Janet Solomon's Diary - Episode 9
More family members came and, the responsibility of taking care of all them fell on both of us. I became a mother; he became both a father and a friend to all of them. I wasn’t so friendly, but we still related well. I was outspoken only when doing business, but was timid when I was home.
It so happened that the love between Eseme and I grew stronger, such that he hinted me one day that marriage is a possibility.
The pikins dem dey talk say make we marry since we don get all the qualification. Dem say we fit each other like die. Shey you go like make we… He looked at me, but I looked away immediately and he stopped there.
He didn’t raise the question again. But I knew what he wanted to ask.
Weeks and months passed and things became harder, as we ate so little that we had to be handing over our meals to the younger ones that lived with us. Some suggested we eat together, but I felt they needed it more.
I discussed the issue with Eseme, and he assured me that it was going to be well.
The only thing wey constant for this life na change. He told me his uncle always said that.
Amidst all the struggles and regular thoughts of how things were going to be better, I noticed I had become an attraction to men, customers and alike.
I wanted to ask Eseme if I could answer to the men that sometimes followed me around, but my love for him made me realize it would be a wrong decision. And so, I kept it to myself and prayed that those two angels come with their argument so I choose the most veritable opinion, unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found.
I made the decision on my own:
If we wan survive for this place, we need to use wetin we get for body.
There was nothing or no one to counter it, except a thought that Eseme might not like the decision.
Anyway, I started the runs – giving in to the advances of those 'sex-hungry' men, collecting the money they offered and started buying things for the house.
I slept with more men than I could remember, and travelled to places I have never been to.
I didn’t want to think Eseme would be suspicious of the sudden money spending spree, because I already felt guilty of my actions. We loved each other and hadn’t had sex since we were together. I was old enough to have forgotten all that happened in my aunty’s house, but he said he wanted us to wait. And, now I have taken the supposedly sacred body to the world. I just didn’t want to put my thoughts near his.
The children only thought God was making my business better than before, I thought it was a blessing in disguise, but then I noticed he wanted to ask, but didn’t have the courage to. He loved me too much and didn’t want to say or ask anything that would trigger a quarrel. Or… maybe he trusted me too much. The children actually suggested while he was talking with them, that I was working harder and God was working.
Then one day…
I was selling on the road, and one nicely dressed young man, maybe in his mid-twenties walked up to me and asked me to give him a minute.
I obliged and followed him to the side of the road. He scrutinised me intensely, I felt he should be going straight to the point and not doing 'biological' survey first.
Talk wetin you want bros. I no get time for all that examination.
Oh sorry. You can call me Steve. I want to make an offer you might not be able to reject. But before then…
He brought out a couple of naira notes from his pocket and handed it over.
That should pay for your day’s work and your time I want to steal now.
He noticed my face was lit and continued.
Can we now go to a place we can sit and discuss?
Don’t worry, I can’t eat you.
I took him to a corner and after we had settled he told me everything about how his company works and what I would be doing there. He then asked:
I hope I would find you at the same spot or area I found you today?
Good. See you soon.
He shook my hand and left. I didn’t quite understand all the jargons he said, but I knew he wanted to give me a job. What it was about I didn’t know.
I got home with all my goods and yet with money. Eseme was already home and asked why I didn’t sell much that day.
Market no move today Eseme. Na so everybody just dey pass.
He as usual convinced me that tomorrow would be better.
While we were talking, we noticed someone walk up to the house and became alarmed, hoping it wasn’t the kind of people that chased us away from our former house. But this person looked harmless.
When he got inside the house, he looked round and asked who was in charge.
Na me. Eseme quickly answered.
Una think say una fit dey stay anywhere una like abi? Anyway, it’s either una pay rent for this place or comot for here now now.
As he said that, four other men came out from nowhere and stood behind him.
Na me get this house. money no dey to complete am, na wetin make the house still dey like this. So, if una wan use the house una go pay.
Eseme thought it was not right for him to ask for money and started arguing. Other children joined him and it was almost turning into a fight, I quickly rushed in and brought a pile of money I had kept for long.
Take am! take ma abeg!! no come harass us for here. Ahah! Na wetin? You just come dey claim landlord. No come back oo.
The man looked me in the face and gestured his people to leave, he left after them. The children were very happy and even sang for me. I knew what was coming.
He didn’t talk until when we were about to sleep.
I don dey look you all these days because say I trust you, but you go tell me today where you get all that money.
See… just forget am. Na money wey I don dey save all these years. I just keep am in case anything happen.
You know say I know you wella. I know when you wan lie and when you dey lie. Na lie be this one. Talk true.
I no get time for all this one oo. Wetin na? I don tell you na. Na money wey I dey save since…
You no wan talk true abi? You wan betray the love wey dey between us? I dey tell you everything, why you no wan talk this one?
It hit me on the head like hammer. Am I going to open my mouth and tell him I have been sleeping with men to fend for ourselves and the family? That is not possible. I felt guiltier than ever.
No worry, I go tell you everything tomorrow.
Ok. Make we sleep now.
As I got to work that day, I searched intensely for Steve. I couldn’t stand Eseme’s face if I were to tell him what I did to get the money we had been spending.
Obviously, Steve was always around as he came and touched me on my shoulders.
I know you are looking for me.
See, I ready to do the recruit. Just tell me wetin I go do.
He was very happy and led me into a waiting car. It was a hired taxi. We drove for hours before we got to our destination. I was happy because I was far away from Eseme. I prayed silently for him and the other children. I knew it would break him, but telling him all that would tear him apart.
I was welcomed warmly into the place that looked like a barrack. I saw so many girls there, who were looking at the new girl, me.
Steve led me into a room where I would be staying. It was a small room with thirteen girls in it. I was the fourteenth girl.
Later in the day, they called some girls and me, out to an open place and began the orientation.
I was first lost when I heard what we would be doing, and that we couldn’t escape anymore. If we did we would be killed. I then knew I was doomed. This wasn’t prostitution I was already used to; it was something I never knew before now.
To be continued…