Aunty Edith sauntered into the room and dropped her overnight bag on the ﬂoor. She Kicked off her heels and hung the wig on the rusty hook by the door, settling her considerable girth on a stool in front of the small dressing table as she began to rummage in the small drawer attached, where our toiletries, makeup were kept.
She ﬁshed out some cotton wool and a plastic bottle of cleansing spirit vigorously wiping off the greasepaint off her face, muttering half angrily under her breath “that osho free just used my body till the next morning, then handing me a paltry N5,000 after we had agreed on N12, 000 what am I supposed to do with that chicken feed? She asked rhetorically staring at the mirror masking her audible anger.
She ﬁnished scrubbing and simultaneously slapped a tattered shower cap on her head, then struggled out of the ultra-tight dress throwing it in a corner, as she wrapped a brown threadbare towel round her large frame, getting ready to have a bath. I rose up from the bed stretching and mumbled greetings. She Looked at me scornfully eyebrows slightly raised asking me how much I made yesterday. I rummaged under the pillow and handed her the crumpled folded Naira notes, she counted carefully and grunted as she bent down and opened the bottom drawer of the bedside cabinet where she kept our money putting it away and locking up, carefully tucking the key into her bra.
Aunty Edith had always distrusted banks feeling secure in the knowledge that I was the only one who knew where she kept our money, besides every act of theft in the compound was brutally suppressed anyway. she had informed me that banks held on to people’s money and will not return it complete anytime you needed it back, i have no idea if this is true because I have never been inside a bank before much less owned an account.
I was exhausted from yesterday though I only had few customers and two bottles of imported beer, I spent the most of the night with the old man Ambricose.
He is a constant regular of mine and has been coming for a long time, two sometimes three times a week, even before I arrived ‘Paradise Island’. The kind of ‘Igbo’ weed he brought with him yesterday knocked me out and now, I have a serious headache an after effect of that devils cigarette. I vaguely remember him warning me it was the notorious ‘kanaku Kenya’ hybrid, but the inebriating effect of alcohol induced euphoria had deadened any sense of precaution in me. I must have smoked more than normal, as the ceaseless din reverberating in my head seemed like the blacksmith in our village, hammering and shaping a tool in earnest consistent hammering on and on.
Ambricose had been a frequent customer even before I was brought here hence his shift in attention to me had created a festering jealousy in Airou, who had been his favorite before my arrival. Airou was same age as me, and well admired by many that patronized us she was blessed with an olive skin and a sort of caramel complexion the color of imported sweets displayed prominently in those supermarkets situated along the nice part of the island, her skin looked a cross between the Indians and Lebanese traders who owned sea food shops on the island, her oval face and pointed nose gave an alluring and innocent almost regal beauty seldom found in Paradise Island.
I heard from Obiri my friend who had known of her long before my arrival that she was from a place called Chad in the north, I have no idea where that is as I have never gone past our village and Paradise Island. She had informed me Aunty Celestine whom we all knew as her guardian had found Airou under the bridge, near waterside area being forcefully raped by one of the old disabled beggars under the bridge and had rescued her. She had been unable to communicate verbally then due to her age, but they were able to approximate her age at around 7years or thereabouts. Airou was brought back to Paradise Island and nursed back to health she has been with her ever since, the only real mum she had ever known. It seemed the symbiotic relationship they had, was of mutual beneﬁt and obviously worked well for both.
Even though Ambricose pays well always gentle with me unlike most of the ‘area’ boys, nevertheless often forced me to do things I don’t like. I sometimes wonder where an old man like him learnt all those depraved sexual acts, but cannot ask questions as long as he has paid Aunty who made the decisions.
Today is my birthday.
Instead of feelings of elation and Joy upon this special day, I sit wondering questioning why I am feeling this despondent. I feel much older than I am for some obscure reason that eludes me, maybe it is due to people’s remarks that I am a big woman now. A woman big enough even old enough to satisfy those countless men who have shared my bed, who have passed through me. Who knows if it had to do with experience, checkered history with older men here in Paradise Island which has matured and tested me ‘wiser’ beyond my years, Or maybe I am truly old, am i no longer a child? Or so I’m told. So maybe, just maybe.
Written By Bunmi olaniyan