I sat up straight as the pink door curtain in front of me parted, announcing an entrant.
Led by her sweet and subtle perfume, she slowly stepped into the dimly-lit room, releasing the curtains to wrinkle respectfully behind her. I inhaled. A hint of jasmine.
She paused, made eye contact with me, and then flashed a skin-deep smile.
I focused intensely on her eyes, fearing that she would see something on me I didn’t want her to see.
“Hi,” she said as she sashayed up close. She flicked off her red dress to reveal a curvy, lithe body that boasted cone-shaped, firm breasts, the kind that look you in the eye and maintain the gaze. “You’re new.”
“Yes.” I leaned forward, showing a slight easing of the nerves, and then noticed the marks: two Yoruba tribal-like slashes imprinted on the skin below her left breast.
It was her.
“Why did you choose me?” She knelt down before me and reached for my hands. Hers felt a little rough, revealing a history of…what? A hard life?
Her face was a more mature version of her little girl’s: dark, almost flawless skin, with an exotic, sensual look, effusing a hint of sadness. It still had the power on me it had decades ago.
I sat up, hunting with my eyes for a sign that she knew who I was. To reveal or not to reveal? That was the question for me. I decided to stall.
“Madam said you paid a lot of money.” She placed my right hand on her left breast. “More than the usual for such a request.”
She froze. “What does Jesus have to do with this?”
I jerked free and tried to regroup. “I, uh, came to pray for you.”
The smile disappeared, and then quickly reappeared, this time adorned with latent curiosity. “That’s new.” She smiled a mischievous smile. “I see why you paid more. How do you do that?”
“No, I’m serious. I really came to pray for you.
“You didn’t tell Madam that.”
She studied me closely, and then said with a frown, “You are serious. Why do you want to pray for me?”
“I know you.”
She slowly let go of my hands. “You know me?”
Her face contorted three different ways before she said, “Of course you know me. That’s why you chose me, right?”
“Gloria, it’s me. Taju.”
She pulled away from me as quickly as shock and fright replaced the smile on her face. She slipped back into her dress and exited the room.
I sat still for a while, then stood up and paced. I thought of going after her, but something told me to wait. I studied the room closely. It was Spartan in furnishing – a bed, a desk, a floor mirror, a stereo set, and a mini refrigerator.
She slapped the curtain to the side and rentered the room. A cigarette dangled between her fingers, and a disturbed countenance covered her face.
Madam Song, the owner of the brothel, poked her head through the vexed curtain and asked, “Is evelyting alight?” She focused on me. “All my goles have guns and they know how to use them. She is a nice gole, don’t upset her.”
“Everything is fine,” Gloria said, slashing the air with her cigarette to wave Madam Song away. The door closed behind her. Gloria stood in front of the desk and stared at me as if I was a gnat on her nose. For a minute, a tense air took center stage. “Long time.”
I nodded in agreement. “Twenty years.” I grinned sheepishly, and then coughed as the cigarette smoke penetrated my lungs.
“You were in the university and I was…”
An aladura primary school girl, I thought, finishing it for her. A primary school girl bursting with ripeness and evangelism. I remember her preaching brimstone and fire to me just before we had sex.
“You don’t look the same.” She blew the cigarette smoke at me, making me cough even more.
“Neither do you, Gloria. You’re a grown woman now.”
“Yes.” She pulled up a chair and sat on it, crossing and uncrossing her legs, all the while keeping a laser-like gaze on me. I looked, and then looked away to hide my weakness.
“You still play with little girls?”
I closed my eyes. Her question hit me like a fist to the chest. I thought that distance and time would’ve, at least, dulled the memories. I sank unto the bed, which protested with a loud creak. “Gloria, I’m now a born-again Christian.”
“Becoming a Christian.” She laughed, and then took a drag off her cigarette. “So now you’re the angel, and I’m the devil.”
“Listen, Gloria. I didn’t come here to compare notes or get you upset. I received all your letters, and it was those letters that prompted me to seek help. I received help from the church, and because of that I’m a better person today.”
“And now you’ve come to pray for me.”
“Yes, and check on you in person. My church is opening a branch right here in Los Angeles. This church helped me a lot. If they can help me, they can help you, Gloria.”
She laughed a full-throated, skeptical laugh, and then crushed her cigarette. She sat quietly for a while, and then said, “How did you find me?”
“I did not use this address.”
“I know. The one you used was a mail box. I traced this address from there.”
“I should sue.”
“I tried calling. Number was wrong.”
“Worried. The last letter you wrote her you said that you were a big Hollywood star. I knew otherwise, but did not tell her.“
“Nothing. Were you ever a star here?”
She smiled ruefully. “I was. For a minute. TV ads.”
“Mama begged me to come see you. Gloria, Jesus does not care what sin you’ve committed. He’s ready to forgive you. Start over. Let me help you.”
“I doubt that Mama will ever forgive me.”
“What does it matter? If Jesus forgives you, He’ll make everyone forgive you.”
“I have not forgiven you.”
I paused. “I’m not surprised. If someone did to me what I did to you…I wouldn’t either.”
“Someone did it to you. Mama told me. Her best friend, your mother, told her.”
That hit me like a hammer. “What’re you talking about?”
“That’s why you didn’t reply my last letter to you.”
“It was a long time ago. What did it say?”
“In it I asked you a question, Taju. Were you sexually abused as a kid?”
“Lies. Fucking Lies!”
“For a preacher you curse like a sailor.”
“No, she didn’t. Being in denial does not help, Taju.”
I stood up and looked away. Yes, I remembered. I’ve always wished that it was a dream. While lying on the table to take a nap, I’d woken up to find Mr. Miller’s(Dad’s business partner from America) lips on mine. What were his lips doing on mine? It progressively got worse after that.
“Were you molested when you were little?”
“Yes, you were.”
“You did, Taju. You did.” She paced, keeping an eye on me. “You’d never know how much.”
“You’re a prostitute,” I name-called, more out of pain than malice.
“Proudly. We’re all prostitutes, Taju. Depends on what you’re selling.”
“Not anymore. Thanks to my therapist. I mentioned him in my last letter to you. You should go see him. Because of him I have a better grip. I understand me better.”
“Then why are you still here?”
“I could’ve been six feet under.” She sighed audibly. “Try him, Taju. He might be more helpful to you than Jesus.”
“That’s blasphemy, Gloria!” I paced angrily. “What happened to you?”
“If only I could.”
“I think that you should watch what you say.”
“It’s a free country, Taju, in case you haven’t noticed. “
“Maybe I’m being too hard on myself,” I muttered.
“What did you say?”
I shook my head skeptically. “Maybe I’m being too hard on myself! The sex between you and me was consensual, you know?” I knew it was the wrong thing to say right after it came out of my mouth.
She shot off the chair. “I was a fucking baby, motherfucker! You did it here, Taju, you’d be in jail!”
My brow contorted several different ways. Flummoxed by the moment, all I could say to untangle myself was, “You’ve changed. You used to be God’s soldier.”
“So have you, Taju. We’ve all changed.”
“I changed for the good.”
“You could’ve fooled me.”
I buried my head in my hands. This is not working. “I’m sorry.”
I remained silent for a moment. I would apologize to her forever until the clouds turned green. But I guess I was having a hard time understanding how what we did decades ago resulted in her being a prostitute today. “I’m sorry…for everything. Especially for what happened.”
“I know you are. But…” She stopped in the middle of the room. “I’m having a hard time forgiving you.”
Same here, I thought. I was having a hard time forgiving Mr. Miller, even though he was now dead and gone. “I’m sorry.”
“Shut the fuck up, Taju,” she said with irritation. She sat down on the chair and sized me up afresh. “Well, let’s get on with it. You don’t want all that money you gave to Madam Song to go to waste.”
I flung the Bible across the room and sank back unto the bed, my eyes darting about angrily. I stood up and started kicking at nearby objects.
Instead of stopping me, Gloria took a drag off her cigarette and calmly watched me.
I plunked down on the bed, emotionally drained. After a while, I trudged over to where the Bible lay and picked it up. I dusted imaginary dirt off it and caressed it regrettably.
She placed down the cigarette, turned on Mariachi music, and started dancing suggestively. With a painful smile firmly planted on her face, she swayed and danced around the room, inviting me to join her with flicks of her right index finger.
I looked away, and then opened the Bible to Psalms 23 and read it silently.
She began to wiggle out of her dress even as her suggestive swaying intensified.
I read the passages aloud, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death-“
“Fuck me.” She turned around and shook her behind at me like a dancer on a rap music video.
I dropped the Bible, and then struggled to pick it up.
She turned around, doubled over, and exposed herself most obscenely.
I dropped the Bible the second time, and stood dazed.
She grabbed my left hand and placed it on her hairy mound. I felt something prickly and moist. She turned around and tried to remove the belt from my pants.
That’s when I slapped her. Hard. “I’m a man of God, Gloria. Stop!”
She dropped to the floor in a heap and began to rub her right cheek. She did not cry.
“Stop! Please stop. I come to you in the name of the church.”
She came off the floor and rushed at me, knocking me off my feet and unto the bed. She swung at me, connecting a couple of times.
“Please restrain yourself, Gloria.” I struggled to shield my face from the blows she rained on me. I tasted something salty. It was my blood. Decades ago I remembered that she’d slapped me hard that first time we had sex. Interestingly, she’d been as feisty in the copulation as I was.
“Fuck you!” she cursed as she swung away at me. After several attempts, I was finally able to pin her down.
“What’s going on heah? “ Madam Song asked just behind the closed door.
I loosened my grip on Gloria.
“Fuck off!” Gloria said, and then kicked me in the nuts.
“Wha!” Madam Song gasped, and then said something back in Chinese or Korean.
I grabbed Gloria’s arms and used my superior strength to corral her back to a sublime position. Enveloped by all of her womanly scent and softness, my resolve to restrain her began to falter. I began to pray aloud.
She pried free from my grip and feverishly began to remove my clothing. I did not stop her, but prayed louder. I felt a warm, moist sensation envelope my manhood.
I reeled backwards and plumped on the pillows in total submission. A few minutes later I was as erect as a feisty koboko. The subtle oniony-sweaty smell of pussy prompted me to feel her. She was swollen and very moist.
“Protection,” I managed to say between gasps. “Condom, condom.”
“I’m wearing one,” she said as she grabbed my penis and inserted it into her.
I began to thrust into her like a car’s piston. A gigantic battle erupted in my mind. I was committing the ultimate sin. I had come, in the name of Jesus and the church, to deliver this woman from the devil. But here I was committing sin.
But it felt so…good! God, forgive me!
I squeezed her supple breasts and hungrily licked her rigid nipples. She bucked under me rhythmically even as she uttered undecipherable, guttural devil sounds.
“I curse the devil in you!” I said, more so to export the blame for my weakness than own it.
“I want the devil in you!” she replied tauntingly.
We tussled with and fucked each other for a very long time. I felt like we gave human forms to flesh and spirit, the two forces going at it within us and outside us. Right now the flesh was winning. Big time.
In time we climaxed together. Hell had never heard such fury. We both were so loud that I was afraid Madam Song would call the police.
Moments later I lay on top of her in total surrender, emotionally and physically spent.
I had failed at my mission. I wanted death to come quickly.
“Shoot me,” I muttered as my eyes moistened with tears.
Gloria studied my teary face and then cradled me in her arms. “Pele,” she said over and over in the Yoruba language.
My eyes darted about. I tried to locate the gun Madam Song said Gloria had so that I might use it to end all of this.
She gently laid my head on the pillow, stood up and sashayed out of the room, all the while whistling a tune I couldn’t place.
I sat up and scanned my immediate surroundings. I jumped off the bed and upturned everything I suspected held the gun. I dashed back towards the bed and looked underneath it. I dragged the yellow shoebox out and opened it. I reached for the Baretta 3032 pistol just as Gloria rushed back into the room.