I remember clearly the first time I saw Mopelola, or should I say met, or . . . discovered? I don’t know but all I know is that that was the first time I laid eyes on Mopelola. As the third daughter of a struggling overworked mother who had five other daughters and a father wrapped up in the second wife who had given him the much wanted three sons, it went without saying that my life’s prospects were severely limited but Mopelola changed all that.
It was the day my teacher in the Local Government Secondary school I attended courtesy of the state government who made education free and compulsory for the girl child, told me to carry his bag home for him and I did. It must have been Mopelola he saw because there was nothing that could have interested him in me. He touched her and said wonderful things to her. She made him moan and groan and pant and when he finally calmed, Mopelola emerged, looked at me and said, “See how he notices and needs me? This is what my life will be. I will be loved”. I nodded soberly. No one had ever loved me but apparently Mopelola was more loveable than me. I retreated to the background and made way for her, happy to live in her shadows.
In the following days I was to see how right she was. Teacher loved and cared for her in a way he never could for me. He gave her things and made sure she never failed. He paid for her WAEC exams and wrote them for her. Mopelola basked in the adulation (her word, not mine) and continuously reminded me “this is what my life will be from now on. I will never be pushed to the background anymore”. I looked at her and nodded. If anyone could do it, it was Mopelola. I had no doubt she would make her life like that.
And she did. It was like watching the birth of dawn. Mopelola bloomed and blossomed. All of a sudden, the tucked in chin, the hunched shoulders straightened and this amazing person was revealed. I would have envied her if not that I loved her too much.
I remember the time she got admission to the University of Ibadan and discovered teacher did not have enough money to pay for her. It was then she realized she could do better than him and she had to do better than him. He was holding her back. She could give the same thing she was giving teacher to another person and get much more in return but to do that she needed to get out of our small village and University of Ibadan was her escape route.
Mother ( Mopelola did not say Mama anymore) could not pay her fees and Father (Mopelola again) only had enough money to pay for his sons’ school fees. For the first time Mopelola used both her mind and body. She decided Father would pay for her school and anything else she wanted. That night when Father ate his amala and gbegiri, he unknowingly ate something more and woke up the next day to a sobbing Mopelola in his bed. He paid for her school and more. That was brilliant! I could never have thought of something like that, but of course, I am not as brilliant as Mopelola.
In the university, Mopelola discovered you didn’t need to work as hard as people always said, at least not with your mind. And when you are gifted with the kind of body she had, you really didn’t need your mind for reading. Mopelola put her mind to better use, planning and targeting specific lecturers who could influence all others. Mopelola had no intention of giving her body to all and sundry, no way! I admired her for that.
After university, Mopelola told me the labor market is for fools, and with what I saw I had to agree. She was not going to join the masses and neither was she going to start from the bottom; she had already been to the valley, the only place left was the mountain top.
I don’t know how she did it but this is Mopelola we are talking about, so you should know it got done; first it was the bank CEO, then the Governor, then the Chief of Army Staff then all the way to the top. Mopelola lived every one of her dreams. She was no more the nondescript third daughter of an ordinary family; she was Moplelola!
She went where she pleased, did as she pleased, lived the life she pleased! She loved it all; but being at the top had one problem, there was nowhere else to go! And if you are like Mopelola, you soon start craving for new excitement. She found that needed excitement in the pills, then the white powder, then the needles.
My Mopelola was once more on top of her game. The man at the top paid for the excitement at first then he told her no more, but no one ever tells Mopelola what to do. If he won’t pay for them, someone else will and they did. It started with the minister, then the CSO, then the Commissioner then the aspiring LG Chairman then Mopelola herself.
Screw them all, she said. If no one would pay, she had more than enough to pay for her excitement herself. And she did. With cash, with jewelries, with cars, with houses and when those were all gone, with her body. You just have to admire the never say never spirit of Mopelola!
The men paid for her excitement. Nameless and faceless, they came and went with a regularity that assured me Mopelola was still on top of her game. See how many men still wanted her! One after the other they entered into her. Naira note after naira note she counted till she had enough for the next score. And yes, they all still knew her. Mopelola could never be obscure again. They knew her in the streets and the alleys and the corners. My Mopelola, she just had that thing in her.
The years crawled by until one day, they ground to a stop. I caught sight of myself in the dusty, smoke covered cracked side mirror of a broken down danfo bus and Mopelola was gone! She wasn’t there anymore. She had left me old and wrinkled and beaten just when I needed her the most. I had driven my Mopelola away. After all these years, she had finally discovered what I had tried so hard to hide from her – I am a failure and always will be. I am the nonentity third daughter of a poor struggling mother of six girls with a father who has his precious sons and couldn’t give a damn about me. Why would someone like Mopelola want anything to do with someone like me? She didn’t, so she left!
I was now all alone. I tried to be like Mopelola, to do the things I had watched her do over the years but I couldn’t. I’m such a fool; whatever possessed me to think I could be anything like Mopelola? Just this evening as I shuffled down the road to the Mama paraga, hoping she would sell on credit to me, a car stopped in front of me and a hand grabbed me, “Mopelola? Mopelola? Is it you? What happened to you?”
I squinted up at him. I could see a clean handsome face, the kind of face that spoke of wealth, the kind of face that only Mopelola could have known. All of a sudden, I was assailed with pity for this fine man. Didn’t he know Mopelola was dead, or. . . . was it that she left, or . . . . was taken? I don’t know, but all I do know is that his Mopelola like mine is no more. We are both alone.
How could he even mistake me for Mopelola? I am just Lovette or . . . is it Isabel or . . . . Sandra? I cannot remember. After a while the names start to run together and I lose track. I just know I am not Mopelola, I have never been Mopelola. She was just someone I wanted to be but couldn’t be. And this lonely man like me is looking for his Mopelola too. Maybe he wants to be like her too? I don’t know. But he looks as lonely as I am, I think.
So I decide to comfort him and maybe he will buy me paraga. I reach down a hand and cup his crotch through the fine silk material of his pants. He jumps a mile in the air and thrusts me away from him. The sight is so funny I start laughing; I laugh so hard I fall on the floor and continue laughing. I am still laughing when he enters his car and drives off as if the hounds of hell are after him. That makes me laugh even more. I would have continued laughing some more if not that I start coughing. Then I have to stop.
I get painfully to my feet and start again for the mama’s place, two streets away. I hope she will sell me the paraga on credit. I really need it. Its times like this that I miss Mopelola even more. She would have known how to get the paraga free.
*Danfo – commercial passenger bus
*Paraga – local gin