The emancipation of fire.
The second time Adeola had s*x for a reason other than love, she was still 20.
But she had the figure of a 25 year old goddess. She was supple, she was fresh. She was scared and cornered. She was at her aunt’s salon, when she was supposed to be taking a very important test in school.
“I have not told your Uncle.” said Mama Show, when they were both alone.
“But imagine how your parents would feel if they knew what you are DOING.”
Adeola was smart enough to guess where the discussion was going. She wanted to tell her she has only had s*x just a couple of times. That she wasn’t a whore. That she didn’t even have a boyfriend here in Ibadan. Yet.
“I m sorry Aunty.” She said lamely.
“I cant even believe you can do such a thing. Bring a boy into the house, through the window, my God! You didn’t even think that someone might see you? What if someone saw you?”
Adeola said nothing. She gazed at the empty space between her feet.
“Do you know someone may have seen him, and they could be talking about it in the neighborhood right now? Think about the disgrace on our family.”
“Where is he now?” she asked.
“He has gone back to Sagamu, ma.”
Mama show opened her hand bag. “I don’t want to see that kind of rubbish happen in my house again!”
“Oya, take.” She gave Adeola a business card. “I want you to go and see that man for me. He is your uncle’s oga. He will give you a message for me.”
On the back of the business card, there was a name in bold black, Mr. Balogun, works and maintenance department.
The door to the office was stained glass. Like most of the doors in the department. You could not see who was inside the office and when you went in, you could not see through it either. Adeola knocked twice before a voice asked him to come in.
The office was big
The man, Mr. Balogun was big too. He sat behind a desk that was cluttered with a lot of papers. Apparently, this office haven’t heard of what they called computers, she mused. There were two lines of cabinets with alphabets on each drawer. Behind him stood another door, also painted so you couldn’t see through either way. There was a chair opposite him, on it there were papers too.
“Yes, how may I help you?”
“I am from Mrs. Gbadegeshin sir.”
“Oh, yes. She told me you would come.” He came round and took the papers off the other chair.
Adeola sat. She wore a tee shirt over a blue denim.
“So how’s school?”
“Whats your name?”
“Nice name. Any problems with your studies?”
“Erm, my aunty said you would give me a message for her sir …”
Mr. Balogun had a big nose, fat lips and a big bald head. His stomach spilled over his belt buckle. He smiled at Adeola. “She also promised me something too, didn’t she?”
“I don’t know what you mean sir?”
“what do I mean? Ah, come on.” He got up and sat on the edge of his desk. “do you not know about what is happening with your uncle? About his job?”
Adeola said she knew a little but not the details.
“It is just as well, let’s not bother about the details. Life is like that. But of course, all that is a thing of the past, I am making sure of that now. So, “ he rubbed his chubby palms together, “here or do you want us to go somewhere else?”
Adeola jumped up, “what!?”
Mr. Balogun gazed at the young lady, shocked, he went back to his seat. Adeola whirled around and stormed out of the office.
She wept as she walked down the road that led out of the department. She had missed a test she had prepared for. She never got the chance to say goodbye to Taiwo. Her parents were far away in Sagamu. Her life had suddenly taken a dangerous turn. She found a deserted office building and went into a corridor. There she put her back to the wall and cried some more.
Her Aunt had decided that she was a whore. A worthless piece of flesh to be used for payments, for favour. Or was it true, was she truly a whore?
Adeola then shocked even herself. She went back to Mr Balogun office.
She sat at the university clinic waiting for her turn to see a doctor. It had been a month after her last night with Taiwo, a moth and two weeks after meeting Mr Balogun. She thought she was coming down with malaria.
She got some prescription drugs from the pharmacy and went straight home. Exams were over and she was preparing to go home for the holidays. Mama show wanted her to stay.
“Do you want to go home to hawk fufu, when you can stay here and make money?” she said.
Adeola was now on autopilot. She felt out of control. She’s been with Mr Balogun a couple more times now. One of those times was a spontaneous rump on his desk. It had happened so fast that neither of them had thought of protection.
One night not long after, Bolaji knocked lightly on her door. It was about 1am.
“I can’t sleep.” He said. He stood at the door. Adeola sat up in her bed, her arms wrapped around her feet.
“Can I talk to you?”
Adeola adjusted herself on the bed to make room. Bolaji got on it. He put his arms around his legs too.
“When are you leaving?”
“I don’t know yet, maybe next week.”
“Why do you ask?”
“Nothing. I just. . .I don’t know, I m just going to miss you.”
Adeola sighed. Sitting on the bed with her, his voice and the way his body pressed into the mattress, a memory flashed briefly before Adeola. It was like an image on a high speed camera, she barely caught it, but it felt oddly familiar. And shameful too. And it had something to do with Bolaji.
She pushed the thought away.
“I like you a lot, Deola.” He said, “I mean, since the first time I saw you. . .”
Adeola wasn’t listening anymore. When Bolaji started touching her again, she hardly felt his cold hands. She asked him what he wanted. Bolaji said he wanted what she did with the boy that came in through the window the other day.
“You knew.” It wasn’t a question.
“You are so beautiful.” Bolaji kissed her. He pushed her feet up and took her. Memory flooded Adeolas head that moment, as he penetrated her, his hands shaking from the nervous injustice of it all. She smiled. She remembered that night long ago. She remembered everything.
“I knew you would enjoy it.” Bolaji trembled from the excitement. He slipped out, he cursed and tried to go back in but he only ejaculated on his trousers. It was over before it began. He cursed again. Adeola stared at him, in pity.
“Do you want more?” she asked. She turned around, and exposed herself. “Do it again.”
Bolaji cursed again. “No. Tomorrow.” And he was out the door, as quietly as he came.
Two weeks into the holiday month, mama show took Adeola to Lagos —for business. Her uncle who by now was back to work was told they were going to purchase merchandise for the salon. They did make some purchases actually.
And Adeola made a few acquaintances too, of the nature that required hotel rooms and several rendezvous to and from several more hotels and clients. She was in business full time now.
She came to be known in mama shows circle as ‘the Fire’.
Mr. Balogun called one afternoon.
“Hello, are you in town?”
“Come and burn me.” He said. When Adeola arrived at the hotel somewhere in downtown Ibadan, there were 6 men in the room. Each took his turn and each paid his price. Adeola left with six different checks worth a couple hundreds of thousands.
Sometimes before school resumed she got a letter from a place in the north. Taiwo hadn’t forgotten her. He said he was working now in a local textile industry. He was going to come to sagamu by the end of the year. Could she come so they can catch up?
Adeola wept that night like had never done before, then she wrote a happy reply and sent it. Then she wrote her parents and her sister. Shola had written her, telling her he wanted to visit but didn’t have the money. Adeola sent some money to him but no request for his visit.
Felix, his cousin got admitted into a state university shortly after. One afternoon Adeola came home to take some food for her aunt when she found Felix on her bed, masturbating. They stood looking at each other.
“I know what you have been doing with Bolaji.” He said.
“He told you.” It wasn’t a question.
Felix took her against the wall. That night, they did it again.
School opened again and academics swung into gear. Her Uncle’s wife wanted her to move out of the house. She had enough money now, she said. Two weeks into resumption, Adeola got her own apartment in town, outside the campus.
Her Aunt simply gave her address to her own clients who paid her a certain percentage and Adeola the rest of what remained.
Everyone wanted Fire. She burned in the rain, no matter how much it flooded, she burnt on ice even if it was as cold as Russia. And she did get flown out of the country. She had gone international.
Her head of department was the first to take her on a two weeks vacation in Dubai where she entertained a few men. The h.o.d made sure that her grades were intact.
Two months into her second year in the university, Adeola visted her parents. Her mom was sick and her dad had grown frail. Adeola had no tears anymore for anyone. She had cried it all for herself. That night in her room she felt like a snail shell that was missing its occupant. Hollow and degraded and in pain of heart. Not able to sleep, she went to her mom’s room where she lay.
“You cant sleep?”
“Yes, mom.” She got into beside her, she put her arms around her.
“you know, you have always been a light sleeper.”
“It is my curse.”
Her mother gasped, “why do you talk in that manner!”
She wanted to tell her mother that, at night, the mind became clearer. It became like a big nosed dog with an acute sense of smell, it smelled out all the things you have done and placed them before you, for an accounting. It was a confrontation she went through every night and it takes all her strength to survive every examination, every night.
“You know I have to go to school in the morning.” She said.
“Are you making good grades?”
She told her that she wished they moved to a better apartment. Her mother asks where they would get the money from. Adeola could only do little for her parents.
“I have money for your treatment mama.” She said. “I want to take you to the hospital in Ibadan.”
Her mother sighed and she put her face in her daughters hair. They slept.