I was marching to the song playing on my iPod and as such I was oblivious of the world around me, and of the car that had slowed down to a crawl beside me.
Not until an arm reached out of the front window and pulled my arm bag did I sense danger and feel the need to cry out and flee.
But the arm belonged to a babe, a fellow student, and the car was being driven by First Lady, the so-called biggest babe on campus.
As my heartbeat returned to normal, the car pulled up ahead of me and parked on the sidewalk, blocking my path. I waited for someone to come out. But it was First Lady and four of her deputies; of course they expected me to walk over to them.
First Lady and I are not friends, this I must stress. She’s one of those girls on campus who manage to travel to Dubai frequently, own a neat Tokunbo, and arrange girls for their ‘big boy’ friends. She’s a pimp, for want of a better embellishment. But her real claim to fame is the fact that she was the first babe on campus to get a boob job, and most likely the only – at least that we know of. Over one overseas trip she went from a 34 B to a 36 D, and with her inflated assets came an inflated ego to match, and a flock of worshiper admirers. Exactly why getting a boob job should suddenly make a girl popular amongst her girlfriends still baffles me. Men, maybe. But girls?
I leaned to look into the car through the front passenger window and I recognised the other girls - her inner caucus. I wasn’t friends with any of them. Not enemies; but we don’t talk – or greet. I felt them eyeing me as if we had a grudge from before-before.
First Lady spoke: “There’s a private party tonight. Some guys from London. Can you come?”
Till today I hate myself for my response. “Whose party?” I asked.
The sidekick answered me. “London big boys,” she said in a boastful manner.
I wanted to tell her what one ‘London boy’ had recently done to me - God let me catch him. But come to think of it; was he even really a London boy or was that all just part of his mugunification of me? How does one even tell a true London boy from a 419ner who just wants to chop and run? By his accent? Even I have been asked several times if I studied abroad – on account of the way I speak. We all watch DSTV after all, and if musicians can do it, why can’t the rest of us?
“I can’t come out tonight,” I said, and with that the sidekick looked at my crotch as if she expected to see evidence of my reason through my jeans.
At that precise moment I felt more shame than I’ve felt in a very long time. They had invited me to prostitute myself and I had turned them down using language that they understood. No one else would have known that ‘I cannot come out tonight’ means ‘I’m on my menses,’ and no one would have used that language if they were not part in the game.
Ever since Kike’s guy said to her ‘I didn’t know you were an ashewo like that,’ I had been thinking about his words night and day and I was yet to fully convince myself of the way I had convinced myself that I am NOT an ashewo like that - or like any other way. But here I was, being approached by ogbologbos, and I was talking to them in their own secret language.
First Lady adjusted her Gucci shades and turned the ignition.
“You can still come,” she said, “There will be thanks for coming.”
And she drove off.
Thanks for coming: another industry term. But my mind was made up; I might hustle, but only out of necessity. I wasn’t like them.
On my way home from school that day my phone kept vibrating ever few minutes but I had stopped checking who it was. I was even considering switching it off but then they would surely know I was intentionally avoiding their call.
I walked into our room and found over ten girls inside: the usual crowd, a couple of girls from next door, a girl I didn’t know kneeling over an open suitcase full of clothes – the centre of everyone’s attention, Mama standing over the little crowd gathered round the suitcase, and Clara lying face down on the mattress, naked to her pants, another stranger rubbing her back.
The chocking smell of Rub was thick in the room. I saw an open can of it on the bed, next to the girl knelling over Clara. I hate the smell of Rub, but whatever was going on there was more interesting than the girl who had come to sell stuff.
“Clara, wetin do you?” I asked.
Mama, the only one who bothered to greet me (the girl really does have manners, howbeit shadowed by the overpowering thickness of her razzness), filled me in:
“You remember that her banker bobo? She followed him to gym!”
In quick delivery, interrupted only by pauses for laughter, Mama narrated how one of Clara’s guys had asked her if she gymed and she had answered that she did. She then spent over fifteen grand buying gym kit so she could take him up on his invitation to follow him to Proflex.
That was three days ago. Her body was now feeling the pains of her deceit.
She had begged the other girls to help her massage Rub into her body but in the end the only willing helper was a house girl from one of the flats, and even at that she had to pay N500 for the kind favour.
We laughed at Clara’s expense and she protested with groans. I was aware of the clothe seller girl summing me up. She looked up at me and said “Auntie, I have your size.”
I vaguely recognised her from school. So, just to make me buy her market she was calling me auntie? Ish.
Tempted as I was, what she didn’t know was that the moment I stepped in and saw what she had come to do, I said a little prayer to God begging him not to let me waste my money on things I didn’t need.
Janet was holding a Superman T-shirt against her body. A heap of clothes was by her side.
“Can I try it?” she asked the girl.
She pulled her top off over her body exposing her perfect boobs that always make me stop and look. I found them so peculiarly perfect that, unlike the other girls, I’d been too self-conscious to playfully squeeze them – something she seemed to enjoy.
She stood and admired herself in our tall mirror that had the shape of a rectangle missing from its bottom corner.
“How much for this?” she asked.
“Can I pay you next week?”
“No. My market is cash market.”
Janet looked dismayed, and I swear I read her mind at that moment as she looked at the other things she had picked, contemplating what to drop for the Superman T-shirt.
“Let me try it,” Mama said.
The girl took one look at her. “It’s not your size,” she said, then, quite uncalled for, I think, “I don’t have anything your size.”
But mama is Teflon. My babe!
Kike already had a considerable heap of clothes on her laps. “How much for all these and the T-shirt?” she asked the girl. She was referring to the Superman T-shirt.
The girl picked through the things Kike had picked, did a quick mental calculation, and arrived at “Thirty-six thousand.”
Kike got up and went to her bag from which she produced the exact amount in crisp N1000 naira notes. I watched to see Janet’s reaction. It had been a week since they clashed and even though the rest of us had harassed them into making up, the bad blood was still flowing and Janet was threading carefully.
Kike tossed the rest of her purchases onto the bed but kept the Superman T-shirt on her shoulder. Bitch!
Janet didn’t say a word.
Following their yanwa, I had spoken to Kike and advised her to learn to keep her secrets secret. I guess she had listened, for once. She didn’t tell any of us whether or not she had made up with her guy, but lately she had been taking someone’s calls outside. It made me proud of her.
“Ah! Amaka!” That was Mama’s way of starting a conversation. “I forgot to tell you. That girl, the one they call First lady, she came here looking for you o. She said there is party tonight and you should wear white and black. Can I come?”
First Lady had come to my place? How did she even know where I stay? She came all the way to Ikoyi to look for me? Why was she looking for me? Why was it so important to her that I come to her party?
The seller looked up at me. “Auntie, I have black and white things that will fit you,” she said.
I ignored her.
“When did she come?” I asked Mama.
“Like that kind ten. She said you should call her. I have her number.”
My phone vibrated and I forgot I was censoring calls. I answered the phone and Mum’s voice moaned into my ear.
I listened to her for ten minutes, assured her I was fine, and promised to send the money for my brother’s jamb lessons. I made the promise five more times before she finally got off the phone.
“Let me see the black and white things you have,” I told the girl selling clothes.
She started digging into her suitcase.
“I don’t have money to pay you now o,” I said.
“It’s ok. After you come back from First Lady’s party you can pay me.”