Thursday, 26 March 2015

HE WHO FINDETH A WILD CAT

He who findeth a wife, the bible says, findeth a good thing. I found her on the streets of Manchester peddling her ‘crown jewels.’ She was a prostitute and I was a bible tottering born again Christian. It was the perfect match. Okay, so I was love struck after giving in to temptation twice but Christ’s most ardent disciple was Mary Magdalene. Guess what her profession was. So if Christ never judged her, or the other one who he saved from being stoned to death by pricking the conscience of her prosecutors, then who was I to judge Sheila? Not to mention she was the prettiest being I ever set eyes on and I blindly refused to believe her docile demeanour had anything to do with merely wanting to please a customer. She was not cut out for this. This girl was meant to be someone’s wife. My wife?
‘Why are you doing this?’ From the moment I negotiated a price in the streets, before we made it to the hotel room, that question played around in my mind. I finally let it out after the urge that harassed me for weeks had been killed in a climax. She was already standing by the mirror, putting back on the skimpy, tell tale, clothes of her trade. It was still early evening. Prowlers would still be about and she could definitely bag a couple before the morning came. 
She froze in mid action, her fingers stuck to her chin where she had been dousing talcum powder. Through the mirror it was her reflection that stared back at me in a puppy dog look which made her more endearing. 
‘You haven’t told me your name.’ I added. She relaxed into a smile and carried on applying her make up like I had just pressed ‘play’ after ‘pause.’
‘Didn’t yo mama tell you never to ask a lady her age and a whore her name?’
‘I like you and God loves you as well. We don’t see you as a whore.’
She turned round to look at me, with a smile of mischief playing around her lips.
‘I am sure you mistook me for a sex education teacher that needed payment for her sessions.’
‘Listen...’
‘Hey, its okay. For what its worth, thanks.’ Her expression went sullen. She grabbed her bag and was out of the door before I could shout her to wait. She had vanished from the face of the earth by the time I threw some clothes on and ran outside. 
It was for the best I decided, to keep me away from the devil’s path. But thoughts of her would not vacate my mind. She needed to be brought into the light I decided, I would just go there and preach to her, nothing more. 
I found her after three days of searching; in the same spot I had first met her. She showed no sign of recognition, beckoning in the very same way she had the first time. 
God she was fine, but, strictly business this time around. I whipped out my bible and encouragingly she gave me an ear until a car pulled up. The driver leaned out, leering at her. I wanted to break his neck. 
‘You working honey?’
‘No she is not!’
‘What, yes I am!’ I had managed to make her eyes blaze. What right do you have to interfere in my affairs? She began to walk round the car to the passenger side. 
‘But I was here first!’ That stopped her. She looked at me, I looked at her.
‘Do you want me tonight sweetheart?’
‘Yes.’ The driver had forced my hand. I planned then to pay for her time then preach instead of what she would have expected.
‘Are you getting in the car or what?’ The driver revved his engines impatiently.
‘No darling, I am with him.’ She had chosen me. He screeched off. 
‘So why have you been wasting precious time with all this God talk. Come along love.’ She trotted away. I was going to call her back, that I was going to pay her to listen and we would not be needing a room, when my gaze fell on her well rounded buttocks, accentuated by the mini skirt, rising and falling with every step. I followed. No harm in spreading the gospel in a hotel room. She gave me no chance to catch my breath as soon as I had secured the door behind me. Save for her G-strings, every other clothing and jewellery she had had on formed a pile at her feet in a flash. I wanted to tell her to put her clothes back on, that this was not why I had come to seek her. Then she climbed on the bed, walking on fours like a cat stalking prey and looking at me all the while in the most sensual manner. Dear God I just had to get my money’s worth. 
‘Right, so what is your name?’ I had only just climbed down her body, still very much covered in the sweat of copulation. I panted out the question, wondering how she could still look as fresh as morning roses. 
‘Sheila.’ She answered curtly, gazing at the ceiling. 
‘Is that your real name?’ She looked askance at me. Take it or leave it. I took it. 
‘Why are you doing this?’ 
‘What do you care? You just want to fuck me like every other man.’
‘I really care, believe me. And God cares as well...’
‘Oh shut up about God.’ It was the only other time I ever saw her angry. She jumped out of bed and slipped into her clothes like she had slept through the chiming of her alarm clock.
‘Sheila...’ I sat up, a tad confused. She had listened to me out on the street.
‘My money.’ She was not in the mood for any speeches. She was not in the mood for me. 
Deflated, I picked my trousers from the ground, took out some notes and pressed them in her outstretched hands. She headed for the door, not bothering with make up this time. The very next few seconds would determine my future. For if she had not stopped at the door to look at me in the manner of a homeless child robbed of her last coin before she sauntered out of sight, I would not have risen from the bed to the balcony to watch her walk away and I would not have seen her knocked down by a van screeching too late to avoid a collision. The driver did not stop. 
For shock, I honestly cannot remember running down to the stairs to her side. I do remember feeling awash with gratitude for whoever had called the ambulance that zoomed into view just as I reached her unconscious body. 
‘You know her?’ In the heat of the emergency the medics had allowed me into the ambulance with her. Now one of them looked up from resuscitating her. I had a feeling I was not going to be allowed far if I could not give a good enough reply.
‘I am her fiancée.’ I do not know why that popped out of my mouth but it seemed natural at the time. That confession affected my actions for the next three days. Maybe I was trying to affirm to the hospital staff that I was who I claimed to be or maybe I really felt overwhelming love for this call girl that hovered between life and death. Whatever it was I played the part, spending every free second at her bedside. And getting whatever she needed. The moment she woke I was there. 
It took two more weeks before she was ready to leave. In that time I bathed in the praises of the nurses, telling her just how lucky she was to have someone like me. She smiled weakly in response every time, and, as soon as she could, petered me with kisses at every opportunity. Bliss.
She invaded my home and inevitably invaded my life. I nursed her in my bed, cooking what she wanted. The highlight of my day at work was when I closed to run home to her. Soon she could move around the house without aid. We celebrated with a bottle of wine. There was to be no sex, not anytime soon. The doctor had warned her to give it a break for at least a month.
What struck me as odd was that no one had come to visit her in hospital and no one anywhere was looking for her. Neither was she bothered about some relative somewhere agonizing about where she had vanished to. The girl was alone in the world. I had her to myself and now she had me. Perfect. 
The healthier she got, however, the less hold I felt I had. She stopped paying attention to my stories; I was now the only one laughing at my jokes and too often she replied with a nod or an uninterested grunt when I asked how she felt. 
‘Is there a problem darling?’ She had been quiet, looking out of the window as I had been trying to engage her in a conversation. She did not turn around to acknowledge my question. 
‘Sheila...’
‘What do you really want from me?’
‘What?’
‘Tell me what you want from me. Why are you doing all this?’ Then she turned around. She had just taken a shower and looked casual in one of my big sweat shirts that stopped at her thighs, showing off her smooth long legs. I learnt she was particular about how she looked most times, using her spare time to do her manicure and her toes. She had left out make up and her frazzled hair fell over her shoulders giving her a look that stopped my heart beating. 
‘What do you mean?’
‘Why am I in your house? Why are you looking after me? Why do you care?’
‘Isn’s it obvious?’ I could feel she was overwhelmed with all I had done for her. I was about to do even more. ‘I love you Sheila.’ I did not know what I expected of her reaction. She turned to the window again, as cool as if I had just told her the sky was actually blue. 
‘Okay.’ It was hardly the right response to a declaration of love and I might have taken a hint from that at the time. But I did not care. It would do for the time being. 
She recovered, being her old jovial self again and I thought nothing more of it. I thought nothing of taking her along to a get-together party I was invited to by an old friend and goodness, was I proud of her. She dazzled everyone and made me the envy of nearly every guy around. That is until Goni grabbed my hand, whisking me off to a corner of the room to talk in private. 
‘My God, Thomas, I know that girl. You say she is your girlfriend? She comes to my hotel you know.’
My friend managed a highbrow hotel in town. Sheila might have gone to meet some of her customers there. All that was yesterday. Not worth mentioning. 
‘Goni, before you say another word. I know she used to be a prostitute and I am not going to hold it against her. We did not all have the privilege of been raised properly. It does not make anyone better than her. Look at her, does she look like a prostitute?’ 
She was intently listening to some guy telling a story across the room but as we turned to her she caught my eyes and gave a cheery wave. 
‘For my sake, Goni, keep that information to yourself.’ I patted him on the back, leaving him still gaping, stupefied speechless, to join her. 
After a week of living the perfect life, I felt it was time to make things permanent. I had saved a bit for this very day and on my way back from work I stopped by H.Samuel’s to get a ring. The moment I touched the door knob to enter the house, however, I knew something was wrong. The eerie silence confirmed it. 
‘Sheila!’ No answer. Her things were still there, giving me some sense of hope. So I sat down to wait. I jumped at every sound, expectant. By the time I heard a loud knock on the door it was well into the night. I rose slowly, my legs heavy. That had better be her. 
‘Hello.’ She casually pushed past me to the chair I had been seating in for nearly five hours. ‘What have you been up to? And why do you have that look on your face?’ She asked. I was very angry but awash with relief. She had just taken me through five hours of how empty my life would be without her. 
‘Where have you been? I have been waiting for you since I got back.’ 
‘Just out to see friends love. Got tired of staying in. Did you miss me?’
‘You could have left me a note.’
‘Yes daddy...what’s that in your hand?’
I looked at my hand. It was the little H.Samuel bag that housed the ring. I had held it all that time. I should have waited, given her some story or simply said it was nothing, at least until I had probed her enough. But I fell on my knees, just as I rehearsed in my mind a million times.
‘Sweetheart you have come to mean so much to me.’ I pulled out the ring from the bag and stretched it in her direction. I could have just offered her a deadly spider for the way she shrank back. 
‘Tom, what is this?’
‘I want you to be with me forever.’ 
She got up and walked around me, keeping a distance. I stayed on my knees twisting my neck to hold her gaze as she arched her way to my left. This was not going to plan. 
‘Are you sure about this?’ Her voice had gone hoarse. She regarded me like one in the presence of an alien, not knowing if the strange being was friendly or hostile. 
‘I have never been more sure of anything in my life.’ 
‘Okay,’ She whispered, tiptoeing forward to make me the happiest man in the world at that hour. The ring slipped seamlessly into her finger. I rose and squeezed her in a hug, not caring that her grip was less enthusiastic. 
One month. It was a month that night, since her accident. That meant she was free to ply her ‘trade’ again or...be with me (if you know what I mean). 
We had just clambered into bed when she turned to me with that puppy dog look.
‘I have something to tell you.’ Her voice was sad. I sat up to listen, not fearing anything major. She looked at me and the light came into her eyes. I think she changed her mind, leaning over to kiss me instead. Now how do I describe the sex we had that night? She gave and gave and gave, bringing all the skills of her erstwhile trade to play, taking me to places I never imagined existed. I don’t know why, but the whole session felt like she was repaying me for all I had done in the one way she knew how. What I did not know was that she was planting a yearning which no one would be able to fill. I slept off with the widest smile on my face. Life could not have been better. 
The next morning I woke up alone in bed. The session had gone on well into the morning so the sun was well up by the time I managed to open my eyes. I was very late for work so I focused on cooking up an excuse for the boss. Sheila might have gone to the shops or something. Her absence was not something to worry about. I freshened up, left her a note and dashed out. 
For being late I was forced to stay back at work two extra hours. I bided my time knowing what awaited me at home. If every night was going to be like last night then my life had just been transformed into heaven. I felt pity for everyman on earth. Sheila was exclusively mine now. 
The door keys were still in the flowerpot where I had left them for her. Could it be possible? It was. The house was exactly as I had left it in the morning. Sheila had not returned. 
I sat in the same chair I had waited for her last time and I sat there until the first light of dawn broke through the curtains. Something was terribly wrong. Something bad had happened to my baby. With that thought I sprang into action. I called work to let them know I was dying of leukaemia that might vanish in a few days, put on the news in case there was any breaking story that Sheila might be in, then called every hospital and police station within the locality. Nothing. she was not at her usual spot where I had picked her up the first time and no other call girl would give me information about her or they did not know. I remembered my prayers then, imploring God to keep Sheila safe wherever she was and bring her back to me. 
He answered my prayers two days later. Sometimes I really wish he hadn’t. 
I jumped at the ringing phone as I had been doing since Sheila disappeared. And as the other phone calls, it was someone else, killing my spirit instantly. But it was Goni and he was frantic. 
‘Thomas, Thomas, I have seen Sheila.’
‘What? Where? Where Goni?’
‘Quick, you have to come now. Meet me outside saint Christopher now now.’ He hung up. 
My hands shook as I replaced the mouthpiece in its cradle. Goosebumps broke all over my skin. Saint Christopher was a hospital two blocks from the hotel where Goni worked. What had happened to my girl? How bad was it? And God why? Why was she so accident prone? 
I paid the taxi driver as he pulled alongside the hospital. As soon as he stopped I was going to sprint inside. 
‘Thomas.’ Goni was there he promised. He spotted me as I got out of the car. 
‘Where is she?’ I asked, trotting through the automatic sliding doors. 
‘Wait, where are you going? She is not in there.’
‘What?’ I allowed a little hope nudge my confusion. 
‘She is back at my hotel. Come with me.’ I could not read his expression, and I could not come up with any reason why Sheila might have gone to Goni for refuge if she wanted to leave me. And why had she been hiding? She had a lot of explaining to do. 
We walked through the plush lobby, Goni nodded at the overly friendly receptionist while I looked in all directions for signs of Sheila. He reached his office and turned the keys in the lock. Had he locked her inside? 
‘Is she in there?’
He raised a hand to indicate I be patient. There was no one in his office. He closed the door, then picked up the remote control to a large screen telly at one corner of the room. Just what was he playing at?
‘Goni, where is Sheila?’ 
‘Shhh, now listen, you must not tell anyone what I am about to show you now. It is top secret and the hotel might be closed down if it ever gets out. I will certainly go to jail. I just could not hide this from you.’
‘I am no snitch Goni. Now please don’t make me ask you again. Where is Sheila?’ I was going to throttle him if he made me utter one more word. 
‘Right, brace yourself.’ He pointed the remote at the telly and it clicked to life. It was some kind of CCTV unit with goings on within a dozen mini screens. It was all in black and white. 
‘Every screen is for a room. From here we secretly monitor what is happening all around the hotel.’ He explained. I looked from the screen to his face. He caught my eye. ‘Room 231.’
Every mini screen had a digital number tag. I searched for the one with “231” and gasped. My legs wobbled and I fell to my knees. It just was not possible. 
‘Is that Sheila?’ The question raised doubts in my head and I suddenly got the urge to find out for myself. I picked myself up and dashed out of the office. 
‘Thomas...’ Goni must have sensed what I was up to. ‘No, come back here man.’ I raced up the stairs to the second floor. I could hear his chasing after me but a bulldozer would be hard pressed to stop me now. Room 231 was easy to find. I was expecting the door was locked but it opened when I turned the knob. 
‘Thomas, no!’ He probably had the same expectations as well and, I am sure, was horrified when he saw me disappearing into the room. 
There are defining moments in the life of a person, an occurrence or experience that completely transforms ones character. One of such moments was seeing Sheila in bed with three men. They were all stark naked and drugged stupid, barely conscious. The ground was littered with used condoms, dispersed clothes, cigarette and whisky. The strong smell of weed hung over the room like a cloud. Two of the men were on either side of her while the third was curled up between her wide open legs, using her thigh as a pillow. He reacted to the noise of my entry, stirring and repositioning himself closer to her private part. 
‘Thomas, lets go man.’ Goni grabbed my hand. I vaguely heard him saying something about keeping it to myself, as he let me out into the night wind. I don’t remember crying but there would be dried tears on my cheeks in the mirror. I left town two months later. There would be subsequent call girls, even prettier ones, but I went to them, did the business and left, not bothering with converting them. I guess some things are the way they are for a reason. 
I never saw Sheila again.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Millionaire

United Kingdom, present day.

‘They cant harm me, I live a charmed life. Told you before.’
‘Bello, let’s leave please.’
‘Don’t worry baby. This lot are pussies.’
In the dimly lit alley Bello Momoh sized up the three men that blocked his path. He could not make out their faces but he did not need the light to know they were hostile. Two had sticks and one had a pick axe. He had Laura. He felt her squeeze his arm, trying to drag him backwards to ‘safety’ but he resisted. Five years and seven months living as the lone minority in the Backwater council estate had made him well acquainted to animosity. He was never one to run from a fight no matter the odds.  So far he had come up trumps in two ambushes, sent two men to the hospital and killed a dog that had been set on him.
‘Danger and I are two lions born on the same day, and I, the elder and more terrible.’ He had once told his girlfriend, quoting Julius Ceasar from Shakespear’s drama.
‘We know how that ended up.’ She had quipped back.
With a Master’s degree in psychology among his repertoire, it was not foolhardiness that fuelled Bello’s belligerent nature. For one he had the body of a body builder and was a black belt in taekwondo to boot. But those were not the credentials he relied on. There was something else. 

They had been dating for a year when he revealed his secret to Laura.
‘My mother took me to a witch doctor when I was born and I was dipped in magic iron. I will not die until I have lots of money.’ He winked.
‘Bello, come on. Surely even you do not believe in that African voodoo thing. It is hocus-pocus.’
He looked at her with a smirk.
Hocus-pocus?  Only if she knew.
He did not think it was his chiselled frame, his honey coated words or his intelligence that had won her over. It was that ‘something else.’ Mama had assured him he would be able to have his way with anyone. But he was to use his powers wisely. He had spotted Laura at the University beauty pageant contest. The moment she stepped out on stage the other contestants had no hope. Bello promptly ditched his ex who he had gone there with and sought out the beauty queen. Since then they had been joined at the hip (a good number of times) and Bello held on. He was not going to let her go in a hurry. Never mind that he lived in a rundown area where men with nothing creative to challenge their minds took offence at seeing a stunning white girl in the arms of a black man. Bello savoured the attention and was bent on twisting the knife. Eat your hearts out.

They had gone for a movie and she wanted to get chewing gum on the way back. There was a shop open at that time of night. It was not quite on the route home and that meant they might chance a short cut via the dark alley. Hoodlums hung about the place and he had had a fight there before.
The shop was open. Bello waited outside for Laura. She got what she wanted and slipped her lithe hands around his biceps and they shared a joke. They had just turned into the alley when the men jumped out of the shadows. Bello did not know if the men had tailed them to the place or if they had been waiting for an unlucky victim to walk by. Either way he did not care.

The men advanced.
‘Hey black boy. You like white meat, do you?’
‘You think you can come to our country and fuck our women do you?’
‘If you come any nearer I am going to fuck you too, arsehole.’  Bello challenged. He unhooked Laura’s fingers around his arm and protectively stood in front of her.
‘You can talk, can you? I am going to shut your mouth for you.’ They were skinheads with tattoos plastered around their wrinkly skin. They wore sleeveless camouflage vests and jackboots. Every single one carried a sizeable amount of bulk that matched Bello’s but none had his muscles. The shadows retreated from their faces as they got nearer so he could see the hate in their eyes.
Soon, he mused, it will turn to fear.

Taking down two men was easy if one had the speed. The trick was to attack first, hard and with accuracy, aiming for some vital part – the groin or the windpipe – to incapacitate the first man.
Then turn to the second (who would be rattled on seeing he had no support).
Against three men it was not that straightforward. In the seconds it took to attack the first man, the other two would definitely charge. If they were amateurs it would still be easy work but if they were veterans of a good number of street fights then he would have to be fully focused.

The man with the pickaxe had the heaviest weapon. He needed time to balance it and swing. So Bello went for him first. He grabbed the man’s arm as he raised the axe, kicked him in the shin, punched his neck and followed up with a head butt. The man grabbed his throat in agony and sank to his knees.
From the corner of his eye Bello saw the other men already swinging their sticks. He had just enough time to dodge one. He expected to be hit by the other. But by charging at his adversary, he shortened the arc of the man’s swing and reduced the force of the impact. It caught him on the shoulder. He had felt much worse in his lifetime. He punched the man’s stomach and drove his elbow into the grimaced face in front of him, breaking a nose and drawing blood.
The man went down.

Bello did not spin around fast enough. The third man seized him in a choke hold and locked his hands behind Bello so there was no way to reach them easily. But it was far from hopeless. Bello had earned his black belt fighting stronger opponents. He tucked his chin in to ease pressure on his neck.

‘Hey Johno, get up, get up damn it, and get the girl. I have this sucker.’
Laura!
Bello heard one of the fallen men scramble to his feet, then he heard his girlfriend scream, and at that point he lost all reason.
He kicked, he lashed out, he dug his teeth into the flesh of the man pinning him and bit hard.  The man yelped in pain and released him.  Laura had gone but he could hear her voice from down the alley, shouting for help.

She was on the ground spread-eagle. Scattered strands of her hair billowed across her face.  Her tee shirt had been torn in two and her bra was pulled down so her exposed breasts bobbled free. The man that had pursued after her was seated on her torso, pinning her down. He moved from side to side to dodge her fists with which she pummelled his body.
‘Stop struggling, bitch!’  He slapped her face.
Bello reached them just then.
“He controls the world who controls his emotions.” He had learnt that phrase in training and it had served him well. There was always a solution to seemingly impossible entanglements if one kept his heart in check and calmly used his head.  In the moment though, seeing his girlfriend unceremoniously exposed and being assaulted, that advice went out the window. In a fit of rage he seized the man by the collar, yanked him off Laura then knocked him down with a punch.
If he was not so intent on punishing the man he would not have followed up with incessant kicking, and stamping, he would have paid attention to the scurrying sounds behind him and he would have heeded Laura’s warning shout.
At the last moment he turned. Too late.
The stick caught him across the temple. Pain! The impact made him stagger. His knees went wobbly and his vision blurred. He swayed from side to side, struggling to stay on his feet, somewhat wary of the second wave of attack that was sure to come.

They gave him no chance. He doubled up from a punch in his stomach, reeled backwards from a knee in his face and finally fell from a sharp pain in his chest. It was pain like he had never known.
The world went still. From afar he made out voices.

‘What have you done? You just killed the man.’
‘He deserved it.’
‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’

‘Help us. Somebody help us.’  Laura was screaming.
‘I call ambulance and police.’
Bello recognized the voice of Mr Wong, the Chinese shopkeeper from where they bought the gum.
He felt himself having spasms.
‘He is shaking. Please do something.’
‘Ambulance come soon. Wait.’
And then his world went black.


Africa, twenty five years ago...

‘This child will not die! I say he will not die!’
Mma Nana quivered at the shrill incantations of the witch doctor, doubting the wisdom of bringing her newborn son to the old hag revered in the village for her mystical powers. After two miscarriages though, she had to insure her successful birth.
A small log fire burned in the centre of the room. The flames cast moving shadows on the walls, giving the place an ethereal feel.  Mma Nana coughed from the smoke that filled the interior of the little hut. Her eyes watered. If she felt such discomfort she wondered how bad it was for her baby boy. He squealed his protest as hard as his lungs allowed. The witch doctor held him by one leg so he hung upside down, dangling like meat at the butchers. She raised him towards a shrine of ostrich feathers and cowries. Two human skulls impaled on sticks driven into the ground, stood sentry on each side of the shrine and rattled as she screamed.
‘Amadioha!  Ebeeeeee.’  
She grabbed a handful of powered chalk from a calabash and blew into the body of the squealing baby, coating him white. The flames rose higher. Mma Nana shrank backwards.
The witch doctor seized a dagger from a low stool beside the shrine. Gently she lowered the tip of its blade to the little feet of the child. Mma Nana covered her mouth to stop herself from shouting. But if the woman harmed her baby this would have to stop.
‘What more do you want for the child?’
‘Em...’
‘Woman,’ the witch doctor called out in a high pitched voice that reverberated around the room. ‘What more do you want Amadioha to do for this boy?’
‘Mama, I do not understand.’
‘The spirits have favoured your child. He has protection but they want to give him more. What else do you want for him? Choose well so it does not become a curse to him.’
‘I want him to be a leader among men. People will listen when he speaks and I want him to have money.’
‘Money?’
‘Yes, lots and lots of money. He must not die a poor man.’
‘Then so be it. He will die a rich man.’

She pierced the soft sole of the baby’s feet. Mme Nana covered her mouth again as her son wailed in pain. The witch doctor dropped the dagger and held the baby’s bleeding foot over a broken eggshell so the blood dripped into it. She placed the baby on the ground beside the fire and cupped the eggshell in her hands. When she opened her hands again it was not a cracked eggshell there but a whole egg. It had mended itself. Gingerly she placed it beside the shrine, and then she picked up the baby and handed him to his mother.
‘It is done.’


United Kingdom, present day.

Laura rested her head on the doctor chest, drawing strength from his hug. She had been treated for shock, bruises and a few cuts and asked to go home but she had stayed in the hospital, waiting for Bello. He was in a coma, strapped to drips and machines and adorned with bandages. Most of it was wrapped around his chest where the pickaxe had pierced him. The surgery had taken the better part of five hours and finally she was allowed to look at him through the glass window.
The doctor walked up to her and she fell against him, overwhelmed by it all. He held her.
‘Be honest with me doctor, will he make it?’
‘ Tonight is most critical. If he can make it till the morning then he will likely survive. It is a fifty fifty chance. Time to pray.’ He held her at arm’s length and looked in her face.  ‘And time for you to go home. There is absolutely nothing you can do here and you need to get some sleep and rest your wounds. Come back in the morning. He should be up by then. If anything changes during the night I will call you. Okay?’
She nodded. It was for the best.

But sleep would not come. Horrific scenes of the attack harried her subconscious. A hot shower did not help and it was too late to go the parents. So she switched on the telly and turned the volume up. Some TV challenge was on. Though she stared at the screen she barely took note of the game show host grilling contestants with question after question. It was soon over and something else flashed on the screen. Six numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7.  
Where had she seen that before?
‘Oh, no number five.’ Mr Wong’s voice entered her head. Of course, the Chinese man at the shop!  
A sudden cold gripped her, making her hairs stand on end.

She had gotten a fiver from Bello to get her gum. Mr Wong hadn’t change.
‘You buy lottery ticket? Maybe goodluck?’
‘Oh go on then.’ She smiled back.
‘1,2,3,4,6,7.’ He read out the numbers from the ticket he had printed. ‘Oh, no number five. Good numbers this.’
She winked at him, took her booty and skipped out to a waiting Bello.

Where was that ticket?  
With shaky hands she rummaged through the pockets of the dirty jumper she had had on earlier, pulled out the piece of paper and help it up to the light. There was no mistake – 1,2,3,4,6,7. The winning jackpot number combination. They were millionaires.
Her world collapsed. She fell on the bed, curled up and wept. There was no need to answer her ringing mobile phone. She knew it was the doctor. And she knew his exact reason for the call.

Somewhere in the world an egg cracked open, spilling its bloody contents.



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Time to Speak out Nigeria.



If this comes out as a bit random, it is because I have just read online, the appointment of Salisu Buhari as a member of the governing council board for federal universities. Now where do I start? Doesn’t this just typify the mindset of those at the helm in Nigeria?  Federal universities are crumbling and who better to return them to their days of glory than a man shamed for falsifying a degree certificate from the University of Toronto? Now the famed Reuben Abati defends this appointment stating that he had been pardoned by the then president and thus his sins wiped clean.  Let’s humour that argument for a moment and agree with the ‘esteemed’ Reuben Abati (who always knows what he is talking about) and say they looked at the evidence and found the former House of Rep. Leader no more wanting, found that he had served the party well (for that is more than a enough criteria to get a reward in their books) and decided to give him something back. Let’s say they arraigned a meeting and asked each other how they would defend, to Nigerians, the reward to a man whose fall from grace was witnessed by every Nigerian and who, in any other country, would be a convicted felon. Surely, surely there are more than enough governing boards he could serve on (prisons – if there is one – for example, would not be a bad idea). But no! It had to be the one he was definitely least suitable for, and then they send their faithful stooge to present the pile of filth to the people in a beautiful package of bewildering words.
I would laugh if it did not have far-reaching dire implications, for certainly it has got to be a joke.
This is not about Salisu Buhari for that would be cutting a few leaves from a tree in an attempt to uproot it. He would not be the first disgraced Nigerian, deserving a long jail term, who is honoured instead. It is not about President Jonathan Goodluck; certainly not the first Nigerian President to go down that road. And very unfortunately, not about Reuben Abati now bathed in the oil, the stains of which he once tried to wipe off others. And he would not be the first.
This is about those who still believe in the face abject stupidity; those who still wait for that spark of light in the distance, not letting the quagmire of hopelessness that the country is well imbedded make them falter in their belief that the country will stand as it should some day.
The appointment of Salisu Buhari will not come as a shock to most Nigerians. On the contrary it is what many would expect, given the track record of all that has been in power at one time or another. This is ready ammunition for the sceptics who have long given up and I would not blame them.
Take away a man’s right to feed himself and provide for his family and you strip him of every ounce of honour and self esteem. It is a shame that a country with so much, whose citizens demand so little, are given absolutely nothing. Much as I do not condone corruption on any level, (as it has eaten deep into the pillars that hold us up as a nation so that we could implode at any moment), I empathize with the man who resists for so long only to see his colleagues feeding fat off backhanders.  Alas, high morals and lofty ideals, in the face of uncurbed corruption, do not feed empty stomachs. He gives in.
All it takes is a little taste, bitter at first then acquired. When a man first comes face to face with violence, crime, corruption (anything of horror for that matter), he is filled with revulsion and can barely stomach it. Over time, if ‘whatever it is’ stays, he rises to the level of tolerance; the abnormal becomes normal. And if the ‘whatever it is’ stays even longer, he embraces it.
There was a time in Nigeria when it shocked the system to hear a seemingly unattainable amount of money from people’s mouths. Worse when it was heard to have been stolen by some government official. Now it is common place to hear and, what is more, expected of any who ascends to a high enough position in the Nigerian government. Sadder still, complacency is expected; the bad roads, absence of basic infrastructure, squandering of public funds like it was their own money (Like the Uyo state governor shamelessly giving out gifts of cars) and on and on.
It will take more than a hundred years to sanitize the minds of Nigerians completely to the point needed to make the country stand shoulder to shoulder with any developed country. It seems like a long time. Trust me, 2013 seemed like an age away when our founding fathers bickered over who would get what, putting ethnicity before nationality and laying the foundations of distrust. It seemed a long time away when Kaduna Nzeogwu led young soldiers to the first coup, opening the doors to a spate of endless takeovers by whoever felt the most powerful. It seemed a long time away when the first gunshots ushered in an unwanted civil war, the telltale signs of which are still very visible. If we still reminiscence about the days of Idiagbon, Babagida and Abacha, trust me, these times will remain with generations unborn and as we judge the past, what we do now will be scored by our children’s children.
A hundred years is not a long time.
But even a hundred years will be overly optimistic if we do not begin to lay the foundations now. They say a people deserve her government. If that is true then Nigerians deserve much much better. We are a resilient people, undaunted by insurmountable challenges, strong willed and highly innovative. Within the boundaries of the nation are geniuses whose skills have been suppressed by the mediocrity of those who have been in charge, trying to quench the light that would expose their short comings. By the law of averages, one day we will get a leader that will serve (which we have never had), one that will make us proud to be Nigerian anywhere in the world.
We cannot wait for providence though. If an unruly child is not scolded he will grow up spoilt. For so long we have turned the other cheek while we get slapped and asked to say ‘thank you’ for the abuse. I weep for those who died putting this government in place, thinking a change was finally imminent. They were wrong just as we all were. It is called a democracy and it takes due process so we shall wait. But when we see something seriously out of place we cannot afford to remain quiet, not any more. ‘The man dies in all who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.’ That, from a Nobel Laureate. And he is right. But the man in Nigerians live and we shall speak.
There will be many more gaffes to point out, for now though, in one voice, let us tell the President and his deluded mouth piece that Salisu Buhari, impeached for falsifying his credentials (the pardons do not clean the crime) is not fit to be a member of the governing council for federal universities.
Generations to come demand that we do.  

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Rethink your guns, America


Bang! Bang! Bang!
And another little child falls lifeless, splattered in their own blood while their classmates watch and await their turn.
I can’t begin to imagine the horrors those little children must have passed through in the final moments of their lives. How could they fathom what was happening? In their world super heroes prevailed over fictitious villains. In their world there was Santa Claus and the Tooth fairy. No guns.
It would be slightly more comforting to think Adam Lanza walked into a classroom and shot at random, catching some of the children in the crossfire. But no, that was not how it was. Adam Lanza walked into that school, armed with assault pistols and a rifle, legally purchased by his mother, to take the life of every living being he came across. And most of those beings were little children. Little children.
Stop for a moment and paint the horrific picture. He must have reloaded twice while the little ones watched him in abject fear, just before they were shot.
Sandy Hook Connecticut. What? Where is that? Exactly, but only before the 14th of December 2012. Adam Lanza put that little town on the Map for all the wrong reasons.
But why do we feign shock? Why so we pretend to be surprised? It is not as if it has not happened before, time and time again. And (I say this with utmost confidence) it is not as if it will not happen again. You play with fire long enough, chances are you will get burned by the by. I am by no means about to politicize the deaths of the little angels and their teachers (May their souls rest in peace).
Cynical you think? Remember Columbine? April 20th 1999, Virginia tech April 16, 2007 and now Sandy Hook, each one worse than the previous.
Then there is the shooting in Tucson Arizona in which 6 people were killed and Gabrielle Gilffords was severely injured, and the Colorado movie theatre in which twelve people were killed.
People should go about their usual business without the fear of some madman going berserk as so happens in the United States where guns are rife.
As I write this I fear our human nature will kick in; everyone expresses shock for a while, shout at the top of their voices that something should be done, while harbouring some relief it did not affect them directly, then something else (as it always does) makes even bigger news and this is confined to the back pages and pushed to the recesses of our minds only to be revisited when something similar occurs in future.
The saying ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ has got to be one of the most stupid thing ever said to defend the culture of harbouring guns. It is human nature to have a thousand thoughts rush through your mind at certain times (that is what makes us human). And I can tell you it is easier to store negative thoughts than it is to keep positive thoughts. Then there are deluded people – those who live in their own parallel world and are completely consumed by what they believe to be right. Some, like Adam Lanza must have been, are outright crazy.  So what you don’t want is letting these people have access to weapons that could do maximum damage. That might be the reason why America and Israel are presently doing their utmost to make sure Iran does not lay hands on the atomic bomb.  As much as Ahmadinejad and Hamas want to destroy Israel, they DO NOT have the means. So don’t keep rattling nonsense about people killing people. IT IS THE GUNS THAT KILL PEOPLE.
I just heard Christine Amanpour of CNN quote something interesting: to get a gun in Japan, you must pass a drug test, go through safety checks, take training, and a whole bunch of hurdles – for one gun. In America you just walk into a store and get one, or ten if it so pleases you; easy as buying a pack of cigarettes. For every hundred people in the United States there are 89 guns. In Japan there are 0.6 guns for every hundred people. In the whole of 2008 there were 11 gun deaths in Japan (less than half of the deaths in Sandy Hook alone) in that same time span in the United States there were over 12,000 gun related deaths.
And to think there are actually people out there advocating for more guns, ‘to protect ourselves’ They say. From what? Tigers and lions in the streets. Insane!
There was a time when the folk of Sandy Hook thought Columbine was world away, that their closely knit community would never see anything quite like that. Just how wrong were they? Right now, different parts of America are going through the same denial. It is time to stop being ostriches and get your head out of the sand.
Who would have ever thought this could happen to six, seven year olds? If you can imagine anything worse then, trust me, it can happen. We need to stop it before it gets to that. We need to go to times when the sight of a gun was shocking.  If not it won’t be long before we hear it again.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
And this time, it might very well be you.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Shot of glory

I watched the famous Phil Dareck step out of his mansion to make his routine dog walk around the posh streets of Boulevard Be, shuddering in the fierce wind as he stepped out of the warm comfort of his opulent home. He jerked up the collar of his jacket. In effect, pulling at the greyhound he had on a short leash (just like he had most of his girls). The dog yelped in protest.
‘Oh shut up Ceasar. Weather’s bad enough without you complaining.’
Someone was not in the best of moods. I closed one eye and surveyed his features through my telescope, surveyed him surveying the weather and debating if it the walk was worth it. I willed him to make the move. My future depended on it.
It was the closest I had ever been to the film star and I could make out his deep set eyes, square masculine jaw and a fine crop of hair which he had not bothered to conceal considering the weather. Underneath his thick clothing was the body of a greek god which the world had been privileged to see in many of his movies. It was no wonder why the girls could not get enough of him.
I did not particularly watch movies and had not cared for the existence of this man until it hit me how he could singularly change my miserable life.
I had dragged myself through life to this point, just managing to hang on to my job as a reporter because I had been in the same class as my editor ten long years ago. Much as I was grateful for the favour, it was also painful to watch the celebrity reporters getting the mouth watering assignments that brought them even more fame and a lot more money. If I was lucky I covered some mundane pet show that got assigned to some obscure corner of the back pages (if it ever made the news).
Maybe if there was a girlfriend waiting for me back home at the end of the day it would have been more tolerable; maybe if I had a lot of friends to hang out with sometime or my parents, when they found time to call, did not remind me of how much of a failure I was next to my younger sister who was about to head a major corporation, life might have been a tad less bitter.
I have never been psychic, nor did I believe in all that nonsense before the ‘tip off’ came to me. I was walking along the Brandon bridge I think it was, contemplating jumping off the metal railings two hundred feet down into the icy waters, to end my ‘hamster in a circle’ existence. Some wandering passerby would spot my body floating in the river, the police would be alerted and then the papers would know. The breaking news would be assigned to another hot-shot reporter who would dash to the scene to add another feather to their cap. All this whirled about in my head and as much as I wanted to jump off that bridge, I really did not want to make the day for another big reporter. Then it came to me, clear as a reflection in a wiped mirror. A celebrity was going to be shot and I would be the first on the scene. I knew the person, the place and the time. This was going to be my big break. Wondering why it had not come to me sooner I prepared, tracking poor Phil Dareck day in day out as his hour of reckoning drew ever closer. What would he have done differently if he had known he had less than a week to live? Whatever it was, his demise was going to drastically change my life. I wonder if my editor would believe in hunches and swallow the story that something in my head had told me what was going to happen. It would be safer to lie and say I had been tipped by an anonymous caller.
Phil Dereck, to my relief, decided the weather was not the worst in walking the dog. My heart thumped faster. I had never witnessed a murder but there was no backing out now. The paper would be impressed. Better assignments would come my way (who knows maybe more hunches to give me more breaking news), I know I would get more money, more recognition and one or two girls would now look my way. Just what would the parents say then huh?
From my vantage point in the tree, I could see no other person was around. Good as that was, I wondered where the ‘murderer’ would emerge from when I reported to the police.
‘’Steady on boy!’ He shouted at the excited dog. ‘Keep this up and I would take you right back.’
They were nearly under my tree. I took one quick look around. Still no soul in sight. No matter.
I steadied my aim and pulled the trigger.

Friday, 19 November 2010

He who findeth a wi...wild cat?

He who findeth a wife, the bible says, findeth a good thing. I found her on the streets of Manchester peddling her ‘crown jewels.’ She was a prostitute and I was a bible tottering born again Christian. It was the perfect match. Okay, so I was love struck after giving in to temptation twice but Christ’s most ardent disciple was Mary Magdalene. Guess what her profession was. So if Christ never judged her, or the other one who he saved from being stoned to death by pricking the conscience of her prosecutors, then who was I to judge Sheila? Not to mention she was the prettiest being I ever set eyes on and I blindly refused to believe her docile demeanour had anything to do with merely wanting to please a customer. She was not cut out for this. This girl was meant to be someone’s wife. My wife?
‘Why are you doing this?’ From the moment I negotiated a price in the streets, before we made it to the hotel room, that question played around in my mind. I finally let it out after the urge that harassed me for weeks had been killed in a climax. She was already standing by the mirror, putting back on the skimpy, tell tale, clothes of her trade. It was still early evening. Prowlers would still be about and she could definitely bag a couple before the morning came.
She froze in mid action, her fingers stuck to her chin where she had been dousing talcum powder. Through the mirror it was her reflection that stared back at me in a puppy dog look which made her more endearing.
‘You haven’t told me your name.’ I added. She relaxed into a smile and carried on applying her make up like I had just pressed ‘play’ after ‘pause.’
‘Didn’t yo mama tell you never to ask a lady her age and a whore her name?’
‘I like you and God loves you as well. We don’t see you as a whore.’
She turned round to look at me, with a smile of mischief playing around her lips.
‘I am sure you mistook me for a sex education teacher that needed payment for her sessions.’
‘Listen...’
‘Hey, its okay. For what its worth, thanks.’ Her expression went sullen. She grabbed her bag and was out of the door before I could shout her to wait. She had vanished from the face of the earth by the time I threw some clothes on and ran outside.
It was for the best I decided, to keep me away from the devil’s path. But thoughts of her would not vacate my mind. She needed to be brought into the light I decided, I would just go there and preach to her, nothing more.
I found her after three days of searching; in the same spot I had first met her. She showed no sign of recognition, beckoning in the very same way she had the first time.
God she was fine, but, strictly business this time around. I whipped out my bible and encouragingly she gave me an ear until a car pulled up. The driver leaned out, leering at her. I wanted to break his neck.
‘You working honey?’
‘No she is not!’
‘What, yes I am!’ I had managed to make her eyes blaze. What right do you have to interfere in my affairs? She began to walk round the car to the passenger side.
‘But I was here first!’ That stopped her. She looked at me, I looked at her.
‘Do you want me tonight sweetheart?’
‘Yes.’ The driver had forced my hand. I planned then to pay for her time then preach instead of what she would have expected.
‘Are you getting in the car or what?’ The driver revved his engines impatiently.
‘No darling, I am with him.’ She had chosen me. He screeched off.
‘So why have you been wasting precious time with all this God talk. Come along love.’ She trotted away. I was going to call her back, that I was going to pay her to listen and we would not be needing a room, when my gaze fell on her well rounded buttocks, accentuated by the mini skirt, rising and falling with every step. I followed. No harm in spreading the gospel in a hotel room. She gave me no chance to catch my breath as soon as I had secured the door behind me. Save for her G-strings, every other clothing and jewellery she had had on formed a pile at her feet in a flash. I wanted to tell her to put her clothes back on, that this was not why I had come to seek her. Then she climbed on the bed, walking on fours like a cat stalking prey and looking at me all the while in the most sensual manner. Dear God I just had to get my money’s worth.
‘Right, so what is your name?’ I had only just climbed down her body, still very much covered in the sweat of copulation. I panted out the question, wondering how she could still look as fresh as morning roses.
‘Sheila.’ She answered curtly, gazing at the ceiling.
‘Is that your real name?’ She looked askance at me. Take it or leave it. I took it.
‘Why are you doing this?’
‘What do you care? You just want to fuck me like every other man.’
‘I really care, believe me. And God cares as well...’
‘Oh shut up about God.’ It was the only other time I ever saw her angry. She jumped out of bed and slipped into her clothes like she had slept through the chiming of her alarm clock.
‘Sheila...’ I sat up, a tad confused. She had listened to me out on the street.
‘My money.’ She was not in the mood for any speeches. She was not in the mood for me.
Deflated, I picked my trousers from the ground, took out some notes and pressed them in her outstretched hands. She headed for the door, not bothering with make up this time. The very next few seconds would determine my future. For if she had not stopped at the door to look at me in the manner of a homeless child robbed of her last coin before she sauntered out of sight, I would not have risen from the bed to the balcony to watch her walk away and I would not have seen her knocked down by a van screeching too late to avoid a collision. The driver did not stop.
For shock, I honestly cannot remember running down to the stairs to her side. I do remember feeling awash with gratitude for whoever had called the ambulance that zoomed into view just as I reached her unconscious body.
‘You know her?’ In the heat of the emergency the medics had allowed me into the ambulance with her. Now one of them looked up from resuscitating her. I had a feeling I was not going to be allowed far if I could not give a good enough reply.
‘I am her fiancée.’ I do not know why that popped out of my mouth but it seemed natural at the time. That confession affected my actions for the next three days. Maybe I was trying to affirm to the hospital staff that I was who I claimed to be or maybe I really felt overwhelming love for this call girl that hovered between life and death. Whatever it was I played the part, spending every free second at her bedside. And getting whatever she needed. The moment she woke I was there.
It took two more weeks before she was ready to leave. In that time I bathed in the praises of the nurses, telling her just how lucky she was to have someone like me. She smiled weakly in response every time, and, as soon as she could, petered me with kisses at every opportunity. Bliss.
She invaded my home and inevitably invaded my life. I nursed her in my bed, cooking what she wanted. The highlight of my day at work was when I closed to run home to her. Soon she could move around the house without aid. We celebrated with a bottle of wine. There was to be no sex, not anytime soon. The doctor had warned her to give it a break for at least a month.
What struck me as odd was that no one had come to visit her in hospital and no one anywhere was looking for her. Neither was she bothered about some relative somewhere agonizing about where she had vanished to. The girl was alone in the world. I had her to myself and now she had me. Perfect.
The healthier she got, however, the less hold I felt I had. She stopped paying attention to my stories; I was now the only one laughing at my jokes and too often she replied with a nod or an uninterested grunt when I asked how she felt.
‘Is there a problem darling?’ She had been quiet, looking out of the window as I had been trying to engage her in a conversation. She did not turn around to acknowledge my question.
‘Sheila...’
‘What do you really want from me?’
‘What?’
‘Tell me what you want from me. Why are you doing all this?’ Then she turned around. She had just taken a shower and looked casual in one of my big sweat shirts that stopped at her thighs, showing off her smooth long legs. I learnt she was particular about how she looked most times, using her spare time to do her manicure and her toes. She had left out make up and her frazzled hair fell over her shoulders giving her a look that stopped my heart beating.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Why am I in your house? Why are you looking after me? Why do you care?’
‘Isn’s it obvious?’ I could feel she was overwhelmed with all I had done for her. I was about to do even more. ‘I love you Sheila.’ I did not know what I expected of her reaction. She turned to the window again, as cool as if I had just told her the sky was actually blue.
‘Okay.’ It was hardly the right response to a declaration of love and I might have taken a hint from that at the time. But I did not care. It would do for the time being.
She recovered, being her old jovial self again and I thought nothing more of it. I thought nothing of taking her along to a get-together party I was invited to by an old friend and goodness, was I proud of her. She dazzled everyone and made me the envy of nearly every guy around. That is until Goni grabbed my hand, whisking me off to a corner of the room to talk in private.
‘My God, Thomas, I know that girl. You say she is your girlfriend? She comes to my hotel you know.’
My friend managed a highbrow hotel in town. Sheila might have gone to meet some of her customers there. All that was yesterday. Not worth mentioning.
‘Goni, before you say another word. I know she used to be a prostitute and I am not going to hold it against her. We did not all have the privilege of been raised properly. It does not make anyone better than her. Look at her, does she look like a prostitute?’
She was intently listening to some guy telling a story across the room but as we turned to her she caught my eyes and gave a cheery wave.
‘For my sake, Goni, keep that information to yourself.’ I patted him on the back, leaving him still gaping, stupefied speechless, to join her.
After a week of living the perfect life, I felt it was time to make things permanent. I had saved a bit for this very day and on my way back from work I stopped by H.Samuel’s to get a ring. The moment I touched the door knob to enter the house, however, I knew something was wrong. The eerie silence confirmed it.
‘Sheila!’ No answer. Her things were still there, giving me some sense of hope. So I sat down to wait. I jumped at every sound, expectant. By the time I heard a loud knock on the door it was well into the night. I rose slowly, my legs heavy. That had better be her.
‘Hello.’ She casually pushed past me to the chair I had been seating in for nearly five hours. ‘What have you been up to? And why do you have that look on your face?’ She asked. I was very angry but awash with relief. She had just taken me through five hours of how empty my life would be without her.
‘Where have you been? I have been waiting for you since I got back.’
‘Just out to see friends love. Got tired of staying in. Did you miss me?’
‘You could have left me a note.’
‘Yes daddy...what’s that in your hand?’
I looked at my hand. It was the little H.Samuel bag that housed the ring. I had held it all that time. I should have waited, given her some story or simply said it was nothing, at least until I had probed her enough. But I fell on my knees, just as I rehearsed in my mind a million times.
‘Sweetheart you have come to mean so much to me.’ I pulled out the ring from the bag and stretched it in her direction. I could have just offered her a deadly spider for the way she shrank back.
‘Tom, what is this?’
‘I want you to be with me forever.’
She got up and walked around me, keeping a distance. I stayed on my knees twisting my neck to hold her gaze as she arched her way to my left. This was not going to plan.
‘Are you sure about this?’ Her voice had gone hoarse. She regarded me like one in the presence of an alien, not knowing if the strange being was friendly or hostile.
‘I have never been more sure of anything in my life.’
‘Okay,’ She whispered, tiptoeing forward to make me the happiest man in the world at that hour. The ring slipped seamlessly into her finger. I rose and squeezed her in a hug, not caring that her grip was less enthusiastic.
One month. It was a month that night, since her accident. That meant she was free to ply her ‘trade’ again or...be with me (if you know what I mean).
We had just clambered into bed when she turned to me with that puppy dog look.
‘I have something to tell you.’ Her voice was sad. I sat up to listen, not fearing anything major. She looked at me and the light came into her eyes. I think she changed her mind, leaning over to kiss me instead. Now how do I describe the sex we had that night? She gave and gave and gave, bringing all the skills of her erstwhile trade to play, taking me to places I never imagined existed. I don’t know why, but the whole session felt like she was repaying me for all I had done in the one way she knew how. What I did not know was that she was planting a yearning which no one would be able to fill. I slept off with the widest smile on my face. Life could not have been better.
The next morning I woke up alone in bed. The session had gone on well into the morning so the sun was well up by the time I managed to open my eyes. I was very late for work so I focused on cooking up an excuse for the boss. Sheila might have gone to the shops or something. Her absence was not something to worry about. I freshened up, left her a note and dashed out.
For being late I was forced to stay back at work two extra hours. I bided my time knowing what awaited me at home. If every night was going to be like last night then my life had just been transformed into heaven. I felt pity for everyman on earth. Sheila was exclusively mine now.
The door keys were still in the flowerpot where I had left them for her. Could it be possible? It was. The house was exactly as I had left it in the morning. Sheila had not returned.
I sat in the same chair I had waited for her last time and I sat there until the first light of dawn broke through the curtains. Something was terribly wrong. Something bad had happened to my baby. With that thought I sprang into action. I called work to let them know I was dying of leukaemia that might vanish in a few days, put on the news in case there was any breaking story that Sheila might be in, then called every hospital and police station within the locality. Nothing. she was not at her usual spot where I had picked her up the first time and no other call girl would give me information about her or they did not know. I remembered my prayers then, imploring God to keep Sheila safe wherever she was and bring her back to me.
He answered my prayers two days later. Sometimes I really wish he hadn’t.
I jumped at the ringing phone as I had been doing since Sheila disappeared. And as the other phone calls, it was someone else, killing my spirit instantly. But it was Goni and he was frantic.
‘Thomas, Thomas, I have seen Sheila.’
‘What? Where? Where Goni?’
‘Quick, you have to come now. Meet me outside saint Christopher now now.’ He hung up.
My hands shook as I replaced the mouthpiece in its cradle. Goosebumps broke all over my skin. Saint Christopher was a hospital two blocks from the hotel where Goni worked. What had happened to my girl? How bad was it? And God why? Why was she so accident prone?
I paid the taxi driver as he pulled alongside the hospital. As soon as he stopped I was going to sprint inside.
‘Thomas.’ Goni was there he promised. He spotted me as I got out of the car.
‘Where is she?’ I asked, trotting through the automatic sliding doors.
‘Wait, where are you going? She is not in there.’
‘What?’ I allowed a little hope nudge my confusion.
‘She is back at my hotel. Come with me.’ I could not read his expression, and I could not come up with any reason why Sheila might have gone to Goni for refuge if she wanted to leave me. And why had she been hiding? She had a lot of explaining to do.
We walked through the plush lobby, Goni nodded at the overly friendly receptionist while I looked in all directions for signs of Sheila. He reached his office and turned the keys in the lock. Had he locked her inside?
‘Is she in there?’
He raised a hand to indicate I be patient. There was no one in his office. He closed the door, then picked up the remote control to a large screen telly at one corner of the room. Just what was he playing at?
‘Goni, where is Sheila?’
‘Shhh, now listen, you must not tell anyone what I am about to show you now. It is top secret and the hotel might be closed down if it ever gets out. I will certainly go to jail. I just could not hide this from you.’
‘I am no snitch Goni. Now please don’t make me ask you again. Where is Sheila?’ I was going to throttle him if he made me utter one more word.
‘Right, brace yourself.’ He pointed the remote at the telly and it clicked to life. It was some kind of CCTV unit with goings on within a dozen mini screens. It was all in black and white.
‘Every screen is for a room. From here we secretly monitor what is happening all around the hotel.’ He explained. I looked from the screen to his face. He caught my eye. ‘Room 231.’
Every mini screen had a digital number tag. I searched for the one with “231” and gasped. My legs wobbled and I fell to my knees. It just was not possible.
‘Is that Sheila?’ The question raised doubts in my head and I suddenly got the urge to find out for myself. I picked myself up and dashed out of the office.
‘Thomas...’ Goni must have sensed what I was up to. ‘No, come back here man.’ I raced up the stairs to the second floor. I could hear his chasing after me but a bulldozer would be hard pressed to stop me now. Room 231 was easy to find. I was expecting the door was locked but it opened when I turned the knob.
‘Thomas, no!’ He probably had the same expectations as well and, I am sure, was horrified when he saw me disappearing into the room.
There are defining moments in the life of a person, an occurrence or experience that completely transforms ones character. One of such moments was seeing Sheila in bed with three men. They were all stark naked and drugged stupid, barely conscious. The ground was littered with used condoms, dispersed clothes, cigarette and whisky. The strong smell of weed hung over the room like a cloud. Two of the men were on either side of her while the third was curled up between her wide open legs, using her thigh as a pillow. He reacted to the noise of my entry, stirring and repositioning himself closer to her private part.
‘Thomas, lets go man.’ Goni grabbed my hand. I vaguely heard him saying something about keeping it to myself, as he let me out into the night wind. I don’t remember crying but there would be dried tears on my cheeks in the mirror. I left town two months later. There would be subsequent call girls, even prettier ones, but I went to them, did the business and left, not bothering with converting them. I guess some things are the way they are for a reason.
I never saw Sheila again.