Identity

She felt hot urine trickle down her pants and oddly, she was happy that she could still feel. She held her breath as she watched the gory sight in front of her. It was probably all just a dream, but if it was a dream, she wouldn’t feel the urine on her body, unless of course she was urinating in her dream and in real life at the same time. Whatever she was dreaming of had to be so intense for her to urinate on herself. Now how does one get out of a bad dream?

“My mother o” a voice shrieked and went silent immediately; she froze as the realization of where she was hit her, she began to shiver as events from earlier that day played in her head. She remembered the motel being raided, how her door was flung open as she lay with a man who had paid to have her for the night. Chills ran down her spine, the raiders were masked and armed to the teeth; the man she laid with was slaughtered with a machete immediately they entered and she was captured. Her face burned from the slaps she had received from one of the raiders as she tried to struggle her way out of their grip. She was dragged out of her room and was relieved to see that she was not the only one that was captured. Her eyes met with that of one of the girls that was captured and she knew that she had gone through the same ordeal. She imagined the faces of the police men that would come the next day when they saw that only men were slaughtered. The police would probably feign anger and curse and swear on their lives that they would get to the bottom of it as usual and then end up putting the case file under the other case files they had and just like that, it would end. She sighed, she always thought she would die in a church; being dragged out under a man in the middle of their unholy act already canceled that thought. There was no way she was escaping this death that was coming to her, she was ready for it if it was going to be less painful and less torturing. She was just sixteen but she felt forty with a lot of regrets; she stank of immorality, she was born into it. It was passed from mother to daughter. Her mother she had heard was a social worker, prostitution was a wrong word to use because she wasn’t one, she had graduated from being a prostitute to being a social worker. Prostitution involved sleeping around but her mother didn’t sleep around, her mother was a mistress and an escort, she was king of queens and that was one trait she passed to her daughter – being top at her game. Her mother had birthed her in that same home of immorality and died without giving her neither a name nor an identity. She was just a girl. The owner of the brothel – madam as she was known as made her what she was, she owed everything to her. Madam and her mother were partners, it was said that they ran the brothel together, she didn’t know madam’s name and she didn’t even know if madam remembered her own name, she had been called madam for so long that she had taken it up as an identity.

Madam was stout but built, she lifted weights every morning just to keep fit. Her favorite saying ‘person suppose dey exercise make e for see body carry all these men’ was what she muttered before her daily exercise. She led by example. Other people in positions like madam’s would rather sit and let her employees do all the work and get all the money for their works, but madam was different, she preferred to lead by example. She carried men; she carried an average of fifteen men daily and then used herself as a point of reference to girls who were too lazy to carry more than five men. ‘I no reach where I dey today with laziness, if you wan lazy, carry leg go work for another woman make we for see if she go stand una’ she’d yell at them. Sending fear into their hearts was one thing she was good at. Of course she knew the girls wouldn’t dare leave her to go and work for someone else, they loved her too much to think about it. And why not? She was like a mother to these girls, many of them had no parents, and a lot of others did not even remember if they were born of a woman, some of them did not even know where they came from. One day they were on the streets and the next they were adopted by madam. She had no formal education and didn’t believe in getting one. Madam was ugly to say the least; her front teeth shared an uncanny resemblance with a squirrel’s. Her supposed dark skin had already taken another color – an evidence of failed bleaching, her knuckles and her knees were darker than the rest of her body; she reeked of cheap perfume that stuck to her body like a mole, no matter how she tried to wash it off, the scent had become a part of her till it became an odor. She still had a lot of men coming to her for her services and she took on a lot of them with joy; they didn’t have to look at her ugly face, her privates made up for it. Like many other women in the same business, she had her favorites; they were never to be delayed. She left everything she was doing to attend to them once they came in. Madam had a lot of girls working under her, how she got them was what nobody knew but she had them, took care of all of them and treated them like equals. Some of them graduated into running their own brothels and with her help, they recruited girls to work for them. Madam’s colony was diversified as she had girls from every nooks and crannies of the country. There was something about the one with no identity, madam respected and trusted her wholeheartedly. She worked tirelessly and effortlessly from the day she started. She had never for once had a problem with madam and madam in turn held her so close to her heart and made sure the clients with fat pockets went to her. She took on jobs madam couldn’t and left her clients so satisfied that they always came back for her. She had a surprisingly big stature for her age, at age twelve she could have been passed for eighteen years old so it was easy for her to have had a lot of clients at that age.

At age fourteen, she began to grow as popular as madam and this sprouted jealousy amongst the other girls. Politicians travelled from different states just to patronize her, she was referred to as madam’s girl, she had no name so she stuck with being called madam’s girl; she made madam a lot of money but she hated what she was. She hated that she had no identity and she hated that she had to be born into that kind of life but she never said anything. Who would she have said it to? Madam? That woman would have laughed and told her about fate and destiny and how nobody could tamper with them because God had made it so and then order her to go satisfy some men. She knew in her heart that it was not her destiny to be a child prostitute, it may have been her mother’s but it definitely wasn’t hers. She didn’t want to die a prostitute like her mother. She wanted to go to school and wear glasses and hold books like the girls in the papers with a hat and decent clothes all smiles and grow up into becoming a woman who could talk and address other people, a woman who was always listened to. She kept her childish dreams to herself; she would be laughed at and told that she didn’t belong to the class of people that went to school. On the television, she watched female politicians use their voice, she saw women who spoke to impact and she saw educated young ladies who had already made names for themselves. She watched a lot of women tell stories of how they started off bad, some even worse than her but had still been given second chances by fate and were made to choose the right path and how the right path got them to where they were today. She wanted to be like them, she was fascinated and glad that there was space on the good road for people like her, so she vowed not to die without an identity. She talked to madam about enrolling her in a school, an adult school precisely, and immediately she wished she hadn’t. Madam was enraged, she was mad, she cursed at her and swore that it would be over her dead body to use her money to send someone to school. “Who school don help” she shouted “who e help? School don baff? School no go siddon one place make you for rest” her bad grammar echoed in the now silent room. The other girls were listening she was sure, it was rare to hear madam shout but when she did it was always one to remember. “I go school too nah, if na by school I for dey here dey sell body? School na for person wey rich come from heaven, na wetin concern us we dey do so. Your mama head no strong, where you come see this kin head carry? No make me vex o, enter lodge go carry customer before I murder you” and that ended the school discussion with madam. She had thought that madam would have at least been considerate since she had served her diligently, she had never for once in her life thought madam would say no to her request let alone shout down at her. She became embittered and angrier that madam had said those words to her. She had been nothing but loyal to madam and then this. She swore that she would get into school by any means possible. She had a lot of money saved from her pay and the tips she got from the customers, she never really knew what to do with money. She didn’t know how to spend it, she didn’t have to buy anything, things were bought for her by clients and madam. She had an added advantage – she was beautiful. Her dark skin was shiny and untouched. She didn’t try to bleach like other girls, she preferred maintaining her dark skin. She wasn’t big on expensive creams and soaps, she preferred locally made ones, they kept her skin shiny, she was one of the few girls that still had their natural skin color in the motel.

One night she got an interesting visitor, everyone called him oga education. He was one of those ministers that didn’t find solace in their wives anymore so they sought after mistresses. Oga education had not come for sex that night, he only wanted listening ears; she was kind enough to grant him hers. She wanted to listen, she wanted to hear an educated man speak, she wanted to learn. So he started, he talked about corruption and how it was inevitable, how everyone in power was corrupt and how it had eaten deep into the skin of men. He talked about how his home was in disarray, his wife preferred to ask than to give, his children wanted the best and latest phones knowing fully well that his job as a minister of education could not even cover the house rent. They knew he was stealing money from the ministry but they pretended not to know and still asked for the best things. They would get the best phones and go online and tweet about corrupt politicians and how they hated them and why they should be stopped as if they were not being fathered by one, as if it was not the ministry’s money they were spending together; and when it was time to pay for the sins of his looting, how he would be denied by this same children and how he would be cursed by his wife and left alone to face the government, forgetting that they all spent the money together. He talked about how the ones that would even judge him had done worse than him, their children were in better schools abroad while the schools they had down here were in sorry states, they already had houses abroad and owned practically the whole lands in their villages and then they would come out in public and claim that the government was using tax payers money to fund this and that. The same this and that the masses never saw. He told her about how corruption even ran down to the prostitutes and social workers. How they would be paid by men to be serviced for a particular period of time and how they would change the time to make it faster than usual and then claim the time is up. How they would use Vaselines to lubricate their privates to make the men look like they were not men enough. He talked about how the educational sector kept getting worse every day, how the government promised to improve the structures of the schools and how the promises went with the wind. The teachers were never enough, scarcity of teachers had one teacher teaching subjects they never even sniffed in their training courses and how they were paid salaries that couldn’t even cover their transportation for a month, how teachers resigned after they were paid their salaries. How the ones who stayed wore shoes that had seen life more than the owners and their shirts and become stiff from continuous starching, their skirts and trousers were faded and yet the senators had wardrobe allowances of about nine million naira. Students didn’t bother to read because they knew they would pass, all they had to do was pay the teachers and that was it, they would pass. They graduated from paying teachers to paying lecturers and then paying a greedy clerk to help them forge results and like that they had paid their way through life. Nobody was truly free from life; everyone had a taste of its fruit. One day everyone would die and go to heaven and be judged by God and God would ask every politician and ministers to go to a special hell. She was fascinated, not because she understood a word of what he said, but because she liked his eloquence. He spoke English without any trouble, his use of words left her awed. She wanted to be able to speak like him, she wanted his kind of eloquence, she craved education so she told him. She told him about her dreams; she wanted to go to school like him. She wanted to fight for girls who were in positions like hers. She told him everything, oh! How he listened; he was such a good listener, she was happy she finally had someone who wanted to listen to her. He was proud of her and he told her; she had a good heart, she knew where she wanted to be. He was one of those that knew how she came about, madam had told him about how the girl’s mother had requested that she wasn’t given a name because she was a mistake. Mistakes were not meant to happen, mistakes were not meant to be encouraged. ‘Just let her live till she dies’ were her dying wishes. It was respected; madam owed her that last honor. He knew because madam had told him, madam had sworn him to secrecy and had made him promise that he wouldn’t tell her. He was heartbroken for her, such a young girl didn’t need all these, he liked that she was strong and he vowed to help her. He used his connections to get her into a primary school despite her age barrier and madam’s strong headedness; she wasn’t bright, she was in fact very dull but he made the teachers attend to her specially and he paid them well for it. Madam had only requested that her schooling didn’t disturb her from her job and she agreed. In school she was called ‘biggy’ and she stuck with it, everybody could call her names that made no sense till she got her own name, she was fine with it.

Oga education was a lot of help, he came twice a week and paid to teach her whatever she didn’t understand in school, madam had no problem with it because he paid. He taught her and made sure she understood what she was being taught. She began to fall in love with him, he was in his early-fifties but she didn’t care, she was in love with him. Work ethics didn’t allow for worker-customer love affair unless it was approved by madam, so she kept to herself. For two years, she held it in and kept looking forward to the evenings when he would come over to teach her, he didn’t touch her anymore. He had not touched her for two years and he earned her respect, she loved that he respected her and put her education first. All was going well till the eve of her sixteenth birthday; he came in that evening looking like he had raced a cheetah. “I’m going away” he told her “I have to leave the country, the law will come after me soon, I can feel it but I don’t want them to catch me here. I’m going abroad with my family before I go to prison. I wish you the best and I only can hope you get what you have always wanted” she saw the tears that were threatening to spill from his eyes and she felt sad. The only one who had faith in her was going to leave her alone to face life all by herself. She felt great pity for him, he was a good man who only wanted to make ends meet, she hugged him tight and didn’t want to let go, she wanted him to cry, she wanted him to let it all out and so he did. He cried in her embrace and she cried with him. She cleaned of his tears and asked that he lay with her, he did. She took him like he was going to be her last, she wanted to give him something to remember so she took him hard.

Then the raid happened.

Her room was raided.

Oga education was murdered in front of her very eyes. She couldn’t get over it, he didn’t deserve to die the death of a commoner, he was a good man caught in a bad situation and she loved him. She cried for his lost soul, she prayed that his soul found rest in heaven. It was midnight and she was sixteen already, she turned sixteen in the raiders den; the raiders were obvious ritualists. They killed the girls and cut their body parts in front of the other girls. Madam was the first to be killed; she was used as an example to the other girls. That was what she always wanted – to be an example and she got it. She was only sad that she couldn’t finish primary school, maybe it was true. Maybe she wasn’t meant to change her fate, maybe her destiny was to live and die a prostitute like her mother.

“You’re next” one of the men pointed at her. She stood up and followed him like a lamb, she wasn’t going to argue and try to change anything again. She was asked to kneel down in front of the man with the machete. She did. The man prayed for her, she laughed at him; his prayers couldn’t help her, she hung her head and waited for her death.

“God!!!” she yelled as the machete pierced her stomach.

Her only regret was that she died without an identity

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15 thoughts on “Identity

  1. What a tragedy to be born in such a bad situation where u are left with the rules nd regulation u’re not comfortable with.
    The plight of young girls have been one of the problems the society has been facing,it’s good bringing this up nd I wish everybody get dis story.

    Like

  2. interesting story line, lesson to us all. Do work more on use of suspense and code switching. Stories like this will surely make waves.

    Like

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