to remain fooled or is fooling herself.
After all the blather, “sit on my laps,” he said, his eyes, groggy from the orgy.
“I think you know the deal…yah? If you don’t sit, how can we get down on it, yah?” He said, nodding to the DJ’s music, Get down on it, by Cool and The Gang.
“Mr. Man, there is nothing to get down on.” I hissed, and walked out of that nightmare.
At the room, the self-appointed leader, Uju was the first to flip out her rod of chastisement.
“Me I no fit borrow anybody my money. I work for this money, my body, my blood, my sweat. And nobody go lend am money to return to Nigeria. She don’t have two heads. I be girl, you be girl. Use what you have to get what you want.”
At that, I didn’t not know which was better- to be angry or to feel sorry for her. For she had a twisted opinion of womanhood –an opinion that women are things and toys and their body is their bargaining power. But not so with me! My power is not in my body, but in my mind!
And I have to brace myself to face this music. And if I ever do, there will be no strings attached, and it is going to be a one night stand; probably with a blindfold – sex anonymous.
Synopsis (After these eerie days)
She is ambitious but unschooled in street-wiseness. Seventeen-year-old Funto Colesworth did not know the trip to study her dream course, Medicine, in France, is one to nowhere until she finds herself in a brothel in Cotonou.
Rather than remain there to hawk sex which she is mandated to do, she escapes and joins another set of human traffickers to cross the ghoulish Sahara Desert with ten other trafficked girls. On surviving, she continues her flirtations with danger; gets into a close-shave with death in the Mediterranean Sea, where she is the only survivor amongst the girls. Arriving Italy breathless, Funto is introduced to Rome’s red-light district, where she subsequently meets a rich and snazzy footballer, Khalil.
Their whirlwind romance would have resulted in marriage and landed her a fortune, but her hopes went up in flames again when he is killed by his irascible, psychotic twin brother Hamil. Then she realises the more ruinous cost of naivety when Hamil implicates her, leading to her imprisonment in Germany. Thrown in gaol, and with no clemency in sight, Funto felt defeated until she meets a Ghanaian missionary, Duncan Melanby, whose romance with her leads to the fence-mending between father and daughter, after twelve eerie years.