‘Soldier come, soldier go.’ I said, the chewing gum distracted me from the long conversation I was having with my friend Ebube.
‘Ehn erm well how is that relevant to what I am telling you? You can’t leave him o! He will kill you if you do.’ She said in a panicked voice.
At this point, I did not care, my destiny was doomed. How could I have been fated to date a soldier? The life at the barracks was no stranger to me. I was born there and I grew up there. My father and brothers were soldiers. Mother was late but before drawing her last breath she said
‘My daughter promise me one thing.’
In a sad tone, I asked. ‘What is it Mom?’
‘Promise me, promise me you shall never fall in love with a soldier.’ She whispered.
I held her hands, puzzled and said nothing.
‘Amaka, please promise me.’ She said in a stifled voice.
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘There is an ancient curse looming over our heads, if you fall in love with a soldier, it won’t work out well for you.’
‘Mom, you have come again with your superstitions, how come it turned out well for you. Or is the curse designed for me alone?’ I asked critical of her fears.
‘Do you think I have always been ill? I was not this fragile, I was a strong woman until I married your father. My mother warned me like I am warning you but I refused to listen. I was young like you.’ Tears trickled down her cheeks.
‘Mom, I do not believe in superstitions, there must be a scientific explanation for your health.’ I rubbed her palms soothingly.
She turned the other way writhing in pain. I felt terrible. I hated seeing her this way, it reminded me of the fragility of human life.
‘Just promise me.’ She said in her last breath.
She lay lifeless on the bed; I was paralysed by the shock of seeing her draw her last breath. A soft wind sipped through me and I shrieked.
‘I promise Mom, please wake up.’ But she was still.
Three years after Mother’s death and the D-day loomed. I never knew it would come this fast. My friends were married to soldiers and their tales drove, persuaded and broke all defences and barriers I had erected against the soldiers. I always thought they exaggerated a tad too bit. Life in the barracks was the same. It was always rowdy with men in uniform littered everywhere like leafs from a mango tree in a frowzy compound. It was clothed with discipline and words like ‘guard room’ and ‘beating’ were not strange.
Father and brothers were never home; they were always on missions to neighbouring African countries and North-east Nigeria. This gave me the freedom to do as I pleased. After dumping Nice guy, I dated different men, not soldiers because I was mindful of Mother’s warnings. But that was not for long as I got bored with these men. They were not fit as the soldiers. They were not good looking, just bald and pot-bellied old men. I dated them routinely and the more generous they were with their money, the more generous I was with my body. The money took care of my education and needs. It has been 3 years since Mother left us and I have not dated a soldier, well until that fateful day when I ran into him. He bumped into me while I stood with my friends by the well. We took turns to fetch water and gossiped.
‘Did you know what Lizzy did when her husband went to Cameroun? She fucked all the young men in the neighbourhood and she was christened Charity.’ One of them said.
We all laughed in unison.
‘Ha! It is not funny o! Her husband caught her in the act, he locked up the unlucky young officer in the guard room and gave Lizzy corporate flogging.’ She continued.
‘Which one is corporate flogging Ada? You have started again o! With your slangs.’ I said.
‘Let me hear, you know you are always on campus, you have forgotten almost everything about Bonny Camp Barracks. Let me pass jare before my …’
She stopped mid-way and, I wondered what made her do so, the other women scrambled for the pail, they pushed me I fell into his arms. Nice guy was what everyone called him and, for the 3 years we dated I never attempted to know his real name. I went with the flow just like everyone. He was 6ft tall and he towered over my 4.9ft. He was light in complexion with pink lips and dark curly hair. Straight legs and muscular hands. Nice guy was my dream man for a husband until I remembered that he was a soldier. I starred in dismay at the khaki and grunted with pain at the promise I made to mother. It brought back flood of memories of why I broke up with him. As usual he pretended not to know me.
‘Abeg watch where you dey go.’ He said.
The Ladies giggled.
‘Ada, you never finish, which kin water you dey fetch, Come house con cook.’ He said. He looked intimidating as he spoke.
‘Ok brother.’ Ada said meekly. She dragged her bucket of water like a woman with a burden and throttled behind him.
I shrugged. The other women whispered amongst themselves.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘He is the newest soldier in this Barracks, he has not been around for 3 years. Nice guy was in Cote d’ Ivoire, Congo and Cameroun for peacekeeping missions. He has been fighting boko haram for many years and drove them off the city they laid siege on. You know, he has been to the dreaded Sambisa forest.’ Nnenna said with dreamy eyes.
‘Is that so, is that why he feels high and mighty? He cannot even speak English.’ I hissed, irritated by the buzz his presence caused. My jealousy that Nnenna had an interest in him and, maybe he was dating her was safely tucked away in my brain.
Six months after I bumped into Nice guy and I am hatching an escape plan from his web of love. I couldn’t give in to his pleas, I wanted to stay clear of soldiers just like I had promised mother. He was a delicious poison. The more I saw him, the more I was drawn to him. Nice guy never passed an opportunity to caress my skin, squeeze my breasts and slap my buttocks, I protested but, secretly loved it. He did things to me that those pot-bellied old men couldn’t do. I couldn’t open my legs for him because that meant I had succumbed. So I kept muttering each time he touched me until one week after his quest for me when he demolished all my defences like a combatant breaking down the barriers of his enemies. My plans to leave the Barracks was halted as my brother was injured and needed care. I couldn’t escape until I forgot why I said I wouldn’t date him. He couldn’t understand why I resisted him; we had dated for 3 years albeit secretly before my sudden break up with him.
‘Why did you break up with me?’ He asked one night, he stretched his long legs on the bed, his white singlet looked brownish.
I stared at him and said nothing. He pulled me towards him and I melted into his arms. He touched me and I moaned from the pleasure.
‘Please stop.’ I said. He was cocaine and I was addicted to him.
All my thoughts and energy were directed towards him. I failed my exams, course after course and was on the brink of expulsion. I drove off my network of benefactors who put food on my plate when I was hungry and drink in my mouth when I was thirsty- the pot-bellied old men. They were my bill payers, but I cared not for them. I was in love with Nice guy and my skin crawled at the thought of their bodies on mine.
Then he slapped me and everything changed. I told my brother about the slap and he locked him up in the guard room. I pleaded with my brother all night to release him. I rolled on the floor and cried.
‘If I release am, no call me if e kill you o! I don talk my own o.’ He said in the midst of rings of smoke he formed from his cigarette, his friends laughed as they all drank beer at Madam Kofo’s place.
Nice guy came to my house that night, he said nothing about him being locked up. He behaved as if everything was normal.
He made me cook for him while he watched me as he smoked and drank. I was about sleeping, exhausted from the errands and lack of sleep the previous night when he pounced on me. He tore my trouser into shreds and he searched for my hole. I was angry and, I struggled but the more I did, the more his private stood erect. He inserted it inside me and, I was dismayed by the response of my body. My juice trickled down, I was so wet that he slid in with ease. He pushed me on all fours and pounded me, slapping my buttocks all the while. Our bodies collided – phat phat phat gbam gbam, it was a sound for sour ears. He spilled his seed and collapsed on the bed.
The bulk of his weight was on me, I pushed him gently and slid out of his grasp, I crept towards the door, grabbing a jean and a top. I could always get my bags later, I thought to myself as I walked out into the darkness of the night and never looked back.
Lagos was an expensive city to live in and the Island was more expensive. I moved to Ajah to be as far as possible away from him. I wanted new friends and acquaintances but he found me. I heard the knock on my one room apartment that day. It wouldn’t stop until I angrily flung the door open. My mouth was agape. He stood there like an angel of death who had come for my soul. Then he said.
‘You no go hug me, see as you dey look me as if you see ghost. Abi, I be ghost?’
He told me he was granted pass from his duty post. The thought of having him touch me made me joyous. Then I remembered why I left him, he treated me like a whore in a conquered village. He disrespected me in the presence of his friends and colleagues, he called me names and slept with me in their presence. He said if he can’t have me then no one will. Then he pleaded that he was tormented by the horrors of his peacekeeping missions and his mission in Borno State. He said he loved me, but he had no love to give. If that was his love, then I would have none of it. I couldn’t forgive him for violating me, my private still hurt from the memory. What of the slaps? And the beatings with his belt? The bruises on my skin could stand as witness to his hideous love.
I smiled sweetly at him, jolting myself from my thoughts. ‘How did you find me?’ I asked.
He stared at me, he couldn’t understand what I said. I shut my door, locking it with my keys. I paced the room while he knocked.
‘Make I enter now, babe wetin happen?’ He said.
‘Go away.’ I screamed. ‘We are over! I don’t want you anymore. Please leave me.’
‘Ha! Baby no be so now, na bad thing I do to visit you? Oya open the door make we yearn or I go break am o’ He said authoritatively.
I knew if he entered, I was finished, he would make me pay for embarrassing him. I grabbed the electric kettle, the hot water sizzled.
‘Don’t try it. If you do, I will burn you.’ I said.
He broke the door at that instant and I emptied the contents of the kettle on him.
He screamed and, I had a satisfied look.
I knew I had destroyed his career and, I knew his friends would come for me. I was tired of running. I slumped waiting for the worse to happen.