I don’t take afternoon naps. They give me all sorts of weird dreams. I always wake up sapped and cranky. I prefer morning naps. I’d stay awake all night, working, and then I go for a run by 5 a.m., come back and have breakfast, and finally crash until 2 p.m. My normal daily routine.
But a client’s job keeps me awake all night, eating into my morning routine until 12 noon. Exhausted, I throw myself on my bed and pass out. Of course, I fall into one of those random dreams. And it makes no sense to me while I’m dreaming it. When I wake up some minutes after 6 p.m., all of it disappears from memory. I can literally see it vanish from my head as I try to put the pieces together.
I go for a shower and cook myself a meal. It isn’t until after I sit to watch some TV that I realize Halim has been gone all day. I go back and forth on the decision to call her. I don’t want her to take it as something other than what it is. I’m just a roommate worried about a fellow roommate.
Maybe roommate is not the right word.
Flat mate? Housemate? Tenant?
Just call her and ask if she’s okay.
I dial her number. It rings. She doesn’t answer. I dump my phone aside. At least, I tried. I face the TV again, switching through channels. Nothing interesting. I turn it off, put on some jazz music and pick Toni Kan’s The Carnivorous City. I hope I enjoy it as I did Igoni Barret’s Blackass.
The front door opens and I lower the book to have a look at the strange woman that has just walked into the house.
I spring to a sitting position. “Halim?”
She is all smiles and all sorts of different. Short hair, makeup, glowing skin, multiple ear piercings and a dress made for a goddess.
“How do I look?”
I’m dumbstruck. No, I’m not speaking metaphorically. I am actually dumbstruck. I can’t even work up a single thought.
“Hi.” She waves. “Is Yemi there?”
I’m still wordless.
“You like?” she asks.
“Wh-what did you do to your hair? And all those piercings… What’s that all about?”
She loses her smile.
“No, no, no, no! Don’t do your face like that. You look great. Really, you do.”
“You don’t like it?”
“I do. It’s just that you had so much hair.”
“I know but I didn’t know what to do with it. Sha, thanks for making me feel better.”
She begins towards her room, taking a bunch of shopping bags along.
“I’m sorry!” I say.
“Sorry for what?”
I walk to her door. I stop when I see her taking off her dress. She’s left only in her underwear. When she sees me, she shows no reaction.
“Okay, you want me to be honest?”
“No,” she answers. “If you say anything, it’ll be worse.”
“I like the new look, Halim. It’s different, and the more I stare at you, the more I’m liking it. You have beautiful hair, long or short.”
She gives me a doubtful look.
“I’m being honest here.”
“Thanks for the honesty.”
“What’s with the piercings, though?”
“I didn’t do them today. They’ve been there. I stopped showing them off when I became dedicated to church.”
“And now, they’re back.”
She slumps on her bed. “I miss my old life. I want to be me again. Is that a bad thing?”
“Do you like me like this? With all the piercings and crazy hairstyle and noise?”
“I get really talkative and animated and clingy and many other things.”
“I don’t mind.”
“I did a tattoo as well,” she whispers.
“You should have seen the face of the artist when he was done and I told him I was HIV positive. He looked like I had taken Ebola and shoved it down his throat.”
She laughs out loud. I smile, watching her. It’s the first time I’ve seen her laugh like this. It’s not infectious; it’s entertaining. Like she’s in her own bubble. And her mirth brings tears to her eyes.
“He used gloves, though?”
“Yes. But he was angry at me, telling me I should have told him from the start.”
“You should have, Halim. Any mishap could have happened.”
“I know but it didn’t really occur to me to tell him. For the first time since I got diagnosed, I didn’t see myself as an HIV patient. I just saw myself as a normal girl.”
“Woman,” I correct wittily.
“Oh, let me be a girl today.”
“So, how did it end with him? The tattoo guy.”
“I asked him if he was irritated because I was HIV positive. He couldn’t answer. So, I gave him a little talk about living with HIV and what it feels like, as opposed to what people on the outside think it feels like. You should have seen me. You’d have been proud, counselor.”
“I am proud now. You’ve finally fallen into acceptance.”
“I think so.”
She pulls a plastic bag towards her. “I know you don’t like eating snacks and meals cooked from outside but you like boli, don’t you?”
“Oya, come and eat. I was in a cab on my way back and saw this woman near Water Corporation, roasting plantain and yam, the Port Harcourt way. I had to stop the cab and join the queue. So, I got us boli, beans, roasted yam, roasted potatoes and kpanla.”
“Awesome,” I say, walking to her bed. She hands me a food pack and we sit to eat. She opens up to me, telling me stories from her childhood, the schools she went to, her relationship with Eben, and also her faith. Good Lord! She does talk!
“Do you want to go back to Eben?” I inquire as we come to the end of the meal. She’s eating the head of the kpanla fish, which in my opinion is the best part. I love women who love fish head.
“Will I go back to him? No. I can’t say I was really in love with him. I liked him, and I think I would have fallen in love along the way, but it wasn’t that type of butterflies in your tummy kind of love.”
“Have you ever felt that before?”
“Yeah. A little. With Paul. I had a huge crush on him. I think, generally, the problem is with me. I don’t know how to fall in love.”
“You don’t know how to fall in love?”
“No.” She scratches her nose with the back of her hand, showing me a collection of rings on her fingers that match her new personality. I’m going crazy for her by the second.
“I fall in love slowly, gradually,” she explains. “It’s not a precaution thing. It’s just me. I’m wired differently. But I want to have that type of spontaneous, overnight, head-over-heels, struck-by-lightning kind of love. You think I’ll ever find that?”
Her phone starts to ring. It’s resting on her bag beside her. She looks at it. “It’s my mom,” she reveals, her back slouching into a curve. “Eben must have given her my number. I really miss her sha. There’s some kindness in my heart this night, and a sweet, soft voice telling me that it’s okay to pick her call.”
“But my hands are all oily. How did you manage to eat our own fish head with just one hand?”
The phone rings out.
“Oh well. She’ll call back.”
The phone lights up again. I reach out and press the answer button.
“Please put her on speakerphone,” Halim whispers. I thumb on the button.
“Halim?” her mother calls.
“Halim?” her mother repeats, disbelief in her voice.
“Aunty Ada, good evening.”
“Halimnye, is this you?”
Halim doesn’t answer. The woman begins to give thanks to God while Halim maintains her hush, hiding her emotions with a plain face.
“How are you, darling? Where are you? Are you okay? Are you fine? How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, Aunty Ada. Stop being so hysterical.”
Her mother’s tone turns weepy. “I’ve been so worried about you, but I’ll get your texts and feel better, and start worrying again. It’s been torture, my baby. How are you? Talk to your mom.”
“Eben says you’re still in Lagos. Can I come and see you?”
“Okay. How about coming over? I just need to see you, darling. Please. Will you come for the Christmas holiday? Or maybe we can travel out. I read this article online that says there are forty-two places Nigerians can visit without a visa. Two of us can just travel to one of those countries and stretch our legs at some beach and ogle exotic men…”
Halim winces. “Okay, Aunty Ada, I have to go. Merry Christmas in advance. I love you!”
“I love you too…”
“And please don’t call me tomorrow.”
She presses an oily finger on her phone before stabbing it at her tear duct to ward off a tear. The result is a scream.
“Pepper!” she cries. “Yemi, pepper!”
“Let’s get you to the bathroom.”
I help her up from the bed and lead her to her bathroom. Splashing water over her eye, I try to manage the situation, but I don’t seem to be helping. On closer examination, I spot a particle in the eye. I go for a sachet of water from the kitchen and hose out the foreign object.
“Are you better?” I ask.
“Yes.” She breathes out. “Thank you.”
I realize our bodies are in contact. Her hand is on my shoulder and my arm holds onto her waist protectively. I step back, as does she. We return to her bedroom where she passes me a shopping bag. I look at her for a few seconds longer before taking the bag. I have a peep inside and lift my face in surprise.
“I’m confused.” I shake my head. “This is expensive, Halim. Why?”
She shrugs. “You’ve been kind to me. And you don’t even know me. This is just me saying thank you.”
“Where did you get the money from?”
“I’m rich, remember?”
I smile. “I don’t know what to say, Halim. Thank you doesn’t seem enough.”
I take her by surprise, grabbing her by the arms and pulling her in for a hug. “Thank you.”
She pushes away. My eyes rest on her lips briefly. She spins away from me and heads back to her bed.
“A butterfly tattoo?”
She slaps both hands on her butt cheeks, giggling.
“It’s actually artsy,” I mutter.
She picks her shawl off the bed and wraps around her waist. “I just felt like doing something daring.”
“I’m glad you did. And I’m happy to see this side of you. Your sad eyes are gone.”
“Yes. Can I try on the sneakers?”
I sit on the floor. She watches as I slip my feet into the designer pair. “They’re perfect, Halim. I should go out on a date with them.”
“You want to date them? Yemi, I know you have an unhealthy obsession over sneakers but please, don’t date them.”
I get confused at her words for a couple of seconds and then I catch her meaning. We both fall into mirth at the same time.
“I actually meant I should wear them out on a date.”
“But I don’t have a date.”
“Take Queen,” she teases.
“I’d rather take you.”
“Would you say no?”
“Is that a no or a yes?”
“No, I won’t say no. And no, I don’t mind going out on a date with you, but the problem is I feel it’ll jinx my future dating life.”
“You’re my housemate. Not a love interest. My first date in Lagos should be with a love interest. Yemi, don’t come and spoil market for me.”
“What if I’m a love interest?”
She casts a puzzled gaze at me as laughter springs from her. I’m about to ask her why she’s amused when a knock on the front door interrupts me.
“I’ll be back.”
I hurry out to the living room. I’m expecting a friend to bring over a laptop I want to buy. He is supposed to stay a while for a game or two, but I’m having such a good time with Halim that I plan to ditch him immediately he drops in.
I open the door with a lie already on my lips. But I freeze at the sight before me.
I’m greeted by a gorgeous lady, who is dressed in a garb ensemble. She has a male companion with her. I look at them both and my mood curdles. I slam the door in their faces.
“Who’s that?” Halim asks, her head poking out from her bedroom.
“My ex and my cousin.”
She stares at me questioningly. “The cousin you said was coming and wasn’t coming again?”
“No. This is another one. My ex dumped me for him after she got pregnant with his baby. They got married.”
Another knock hits the door.
“What do they want?”
“I’m about to find out.”
I turn around and open the door a second time.
“Yemi, please, let us in. We need to talk.”
I take in as much of Yemi’s cousin and his ex as I can before I retreat to my room. The cousin is a lighter version of him. Shorter too. Clean appearance. Neat and well-groomed. Not the sort of man one would imagine stealing another man’s woman.
The lady is beautiful, but poorly dressed. That’s all I can glean from her. But it’s not my business who they are and what had transpired between them and Yemi.
I take off my underwear. My fingers follow the outlines of the tattoo on my butt which is a little tender. I stare at it in the mirror. I’ve never really understood my girly obsession with butterflies. I find them vibrant and free, even as fragile as they appear. If I’d been given a chance to come into this life as anything else, I’d have chosen to be one of them, I guess. To have an existence that is brief but well-lived trumps a long life with pain and no meaning.
Yemi knocks on my door. I slip into my nightshirt.
He enters. “Halim, I need you, please.”
“You need me?”
His face is worn in a frown. “Yes, I need you or I’ll kill someone this night.”
“Just come and sit with me, so that I don’t do anything stupid.”
“Yemi, I think it’s a family matter…”
“We won’t take long.”
“I just don’t want to be caught in the crossfire.”
“There isn’t going to be any crossfire. Just me firing all the shots.”
“What?” he asks.
“It’s just the figure of speech you’re using…”
He begins out. I follow him into the living room.
“Halim, meet Alex and Oluwatosin,” he introduces.
“Hi,” I greet. Alex is the lady. Oluwatosin is his cousin.
Yemi takes the two-sitter that faces the long sofa on which the couple is seated. I occupy the space beside him. He stretches his long legs on the center table, crossing one foot over the other. The price tag of the sneakers sticks out.
“So, let’s go back to how our conversation started,” he speaks. “You came in, we exchanged greetings, I asked why you were here and you said you wanted to talk, to ask my forgiveness…right?”
“Yes.” Alex slants forward.
“So, go ahead. Ask on.”
“Yemi, I hurt you. I did a very terrible thing to you. We did a terrible thing and we are sorry. We’re here to ask your forgiveness. Please, find it in your heart to pardon us, to let it all go.”
Two large tears run down her cheeks. I look at Yemi. He seems unmoved. He is clearly angry. But I also see an expression of pleasure on his face. The lady tugs at the flaps of the sweater she’s wearing which is responsible for the drabness on her. If it was a brighter color, she would have appeared livelier.
“Is your husband sorry?” Yemi asks.
“What?” Alex sniffles.
“That bastard seated beside you. Is he sorry?”
Yemi’s cousin’s face is passive. He comes off as a proud man. His wife nudges him. He looks away from staring at the television and faces Yemi.
“We both apologize,” he states in a gruff tone.
“After six years?”
“You went away, Yemi. No one knew where you were. You changed lines and deleted all your social media accounts.”
I stare at Yemi, surprised to hear that he had once walked a mile in my shoes.
“After six years, we just got info on you–”
“Bullshit,” Yemi interjects. “You expect me to believe that you’re here just to say you’re sorry?”
“Then I’ve heard you! Get the hell out of my house!”
Alex glances at her husband.
“Get out,” Yemi repeats.
“Actually, there’s more,” Alex confesses.
“I knew it. Two of you are the most selfish ingrates I ever met in my life. There is just no way you’re coming here after six years just to say you’re sorry for what you’ve done.”
“Yemi,” Alex says. “The baby I was carrying for Tosin when you left… The baby died. I had a stillbirth.”
My heart tugs. “Sorry about that,” I murmur. Yemi eyes me.
“Thank you,” Alex replies. “But that was just beginning. I had two other miscarriages, and then stopped getting pregnant entirely. The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with us, so they’re not sure why we are having difficulty with pregnancy.”
“Where is this pathetic story going?”
“Well…everyone thinks you’re responsible for our childlessness…”
Yemi drops his legs from the table. “Are you out of your mind?!” he shouts. “After all you have done, Alex! After how you hurt me and turned my generosity on my face! After everything, you now accuse me of being diabolic?!”
“I’m sorry,” she weeps.
“My family took you in because you had no one! I convinced my parents to welcome you into their home as one of their daughters! I loved you! I took care of you! But the best way you repaid me was to cheat on me with my cousin and get pregnant for him! All under the one month I was away from you!”
Alex covers her face with her sweater.
“You then turn my family against me and marry the bastard father of your child! And now, you’re blaming me for your childlessness?!”
“She didn’t exactly say that,” Tosin responds.
Yemi charges up. “If you open your mouth to talk to me again, Tosin–!”
“You’ll do what?!” Tosin barks back, also springing up.
“Tosin!” his wife screams, coming in-between them. “What is wrong with you?! Sit down!”
Both cousins engage in a glowering contest.
“Please, two of you, sit down,” Alex begs. “Please.”
Tosin takes his seat first. Yemi does the same, after a couple of seconds. Alex also sits.
“Yemi, I didn’t blame you for it. It’s just that I… We, the whole family, we feel that it’s because you hold a grudge against us, that’s why it’s been difficult for us to have a baby. I’m begging you again to forgive. I’m two months pregnant and I’m really scared that I’ll lose it like all the others. I’m tired.”
“Are you sure it’s Tosin’s baby?” Yemi asks spitefully.
“Yemi?” I scold.
“Halim, I have to ask because all she’s good at is jumping from one man to another. Maybe she’s now carrying my younger brother’s kid.”
Alex begins sobbing again. “It’s Tosin’s baby. Yemi, I’m so sorry for all I did to you. I’m so sorry.”
She goes on her knees. “Please, find it in your heart to forgive me. I don’t deserve it, but I need it desperately.” She places her hand over her tummy. “If I lose this one I’ll die. I’m sorry, Yemi.”
I notice that Yemi has gone soft. “Get up, Alex.”
“No. Not until you say you forgive me.”
“You think it’s that easy? Do you know what you did to me? How two of you ruined my life? Do you?!”
“You alone ruined your life,” Tosin remarks. “You slept around and got the disease.”
In a flash, Yemi is upon him with lethal blows.
Alex manages up and tries to go between them but I drag her away for her own safety.
“Stop it!” I scream. Yemi ignores me. Tosin gets an open window to throw in a punch. He hits his mark on Yemi’s eye, dazing him for a second and gaining another opening to continue with his retaliation. They knock down the sofa, falling to the floor, muscled arms and fists enacting pain and injury on each other. They are deaf to our pleas and screams. I find that I’m crying too, but I’m suddenly gifted with the commonsense to run out to our next door neighbor for help.
I find the father of the house seated outside, slapping mosquitoes away from his legs. In a jumble of words, I explain the situation. The mention of a pregnant woman pushes him up on his feet and he follows me into the house. We enter to find Yemi seated on Tosin whose only present action is shielding his face from the rain of assaults.
“You wan kill the boy?!” my neighbor bellows, bringing Yemi’s actions to a halt. Breathing hard, he rises up from Tosin’s body, staggers into his bedroom and slams the door. Alex rushes to her husband’s side. He is bruised in a bad way. Our neighbor helps him up. He seems dazed. I rush to get him a cup of water. He takes a sip and taints what is left with his blood.
“Let’s go,” he instructs his wife.
“Relax,” all three of us say in unison.
He stands up, sways a little and starts towards the door. Our neighbor follows him out.
“Thank you,” Alex says to me.
“Tell your husband to report himself to the hospital and explain to them that he might have been exposed to HIV. But the likelihood of him being infected is very slim. Yemi’s viral load is almost negligible. Still, let him report himself.”
“Thank you. God bless you,” she utters. “Please, speak to Yemi for me. I didn’t know he’d still be this angry after six years. Tell him I’m very sorry and I mean it.”
I escort her out and lock the door. I aim for Yemi’s bedroom.
“Can I come in?” I ask.
I walk in. He’s in the bathroom, before the mirror, attending to a cut above his eye. Apart from his torn t-shirt, everything seems fine.
“You told me you wouldn’t do anything stupid,” I remind him.
“Yeah, I lied. But given the chance, I’d be stupid again.”
He takes off his t-shirt and dumps it on the floor.
“Let me help you…”
“I’m good,” he replies gruffly. I stubbornly pick a pair of adhesive bandages from his First Aid box.
“Do you want to talk about what just happened?”
“Nothing to talk about.” He faces me. “You heard the whole story.”
“I’m sorry for what you went through.”
He doesn’t reply. I cover the cut above his eye and wash my hands.
“Yemi, breathe easy. You’re puffing really hard. Calm down.”
He slams a blood-spattered face towel in his laundry basket and stomps out of the bathroom. I follow him out to the living room. He cleans the mess from the scuffle, grunting as he does so. I watch him in amusement. I’m thinking Tosin needs to return to get more thumps. Yemi doesn’t seem satisfied.
I help him lift the sofa and put it back into place.
“God, I’m tired,” I say in a yawn, dumping my weight on it, just as the electricity goes out. I hiss. Yemi sits on the center table and faces me, turning on a flashlight.
“I loved her,” he mumbles. His heavy breathing has stopped but his eyes still hold anger.
“Who else? I was a fool for her. She was my first. First love, first everything. My cousin was older, more experienced with women…”
“He lived with you?”
“Yeah. My family is huge, cousins, aunties, uncles, distant relatives everywhere. It’s a big compound. I was a struggling software developer then, trying to put together some money to get my own place so that Alex and I can be alone.”
“How did you find out about them?”
“I walked in on them. They were in my aunt’s apartment, which was in the next compound. They hadn’t expected me to ever go there. And seriously, I don’t even know what took me there, being that that aunt was not my favorite. I’d just felt like saying hi to her that evening. So I walked in there and…”
He shakes his head.
“The funny thing was that I still wanted Alex back, even after everything. Even as she told me she was carrying Tosin’s baby. I wanted her back. But the whole family insisted that she had to marry Tosin, and so they pulled resources together for a traditional wedding.”
“Wow. That’s cold.”
“Yeah. I just gave myself brain, packed my things and left home. Changed my phone number, deleted my life from everyone and moved to Lagos. I was lucky when I got here. A friend said a company was looking for a contract software developer. It was good money. I started on the job and others started trickling in. I got a good apartment, bought a car, and felt the best thing to do was to be a slut. I had more sex than ten men put together would in a year. I did it all. Threesomes, orgies, prostitutes…”
“I then got this dream job for this big company. One of the perks was work-related trips outside Nigeria. It was a good deal. I got in on the first day of work and had to have all sorts of tests run. A week later, they called me to the clinic and broke the news that I was HIV positive. I was confused. I didn’t believe them. I left the place and went to a general hospital to redo the test. Same result. I still didn’t believe. I did the test again in a private hospital…”
Yemi nods. “I was angry, confused… I locked myself in for two months, starving myself and living off alcohol and cigarettes. I wanted to die. Eventually, I fell really ill and had to swallow my pride to call Clement.”
I smile. “And of course, he came through.”
“Yeah. He took me to the HCT center, they got me retested and started me on a treatment plan. Mind you, I was still very angry then.”
“You still are.”
“What you saw today was closure, Halim. I needed to do that to Tosin. As for Alex, I long forgave her.”
“So, how did you become a counselor?”
“Oh, it took a while. I lost all my money, sold my car and moved in to a face-me-I-face-you for a few months, wallowing in pity. But then one day, I simply got up and decided to start living again. Just like you did today. I owned my status and became fine with it. I went to the HCT center and asked to understudy one of the counselors. The training took six months. I got a certificate and was allowed to start my own support group. And here I am.”
He stands up. I don’t know why he’s still frowning.
I yawn again. “Landlord, can you turn on the gen so that your tenant can be comfortable and have a good night’s rest?”
He makes to walk past but he stops and returns to the table.
“Halim, we need to talk.”
“Uh-oh. I hate the tone of your voice. And I hate serious talks at night.”
“We really need to talk.”
“Do I need to sit up for it?”
I lift my weight up to a sitting position. “This is going to be difficult to say.” He heaves.
“I doubt that anything can be worse than being told you have HIV, so just spit it out.”
He heaves again and I become worried. I push myself into the sofa. Something tells me that whatever Yemi is about to share will give me a sleepless night.
Blame it on the weed. Or on the alcohol. Or on the DJ and his songs, on the neon lights in the club, on how Eben’s eyes lust after me all evening. Blame it on everything, but me, as I attack Eben’s lips with mine, my hand grabbing the bulge that has been pushing through his pants all through the ride home.
The madness starts in the club, when I refuse to dance with him but display my twerking skills as I torture some unfortunate idiot on the dance floor. Eben endures the torment all through our stay in the club, and continues to pretend not to feel the heat between us on our way back home. But the moment the front door shuts behind us and I pounce on him with my lips, he responds with equal hunger.
The touch of his hand on my body and the way he breathes into my ear are everything I imagined.
Soon, our clothes are on the floor, and the raw scent of my arousal fills my own head. Eben picks his wallet from the floor and takes out a condom.
“I hate condoms,” I say in a moan. He shuts me up with a kiss, just before he turns me around and tells me how much I’ve been torturing him since my arrival to the house and how badly he wants to punish me for the agony he’s been through.
“You can take the punishment standing. Or you can take it lying down.”
“Standing,” I groan.
He commands me to part my legs. I do so feverishly. He drops on his knees and covers the dampness between my legs with his mouth. I scream out. Not just for the pleasure of it, but because I can’t believe I’m having it this good with him. Most times, the man you want may not be the one that thrills you. But not Eben. He shocks me with his ferocious nastiness. I’ve heard stories about him, but you don’t believe such things until you have a firsthand experience.
Eben eats me out like his tongue was created just to give pleasure to my most needy place, like he’s known me this intimately before.
I press my palms to the wall, holding on to it as I feel my head spinning under the sheer ecstasy his mouth brings. But he doesn’t stop. He keeps lapping and stroking and sucking until I begin to feel something strong coming. I try to tell him I’m on the verge of exploding but I can’t seem to use my voice for anything else but to scream.
I pull away from the wall as my body shudders without control. Eben doesn’t give me a second to breathe. I feel my butt cheeks get lifted and parted as I experience the incredible sensation of being speared deeply by his full length while convulsing under an orgasm. I grip him so tightly that he can’t move for a few seconds. When I let go and he begins to grind into me, I arch my back to him.
But he stops abruptly, and presses his body on mine, pulling out a little. “Do you like this?”
“You want more of this?”
“Then you’re not going to tell Lekan. You’re not telling your mom. Or my mom. Or anyone else? This will be our secret. Just me and you. Understood?”
“Do you understand?” He slams hard into me again.
I shriek in pleasure, laughing madly as he pounds me from behind. I don’t want to be his little secret. I want the whole world to know I own this man. Tomorrow, I’ll be lucid enough to renegotiate the terms of the contract to suit me. Right now, my commonsense is between my legs and Eben is sweetly screwing it away.