It started as the best day of my life. I was going to Lagos.
This story started when I came back from my evening lessons to meet Aunty Ezinne, my distant cousin, at home. Aunty Ezinne was rarely ever at home, visiting the village only during Christmas with her shiny jeep. She was the only woman from my village that owned a car. Anyway, I greeted her in the traditional way. She answered me warmly and signaled to me to greet the man with her. After greeting him, she introduced him to me as her husband. “ But Aunty, you didn’t tell me that you are married”, I pouted. I was disappointed.The man was short and ugly, and he had a squint in one eye. He had a terrible way of smiling at someone, like a smile from the devil. I was making up names for him in my head when Father came into the living room, closely accompanied by Mother.
Later in the evening, while washing the plates from dinner, Father summoned me to the living room. In a grave voice he asked, “would you like to complete your secondary school education in Lagos? Your aunty has offered to take you to live with her on the condition that you will be helping her in the shop”. I was overjoyed. Lagos! The land of fulfillment, flowing with milk and honey! “She’s leaving for Lagos tomorrow. So you have to decide this night”, he continued. As if I needed to think about it. I agreed immediately.
I could hardly wait till morning. Immediately the cock crowed, I jumped out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. In about thirty minutes I was dressed and ready to go. Aunty Ezinne came by exactly one hour later. I quickly went round the village, saying my goodbyes, exchanging promises to write. Finally, Aunty Ezinne, her husband Fabian, and I piled into the backseat. The driver gunned the ignition and we took off for Lagos, amidst a hero’s farewell.
The journey to Lagos took six hours. I spent most of it daydreaming of how rich I would be by Christmas. I could see all my village friends crowding around me, listening to my Queen’ English, mouth agape. I could see myself doling out gifts of clothes, shoes and naira. Fabian’s hand on my thigh brought me back to earth. He was sitting between Aunty and me. Aunty Ezinne didn’t seem to mind the fact that her husband was making passes at me. I pushed his hand off rudely and pressed my face to the glass window to watch the trees fly by.
The first shocker came when the car stopped at a slummy area. I couldn’t believe that such an area could exist in Lagos. Lagos! The land of gold! Aunty Ezinne led me into a tiny apartment and asked me to wait for her. Then she left.
The apartment was filled with girls in different states of undress. Anita, the girl Aunty asked to look after me was also scantily dressed in a see through blouse and shorts. I closed my eyes tightly, then opened them when I noticed that some of the girls were not even wearing anything. It was disturbing, yet fascinating to watch some of these girls doing obscene things to themselves and one another. I asked Anita what they were doing. “They are practising”, she replied. “Practising what?” I asked lamely. “How to do it na. Maybe they are expecting customers today”, she replied. I quickly put two and two together. I was in a brothel. “Does Aunty Ezinne receive customers too?” I asked again. “No o. She is just the pimp. She takes care of our needs and provides fresh meat like you”, she said, grinning from ear to ear as if she was saying a good thing. Fear washed over me in hot waves. All the stories I had heard in the village of girls who were initiated into prostitution in Lagos flooded my head. Me! Uchenna! Treasurer of the legion of Mary in my village church! I could imagine Father’s face when he heard the news from one of the aproko Lagos returnees. Mother would be heartbroken. Why didn’t anyone warn me?
I was still trying to plot my escape when I heard the loud wailing of sirens. “What is that noise na? They won’t even allow someone think in peace”, I complained loudly. “It’s the police o”, she replied after looking out the window. “Police?” “Police o. They’re fond of raiding this place. We are even used to it sef.
Don’t worry ehn, Madam will bribe us out after about two days”. Just then, the policemen broke into the house and led us into their van. It all felt so surreal, like something from a movie. I was fighting a battle against tears, and I was losing.
That was when it dawned on me that I was in soup.