My eyes, rather than voice, reach her across the din. Pretty thing. Over and above the bottle of liquor she engages in intermittent bouts of French kiss, we connect. Big eyeballs hold me captive, sucking me into wet, sultry pools. The swivelling coloured bulbs of the dancefloor criss-cross on her face. Now she is pink, then she is blue. The reflections catch on the shiny shinmie she is wearing. She smiles and tilts her head to the side. I smile and let off a shrug, non-commitally. It is enough. She slides off the bar stool and glides -rather than walks- over to me, ducking and weaving past sweaty and wriggling bodies strewn across her path. Someone blows smoke and she is caught in the haze. The smoke hovers around her shiny permed hair, forming a halo. She cuts the picture of one caught in the clouds. She looks like a saint. A saint with perfect white teeth and blood red lipstick. A sinful smiling saint. Or, a saint of sinful smiles. To make room for her, I adjust somewhat on my seat, backing further into the back rest. The back of my head comes in contact with the sea of glass behind me. I adjust my head too, a little forwards. She reaches me, and without a word, drops her slim, killer body, and bright white smile, right into my lap.
“What do you want?” she asks. Her voice is slim, matching the rest of her. Up close, she exudes a heady scent that blots out cognition for a moment. Her breath is hot, bleaching my mind of the more corrupt thoughts, momentarily. We stare at each other for a second. That little second of acknowledgement between predator and prey. I get the message. Here, stotting is not allowed. I do not intend to behave maladaptively however. So, I mentally close my eyes, surrender my resolve and await the bite to the jugular. She turns and places her beer on the round table that’s betwixt our seat and the next. She faces me squarely, eyeing me sensually. If I didn’t know better, I would think this was all pleasure for her – no business attached.
“What do you have?” I make it sound like an inquest.
“Right here?” I glance around, incredulous. The current act is hung atop the pole. She is nude, except for menacing stilletos clinging to her feet. The legs are entwined on the pole. One leg is stretched outward, taut, like a spear. The other is bent at the knee. Together, the legs form a triangle, with a base that streches out too much to one side. She holds the pole with her right hand, stretched to the limit, creating as much distance as is possible between her body and the pole. Her left hand droops carelesly beside her, her palm dangling underneath her naked butt. She throws her braids backwards, and twirls. Several 360 degree rotations are completed, leisurely, descending, till she berths at the base of the pole. She streches the leg bent at the knee now, pulling off a full split. I doff a mental hat.
Two white men drinking at the bar stools yodel, and throw currency notes at her. She ignores them, and the money. She will pick that up at a less historical moment.
“We can go to the ‘VIP'”, Saint instructs. There is slight irritation in her voice. I follow her eyes. A little away, the words ‘VIP’ shimmer in neon lights, perched precariously above a door. Red lighting reflects in the slit between the door and lintel. I have seen a few men dragged in there. They all came out looking relieved, somewhat.
I hesitate. She leaves me to consider the daffodil of the moment and busies herself hooting and waving with colleagues who are now wriggling with new found fervour as ‘akpako’ fills the air. She joins in, lifts her pert little bottom a little above my knees, and nacks akpako. That decides me.
“Don’t worry, let us go… I will treat you well.” She grabs me and her drink.
The girl is good. Knows her trade. There was no point haggling while my senses were still about me. I allow her tow me towards the red light. She knows once we are in there, and she starts to ply her trade on me, the last thing I would want to get involved in is an argument. I have money to burn, so I follow her into Sodom, afraid to look back, lest I turn to salt. Eyes burn holes in my back before the door is shut.
Down the corridor, we take a left, and enter a dark place, arranged like a living room. Two settees side by side, face the door. Two single chairs sit at the extremes of the room, facing each other. There is a coat-hanger in the far left corner. The sofas are empty. There is a couple to our far right. The lady is sitting on a low stool. She is backing us, and facing her client who sits in the chair. Her head is bent,between his laps. What they are doing, I do not see.
Saint deposits me in the single chair closer to us. She sits on my lap again, smiling at me seductively. She looks me in the eye, her perfect upper teeth visibly resting on her lower lip as her hand rummages somewhere between my thighs, finds a turgid object and squeezes same, gently. Something shakes lose in my head.
“It is Five K for the room, and Ten K for me”. The object in her hand nods before I do. A tall figure appears at the doorway and just stays there, darkly. She looks at it and looks at me, ” He collects the rent, upfront”. I hated to have her get off my knees as I get the money out. It is a thick wad of one thousand naira notes. Saint looks neither at me, nor the money. She busies herself dancing to the distant ragga beat as I count. She collects the notes I have peeled off and pays our rent without ceremony. The figure at the door disappears as silently as it had appeared.
“We can stay here as long as you want now, ” she informs me and settles down again, grabbing the object in my trouser, firmly this time.
“You seem shy, is it your first time?”
We nod, the object and I.
I shake my head.
I do not respond. I have never been with a lady of the night.
“Okay, would you want me to fuck you? ”
“Here? is that okay?” I didn’t recognise the croak.
She rolls her eyes, “It is not allowed, but we do it.”
She unzips me, and the object springs out, like a jack in the box, thankful for air. She kneels down, and a wet cavity captures me. I watch the middle of her head as it goes up and down, and back and forth. She wraps something in her mouth around me. The couple in the far end change positions. The lady is sitting on his lap now, facing us, bouncing, wriggling, dancing. Her hand is clasped behind her head. I cannot see her face in the semi-darkness.
Saint focuses on the job at hand with business-like concentration. She whips out her breasts, the two succulent bulbs of them. They point, like fawns. The fawns take me, one on either side, and rub themselves against me, up and down.
“You like that?” Saint asks, a little breathlessly. A faint smile is playing at the edges of her lips. Her eyes shine at me in the dark, like twain coals.
I nod and smile at her.
“I like you…” she says.
“Why?” I gurgle.
“I’ll tell you later”. She whips out a condom. “Should I fuck you now?”
The opera opens then. The pianist is evil, wrecking melodious passion on my psyche. I twist, euphorically. Velvet voices sail through to me from a faraway land. I am marooned on pastures of pleasure that are both warm and moist. I lose all sense of time. There is no time here. Just me and this new world of exploding lights. I am gliding in and out of a wetness, my breath is a little laboured. I watch as neat, soft buttocks jostle against each other. The line of her back is curved, sensually, perfectly. She cradles her breasts in her hands, and tosses her permed head back at me. She cocks it to the left so as not to hit my face. She is moaning. The tempo heightens. The voices begin to scream in my head, sweet and damning. The pianist strums up a note so long, so titillating, it weeps… and just when I am about to drop off the cliff onto the glassy icicles jutting out far below, rain begins to fall in torrents. And I am rescued.
“So, why do you like me?”
We are fully dressed, and have changed address. We are resident on one of the sofas now. Comfortably. We are alone in the room. Our former company had shuffled out earlier on.
Saint had left me for a moment -after I had paid up- to ‘freshen up’. She returned in minutes, taking my breath away with her allure, all over again. She brings with her two bottles of beer. I accept one and she settles beside me.
“You still remember I said that?” she asks, laughing.
“Hm Hm…” I nod and gurgle, beer bottle in my mouth.
“It was your first time with er… ?”
I nod, smiling.
She laughs softly. “Well, I like you because you are neat and new. And you respect a woman.”
That was a new angle to me. I am neat and new. I ask her to explain neat and new.
“Well, most men who come here start by grabbing you. And saying rude things. Generally debasing you. But you, you are kind, and you smiled at me, genuinely. No one has done that in a long time.”
We drink to that.
“You are married…” she said, half statement, half question. Her eyes are trained on my glistening wedding band.
“Where is your wife?”
I tell her.
“She is lucky. I wish I had a man like you”.
How many men has she told that?
“I mean it. I feel you, your spirit. You have a fine spirit.”
“What do you know about people’s spirits?”
“Nothing…” Mild laughter. “But you know a good man when you meet him… I want you to come often.”
I tell her that that is impossible. I do not stay in town.
“Where do you stay?”
I tell her.
She makes a face. “I grew up there.” She tells me about where she grew up,and we proceed to swap knowledge on the streets and avenues and spots we both know. “…my parents are still there.” she concludes.
I didn’t know she had parents. I ask her what they do.
“My mom is a police officer. My dad owns a gin parlour.”
I notice that she speaks good English. Somewhat better than that I hear from my colleagues at work.
I ask nicely, how she got here. I meant this new city, for starters. She cuts to the chase.
“Because I want to go to school…”
I do not understand and I say so. She sits up then. There is a new light in her eyes. Her mouth purses passionately, determinedly. “I want to go to the university. My parents cannot afford it. So I have to find a way…”
“I see.” I don’t.
“I have a sister. She is twenty seven and almost illiterate. She is married with five kids. Her husband is a police officer. A constable. He got her pregnant when she was seventeen. My sister is beautiful, far better than him. Better than that. I do not want that type of life, in the barracks. So I left. The only place to come is here…”
I shrug and nod. “Do you like it here?”
“Well, it is okay…” she pauses, reflectively, then shrugs resignedly. “The money is good… ”
“So, when do you plan to go to school?”
“When I have saved enough.”
“What do you do in the…er…”
“I sell beer, wholesale, at the central market.”
I look at her again. She couldn’t be any older than twenty five.
“You have it made already then…”
She laughs. “I took a loan to start that the trade. I’m paying back, with interest. You know these local money lenders… When I’m through paying my loan, I can relax and plan…”
My phone rings. It is my wife. We speak our native dialect for a while. I tell her my flight is for 9.45 am tomorrow. I tell her the conference is over and I am hanging out with colleagues. I say no, there are no women here. I ask after Christine. I tell her I love them both with my life. I promise to call when I get to my hotel room. We hang up.
“Who is Christine? Your daughter?” Saint asks me.
I nod. “She is three months old.” I say, my chest heaving a little, proudly. It does that when I talk of Christine. I click open the picture gallery on my phone, wait patiently for an intruding call to fizzle out, then click open my collection of pictures. My lovely wife and Christine come to life in bright colors. I hand the phone over to Saint. She scrolls through animatedly. I study her as she looks at the collection. In the afternoon and on a normal day, this is anyone’s girl, anyone’s daughter. Beautiful, and smart. Perhaps, only unlucky, much unlike many of us who were spoon fed by loving parents all our growing up days. I feel her, deeply.
She hands the phone over to me, a little sour faced and twists her lips, wistfully.
‘I have a daughter too…” she says.
“Really?” I am a little surprised. She doesn’t look the part of a ‘mummy’.
She scrolls through her Blackberry and turns up a picture. Taken in an un-completed building, she stands in the sand with a three foot smiling replica of her. The child is dressed in a pink gown with white lace collars and cuffs, and pink corduroy trousers. Her hair is twisted in a donut in the centre of her head. A beauty, like her mother.
“What of her dad?”
” I don’t know. He … is somewhere in Europe. Ukraine I think.”
“He doesn’t want her?”
(to be concluded)