He chose her. Instead of me. The night was promising but I wasn’t lucky. I had hoped to get rid of my money problems and get a man to take me with him. Give him a good time and get my money. Pay my college fees and finally buy that book I have been dying to read at the bookstore patiently waiting for me. The pay for tonight was supposed to be a bonus to my months of saving to finally send some home to my mum and my little sister and I will sing her a song and lie to her about my father’s disappearance. Only because I didn’t think it was suitable for a nine year old to know her father abandoned his family for a “Madam” ten years older than him. I was supposed to be lucky. I should have met him first but he didn’t pick me. He picked her instead. I grumbled as I pulled my tattered fish net up my right thigh.
Tonight wasn’t as promising as I hoped. I was ready to give up, leave the bar and stand outside. To wait for the losers with less cash. I couldn’t just walk back to my tiny apartment without some money. It was bad luck. Bad luck for the next day.
But then another man walked towards me and smiled. I gave him my flirty look, my ultimate signature look. It always got me a man, always got me paid.
He cleared his throat, drank and made small talks. he spoke English language with a sort of command like a professor but not in a condescending manner. He asked if I had a hobby and I wondered if he knew what I was. I wondered if he felt this was a regular bar. But I didn’t stop him, I replied saying I loved reading old African literatures. He gasped and said impressive and I began to sweat in between my breasts. Tonight was indeed an unlucky one. If he doesn’t leave, I might end up standing by the road tonight with the rest of the girls – the ones who gossiped a lot and chewed gum annoyingly. I could have told him who I was, why I was dressed in a short dress and a black straight wig. Hiding my five cornrows. But I didn’t. I watched him talk and turned out we had the same hobby and we both found melancholy to be our comfort zone. I watched him smile when I told him my name was Ireti when he asked what it meant I frowned and asked if he isn’t Yoruba.
He shook his head sadly and said he was one of those Yoruba products from a family who don’t value the essence of their roots. I finally told him my name meant Hope. Something about his laugh made me forget what I was, made me forget who I was.
When he asked if he could take me back to his hotel room, I didn’t bother telling him the fixed price. I just said yes. And he walked me to his car. It was a black sports car and it moved so fast. He drove for few minutes and he stopped by this hotel. A hotel that couldn’t have bedspreads that reeked of dampness, a hotel that couldn’t have burnt carpets and condom packets tucked between the window and window frame. Like the types I usually ended up in each nights.
He took me into a suite. Coloured with beautiful wallpapers and the bed so huge it could swallow me up in my sleep.
Without warning I began to pull down his trousers. But he moved away looking so shocked. I told him the fixed price for a night and he muttered in shock “Are you a sex worker?”
I nodded and folded my arms. seeing the look on his face, I knew this was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have come with him. I should have settled for the road side market. So I picked up my shoes and walked towards the door.
But he begged me to wait and stay the night anyway. Promising to pay me double of my payment. I couldn’t go back to the bar, it was too late. The good ones would have been picked by the rest of the savage girls leaving out the tossed out losers and poor bastards. So I stayed over, tiptoeing around him as he slept on the sofa. I told him it was okay if he stayed on the bed but I wasn’t sure if I wanted him on the bed.
I mean, the pillows were so soft and the bedspread was white,crisp and dry. But I felt it was the right thing to say anyway. but he smiled and insisted I sleep alone. as soon as he falls asleep, I walked into the sparkling bathroom and removed my Gothic make up and my black straight wig. I starred at my reflection on the mirror and I knew this night wasn’t my night.
So the next morning, I left before he woke up and walked down the elevator, telling the receptionist with a high pitched voice that she could tell him I left early.
I walk out the door and I took a cab back to my tiny apartment. I didn’t get the money to buy my book buy I could still stare at it through the show-glass window. I squeezed my face and swore not to have that kind of night again. There was too much touching without even getting naked.
So, I walked down the road and tried to forget who I was, what I liked. To forget I was a lover of old African books, to forget I actually didn’t have a heart of stone. To pretend I was a tight-minded promiscuous little thing!
But as tight-minded as I pretended to be, my heart fell when I saw him because I wasn’t sure I was ready for this – touching without even getting naked.
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-SUSANNAH OMOHUNOLA AJIBOYE.