I rose up to go forward.
My feet would not cooperate.
I stood in place.
Like a pole.
Others moved about.
I could hear the sounds of their feet.
Giggles, nervous laughters.
Yes, shut up. We’re supposed to be quiet about this.
An open hand touched mine.
I pulled away.
For a balled fist.
Pulled back my hand.
A happy talk.
A balled fist.
Brushed against mine.
…………………… I jerked away.
…………………… And then I came to my senses.
Whose hand was…that?
Touch me again.
Again, I came to my senses.
Flailing telegraphed desperation.
I was desperate.
But must not show desperation.
Folded my hands behind me.
Just stood there.
Like a pole.
Hoping that Golden Touch would come my way.
Just when I almost gave up.
There was the touch.
I grabbed the hand.
Then let go.
Grabbed it again.
A little too hard.
Released the pressure.
He wrapped his hand around mine.
Big, hard hand.
He grabbed me by the waist.
Pulled me closer to him.
Was that part of the protocol?
Pulling me to…him?
This one is breaking the rules!
Like rough leather.
Like a man.
He leaned closer.
Pressed his cheek against mine.
This also must be illegal.
We were not supposed to do cheek-to-cheek.
Whispered something to me.
Didn’t catch it.
“I want to fuck you.”
I heard it clearly this time.
Did he say what he just said?
I jerked away.
Released from his grip.
Walked away, saying “sorry, sorry.”
As I bumped into people.
Found myself in the lobby.
But the seething grew.
Did he really say that?
That was the rudest thing anyone had ever said to me.
Who allowed him into the workshop?
Maybe I should inform someone.
A rapist was in our midst.
I marched back towards the door.
Take a chill pill.
I turned tail, and walked right out of the building.
Out in the chilly December dusk,
I smoked a cigarette.
Calmed me down some.
Sat on the stone.
Distracted my mind.
Watched new arrivals’ feet
crunch the snow on the ground.
In the distance.
Couple of kids.
Threw snow balls at each other.
Wasn’t gonna take this.
Crunched my cigarette.
Marched back in.
“What happened, dahling?” Love Guru asked me. Her accent was Eastern.
“Had to go to the little girls’ room,” I lied.
“Welcome back,” she said, flashing a wrinkly smile.
I entered the room. Participants were seated across from each other, men on the right, females on the left. Most were grinning. The lucky ones. I studied each face.
The one that touched me should be looking at me right now. But the men, the ones that bothered to look, showed glancing interest.
Show your face, slime ball.
The Love Guru faced the men. “What I would like for you to do now is show the cards the ladies gave you.” She clasped her slender hands together as her grin grew wider. “Ladies, those of you that handed out your cards, stand up, walk up to the men you gave your cards to and take them to the lobby. Both of you should get to know each other better. Remember, lobby, not hotel room.”
Ha,ha,ha. Laughter in the room. The lucky couples left the room, some holding hands, some looking unsure.
“You have thirty minutes,” Love Guru added.
I was not laughing. I didn’t get to pass out my card, which meant that no man was going to get up and walk up to me, and I was feeling pissed at one of these men using inappropriate language at me. I felt like raising my hand and reporting the troublemaker to the teacher. But I held my fire.
Love Guru turned to the rest of us left in the room – the losers – and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we will take a thirty minutes break. When we come back, we will give you guys another chance to find a partner by touch. If you are to find one between now and when we meet again, we will still require you to go through the Touch ritual. But before you go, let me repeat a few things I said before…”
Blah, blah, blah. I tuned her out, and focused on the men sitting across from me. Five in all. Two black, two white, and one Asian. I focused on the blacks. They were not looking at me. I traced their gazes: the white chicks. What else was new?
That was why this event was important. To see if we could get beyond what we see, and choose partners by other means, like touch, voice, smell, etcetera. Love Guru here had been getting a lot of ink in the press for her “revolutionary” workshops, and attendants had been singing her praises from coast to coast.
So why not give it a swirl, I said to myself. So here I was. May be I should ask for a refund.
“See you later,” Love Guru said, dismissing us. I stood up, straightened up, and walked out of there like a winner.
At the hotel bar, I ordered a stiff one. I sashayed up to an empty table and roughly placed the drink on it, almost spilling the drink. I sat down, took a sip, and almost choked on the blow back. Lord. When was the last time I had alcohol? Obviously a long time ago, if my reaction to this cocktail was to be taken into account.
I looked up. It was one of the black guys in the left-over group of the “Love through Touch” workshop.
“It’s a free country.” I waved at him to sit. I leaned forward as something dawned on me. That voice…
He was the one that used the profanity at me.
I leaned back on my seat to study him. He was full of chest, and boasted a dark, shiny complexion. He wore his hair close-cropped, and a permanent, almost cocky grin graced his handsome face. A worker ant line of a mustache sat above his upper lip, and a strip of a beard hugged the space between his lower lip and his jaw.
“Hello again,” he said as he pulled a chair and sat on it.
I stood up and walked away. I plunked down unto a sofa few yards away. I tapped my foot against the floor repeatedly as I studied him. I thought of ways to imprint my anger on him. I reached for my cigarette box, but then shoved it back into my purse. I stood up and marched back towards where he sat.
I sat down and leaned towards him. “You had no right to say that to me.”
“Say what to you?”
“You know what you said. Don’t deny it.”
“Even if I said what you say that I said. Like you said, it’s a free country.”
“Not free to yell fire in a crowded theater.”
“I never yelled fire in a crowded theater.”
True. Why did I say that?
“ I Googled your name.”
“My name? How did you get my name?”
“List of attendees. Ngozi. That’s your name, right? Nigerian, right? I wanted to know more about you.”
“Because I’m a Nigerian.”
“You’re lying.” I leaned back on my seat. He had an accent but he could be from Ghana or some Caribbean island.
He leaned forward. The cocky grin still planted firmly on his face. “Why do you say that?”
“Nigerians don’t talk to women like that. What part of Nigeria are you from?”
“You’re Hausa.” I waved a finger at him. Tacky, but I didn’t care. “Especially Hausa.”
“What do you know about Hausa men?”
“They killed a very good friend of mine. He was in Jos.”
That wiped the grin off his face. “Sorry to hear that.”
A heavier spirit descended on me. Kalu was dear to me, and his death, especially the circumstances surrounding it, still haunted me. And to think that I was sitting across from someone who was like the ones that inflicted such hideous pains on him…“Sorry won’t bring him back.”
“Ditto. Didn’t bring mine back either.”
“How do you mean?”
“A boyhood friend of mine was killed too. Kano.”
I became defensive. “I didn’t kill him.”
“You’re an Ibo, right?”
“So because I am Ibo, I’m responsible for her death?”
“Yes.” The smirk returned. “If we are to follow your logic regarding Hausa men.”
“I said that Hausa men don’t speak the way you did to me. I didn’t say anything about killing.” I was not in control of the conversation right here, I could feel it.
“Stereotype. Same thing.”
“What do you want from me?” I stood up. “Oh, you already said it. You want to fuck me.” Believe me, I had a hard time getting that four-letter word out.
“Ibo women don’t talk like that.”
“Ibo women talk like that when they are pissed!”
Surprisingly, I started feeling a certain sexual warmth between my loins. The combination of the hot argument and me thinking of and uttering the dirty word got me going. I’d never been put in a situation like this before. I examined my colorful nails to hide my flux.
“Excuse me.” I stood up and walked away.
“Where are you going?”
“Little ladies’ room. Don’t wait for me.”
I marched up to the restroom door, kicked it in, and rushed up to the faucet. I sprinkled a little water on me, turned and leaned against the top. I took out a cigarette and lit it. I inhaled deeply. It did the trick.
I turned and studied my features in the wide mirror. Someone told me once that I looked like Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space. I had since investigated and found some truth to it. Both of us had dark skin, and the oval of our faces were…easy on the eyes. Very easy on the eyes.
But why did men react to me like…that? Especially white men. Yes, I had a nice shape, but …believe me, there were prettier girls in that room. I even made a conscious effort to wear something that would blunt my curves a little. Apparently it did not work.
Men were pathetic. They feigned the gentleman bit for a while – flowers, expensive dinners, the works. And then boom, they couldn’t control themselves. A quick turn off for me. This one, however…
Threw me a curve ball.
Completely knocked me off my … constitution. I cracked the door open to spy on him. He now held a bottle of Heinekens in his grip. In fact, he held it as I held my cigarette – in a vise grip.
I turned to go back to the mirror. That’s when the alarm went off. I had set it off. I quashed the cigarette in the sink and flushed away the evidence. I stepped out of the restroom and then hooked right. This got me to the elevator without being seen.
By the time I was in the elevator, someone had shut off the alarm. I hurried into my hotel room, and fixed me a bath. I scented the water, lit a candle, poured me some wine, and then turned on Jill Scott.
Danced to the music.
Sang out loud.
To forget Golden Touch.
I sunk my heated body.
Into the water.
Hoping to cool it off.
Of Golden Touch.
Began to imagine him.
Was inside me.
Again, and again, and again.
To take me to the stars.
But I wanted a man
To take me there.
Others had failed.
This weird one.
I got out of the tub.
In the robe.
The candle’s fire.
Must find him.
To put out.
I stepped out of the elevator clothed in just my robe. I attracted unwanted attention, but didn’t care.
Love Guru looked at me with clasped hands over her mouth. “My God. It worked! Who is the lucky fella?”
She frowned. “Golden who?”
I made a face and waved at her as if she must’ve been nuts for not knowing who Golden Touch was.
She sighed. “They all left, dahling. The workshop ended thirty minutes ago.”
I ran out of there and back into the elevator.
“I’ve been looking for you, Ngozi.”
I turned around. Golding Touch stood there, hands spread out.
“Me too.” I walked up to him as a subject approaching deity.
He collected me into his embrace. “I love the whole of you, Ngozi. The way you smell, the way you giggle, the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you show anger, the way you look, your eyes, everything!”
Okay, I was a little tipsy, but I would’ve been this far along regardless. In his strong, warm embrace, I felt safe and tingly all over. I leaned into his ear and whispered:
The elevator opened, and shut, opened, and shut, apparently traumatized by my language and our behavior.
Golden Touch pressed a button. The elevator closed up and ceased fretting.
I released from his embrace, and let the robe drop.
He looked as if he would faint, but he quickly recovered. He turned and pressed a button on the Otis brand elevator. We stopped between floors. He couldn’t wait, I couldn’t wait.
He pulled me to him, and then teased my mouth open with his lips. He slowly slid his tongue into my mouth. My mouth stopped being tentative; it opened wide and sucked his tongue in.
Our tongues explored slowly and sweetly as we let out hungry, urgent moans.
He cupped my breasts, hardening my nipples. He then strip-searched me, running his big hands up and down my body. Sweet electricity shot through me, making me weak at the knees.
I cupped his butt, urging him to do it.
My hands got adventurous. Lord! It was true…big hands equaled big…
He dropped to his knees. I mounted him and…
My constitution…fell apart.
In the hands of a man…
Among the stars.