The place was noisy. The loud voices of people woke me up. I had the weirdest dream ever. It wasn’t so scary but really weird. My parents were apologising to me. Even if they wanted to apologise for ruining my life, they shouldn’t do that in a dream, they should come back. I could feel the tears, I smiled immediately. I looked, the table I had used to cover myself was still there. There were people pacing back and forth. I never imagined this place as a busy area. I got up quickly, I didn’t want people to start staring and thinking I was a homeless kid, which I was.
“Ewwwww! ma mouth stinks” I said to myself “where do I get water or something to clean up? Today is the first day of a brand new Ola.”
I stood as quick as I could. The morning air smelled so nice. I have never been in this part of Lagos. I legs paced fast, joining the walks of the hustling people. No one looked my direction. Everyone was just looking ahead, minding their own business. I hadn’t walked long, when I saw a sign board that read “young sales girl needed, salary attractive, apply within”. I felt a pinch of joy in me, finally I had gotten a job. Ok! I know I haven’t even applied yet, but I fit the description of the person needed.
I walked into the place, it was a beer parlour. I approached a young lady washing plates “please, I’m here regarding the sign board outside”
She didn’t stop what she was doing, she didn’t even look at my direction, “meet the fair lady at that counter by your right” she replied.
This lady wasn’t fair, she was an over-bleached lady whose face was filled with wrinkles. Her make up was far from this world. She was horribly ugly. I didn’t mean to describe her in an insulting manner, but you know the truth must be told. She should be the madam of the place, I thought. Here’s me, trying to get a job. What a life!
“Excuse me ma, am here regarding the position of a sales girl”
“You no fit greet, you just open that your smelling mouth” she said.
Oh! Was my mouth really smelling. Or is she just a witch who knows I haven’t brushed my teeth. That’s not good o, I need to brush my teeth.
“I’m sorry, good morning ma” I said
She stared at me, assessing my physical features. Dear woman, I’m physically ok, but its your physical features you need to check. Thank God she couldn’t hear whatever my mind was thinking or I won’t have a chance at this job.
“You go collect N1,000 every month end, you resume around 7 in the morning and you go close around 11 at night. Are you ok with that”
“Wetin be your name?” She asked
“My name is Ola”
Was she only interested in my name. Right now I’m in dear need for pity, she should ask about my family. I’m hungry, I need food, I need to clean up. This woman was ignorant won some things. She should know the person she was about to work with. I wanted pity, I didn’t get it. I felt really bad.
“Ok Ola. Tina!” She screamed. The girl I met earlier came running towards our direction “this Ola, she’ll be working here with you now, keep her busy and take away that sign board outside”
“Yes ma” Tina replied
“Ola, I hope you will be able to do this job” Tina said while we were cleaning the chairs.
“Yes, I’m ready to work, even if I can’t do it, I have to choice then to learn it”
“This is not a job that you will learn o, this is one that you will just have to know” her voice went low.
“What do you mean?” I asked
“I can’t tell you anything. Madam will explain to you” she concluded. She didn’t say anything after that conversation. What other work could be more difficult than what I have been doing since, I thought. We continued the work in silence.
Finally, I got a chance to sit down and think straight. The work here wasn’t so easy at all. I had never done a chore at home before and now, I’m doing more than a chore. Tina was the nicest person I’ve met, she taught me every bit of chore and helped me through the ones that were difficult. Our madam, whose name I was told was “Madam show” had sent her to get the food stuff for pepper soup, nsi-ewu and nwokobi that she makes. Tina taught me to pronounce them. Madam show said I would go to the market with Tina another day. I wonder why they call her show. What’s she showing off, her poor fashion sense or her lack for good skin maintenance routine. I know she’s ma new madam and I have to respect her, she’s just too ugly.
“Ola” her voice called from the counter she was sitting on.
“Ma” I replied.
She was counting some money when I got to her. The way she licked her dirty fingers after about a few counts disgusted me.
“I haven’t introduced this work to you well, you see” she started, what was I seeing I asked within me “your work goes beyond serving customers drinks, its the way you react with customers that will make them come again. You are young, beautiful and endowed in the front and back” she continued “if a customer tells you to follow him at night, you must follow him, if you don’t I will sack you. You can tell Tina to teach you. Leave my side.”
Wicked. Rude. Heartless. Ugly. Stupid. Callous. Cruel. So many more adjectives I could describe my new found madam with. I left her side immediately, without uttering a word. I went straight back to the seat I occupied earlier. My thoughts resumed. What I was running from finally caught up with me. I wasn’t going to prostitute myself to keep a job. The pay wasn’t even up to the monthly allowance I received while in school. The woman is so heartless, I wondered if she had any daughter. She should have called this place a brothel beer spot instead, then I wouldn’t have bothered applying. Maybe her daughter was a prostitute too. Maybe that was why Tina was talking strangely about the job earlier. ” “This is so unfair” I sighed.
I went back to where she was “madam, I want to get something to eat”
“Don’t be late” she said
There wasn’t money with me, I lied about getting something to eat. I wanted to get another job. I walked on the street like a homeless kid. I stopped at every shop I could to ask if there was a vacancy for me. None of their replies were positive.
I found my way back to my new work place. By the time I got in there, the shop was filled. I was still very much hungry. Madam show was nowhere to be found. Tina was attending to some customers.
“Ola, ask those customers over there what they want” she pointed towards my left.
I peeped at the clock on the wall, it was 6pm already. Oh dear! I had spent three hours job hunting. I hope I don’t loose this job. I hurriedly went over the table. Two young men sat on the table.
“Good evening” I talked in the nicest way I could “what can I get you?”
“What’s your name?” One of them asked.
What’s my name got to do with what you want. My thoughts started
“I am Ola” I replied.
“Sweet name for an angel” the other man said. “Get me a bottle of big stout and get my friend a bottle of harp”
I was halfway to the fridge when he called me back
“What else?” I asked
“Get yourself a bottle of malt”
“Thanks” I replied.
I didn’t drink the malt, I took the money instead. That was what Tina taught me. She told me not to drink whatever a customer got me if I really wanted money. We worked non stop for hours. Madam show came in later but didn’t scold me for my long absence earlier. At the end of the day she called me. There was an old man sitting beside her, he wasn’t so old but he was old enough to be my dad. I had served him earlier.
“Ola you will follow this man this night” she said.
“To where?” I asked, confused.
“Wherever he wants to take you”
Oh my God I didn’t want this.
“Ok ma, let me go and get my things I said”
I followed the man to his car
“I am Alhaji Afeez” he said when we got into his car.
Who cares what your name is. He was too old for me. Even if I would sleep with someone, not with this old man. His odour consumed my nose, his perfume smelled like those mallam shops around my area.
“Ok sir” I replied.
He brought out kolanut from a part of his car, I don’t know what they call the part. He offered me some but I declined.
We didn’t continue the conversation after then. When we got to a place that was quiet, I started another conversation. “Sir, please I want to urinate, can you stop your car?” I asked politely, smiling.
“Ok” he answered.
He pulled over and I got out of the car. This man was really dumb and boring. If he had a little sense of humour maybe I’ll play along and just sleep with him. He was looking at me. Did he want to see me take my trouser off or what. I waited a bit till he took his eyes off me and then, I started out another race. I ran without looking back.
“Hey” I heard is voice from a far.
The man was suffering from weight problem. I had no fear with him running after him. The only fear was what lied ahead of me, another man could give me a rape call again. My strength was falling apart. I wasn’t ready to stop running. I hope I don’t faint again. My legs hit a stone. I fell on the ground. I wanted to sit and rest a bit but the place was too quiet to rest, any harm could come my way and no one will run to save me. I stood immediately, gathering the last strength I knew was in me.