Wednesday, 13 August 2014
SPOKEN FOR 10
She woke up that Thursday morning, not to a beautiful ray of sunlight, but to the near-blindness of dawn. It was 6.30 AM. Figuratively though, this was a new dawn for her. She had just gotten a job as a server for ceremonies...and she had almost missed it by the whiskers.
She didn't know how much time had passed till she noticed that she had started loosing her many men customers to younger women. She was now forty one years old. And she still lived in that same shack of a house where she had always been. The Landlord had died and his son took over and had increased the house rent. She still spent her earnings on house rent and the same kinds of bills she had to foot. She wondered where the time had flown to. It still seemed like yesterday when she had been trying to get by. She was still trying to get by many years after.
Kemi was grateful that it wasn't the rays of sunlight that woke her up because the rays would expose her own shame to her, even without looking at her reflection in a mirror. She preferred the dimness of dawn...It afforded her the opportunity to hide from the truth. She knew she couldn't last long in the ashawo business anymore so she started thinking of getting a job. She didn't know what kind of job she would get. She didn't know who would want to employ a forty one year old woman with no experience other than in sleeping with men. Perhaps God had heard her worries; that was if he was still interested in her. She wasn't exactly in the good pages of God's book. One time, she had tried to go to church. But she had left almost as soon as she had walked in. She had walked in on the prayer session. The prayer leader; the man whom she guessed was the pastor, was dressed in a brown suit two sizes bigger than him, sweating profusely despite being under the ceiling fan. He was screaming at the top of his lungs and the congregation was trying to follow his pace. Kemi even heard a woman who had started to choke probably because her voice couldn't keep up with the pace of the more spiritual person next to her. It seemed as though each was trying to out do the other. Then the next prayer point was Every prostitute sleeping with your husband, begin to pray! Say after me, Oh you prostitute from the marine world, fall down and die! die die die! die I say die oh you prostitute! Kemi had been scared. She had felt more like an evil spirit than a prostitute. She grabbed her bag and left the church immediately.
It had been on her way home from the church that she had seen a poster pasted on the cement fence that shielded a piece of land. There were other things written on the fence with paint or charcoal. Some talked about Men Sexual health. Another was about herbal drugs to cure Staphylococcus and Gonorrhea. There were also a couple of others which had placed phone numbers in case any one wanted GCE coaching lessons. Kemi laughed at that one. She remembered once upon a time when all that had been chief on her mind was getting her GCE's done so she could go to the University and have a good degree and a good job in future. Future was here already and she had never expected that she would be where she was now, at her age.
The poster was an advert for Food servers at ceremonies. They wanted young people but Kemi had hissed at the requirement and had gone ahead to punch the phone numbers on the poster into her phone. She was going to call anyways, and she wasn't going to lie. She was going to cut the age short by just five years. After all, many of her customers had told her she had a great body for her age. She had called the number and voila! they had taken her. Kemi had been so surprised herself. If the serving job kicked off, she would kick off prostitution and think of living the rest of her life with a more honourable source of living.
Later that week, after she had been interviewed by the employer, she was asked to get ready for a wedding on Thursday the following week.
Shomi was heart broken. She more angry at herself because she had allowed her heart to fall that deep in love with Dapo. She hadn't heard from him the past week, and now, it was almost getting to the end of another week. She decided that she wasn't going to let this week be as horrible as the last one was. She had felt so empty and lonely not hearing from him. But she wasn't going to beg him for his attention. She couldn't believe that he would cheat on her with his ex-girlfriend. A part of her wanted to give him the benefit of doubt, but then, she shook off the thought. She had read the text messages with her own eyes. There was no denying it. She wasn't used to being loved by anyone. Maybe that was why it hurt more that she had opened up her heart and then he had shown her love but only to eventually cheat on her. What was the point of loving her in the first place then?
She decided she was going to channel all her energy into focusing on her job. And she had done exactly that. Lucky for her, someone had called her up and requested that she catered to the guests at a wedding reception. The customer was the mother-of-the bride and the wedding was for Thursday. Shomi was glad though. It would mean a wider customer base and more referrals for her business. Thursday was a work day and she couldn't lock up her restaurant because of the wedding. She decided to get servers who would help her because her staff who served customers at the restaurant would have to stay back while she and Madam Joyce would go for the wedding reception job. She had asked one of her customers who had a Food service and Catering business to help her get about five servers. The customer had stalled a bit so Shomi hadn't had any time to interview any of the servers that the lady had eventually gotten. She decided she would meet the servers at the wedding reception venue so she had requested that they came early enough.
That Thursday morning, Shomi decided to start heading for the reception venue at around 10.30 AM. She guessed the couple and wedding guests would still be at the church by that time. She had asked her driver James to get all her utensils and ingredients into the trunk of the vehicle. Madam Joyce and her sat in the back of the car, and then James hit the road. Unfortunately, there was some traffic. Shomi began to panic, especially because James hadn't fueled the vehicle before they left. She had already insulted him before Madam Joyce told her to calm down. The mother of the bride started to call her by 11.35 AM when she had still not arrived the reception venue.
Kemi got dressed in her new white shirt and black skirt. That was the uniform stated in the text message informing her of the Thursday wedding job. It was good choice though. A white shirt and a black skirt was as basic and as affordable as it could get. She had brought out her black high heels, but then she changed her mind. She decided to wear her flat shoes instead. She had to admit that she didn't think she had the strength to walk to and fro serving people in six-inch-heels.
By the time she got there, she met the other servers. They were obviously younger than she was, but she didn't mind. All she wanted was to do the job and get paid. She was a little late though. The Akara woman, was already setting up the stand and arranging the plastic plates. She was giving instructions to the servers. She would go to the back of the hall so she could do the frying while one of the servers would follow her to help move the fried food from the back to the hall for the guests to be served.
Shomi was trying not to get upset. When they got to the reception, the mother-of-the-bride had walked up to her and started to raise her voice complaining of how unprofessional they were. Like that was not enough, Shomi realized that they hadn't moved the bunches of plantain, the pot of sauce, and the paper towels and serviettes from the car. She asked Madam Joyce to send one of the servers to join her at the car so that they could move the items in time.
"James! Come and open this car for me abeg! You caused all these!" Shomi raised her voice at the driver who had gone to sit with the other drivers that had brought guests.
James hurried his steps as he ran towards his madam who was looking very frustrated.
"I'm sorry ma!" He said as he opened the door of the car.
Shomi looked around. She didn't see any server yet. She picked up her phone to call Madam Joyce again.
"Good morning ma." Kemi said. She looked at the lady whom the older woman had directed her to. She was a very young woman.
There was something about her.
She couldn't place it, but there was something about the woman she was looking at. It reminded her of her child. Shomi. Folorunshomi. Her child would have been around the same age as this woman.
Kemi sometimes wondered if her girl was still alive. She regretted every day how irresponsible she had been. She had hated the girl so much and blamed her for all her misfortunes. She had labelled her as the cause of her circumstances when instead, Shomi had only been a victim of themthe grass that suffered between the legs of one elephant. Kemi was the elephant.
She wished she could rewind that night when she had sent the girl to go get Suya. She should have gone herself. She shouldn't have sent a little girl out at that time. What if something horrible had happened? What if she had been raped? What if she had been used for money rituals? But there was no longer need for the What ifs. The girl was probably dead...
Shomi looked at the woman. She heard her, but she heard the voices in her head louder. She was hoping that she wasn't staring at who she thought it was. She recognized those eyes...and those big lips which she had thankfully not inherited. Those big lips that had kissed the many men that always came into their shack of an apartment many years ago. She knew people had look-alikes, but the server right in front of her looked more splitting than a photocopy.
The woman said good morning again but Shomi didn't say a word. It had been so long, and her mother must have probably died from AIDS or something with her endless prostituting. So she just stared, trying to say something but no words could proceed from her mouth.
"Oya come carry the plantain..." James said, breaking the forming silence as he brought out the bunches of plantain from the boot. He turned to face Kemi so he could hand them over to her.
Kemi opened her eyes in shock. She could recognize the face any time...the face of the man who had deflowered her and deflowered her destiny. He had taken away every single possibility of beautification she had hoped for. His greying hair and crawling beards couldn't disguise his soul. This was Uncle James who had raped her at the Chemistry lab.
"Uncle James!" Kemi raised her voice.
James looked at the woman for a while. Then it hit him. He recognized her. He looked at his boss who was still mute. He tried to hide. He didn't want anything that would affect his job. Not this blast from the past. His heart started to race. He searched for what to say, mindful of the presence of his boss.
"I don't know you..." James said, looking away. He bit his lip.
"You dey madt?! You well so? Ah, James, e no go better for you o!" The ghetto area girl within Kemi started to manifest herself. She didn't care if the madam sent her away. She was too hurt to care.
"E no even better for you already sef, na why you dey do driver work. Ah! James, I swear I will curse you!" She placed her index finger on the floor and put it on her tongue then raised it in the air.
"Ko ni da fun e! Because of you I lost my mother! My father pursue me comot for house. Because of you I get bele! Ah James! I don suffer! I don suffer ooooo! Ah God! I will curse you! I will naked myself for here and curse you!" Kemi burst out crying. She couldn't hold her tears. She never knew she would run into the man who had destroyed her life again. But she had vowed that if she ever saw him again, she would curse him.
Madam Joyce wondered what Shomi was doing. She had finished frying the first set of Akara balls and fried yams so she had the servers take that batch before she started the others. She hurriedly went to the open field where cars were parked. Then she saw the drama that was going on as she approached them. James was on his knees, begging the server that she had sent over to help Shomi.
"What's going on here? Shomi?" Madam Joyce said, confused.
Shomi blinked. She couldn't keep the tears anymore. She had thought she was strong about this but she couldn't help it. Memories of her childhood...the faint but strong memories she had, flooded her mind and pushed forward the tears. Her heart was too weak to guard her emotions any longer. She looked at the woman lamenting and crying, and she knew it. She knew who she was. She could recognize her. Especially with the fake and cheap tattoo on her chest. The lady had unbuttoned her white shirt when she threatened to get naked and curse James. She remembered that tattoo. She remembered that as a child, she had always wondered why her mother had a flower roughly drawn on her left mound of mammary flesh.
Then the words found their way out.
"Aunty Kemi." Shomi finally said in a loud and shaky whisper.
Kemi looked at the madam. She had heard her right. And all her inner questions were coming together to make an obvious conclusion.
Then she began to smell the blood.
*Please read comment and share
*Spoken For 10