They’d just had their bath; she with the bathroom in the guest bedroom, him with the bathroom in the master bedroom. Now they sat in the sitting room, side by side, sipping on Iced Tea and watching a muted program on TV. Outside, crickets have taken over chirping from the birds and the sky had only a thin streak of moon as its source of illumination. It was terribly dark, and cold. Ochuko briefly took his eyes off the TV to Sandy, he saw a perfect alignment of gooseflesh on her arm.
“You’re cold.” He said. She nodded in agreement.
He got up and went to one of the bedrooms to get a blanket. He covered her with it before going back to his position on the sofa. Sandy swept the blanket off her body and went to sit on his laps. She wrapped her arms around his midriff and rested her head on his chest. This action surprised him greatly but he was hushed by her smile. He stretched his right arm and retrieved the blanket from the chair. He covered the both of them with it.
“Thanks.” She said.
“I’m extending the thanks to you too. You thought the best for us.”
“Is that so?” she crooned her neck to look at his face.
He looked into her eyes and confirmed again that she was very beautiful. He wished to place a kiss on her lips or on her nose or on her forehead or just anywhere on that face. He did none.
“Tell you what, I never outgrew snuggling in bed with my mom when it got this cold.”
“And I’m sure wherever she is tonight, she’ll be wishing you come quickly to keep her warm the same way you’re doing to me.”
She didn’t respond to this. Not a snigger, not a smile. Her face suddenly wore that doleful expression he’d seen most of the day.
“Hey pretty, what is wrong?”
“My mom is no more.”
Now there was mutual silence. Ochuko stared into the TV, not really seeing the smashed car the vehicle insurance commercial was displaying, while Sandy listened to the rhythmic beat of his heart.
“How long has she been gone?” he asked at last.
“Not up to a day.”
“Shit! How did it happen?”
She wished she wouldn’t have to explain, explaining meant delving into the misfortunes that had befallen her these past days. They were all tied together in an invisible string that somehow seemed to have no end. She was trying to feel better, struggling to forget the events that turned her life in a different direction. It was going to be hard to tell. However, it was harder not sharing the story with someone. Problem shared is problem on its way to being solved, she was a firm believer in this. She let out her breath in resignation.
“Have you ever lost someone really close to you?”
“Yes I have. My mom is one, but the memory of her is almost forgotten now. Maybe it’s because she was quite old when she died. Then there’s my wife, I don’t think I can completely wipe out her memory.”
She looked at him and saw the bitterness in his eyes. It was surprising she was just noticing it now, it had always been there. He didn’t look any different from the first time she met him, but the pain was evident now and it made him look old. She felt a sudden kind of connection with him. They’d both lost someone so dear.
“Don’t try to wipe her memory away.” She said.
“That should mean loving just her till death, right?”
“That I can’t answer until you tell me about her. Do you mind?”
“Yes I do.” He adjusted on the sofa and did likewise to the blanket, his back was beginning to ache. “Let’s get your story first.”
“Okay. I’ll try my best not to cry while I’m at it.”
And so she told her story, starting from the moment she walked into Cas’ room to find him in bed with a black girl with beautiful face. She told how she had gone back home heartbroken; how her mother had slumped from a chair days later and was diagnosed of stroke; the incident in the bus and the fight that ensued in her house afterwards which left her with a broken head; how she learnt from the doctor treating her (who was the same doctor treating her mother) that her mother was dead. By the time she was narrating her escape from the hospital, she could barely talk coherently. The rest of the story was interrupted by her cries.
Ochuko held her tight with one hand and stroked her back with the other. He didn’t stop her from crying, though the sound of it brought tears to his eyes. Hers was the kind born from the accumulation of hurt, they were piled in her core and letting them out now seemed to rip her apart. She ought to cry them out until they were insignificant. She wouldn’t be able to get them all out, but the pain of the memory would recede just like his did.
“You won’t have to experience these anymore.” He said.
“Do you think so? I think human life is meaningless without pain. But this pain, it wants to kill me. It wants to—”
“Hey.” He stood up and drew her with him. “It’s alright now.”
They remained that way, she in his comforting embrace, until she stopped crying. He wrapped the blanket around her and handed her the half empty cup of Iced Tea.
“Maybe this would help.”
She smiled wanly and took a sip. “I’m exhausted. I need to sleep now.”
“Okay.” He switched off the TV and the centre fluorescent, and then took the cup from her. “Please come with me, ma.”
She smiled – a brilliant one this time – and tagged along. He opened the door to the guest room for her and she went in. He waited at the door until she covered herself with the blanket.
“Lights out?” he asked.
He switched off the lights. “Goodnight, Sandy.”
“Goodnight dear. And thanks for your kindness.” She surprised him the second time by blowing him a kiss.
He caught it mid-air and placed it on his cheek. He left the room and shut the door behind him.
* * *
Ochuko watched as the seconds hand moved to six. He had stayed awake for an hour thirty minutes since seeing Sandy off to bed. He couldn’t get his mind off her. The sound of the seconds hand as it journeyed endlessly round the spherical globe of the clock became amplified in his ears. His heartbeat rate had increased also and as it pounded hard in his chest, his thoughts intensified. He turned on the bedside lamp.
He was feeling hot and sweat was rolling down his body. He decided to visit the bathroom again. The cold spray of water from the shower didn’t stop the panging thoughts. They were like houseflies that have just discovered there was poop sitting on the tiled floor behind the closed toilet door.
It would be ungentlemanly of him to badge into her room and demand for sex. No, not sex, he corrected, it was merely keeping company. She had mentioned that she had problems sleeping alone in cold nights. It would be very thoughtful of him to provide the body she could cuddle, in fact. But that was not it; he wanted something deeper than just hugging her tight. He wanted sex, and you wouldn’t blame a man for growing such feelings when he had a woman – a really beautiful woman – sleeping under the same roof with him.
He towelled his body and got into his pants. What if she was already asleep, wouldn’t it be genuinely wrong for him to go wake her up for sex (companionship, rather)? He won’t wake her up. He would just sneak in the blanket and lay beside her like a log. If she rolled over his way and wrapped an arm around him, that would be fine. If she joined it with a leg, that would be finer. Then, if she rolled atop him, thank you Jesus!
He was feeling hot all over and the thought of another shower crossed his mind. He pushed it aside. He would deny himself of sleep if he didn’t act on his feelings. But it had to be mutual, he thought, pausing at the mirror to examine the bulge in his pants. Sizeable, he thought. One thing was certain: If this feeling ever was mutual, she wouldn’t be the one creeping into his room for sex.
He sat on the edge of the bed and turned these thoughts over a final time. He decided at last that he would go to her room, for peace of mind’s sake. If she screamed at him to leave or calmly pointed his way to the door, it would kill his disturbed thoughts and bring him sleep.
What if she does neither?
He fetched another robe from the wardrobe and wrapped it around his slightly trembling body. There was no torment greater than this. He walked to her room, consciously evading every thought but not his increased breaths or his hammering heart. He pushed the door to her room open and it seemed to creak loudly inside his head. She didn’t jolt up from the bed.
He finally found the courage at the needed moment to walk to her bed like a man with purpose. Of course the purpose of his impromptu visit was to switch on the light and ask if she was having a nightmare-free night rest.
He knelt beside her bed and put his hand on the bedside lamp’s switch. Another hand gently rested on his. The cage that held his heart almost burst open and spilled forth his heart. He closed his eyes.
“Don’t turn on the light.” She whispered.
“I was just going to—”
“Shhhhh! don’t explain. I didn’t ask you to.”
“You’re still awake?”
“Yes. I was finding it difficult to sleep. It’s colder inside here.”
He turned from the lamp and looked at her. She was calm and beautiful. She lifted herself on the bed with an elbow, the bedcover slipped down her body a bit and disclosed the smooth rise of her breasts cupped in a black bra. She hadn’t taken off her necklace, it snaked its way around her neck, disappearing between her breasts. He suddenly wanted to trace a finger down the tiny passage between her breasts to fish it out and see what the pendant looked like. His heart ached for her. He wanted her in a way that scared him.
“Come here.” She instructed and he obeyed.
She linked her hands around the back of his head and kissed him. He kissed her back, hungrily at first, then gently, their body syncing with the movement of their heads. He lifted her from the bed and carried her to the wall, his hands travelling all over her body in a mad frenzy. Her bra and pants, his robe and pants, were lying on the floor in no time. He carried her back to the bed.
“Sandy, I love you. Remember this.”
“Don’t say any other thing, Ochuko. Make love to me.”
He climbed atop her and kissed her thoroughly one final time before guiding himself into her.
* * *
As Bobo traced his way back to Sandy’s house (well, he wasn’t definite about that yet) a lot of thoughts pushed their way into his mind. They were mainly recollections of times he’d spent with his dear friend, Benji. He thought it wasn’t right having these recollections as his friend wasn’t dead, but truth was, he was dead in his heart. Maybe this was a way of letting go of their long, almost timeless, friendship. He would let go of many other things tonight.
He stopped at a kiosk and opened his wallet, it was sparse of cash. However, there was enough cash to get him a fresh pack of cigarette. That would be his last pack, he was determined to let go of that too. He was turning a new leaf. He got the pack of cigarette and used the change left to get a small bottle of Chelsea dry gin. He walked on, a lit cigarette between his lips.
Benji had introduced smoking to him. They had been sitting under a mango tree back in the village and discussing the way forward when Benji extracted a pack of cigarette from his pocket. There were four sticks in it, he offered him one and lit their sticks. He had stared at his friend in awe while he did him all the favours, he couldn’t object. Anything Benji took to was good because Benji knew all. As the smoke penetrated the short length of the stuffed stick to his throat, he coughed uncontrollably. He held his throat and rolled on the ground coughing and Benji had laughed. He did well on the second stick, he coughed a little.
He lit another stick. Ahead of him was a Hot-Spot. Girls on miniskirts and tops that pushed their breasts into focus stood beside cars, smoking cigarettes. Some others were swinging their behinds to loud music emanating from the three-storey building that was their base. He smiled. He would be trying things he’d not tried in a long time – things he and Benji had done together back in the days – and then get over them for good.
Benji had quit smoking a month before he disappeared from the village. He told him he’d learnt that smoking killed, but of course he had discovered something new. It was Hot-spots. The neighbouring village had one and you could find girls willing to give you good sex for as low as a hundred naira. The girls weren’t bad looking and malnourished as he’d earlier conceived. They were really sexy, sexy enough to turn on priests. They visited there every weekend, building their sexual experience and knowledge. There was not a bad side to it. Benji always had millions of merits to overshadow the demerits. Sometimes they did more than sex, they stole from the sluts’ boxes of cash. It was always fun.
The gin burned his chest in a way men over the years have come to appreciate. He remembered Benji telling him he would get married to a prostitute. They know how to give you the thing until you’re completely out of your senses, was the way his friend had put it. He couldn’t agree otherwise. Was his friend’s Linda a prostitute? The chances were high she was. Those girls knew enough about charms and they engaged in it too.
“I can suck your dick well and I’ll allow you lick my nipples well for one thousand naira. How you see am, bros?” One of the hookers was informing him. This one had taken him personally. She came to sit with him in the lounge where he was absently watching a match on television.
“You go enjoy me well well. If you no enjoy me, I go refund your money.”
Lies! Bobo knew these people so well. Before the action began, they’d demand their payment. Perchance there happened to be a disagreement and you no longer wanted to partake in the action, you’d have to walk away a loser. There were bouncers stationed in strategic places outside to contain your excesses if you chose to make mischief. ‘No Refunding’ was like the ‘No Credit Today, Come Tomorrow’ you saw in commercial outlets.
“Look me well well, I get commodities and I sabi, die. I go give you anyhow you want am.”
She was talking now. Bobo didn’t know how he wanted it but he wanted one with the ability to give it to him as it came to his head and when it came. He looked at her and could hardly make out her face, the red lights were doing well to distort the appearances of things. She was endowed, however, that one wasn’t a lie.
“Your place dey inside this building?” Bobo asked, puffing smoke into her face.
“Yes. Come make I show you.” She stood up and Bobo affirmed that the backside was the way he liked it. “How you go want am?”
Bobo stood and walked up to her. “Make we enter first.”
He wished Benji was here with him at this moment. It wasn’t fair that now he’d chosen to do his last, the person who had oriented him was absent. It wasn’t fair that Benji had turned a new leaf long before him and without him. The only thing Benji was yet to do was give his life to Christ. He hoped that never happened because he wouldn’t imitate.
They were inside the hooker’s room and sitting on her bed. She was studying him silently while he smoked.
“Hope say na the last one you go smoke before we start? Time no dey oh.”
True, there was no time left. He had other things to do, other places to visit before he entirely became the new being his friend had advised. He would go back to the soap factory and talk to Baba, then he’d head over to Sandy’s place where he would profess his love to her and promise her a future that was under construction. His life would take a new shape before the end of tomorrow, and maybe he’d thank Benji afterwards. He squashed the reduced stick of his cigarette on the edge of her bed.
“So, how you want am?” She asked, sounding glad, sensing he was finally set for business.
“Take off everything.” Bobo demanded.
“To naked complete na from one-five up oh.”
“No wahala.” But there was, he didn’t have up to five hundred naira in his wallet.
She took off her clothes – the little that was her clothes – and stood in front of him. He was having a boner already, she had a beautiful body.
“Put on the lights.”
She walked past him without a comment to the switch, his head turned to stare at her behind in motion. Satisfactory, he agreed, then the light came on and she turned to him.
“Are you… Bobo?!”
She shrieked in happiness and jumped on him, blessing every part of his face with kisses. Someone rapped on the door in quick successions. He demanded to know if there was trouble and Carol replied with the jolliest of voices that her customer was awesome. The enquirer, who most probably was a bouncer, left them in peace.
“Bobo, I’m never going to leave you again.”
Of course she wouldn’t. Carolinda was his first girlfriend. She taught him how to love, how to be sensitive to the needs of a woman, and in return, he had deflowered her. They had promised to stay together in love, get married and bear children. However, things had come to an end when she disclosed to him that she was moving to Lagos to marry a man her parents were hugely indebted to.
“You’re going to spend the night here, I don’t care if you have a house, and I’m going to give you the best sex you’ve ever had in your life. I’m in the business now. God! You’ve grown into a very sexy and handsome man.”
Bobo was too awed to speak. There were questions to be asked and maybe conclusions and decisions to make but they would have to wait. He would never dull a sensational moment, it wasn’t in his DNA to do so. And so, while Ochuko was riding Sandy in bed and panting like a horse, Bobo was getting off his clothes in preparation for what would be his best sex.