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  • Walt Shakes

    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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I SAW YOU NAKED

The words dropped out of your mouth like an aside. Although this was no stage play, I was at that point where I really wished it was one. You know, the kind of play staged in a really big theatre with audience all bright-eyed, staring at us, ears straining to grab the sound of our voices: and we, reciting every part of our lines with cautious vehemence. It would be then that you would tilt your head to the side and drop those words; three simple words that I would hear but pretend not to. And yes, I would really wish my wishing it was all a play would come true, because only then would I have the power to hear and at the same time pretend not to hear your little aside. Not here, not at the back of the compound, sitting on the elevated soak-away pit of a stage. Not with Mr. Nduka and his wife as our audience: both lying on a mat in the faraway distance of their doorway, chatting in their native Igbo dialect. And no! Not with the moonless sky glaring down at us with a few stars to act as stage lights. Wishes be damned! Is this all I get? What’s the use of wishing if it wouldn’t come through at the moment of its need?

I could see the expectation in your eyes, I could feel them piercing into mine searching deep beneath their surface…Searching for the answer to a question you dared ask passively. How was I supposed to react to that? Tell you I love you too? I was still contemplating this when your words hit me again.

‘Edobor, didn’t you hear me? I said I love you na

‘Uhm… Erm…’ I stuttered.

‘Talk sumtin na Edobor…eh, EdoborEdobor.

You had begun to sound like a kid who just learnt a new word for the first time and was trying to commit it to memory by reciting it.

‘Edobor!’

I couldn’t think straight anymore. I needed more time. More time to figure out if it was just one of your many pranks and if not, more time to hope my wishes would come through.

‘Edobor! Edobor!…’

It wasn’t your voice I heard anymore, it lacked that nagging dominance yours had. This was more subtle, with a low timbre. Mature. Distant.

‘Yes brodaa!’ I yelled back, recognizing the voice and the direction it was coming from. I turned to you and quickly said, ‘We will talk tomorrow, Mary, my brodaa is about to lock up.

I saw the disappointment register on your face as you muttered an ‘okay’ and then a weary ‘goodnight’ before you crossed to the left side of the compound.

I walked briskly through the dark, back to the one-room apartment brodaa and I shared. I knew brodaa would have turned in: his calling on me was to tell me that an indirect instruction that I should do the same. As I walked past Papa Amakas doorpost toward mine next-door, I could hear sonorous pseudo-erotic grunts accompanied by the squeaking of a bed at its joints, creaking in a rhythmic movement. How the man and his wife managed to do it in that box of a room, and with little Amaka sleeping by their side, I could not imagine.

When I was inside, enveloped by the bleak darkness of the room, I bolted the door behind me and trailed my hand on the wall by the door, my fingers tracing a path on its coarseness. Eventually, I located the wooden chest nearby, and the matchbox and candle on one of its shelves.  I struck a matchstick. The light that emanated from the wick of the candle was a dark orange. It cast around long shadows of every object it fell on. I made my way to the paper-thin mattress stretched out on the ground in one corner of the room. Brodaa was already asleep on it, face up, his fingers clasped on his chest, which rose and fell with his rhythmic deep breathing. Thankfully, he was not lying spread out all over the mattress the way he did most nights. Those nights meant I had to sleep on the mat. I blew out the candle and folded my body into the space beside him.

‘I love you

‘I love you.

It was no dream. It was your voice replaying itself inside my head with those exact words. Taunting me. Teasing me in and out of my somnolence. And when finally I sunk into the deep embrace of sleep, they hung on the periphery of my mind, waiting to greet me upon wakefulness.

***

It was my second month in Warri and I was adapting pretty well. Though I had lived all my life in Benin, within just a few weeks, Warri already had my heart. It was home away from home. I had just done my SSCE and passed fairly well. Then, my elder brother known to us, his younger ones, as Brodaa suggested to our parents that I move to Warri to stay with him. He wanted me to take my JAMB exams there.

‘Theres too much distraction for him here. It will be better if he prepares for the exam in a place where he has few friends.’

He didn’t need to say much. With those words alone, he had my parents convinced that my relocation to Warri was for the best. Within a few days, I was all set and packaged to Warri where I was to stay with my elder brother in his one room apartment and attend pre-JAMB tutorials.

It wasn’t a comfortable adjustment at first. The compound was like a big square box with a demarcation right in the middle, with a shack built at the back for convenience purposes. My new life became characterized by new inconveniences. Sleeping on a mat. Drawing water from the 15-year-old well. Sharing a toilet and bathroom with several other inhabitants of the compound.

I quickly became nostalgic. Homesick. I longed for the relative comfort of home.

Then I met you.

I had been in Warri a week. The idea of using the compound toilet, being in a queue, waiting my turn, eventually getting in and enduring the impatient and mortifying grumbles of other people urging me to hurry up and finish my business it all repulsed me. And in that week, I was unable to ease myself. My excretory system instinctively shut down. Food went into my mouth, and nothing came out from below. 

Then that day finally came, unannounced. I was in my extramural class when I felt the sharp sting shoot through my lower abdomen down to the tip of my anus.

‘Jesus!’ I gasped. ‘Not now, please not now…’ I muttered under my breath.

A few glances from my classmates swung my way as I squirmed.

More stings ricocheted through my abdomen. I felt a pressure begin to build down there. Oh Lord Jesusnot nowoh God, not now…” Sweat bloomed on my forehead as I tried to will my body into submission to my will. But my body was feeling very disobedient. As the pressure mounted and I felt spurts of gas push their way through, I knew this was not a fight I would win.

Sir, please, excuse me…” I gasped at the teacher, and without waiting for his permission, I fled the class.

I ran on tiptoe back home, abandoning my books in the class, taking as much care not to amount much pressure on my belly quickly bouncing off my legs once they hit the ground.

Mercifully, Brodaas house was not far from the class, and in my fevered haste, I didnt bother with knocking before barging into the toilet.   

You were in there already. You were startled by my sudden presence.

‘Sorry oh, no vex,’ I whimpered.

My eyes met yours. There was no anger in them. Just amusement. A flash of interest. And then I was back out the door. I waited some excruciating seconds outside, taking hollow breaths and hopping from one foot to the other, before you came out. Muttering another hurried apology, I dashed past you, sparing only a few microseconds to appreciate the faint smile hovering on your lips.

I took your image with me. Not the image of you with the smile on your lips and a wrapper wound up to your chest. Not that one. But the one of you naked, squatting over the latrine, knees up, legs spread apart. That was the image that wouldnt leave my mind as I sighed and farted and went about my business. And when I was done, when I walked out, I felt chagrin tide through me when I saw that you were still there, standing by the well.

I felt prompted to apologize again. ‘Abeg no vex…’

‘Ah-ah! E neva do? Na today you dey see woman nyash?’

Surprise knocked through me at the impetuous words. I scrambled for a response, and came up short. Your eyes beamed at me, you were enjoying my discomfort. I could not understand how you did it, how you took control. You were the one meant to be uneasy, not me. I saw you naked.

‘You be Bros Austin broda, abi?’

‘Yes.

‘Na you dem dey talk say com write jamb?’

‘Yes.

‘What is your name?’

There, you were doing it again taking control. It excited you, didn’t it? Making me feel like a shrimp trapped in a fisherman’s net.

‘Don’t you have a name, what is your name?’

‘Edobor,’ I replied. My name is Edobor. I found your rapid switch from pidgin to English quite fascinating.

Okay. And then you turned and began to walk away.

I became flustered again. What had I said? Why were you going? I couldn’t let you leave just yet, I wanted to know you.

‘Wetin be What is your own name?’ I blurted, doubting the weight of my own pidgin.

You turned to face me and with little interest, replied, Call me Mary. And you walked away.

I had to willfully stop myself from coming after you.

But thereafter, I took notice of you. I noticed you in the afternoon when you swept the front of your house, when you hummed a song as you hung your laundry out to dry. I noticed you in the evening when you returned from the market, tired and irritable. I noticed that you didnt hang around the gossipy girls in our compound. I noticed that you were not popular with the neighbours, that you liked to keep to yourself most of the time. Even brodaa who is familiar with everyone around the neighbourhood confuses your name with Mercy’s, the girl from the next compound. She is nothing like you. You don’t smile sheepishly at every guy that crosses your path or shake your fanny at those area boys that come to Oga Sylvanus bar down the street to drink. That Mercy is a loose girl. You are not.

A week passed before I got the chance to talk to you again. It was late Sunday evening. I was taking an aimless stroll around the neighbourhood. And then I saw you sitting by yourself on top the soak-away pit beside our compound the same place that would turn out later to be our favourite spot. I had not planned to walk up to you, but then you saw me and waved me over. You took my hand and pulled me down to sit beside you.

‘So, my friend, how many nyash did you see today?’ you quipped.

There was a twinkle in your eyes. I laughed uproariously. And that was the beginning of our friendship. You were in a chatty mood. You talked and I listened. You told me a lot about you that you were nineteen, a year older than me; that you were a 100 level drop-out from Delta State University, once a student of Literature, the same course I planned to study. It was a delight to see you talk, and the pleasure I felt deepened when you fell asleep on my shoulders.

We became close friends from that instant, hanging out mostly on the nights of the weekends. As quickly became our routine, you talked more and I listened more.

It was one of those Saturdays when my tutorials lasted till sundown. I returned home to the message from brodaa that you came to check on me. I spared some time to eat before hurrying out to look for you.

Brodaas voice stopped me at the door. ‘You and this Mercy of a girl have gotten quite close. He wasnt asking. He was saying.

‘It’s Mary and we are just friends,’ I responded stiffly.

He seemed to discern my mood, because he didnt give the lecture I was expecting. He simply said, ‘Just be careful oh. Ashawo no dey love person.

Ashawo no dey love person. Those words nagged at me as I walked out. They worried me. They confused me. What did brodaa mean by that utterance? I tried to shove my perplexity aside when I saw you at the soak-away pit and approached your sitting form etched in the bleak of the night.

You were happy to see me, you wanted to talk about the novel you had just finished reading, the one I lent you three days ago. You began talking, but I failed to pay attention. I was tortured by my rebellious thoughts. I had to know. I needed to know.

‘Where do you work?’ I suddenly blurted out, cutting into your chatter.

You stopped talking and in the moonlight, I saw a guarded expression fall over your face. Your eyes slid from mine, and you turned your head away to peer through the tiny pores of the dark, as though searching for the embalmed light within.

There was silence.

‘What do you do?’ I asked again.

More silence.

‘Are you a prostitute?’ My heartbeat was racing.

I couldn’t have prepared my heart for what came next. You burst into a fit of laughter, clapping your hands as you let your weight rest on the wall nearby. I was irritated by your mirth. It was typical of you to treat lightly serious issues. But not now, at least not for this.

I opened my mouth to give voice to my irritation when you said, ‘Ashawo sef na work na, abi you no know?’

I knew better than to ask any more questions. I knew even without any confirmation from you. I could hear the slight wail of pain buried beneath your laughter. I could see the shimmer of unshed tears in your eyes, an expression that betrayed the tales your lips had sworn never to re-tell. We stayed for the rest of the night, each of us in shared silence, not saying anything, until you fell asleep on my shoulders.

***

‘Dobor! Dobor!’ I felt brodaa’s hands shake my shoulders.

I blinked and peered blearily from underneath my sleep-laden brows. I could feel the chill of saliva sticking to the side of my mouth.

‘Come and lock the door. I’m going.’

I glimpsed the watery light of the early morning filtering into the room through the slats of the closed window. I saw the helmet and jacket in his hands as he walked to the door, opening it to let in more of the morning light. Brodaa always left early for work. The early hours of the morning was a time when there was less contention for passengers for the Okada riders. That would come later in the day, when the roads were littered with Okada men jockeying for what passengers were available. Rush Hour, they called it. And brodaa wasnt a fan of it. He preferred sleeping it out till the sun was almost down before going back out for business.

His motorcycle came to life with a vroom that shattered the silence of the dawn. He repeated his instruction for me to bolt the door, before zooming off. I was about to do just that when I felt pressure mount in my bladder. I stepped out of the warmth of the room to ease myself in a  far corner of the compound. It really was early. The sky was pouring into the atmosphere a streak of navy-blue. It couldn’t have been more than 5:00am.

I almost missed it the slight opening of Papa Amakas door as I made my way to the gutter just by the side of the shack. I could hear the muted sounds of fierce breathing, accompanied by that of jerky movements playing in a uniform tone. I was halfway out of my pants when I tilted my head forward and saw you again.

There you were, pressed hard against the wall, your wrapper pulled down to reveal the soft swell of your breasts. Your legs hung suspended in the air, one of them wrapped around  light-skinned buttocks that bounced back and forth as the owner rammed into you. His face was turned in a profile toward me, and I recognized the squinty features of Papa Amaka. Your hands were snaked around his neck, pulling his face to yours. He planted a quick peck on your lips before burying his face inside your chest, his protuberant belly bouncing heavily against yours.

The shock was instant, the hurt fleeting. And I turned and walked back, unnoticed, to my room. I shut the door behind me, and lay on the mattress, pulling the blanket around me, breathing in the familiar smells of brodaas warmth and body. Moments later, I went back to sleep, vowing to purge myself of what Id just witnessed by the time I awoke. It was Sunday morning, and we will see again in the night. You will talk and I will listen. And we will still be together.

Ashawo no dey love person but person sef dey love ashawo.  

Written by Eric O. Atie, Twitter handle: @MoLEBI_DROProudly-African-Woman_1379010496266_l

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19 Comments

  1. abolanle

     /  November 23, 2013

    Come on!!!! U cnt end d story here!

    Reply
  2. OMG. I love this, you have a smooth way of narrating, the story hooked me till the end. Great diction. So sad. 😦

    Reply
  3. julz

     /  November 23, 2013

    This is warri for u.

    Reply
  4. This is a very moving tale… Everybody deserves to find love… But would the MC be able to love her despite what she does for a living? Can love conquer all… Can his love redeem her?

    Reply
  5. Chinweike

     /  November 23, 2013

    This is just raw passion-filled writing! Very rich in imagery, and a very compelling story. I was able to easily picture the entire thing in my mind, it was almost as if I was watching a movie! Very stimulating stuff.

    Kudos to this writer, and Kudos to you Walter for sharing.

    Reply
  6. kachi

     /  November 23, 2013

    This is injustice! How would you just leave us hanging here?

    Reply
  7. ifunanya

     /  November 23, 2013

    U are just soooo gud, wah more can I say.

    Reply
  8. chukarudy

     /  November 23, 2013

    Sweet sweet nyc read…

    Reply
  9. chika

     /  November 23, 2013

    Aissshhh! Good good, writing

    Reply
  10. Nurain

     /  November 23, 2013

    Fantastic story

    Reply
  11. Adeline Kasper

     /  November 23, 2013

    Hehehe!!

    Reply
  12. Word-class tale!!! Absolutely!

    Reply
  13. Awwwwww…. This is so sweet ‘ash awon no dey love person but person dey love ashawo’ … Nice one! Love conquers all fear.

    Reply
  14. Ini

     /  December 30, 2013

    Hope say na series

    Reply
  15. Wow. Wow. and Wow.

    This year is going to be great.

    Reply
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