I knew deep within me that Lagos would be this way but I never expected it to be this tough. From the day I left my village, I have been involved in one hassle or the other. Luck was my greatest undoing and I was doomed to its channel of predestined problems.
This morning even as I woke from my sleeping position on the floor beside Janet’s bed, I knew that trouble loomed like a cloud over my head. I had just stepped outside of the small room with my tooth brush and paste when the compound trouble maker Shade, walked up to meet me with her hands on her hips.
“Senorita! Na you and me for this compound today…I no go gree lai lai.”
My mouth hung agape, the neighbours gathered as they usually did when fights were about to erupt like a ready volcano. I stared at Shade’s face in shock. ‘What’s her problem this time?’ I asked myself. I could hear some children weaving my name into a small song.
“…Senorita don jam jam for Shade dormot!” They sang over and again.
My native name has always been very controversial, it has forever been a mouthful to pronounce even for my village folk, so when I made up my mind to come to Lagos after my secondary school education which took others six years to complete but twelve years in my case because of my inability to understand the intricacies of learning, I decided to change my name to something less tongue twisting and Lagos-like. It took me one full day to research and find the perfect name and somewhere in my English text book, I saw the name like a diamond in the midst of coal, starring at me. Senorita!
Village life was dull and boring. After growing up in a shabby home with only one parent, (my mother), I never enjoyed the full necessities of life. We never had money, and being the only female child of all her six sons, I stayed back while my brothers hustled for money to feed the family. They didn’t make much of it as more of their money was spent on local girls and palm wine than my mother and I.
Even then, as I grew older, I hardly ever got broke because I had enough attention from men. Yes, my mother is very pretty but men called me beautiful. The men in my village only had to slap my buttocks and money flowed, after which the very privileged few had their chances with me, but in all, there was no comparison between a village boy and a city boy.
Shade’s heavy breathing snapped me out of my reverie and I kept looking at her without speaking.
“You tink say u fine pass all we gials wey full compound abi?” Said Shade as spittle flew out of her mouth.
I kept silent, my cup of water suspended in my right hand and my tooth brush in my left.
“Shade, wetin she do you na?” Asked a neighbour, Sekia.
“Shebi you know Oga Larry, my man wey get plenty bear bear? This useless monkey, Senorita, don dey pull pant for am!” Said Shade, already impatient and ready to get down to the nitty gritty aspect of beating me blue, black and purple.
“Senorita, talk true, you do am?” Sekia asked me.
“Nooo…I never see the man before.” I replied quietly.
This was obviously too much for Shade, she pounced on me and beat me until I saw actual stars. The Neigbours screamed, some cheered on while others tried separating us. In all my years of fighting at the stream and village bush paths, I was no equal for her stamina; she beat me till I felt pain no more.
Suddenly, I felt a strong grip as I was pulled from the ground and taken away. Minutes later, I lay on Janet’s bed groaning, I could hear Janet’s voice as she gave firm instructions to the Good Samaritan who had placed me on the bed.
“Oga Samuel abeg carry am come down, I never try? Na me dey pay house rent, Nepa wahala, even food wey we chop sef…this bed na my own, put Senorita for ground.”
As they laid me on the floor and some neighbours brought Alabukun, Rub and Agbo, I felt nothing but shame. How could I have left my comfortable village for this place? My friend who took me in as a squatter made it clear to me each day that she was doing me a favour. At that moment, all I wanted to do was rush home but no, I could no longer bear the hardship I had gone through at the village.
That same night, I heard the familiar whistle and even with the pains racking through my body as though I was on fire, I peeked at Janet and made sure she was asleep before tiptoeing out of the small one room ‘face me I slap you house’ we shared. I had hardly locked the door behind me when I felt the familiar rough hands grab me and hold me close.
“Body dey pepper me.” I whispered in the darkness.
“Abeg no vex…make we do am today for back of bafroom.”
“But Shade…wetin she go talk, you don see wetin she do for my body?”
“I hear! I don even beat am tire. Sorry my yellow.”
I nodded and smiled, quietly we tiptoed down the corridor, past the sleeping and snoring neighbours rooms and finally ended our journey at the back of the public bathroom where we both hurriedly shed our clothes and got down to business.
As for Shade, I heard her cries from her room not far from where we lay entangled and even while my body moved in fast rhythm, my mind was far away as I whispered.
“Lagos! Forward ever, backward never!”