As I lay there deliberating my friend Omoefa’s coarse and loud voice rang out as she shouted my name from outside startled me out of short lived reverie. I got up from the bed still in my pant and bra holding my head which had subsided a bit, just by sheer will and effort managed to put on a pair of Jeans and tee shirt. I slipped on a pair of slippers and stepped into the slightly darkened corridor crisscrossed with other rooms adjoined leading out to the compound.
I beheld one of the older girls who also worked in our compound Cindy and friends dancing near the window but ignored them only extending a brief greeting to Deborah one of the girls as I moved on, I heard from Omoefa’s roommate Cindy was from a good home, had even been sent to school a real secondary school but had run off with an older boyfriend her father’s pension safely tucked in her bag. The boyfriend swindled her and traveled out to Spain, leaving her with just a letter I suppose as memento or reminder I don’t know. Some have feet and shoes to wear on them, some have shoes but no feet, others possess neither shoes nor feet I wish, i wonder….
I met Omoefa sitting in a corner with the girls smoking ‘Igbo’ weed as they all shuffled to the music emanating from the stereo. I went towards them and as soon as they sighted me, they all shouted as if on cue hailing AREA HOW FAR NAH? Happy Birthday!!!
Tinuke Omoefa’s room mate passed me a cup of “Tombo liquor “as I joined them on the bench Omoefa passed me the smouldering wrap of ‘Igbo’ she was smoking. I held it between my thumb and foreﬁnger the embers cackling, sparks emitting from the tiny embers of the seed as i tapped the excess ash off. I put the cup to my lips and swallowed a mouthful of the local gin, my eyes watered slightly as the ethanol hit me full in the chest, oblivious to my pain charting a burning path down my throat traversing relentlessly down, a ﬁery passageway to the pit of my stomach. I took a long drag of the ‘Igbo’ weed inhaling holding in the smoke as long as I could thankfully, it was not the highly intoxicating kanaku hybrid.
The smoke circulated slowly coursing through internal oriﬁce, oh so soothing…swirling as in creating an artiﬁcial smokes screen, cloud-induced interface alongside sudden No stark reality of the life i existed in. It was all I could do not to lean back in relief my headache slowly receding as though dancing backwards, evaporating into nothingness…air, just like the smoke emanating from my slightly parted lips and nostrils drifting up into oblivion. I watched it all swirling upwards towards a stack heap of forgone memories where earlier introspection, niggling conscience end up never to harm or hold my thought process in a choke hold leaving me free to indulge in my vices, my excesses with no recourse to conscientious thoughts.
The ﬁrst time omoefa and I met she had accosted me hiding behind the sand dune crying profusely on a Friday night. I was tucked away in a darkened corner hence did not notice my presence until she nearly stepped on me. Omoefa shouted out in fright jumping back “Blood of Jesus” seeing me clearly her initial fright swiftly morphed into anger. She rounded up in anger asking who I was and my purpose for lurking in the darkness, all the while getting ready to smash her upturned ﬁst in my face. Tears still running down my face intermittently casting furtive glances towards the main gate i had escaped from, she must have realized the extent of my disconcert especially at the sight of my torn clothes as I held tightly to cover my half exposed breasts. Her anger turned to concern, as she asked me what had occurred abandoning all her initial resolve and hostility.
When I arrived Paradise Island I was still naïve hence was oblivious to what the girls actually did until much later. I only started to enjoy myself after I met Obiri, a girl who lived in a shack next to our compound. She was my age although looked and acted older, that girl was a real tomboy a ﬁre cracker. I often wondered how she came to be living on their own in the ghetto later after becoming ﬁrm friends, she conﬁded in me that she ran away from home hiding under a lorry ferrying plantains to Lagos.
She was labelled a witch by a man they called ‘Prophet Zephaniah’ in her village, Prophet’s minions tortured then forced her to drink a concoction made out of water droplets drained from a dead body, declaring the spirit of the dead will compel her into a confession of her deeds even against her will. It seemed one of the strongest demons dwelt in her dark heart as she failed to confess, repeatedly maintaining her innocence. This provoked Prophet’s holy anger as he instructed assistants to hold her down, mouth forced open using his holy staff and concoction poured down her throat. Ensuing stomach cramps triumphant validation for prophet Zephaniah.
She had been accused initially by her father of deploying the powers of witchcraft that strong demonic spirit to drain his destiny causing an inability to feed her 8 siblings, he was a subsistent farmer. Her ropes had been untied in the dead of the night by her mother, who urged her to run away or be killed. Rescuing her mother and siblings from her father’s clutches and giving them a better life has been her motivation for hustling. I will make it in Paradise Island one day you watch and see if I don’t she often said with strong conviction and seriousness.
Aunty had sent me to buy some Panadol at baba Oyibo’s chemist not very far from our compound. On my way back, one of the boys who hang around our street accosted me snatching Auntie’s change off my hand. I cried out begging him to give me back the money but he laughed taunting me until Obiri walked towards us and faced him. Looking on steadily no expression on her face bellying her true intentions she asked him to return my money, but he didn’t pay her any heed neither did I to be fair. Request repeated again this time ﬁrmly resolute as calm as you please, or he would get a beating. He ﬁnally paid attention to the irritant quickly surveying her small frame incredulously, unbelieving of the sheer impudence from this tiny runt as he laughed gleefully. Truly Obiri like me was shorter than the boy, by this time his friends had sauntered closer cheering urging him on.
All of a sudden she lunged forward grabbing his neck like a man and raining punches, open mouthed map of disbelief displayed all over my face at the sight “See this small ‘Pelenge’ girl ﬁghting a boy. The ﬁght seemed reminiscent of David and Goliath bored children had begun watching and clapping as the impromptu ﬁght progressed. She landed a quick succession of punches then another slap Ha it’s a miracle!! I stopped counting after nine punches with interjecting slaps, a cut on his thick black lips blood spurted trailing down his jaw line. He was riled seriously angry now, yellow rimmed eyeballs bulging in naked resentment as he wiped excess blood with the hem of his oversize 2pac long sleeve tee shirt, he began pulling up his sleeves. It has gotten much personal no more a random past time but saving face that male ego has to be redeemed forthwith. He deliberately rushed towards Obiri swinging wildly right hand busy, as he made to grab her with his left hand we all gasped in fright but she darted back evading his latest swing, then moved in crouching like Malaika the great wrestler in our village. She grabbed his legs in a seemingly coordinated motion and shoved him backwards. He landed hard on his buttocks the audible grunt of pain sounding like a pig’s grunt. The tides had swiftly turned at this stage everyone turning the boos earlier directed towards the small girl into cheers the now vanquished ﬁghter lying on the ground, smarting from defeat. I watched her beat him back to the ground, even after he unsuccessfully tried to get back up until an old woman drove the crowd away with a long broom. Caught up in the excitement I had forgotten about my dilemma until I felt my cloth tugged from the back i turned around to see her still looking disheveled from the ﬁght and sporting a small bump on her right cheekbone, without a word she shoved the crumpled change in my palm abruptly walking away.
To Be Continued……………………………
Written By Bunmi olaniyan
Read Part 1 HERE