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Hello Mr. Commissioner
Good day. My name is Mr. Alphosius Omekannaya, but my friends call me Alufor for short. You can call me that too. I am a native of Ekwulobia. You won’t know the place, but you will know the day you taste our bush meat pepper-soup, then you will beg your superiors to move you down to Anambra state! I am a very good man, if you meet me you will know. Every policeman here has been laughing at my jokes since yesterday. They are even asking how I got myself into this mess. They say in our Africa, rich men just know how to show poor people that they have excess money, and that is why I have been arrested. They have also said that for me to get out, I must put down this statement first, then wait for your approval. Well, who am I to say no? My customers must be waiting.
I am a Home furniture maker. My Company is at Akuko Ukpani street just beside the Brothel. You know that place (every policeman knows that place). The name of my furniture company is Alufor and Sons Furniture Nig.LTD, although I am not yet married. We make quality upholstery seats, and I have done work for many rich men. They refer their friends to me. When ever you decide to make a seat, just give me a call me on 2315263241 or 5624123444, I will give you discount.
Mr. Commissioner, me, I am not a trouble maker oh. I come to work every morning on my Yamaha motorcycle, and I greet everybody, including the Ashawo girls too. Everything na work here, and you should not belittle any human being, no matter what he or she does. That has always been my philosophy. This country is hard as it is already, and na condition de make crayfish bend, abi you no know?
My problem started yesterday evening. I was in my shop, sorry, my furniture company dusting up a set of upholstered seats I’d finished the previous day for a politician. You need to have seen this one; the original brown leather was confam! You will use it for seven years and it is still as it is, no wear, no crack, nothing. The arm rests were similar to those in Trump’s oval office. I’d googled the seats I built for him in fact, because I like it when people bring out money to build quality stuff. This man brought two hundred thousand naira, and I gave him a quality work for the money he had provided. He was happy eh! He even tipped me an extra two thousand. He came with his bodyguards and a big lorry too, so they loaded the seats into the carriage of the vehicle and zoomed off. When I was sure they were out of sight, I heaved a sigh of relief, and brushed off the saw dusts hanging on my cloths, another job well done. Then I closed shop, and headed into the Brothel.
This place has been on since 1976. It is legendary soo-teey if you check this area on your Android phone google map, you will see it: Angels of Paradise, boldly marked with a red pointer. In fact, it is the most notable place around here. Their current receptionist is Funke, a Yoruba girl, abi you no know? She is always squinting her eyes like she is scanning you and the contents of your pockets with Infrared or laser. Then you need to see her chewing gum, hey God! It’s as if she is slapping somebody with her tongue, tawai!, tawai!, tawai! I hate the sound of it but if you anger Funke, you don’t get to see any of the girls. She will quench your amour with her bitchy tongue lashing, you will hate your life.
‘Ah! Oga Alufor!!’ she exclaimed once she saw me, and raised her clenched fists to hail me, I smiled.
I like being hailed like that, here and at Madam Ten-Ten’s bush bar down the road. People in this kind of business can be very tricky. Its always as though they just know when you have money and sweet talk the hell out of your brain. But I don’t easily fall shaa, I just enjoy the feeling of being important.
‘Your sugar-sugar is not feeling too fine oh. She has not seen any client today but she say if you come I should let you up.’ She said. Then she grinned and angled her face until she was looking at me from the tail of her eye like there is something I was not telling her. I thought: Let her think what she wants to think eh! I am not telling her. This woman’s Tatafo is just too much! She can spread gossip for Africa. I wave her look aside and tip her a mint hundred naira note instead. She said, ‘thank you sah!’ Smiling ear to ear like a school girl.
I made my way up the spiraling stairs with rusty railings. This building has stood over four decades, has housed the best hookers this town can boast of(you are new here so I don’t think you remember the time of Carolina. That was in my teenage years, and we used to call her the Duchess of Paradise). Yet, the owner cannot even renovate it eh? I have heard he is a politician, and he inherited this place from his father. At least you know the stairs are now a rubble of what it used to be, and before you would reach the last floor’s landing, your trousers are covered with fine particles of dust. But Mr. Commissioner, scrap that! Because you will easily forget how you look the moment you walk the long corridors and hear the sounds emanating from behind each closed door. The rush of warm blood filling your cheeks and the fast pacing of your heart, is one of the sweetest feelings you get from this place. There are men who come some nights just to listen, when they do not have enough money to pay for sessions(as that is what Funke calls it). This place offers different kinds of pleasures that you may begin to wonder if the exploration of sexual experience can ever be fully exhausted.
I know you are surprised at the kind of polished English I am speaking fa? Well I am a University graduate and because there is no work, I inherited that furniture shop from my father last year. I changed its name from shop to Company, at least to make it sound modern and befitting of a graduate’s status. Man must survive Mr. Commissioner, even in the face of economic brouhaha.
The girl I went to see lives in room number 96. Her name is Nana and that has been the only thing I know about her name. She is twenty two but most times she acts like she is older. The first night we met, it was Funke that told me, ‘Oga Alufor, There is a new one oh! You need to see! This one na yellow paw-paw.’ Well, I saw and I believed. That night, we just talked. She looked withdrawn and spoke little unlike the other girls. When I tried to touch her she shuddered and shook my hand off. I told Funke, and she said, ‘don’t worry, she will adapt, she is new.’ But then in my head, a switch had already flipped oh! and later I was just dreaming of this girl like I was going nuts. We were even on a vacation in the Bahamas in my dream and when I woke up, my boner stood like the statue of liberty. To add to the insult, there was no light and the darkness was contemptuous. It jeered at my fantasy.
Mr. Commissioner, when you know me, then you will know Omekannaya does not give up too easily! The next day I was back there just before sundown. Funke said, ‘ Hmmm…, go and try you luck shaa, she has been rejecting every serious customer. And just in case, Adora, Panda, and Yemisi are available.’ I said, ‘no. it is the electric-bulb girl that I want’ and she laughed abrasively. I have never seen her laugh like that before, it infuriated me. When I got to Nana’s door, the anger had already melted away like the anger of a hungry man when he sees cash. Perhaps this girl was my emotional currency. And it made perfect sense because asides my anger vanishing, my longing for her had grown a double fold too. I knocked gently, no reply. Then I knocked again. A latch unhooked from the inside of the door, I waited. Then a bolt. I am a wood worker, so I know how those things sound. When finally the door dragged Inwards and away from my face, she was standing there, naked, as though she had been waiting for me. She flung her falling hair back in a way that made my head want to spin off, and my heart race like it was on gear five, full throttle. Then she smiled, and dragged my bedazzled entirety in.
You would not want to know what she did to my body that night, but after she did it, I understood there were better places to be than the Bahama islands. The body of a man is like an endless maze and in it, expressions, near bestialities, and other untamable things are hidden away in dark recesses. That night, Nana unlashed everything. My body was a razzmatazz of emotions and when she was done, I was already a compounded mass of euphoriants, I floated.
The next night we smoked together, sharing between us sticks upon sticks of R&B. The air was light(or was it the alcohol in my system that made it seem so?), and the ashtray lay between our naked limbs on the bed, our bodies propped up on pillows against a discolored wall. We laughed at many things that I cannot remember now because the image of her alluring body still beclouds my memories, and then we laughed at nothing in particular when we kissed, tasting each others lips, breathing fast, and probing hungrily like aphids upon discovery of a fresh suckling. The chemical reaction happening between us was effervescent and we did not try to prevent it— we could not anyway.
Mr. Commissioner, for the first time in my twenty six years on earth, I was hopelessly in love. The kind of love you see only on telenovelas like those on Zee world and Telemundo.
The more we spent nights together, the more she revealed things to me— where she came from, how she ended up here, and how someday, she dreams to own a clothing line. Then she began to tell me things that were unspeakable too, things that only she knew.
One cold night, she told me how her step father raped her at age twelve and pushed her out into the streets of Kano. We were standing at the balcony of her room, looking out to the quiet street and enjoying the splendor of a full moon. She remembered joining Almajiri and begging on the streets. Then She was raped again at sixteen. She puffed a roll of smoke that spun in circles, and expanded as it gained distance from her lips, a client taught her how to do that. It was beautiful, I tried and failed and she chuckled.
She said, ‘ Oga Alufor, you see, there are things you don’t just learn in a day, just like prostitution, you don’t learn it in a day too.’ I told her to stop adding Oga to my name, just call me Alufor baby or Alufor darling, you know all those sweet, sexy names. She laughed out loud. Her laughter was infective, it tickled. I wondered if she ever got to laugh like that with any client and in that moment I felt special.
She became a hooker at seventeen, when a woman took her in— this woman owned a beer parlor— and taught her how to make money with her body. She said, ‘the first time a man touched my body for money, I began to know how the body of an Ashawo is a compendium of untold stories. How our flesh is a passage way to hidden longings awoken only at the shortest intervals of need. He was an Ijaw man, this man, and the language he spoke, I did not understand. But that night I learnt from the way he touched me that there was a difference between hunger and starvation. I learnt that rapists are starved perverts. They are degenerates that require proper mind cleansing.’ She quenched the flame of her cigarette on the ash tray sitting on the railing. Her facial expression was blank and she played with the ash, drawing circles.
‘Can you undo it? I mean unlearn it?’ I asked. She raised her brows, turned, and looked at me like she had not understood what I said. Maybe she didn’t. Then she replied ‘ what part of it Oga Alufor?’
The look in her eyes suggested that she understood. But maybe she was far gone into the steep parts of this river now and she was learning to get used to her swim. It was her only means of survival. She just didn’t want to say it, me neither. A girl must live too Mr. Commissioner, abi you no know?
But wait oh Mr. Commissioner, I want to ask a question, please do not be offended. Why is it that every year we continue to talk about how many women that are raped and not how many men that rape women and then roam the streets free after perpetrating this nefarious act? Why do we chase after the effects and not focus on eliminating the cause? Me, I have been thinking oh! And you should think about it too. Give it as an assignment to all these naughty policemen here to help you find an answer if you can’t arrive at one. We need to start thinking the right way. In fact, it should be a topic for national deliberation.
Meanwhile, back to my real wahala that started yesterday. It began a few hours after I saw you sneak into Funke’s room with a face cap on. Me, I was on my own and minding my own business in room 96, cuddling Nana baby. She was not sick, she just had to lie to Funke so that other customers would not come. This girl really loves me, she said she felt bad letting other men take what should be mine and I blushed like an over ripe paw-paw fruit eh!
For no particular reason, we were not in the mood for a romp. Nana was telling me she had two sisters before she left, and she didn’t know how many her mother would have now. She didn’t know if the man was molesting her sisters, she felt bad. We were smoking our last stick of R&B for the evening when suddenly, somebody started knocking on the door. The next moment the knock became a bang, bang, bang, open this door! I was terrified oh, Nana sprang up and switched off the light. Darkness scares me shits. She peeped through the window and reported there were vehicles below with hazard lights glowing. Bang! Bang! Bang! She made to go for the keys but I stood up and stopped her, hugged her. Her whole body quavered. We waited. Silence ensued like they were gone. But who would be after me eh? I do not owe any of my customers right now, I have delivered all their jobs. Several of these thoughts ran through my mind. Nana didn’t think she had wronged anyone too— she was not sure. We were just two people learning to love each other in a harsh, unfair world. Then, Bang!!! The hinges creaked and gave, and the door fell into the room, clattering and clanging loudly, so much it echoed through the hallway and probably down the stairs too. Nana screamed, we were made.
Mr. Commissioner, you see, I am a brave man. If I was going to die, at least let me see the faces of my killers. So I searched for the switch on the wall and restored the light immediately. My hand shook like I was suffering from parkinsonism but still, It came back and held tight to my Nana. She was whimpering with fear. Three policemen armed to the teeth rushed in and pointed their guns at us. Hands up! Hands up! Hands up! They were screaming in unison. Nana fell on the bed and covered her head with a pillow. Her screaming ricocheted off the walls of the room and for a moment, I thought the whole building was crumbling and swallowing us all up. They slapped me, pressed my back to the wall with a long gun against my chest, and wacked another slap across my face. Mr. Commissioner the left side of my face is still numb and swollen, and it was yesterday I confirmed what they say that: Never let an African policeman slap you. I saw stars ni! They shoved me onto the bed and kicked the sides of my body with their big boots, I think they cracked a rib. Nana cried and begged. My body was on fire. They way these people battered me eh, even a Boko haram terrorist has not suffered like this. It is even a miracle I still have a functioning hand to write and a sane mind. They were just hitting the butt of their gun on my head, drawing blood severally, it hurt.
Mr. Commissioner but let me ask, when did you leave sir? You want to tell me you didn’t hear everything that was happening, abi you no know?
Soon my sight began to blur, and my face swelled from all the beating. I was burning. They stopped when a man in plain expensive clothes stormed into the room screaming at the top of his lungs, where is he! Where is the riffraff! I searched my memory quickly and recognized his voice immediately. Was this not Chief Nwoke Ezuike, the Omego One of Akanakpa? I had just completed a work for him two weeks before. A wave of relief washed over me and I called out to him to save me from the brutality. But instead, he spat on my bloodied face, pointed at it with his long chieftaincy staff and said, ‘ oh Alufor! So it is you? It is you that won’t let me enjoy the free ride I paid for with my own cash eh?’ At first I was surprised, then I had to force down my throat the realization that it was Nana he was talking about. I turned to look at Nana where she was curled up crying profusely, and wondered when she became a motor car too. ‘Alufor this is my property! I bought her from her former madam, paid for this room up front for six months so that she can be servicing me properly!’ He roared. Servicing you? Is she a mechanic? I wanted to ask all these questions but because I was not sure of surviving another round of beating, I kept quiet. He grabbed Nana by the arm and flung her out of the bed, she hit the wall with a thud. He grabbed her up again and she shoved and clawed and kicked at him. Then one policeman came and jacked her up, out of the room. Chief Omego One turned to me and said ‘you will see! Lock him up!’
Mr. Commissioner that is the whole story! That is how I found myself here battered like a scrap metal. They have not allowed me to use a telephone since yesterday, at least to call my lawyer. They have been laughing and saying a carpenter cannot afford the services of a lawyer but they are wrong. They are wrong! My lawyer is my customer, and I give him fifty percent discount for all the jobs he brings to me. Then when cases like this come up, he does it for free. That has been our deal for three years now and we are cool like that. His Name is Oka Iwu. Please help me call him on 1245213542. They also don’t want to let me see you. They say you are not around, but Chief Omego One has been here twice since yesterday, and one of the policemen that is now my friend told me you even ran out of the bathroom with soapsuds on your body, and a towel around your waist to greet him. This is unfair oh! It is prejudice.
Finally, I have one complaint. Please I need an insecticide aerosol spray. The mosquitoes in the empty cell I slept in yesterday threw a welcome party on my body. I can’t bear that torture today oh! If this is the new style of torture, it will work well shaa. Just put any of these fat politicians in it, and in a week he or she will be singing of all the money laundering he or she masterminded, and where the loot is hidden.
EMy regards to Funke, I know you like that girl. Please tell her to make sure Nana is safe. Thank you and God bless.
Mr. Alphosius Omekannaya
Alufor and Sons Furniture Nig.LTD.
Ebuka Prince Okoroafor is a Nigerian Medical Student. His work has featured on Bangalore review, Eunoia review, Afreada, Kalahari review, African writer and elsewhere.