“Womanhood is a curse, I swear”, Rolake commented roughly after we three jolly friends ravaged through our wardrobes to produce what we think was the sexiest of clothes. It was few minutes past 8:00pm; and my phone was already buzzing with Tunji’s impatient calls.
“Abeg, make una do fast do my make-up nau” I rushed at Bolu, the prettiest among us who often supplied us with accessories which she stole from her mum’s small jewelry shop whenever she travelled to Lagos. Rolake chewed gum loudly from the window side of the room where she struggled with applying the faded red lipstick on her burnt black lips. For the trio of us, life was hard especially when we had to suppress the depression that came with gaining admission into the university. Bolu had gained admission at some point into University of Ibadan before she was advised to withdraw when she could not meet up with the academic requirements after 100L. Despite that Rolake and I fought against the idea, Bolu still made her family believe that she was still in school.
That night, Agbowo road was very busy; making us clumsy on our second-hand heel sandals. “Babe, you sure sey my make-up look fine”, I asked for the umpteenth time before we approached Tunji’s Camry.
Tunji was our manager and contractor at the same time. Many times, he tells us what to wear even when we squeeze and twist our lips to disagree that we don’t have such skimpy and expensive clothes that make us look like prostitutes.
“Then what are you?”
He asked, looking at me daringly one Friday night after I protested angrily with the other girls. “Don’t get me angry”, he warned after dropping few notes into my hands which I later counted to be N10, 000. It was that money we used to purchase our see-through gowns which we wore that night. In fact, we had promised to pay-up the woman who supplied those clothes to us at Dugbe market, tomorrow after we might have returned from this mission.
Siting at the front seat made me wonder if the speed at which Tunji drove was because he was angry or that he was drunk. The Camry smelt clean and good but for the odour coming from the wet back seat. Bolu and Rolake had used the polythene bags they found behind the seats to sit comfortably as we drove to Mauve 21.
“How many people are we meeting tonight?”, I asked as I dabbed at my face with my Mary Kay powder puff as we pulled into the parking space.
“Just shut up and do what I ask you to do”, he replied.
I had always thought Tunji was a gentleman because he never did really touch us – not even me. He had only tried to kiss Bolu once which made me break up with him. But tonight was different and I began to question if it was a bad omen that my uncle would find me soon.
My parents had died in an accident in which I barely survived with a scarred face and many fractures. I was just six and their only child that horrible year. My Dad’s younger brother whom I often called Uncle took me up and sent me to school with his other two children before he lost his job when I became twenty in SS2. His wife at thirty-two had breast cancer and didn’t survive it.
So, Uncle became miserable and started drinking after his first child and son, Tope, was crushed by a petrol-tanker driver while selling gala on the busy Iwo-road express way in order to make ends meet for himself and the family. The news had shattered him so much that he lost weight too soon that he had to hold himself and his trousers with the office pins I brought home from learning events décor at a friend’s shop. Tope was our only hope fof survival until we lost everything.
The thoughts of Uncle made me remember the evening I ran away from home after he had tried to sleep with me.
“Come and help me massage my body”, he beckoned that night as I took the Aboliki balm on the stool to help with his back and swollen legs. He had pushed me towards the side of the bed as I spread my hands on his back and sides. I screamed and fought as he reached to pull at my skirt. Instinctively, I attacked with my “Aboliki” oiled hands and dipped them into his excited eyes. Thank God for the originality of the product as he retreated swearing, “Ahh…ouuuh,”, trying to clean his eyes in order to see me. I took that as a chance, stood up hastily and threw the small stool beside the bedside at him as I ran for the door while he writhed in pains. That night, I ran and ran, never looking back until I met Tunji, my first boy-friend.
“How much did Chairman give you?”, Tunji asked Rolake as we waited outside in the Camry for Bolu to join us. Rolake hissed and produced some notes to drop in Tunj’s outstretched right hand. That was his commission for bringing us here and introducing us to big men.
It was 4:00 am and almost time to leave but Bolu was yet to be found. The receptionist was nowhere to be found too as we often relied on him during situations like this.
“Don’t look for me”, a text from Bolu crawled unto the face of my techno phone screen some minutes later.
I and Rolake became puzzled; Tunji was fuming as he pulled at the steering wheel later. I had always known he had something for Bolu. Wasn’t she pretty and nice? Unlike me, who was always the ugly and groggy one.
“What could have happened to Bolu?” – I queried as we entered our room that Saturday morning. Everywhere was scattered and unkempt. Rolake had forgotten to heat up the remaining Egusi soup from the other day; and the room smelt bad. As soon as she managed to pack few clothes back into the wardrobe, Rolake pulled off her clothes and asked if I still had some sanitary pad to lend her. I told her I had none left intentionally because she often borrowed and never returned. She pulled Bolu’s side of the wardrobe to get some tissue which she later folded into her panties to hold her period.
My push-up bra was discomforting me already; so I tried pulling off my clothes and changed into my nightie as I worried again about Bolu’s text.
Or perhaps, Rolake knows about her disappearance? Did she elope with someone? Did she meet someone she knew?
I imagined Bolu knocking at the door and coming in to apologize for her weird attitude before I slept off on the only plastic arm chair across the room.
Bolu never returned; dashing our hopes. She blocked both I and Rolake on our social media platforms. Tunji didn’t pick my calls nor answered my text requesting our money for the last job which we did. We later heard rumours flying around that Bolu had eloped to marry a secondary school classmate of hers whom she had been meeting whenever we went to Mauve 21.
Later that week, I and Rolake exchanged hot and fiery words over her use of the toilet. And she left packing, and I was left with myself and a broken heart.
No sooner had I tried packing what was left of me to move on when Remi walked into my life that September. He was a Roadside Mechanic who earned enough to sponsor himself for living and school. He was twenty-two and I was twenty-five. We met at a tutorial centre in Agbowo where I tried to refresh my memory of school days and I dreamed of attempting UTME for the third time.
“If I could only get above two hundred this time…” , I whispered and prayed after Remi asked that we exchanged prayer points as it was the ritual of the centre every Friday morning.
He had a similar request and we became friends. Both of us enjoyed sitting under the mango tree near my house in the evening whenever it didn’t rain. It was on such day that my landlord came, in his holy hugeness, shouting down at me to ask for rent. I had struggled to pay the first six months by working as a bar girl at a guest house at Bodija. The pay overrode the cost; so I walked out.
“O-lo-sho… how will she have money to pay? Black today, blue tomorrow, all her friends have abandoned her. Non-sense! Rub—bb- ish! Pay our rent oh, ehn ehnor pack out!!!”, the obese and shameless landlord’s wife spitted at my face as she followed her husband upstairs after pulling a little crowd over me and Remi.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”, Remi asked after we sat on the well-laid mattress that relaxed firmly on the green rug that stretched across the room. I looked away as hot tears steamed in my light brown eyes; smoothening the big scar on my right face as if to hide it from burning from the heat of embarrassment that enveloped me. Remi didn’t just hug me that night; he did pay a whole year rent for me.
“What were you doing at that bar last night?”, I smiled wickedly as I watch Remi pace my off-white coloured room up and down. He was pacified after I told him I had just finished baking some butter cakes for his birthday that day when he marched into my room. We played some ludo together later that day and watched a movie on my phone.
We had suddenly become lovers who looked after each other. At least, that was what I thought until later in February the following year.
UTME was better but post UTME was worse. I lost to this struggle again and I wept for days for my lost opportunity. I’ve always wanted to go to school. To become a Surgeon perhaps a Cosmetics surgeon I felt a devil donning Rolake’s old clothes, and laughing at me as I cried until my future became bleak. Remi had gained admission to study Engineering. His utmost dream was achieved and he, just like others left me but this time, for a tall, slender, and tomato-lipped law student who he met in his fellowship during the freshers’ welcome.
Thinking became my main menu and depression sulked my being. I felt like a bird whose wings had been clipped; I became crippled as the economy took into a tailspin. Another year was running by and I’ll have to pay another N40,000 naira rent. I could see life burdening me down to nothing. And I just wanted to die.
Life became a bad market for me but I soon realised I had no enough time to mourn. So I started a Sweet shop where I baked only cakes. And this is how I got the money to start – Tunji finally sent the money for the last job we did after I lied to him that I was sick and almost dying at the hospital. He must have read the text with a different heart that time, because the alacrity with which the alert entered my phone amazed both me and my conscience.
“He sent me a whooping sum of 50K”, I exclaimed to Rolake some months later after she came visiting with her baby boy. She had married and decided to stay even if it means the husband abusing her almost every night he came back home drunk.
“This boy is my consolation, at least”, she said regretfully.
The first month of being a baker saw the economy throwing back stones of regret for every seed of profit and effort sown. Sometimes I ate my cakes with garri, or even shared it with the little kids who begged for a bite, after the aroma from my shop must have raped their nostrils and attracted their limbs.
Latter months were nicer. I sold over 200 pieces of cake and made a lot of gain.
“Your cakes really taste great”, Brother John, a 400L nursing student at the University College Hospital Ibadan and the head of the ushering unit in the fellowship I attend down my street along water bus stop, commented after one Sunday service. It was thanksgiving Sunday and I was commissioned to bake the cake for the celebration. I returned his compliment with a smile and a simple “Thank you” for his offer to walk me home. He later confessed to have been eyeing my multi-coloured gown ever since I walked into church that morning. I made the gown myself after I started learning how to sow female clothing some months back. At that moment when he walked me home and talked about knowing why I lived alone, and unmarried – I needed no seer to tell me Brother John had taken interest in me but I didn’t acknowledge. I needed a clean air without a man’s scent, to breathe at that time. I simply moved on and focused on being my own woman.
My Sweet shop flourished that I soon had distributors in almost all the food shops in Ibadan and Lagos.
“There is something about your recipe that I like”, a Foodco manager had complimented once. I had never felt so fulfilled that I wished my parents were around to see me become the surgeon of my being as I replaced every sourness with exuberance and love.
Life is not all about school and men after all. So I decided to start a bridal outfit. Jane’s bridal became my pride after I sold my first ever wedding dressing the following year.
The embellished beautiful peach chiffon and lace gown got the bride flying on wings of her fulfilled dreams that day.
I couldn’t wait to make more for the rest of my life.
Aspiring author and journalist Olamide Tejuoso is the first child of a family of seven. She is a final year student of communication and language arts in University of Ibadan, Nigeria. As a story teller and an enthusiast of journaling, she has volunteered at few local press organizations as a writer, news reporter and editor in her school. Her short stories and other articles have been featured across different blogs. She is at present working on her first book, “Peaceful Struggles”, a collection of short stories. For two consecutive sessions, she merited the award “Best creative Writer of the year” in her school.
Olamide loves travelling even though she’d had only few sights away from her homely Ibadan.
You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @Reporter Teju