CHRONICLES OF A RUNS GIRL PART 1


Running girl


I have learnt many things in life and one of
them is that you cannot run for your life in high
heel shoes.
As I was running down the slope of Falomo
Bridge, at some time past 4 am, I was actually
praying for the heels of my Dorothy Perkins
shoes to break because I did not dare to stop
to take them off. I was no longer aware of
Mama running behind me. I couldn’t hear her
footsteps but I wasn’t stopping to check on
her; it was well and truly an every-chick-for-
herself kind of situation. And besides, we have
always told her to lose weight. Maybe now, if
we make it out of this alive, she would finally
learn the folly of embracing her orobo title.
At the bottom of the bridge, on the Ikoyi side, I
ran into the remnants of a police check point.
The officers were drinking what I can only
assume to be paraga, and counting the days
take. If I was shocked to happen on them at
four in the morning, they were equally startled
to see a yellow girl in a cream low-cut chiffon
dress running at them. They scattered away
from my path and would have let me continue
if at that point Mama had not called out to me
and finally break my get-away.
The policemen regained their composure and
immediately proceeded to arrest us, pointing
their guns and shouting at us to tell them who
we were.
I was out of breath, Mama even more so. The
officers waited while their paraga woman
opined that we must be ashewos and they
agreed, without relenting their hold on their
weapons.
As I was contemplating whether it was wise to
tell them from what we had fled, Mama, ever
the loud mouth, filled them in with every ‘oh’
and ‘ah’ of her thick Yoruba accent.
“Ritual killer!” she shouted. “He is there on the
bridge. He stopped to piss, that is how we
escaped. He didn’t know I speak Yoruba. He
was telling his friend on the phone that he has
found two girls for the ritual!”
Indeed, she was right. The boy had picked us
up at the gate of Shoprite and taken us to his
hotel room at the Four Points. He spoke funeh
and ordered room service for us. Mama had
asked for big Stout and assorted meat pepper
soup, which the kitchen didn’t have, and I had
accepted his offer to share a bottle of wine with
him.

He had been gentle and nice, and he came
across as every bit the mugun. Mama had been
first to start touching him up but he had shyly
reclined from her fat arms and in due course
started talking to me instead.
He wanted to know what I did for a living.
Somebody who had picked me off the road at
past midnight wanted to know what I did for a
living. I told him I was a student, which was not
a lie, and he wanted to know why I had decided
to study mass-com, which I wasn’t studying. He
talked at length about his life in London and
how he was only in Nigeria for a UN contract.
I chopped, Mama chopped. She even sent me a
BB message when he was asking how many we
were in my family. In her message she asked
me to let the boy do without condom while she
pretended to be asleep. She said that that
would make the mugun fall in love. Mama’s
over zealousness has rendered her advices and
opinions irrelevant, so I wasn’t even upset at
her stupidity.
No long thing, Mama soon covered her bulky
body with the duvet and pretended to be asleep
and the London boy finally approached me. He
asked that I follow him into the bathroom and I,
playing the part, asked him why.
We fucked right there on the bed – with a
condom – and Mama did not once move even
when I pinched her buttom.
I let him hold me as he fell asleep and I must
have fallen asleep as well because his phone
woke us up.

He took the call in the bathroom and Mama
pretended to wake up. When he returned he
looked upset. He explained that he had to fly to
Abuja on the first flight out of Lagos and asked
where we lived and if he could drop us off.
I sensed Mama about to ask him for money so
I quickly told him he could get us a cab to Ikoyi.
He refused to let us take a cab at that time of
the morning; he was going to drop us so he
could know where I stayed – so he could come
see me when he returned later in the night. He
then asked if I could come with him to Abuja. It
was a business meeting, he said, it would take
all of two hours then we would catch the last
flight to Lagos. Flights cost around thirty k. If
he was willing to pay that much just for me to
follow him to Abuja and back, how much would
I end up fleecing out of him?
It was on the way to Ikoyi that he called up his
friend and started talking in near whispers in
Yoruba. Both Mama and I speak fluent Yoruba;
we grew up in Lagos, after all. When he pulled
over on the deserted bridge and told us he had
to pee, no one begged us to jump out of his car
and run. I have never run so fast in my life.
The policemen listened to our story as told by
Mama and asked us if we wanted to come to
the station to make a statement.
“He is on the bridge!” Mama shouted at them.
“You can still catch him!” I was thinking the
same.
One of the officers explained their position: “See
ehn, just go and do thanksgiving that he did
not succeed. By now he would have run away.
How do we know where to catch him?”
Mama pointed out that we could take them to
his hotel room but the same officer explained
that “hotel people don’t like that kind of trouble.
They won’t even let us see the man. Just go
home and you too, stop doing ashara.”
We stayed with the policemen, partly out of
having been placed under arrest and partly out
of not wanting to be alone, and we listened to
them tell stories of girls who had barely
escaped ritual killers, just like we had. When
they were ready to leave we realised we were
also free to go. We begged them to drop us
home and, surprisingly, they obliged.
When we got to the boys’ quarters on Peeple
Road that we share with four other girls, there
was no light. Clara, whose real name is Nkem,
opened the door for us because they had
locked the padlocks from inside.
“From where you ashewos dey come from this
night?” she asked and thus unleashed Mama’s
impatience to narrate our ordeal all over again.
Clara woke Toyin, Toyin woke Beatrice, Beatrice
woke Antina who woke two other girls I didn’t
know and who had taken my spot and Mama’s
spot on the mattress.
Clara lit a kerosene lamp and the girls listened
in silence as Mama embellished the story with
magic rings and hidden charms. At the end of
her tale the girls exchanged looks then burst
out into laughter.
I was trying to see the humour when one of the
strangers explained it to me.
It wasn’t a new thing; in fact, many sharp girls
had fallen for the same trick. The boy wasn’t a
ritual anything; he simply didn’t want to pay us
and he tricked us into running away.
The girl, whose name turned out to be Kenny,
assured us that if we went back to the hotel we
would be told that the occupant had checked
out, probably on his way to Abuja as he
claimed.
To say I was pained is an understatement. But
Mama preferred her own interpretation and
hung on to the ritual story, no doubt, to be
repeated to many a girl in the days to come. I
only wished that she would leave my name out
of it.
I was still smarting from being played so deftly
when Kenny asked if we had checked our bags.
Mama asked why, but I had clocked. I opened
my bag up to the glow of the lantern and
searched frantically. I emptied the contents of
the bag onto the floor and searched the inner
pockets. My money was gone.
That morning, as I lay on the crowded mattress,
seething with anger and loathing the alarm that
would soon go off to wake me up to get ready
and go to school, I prayed to God to let me see
that boy again. I didn’t tell God what I planned
to do with him when I saw him.
My name is Amaka, by the way. But people call
me Juliet.

To be continued

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