You sit there, at the corner of the room that houses your most convenient wall socket, the one where you can plug your phone and clutch a pillow at the same time, never mind the Whatsapp broadcast messages about radiation, skin cancer and explosions. You are tired of pacing up and down this self-contain apartment in downtown Lagos, whose leakages you have to fix every other month and whose crevices play host to a vast colony of cockroaches. In any case, the desire for alternative accommodation is part of the reason you stare at your Infinix Hote note every 180 seconds, expecting that beep, the one associated with new messages, a message whose arrival you probably would never be proud of, but which you love to think you’ve earned the right to receive.

***

You remember your eldest brother introducing him as his cousin when you were two months shy of your third birthday, and you remember how you loved to sit on his laps during the four-year-old days of your life, while he read from a book that was half photograph and half poetry, the latter being that art form that usually left you with damp underwear when probably rendered. Twenty-seven years had passed since your small gowns brushed those jeans that he often claimed were from Middlesborough; you were thirty-two now, with a string of ex-boyfriends in your wake (including the one that emptied your apartment while you were trying to sort out your undergraduate thesis), one ectopic pregnancy whose scar was hardly noticed by the smooth talkers whose visits pulled your defences down scanty fabric, and two botched engagements which made your sister drag you to that prophet two years ago, culminating in a nine-year deliverance program (during which you sunk your teeth into his thigh on the final day because you didn’t understand that having him fondle your left breast was a way of getting the prayer through to Heaven faster).

You first noticed that his fondness for you had taken a slightly different dimension when, two weeks after your twenty-eight birthday, you visited him at his office and his farewell hug lasted too long, was too breathy, was too frisky. You made your feelings known, and he apologized with a four-page text message the following day, citing loneliness and “emotional starvation” from his wife. You resolved to keep him at arms length nonetheless, the visits dried up, and you always found a ready excuse whenever he invited you to the monthly family functions, those cookouts that flirted with obesity. Avoiding the oils from the pork and turkey was, in hindsight,  a good reason to pass up afternoons where you had to flash plastic smiles for his three chubby daughters; didn’t you enjoy strutting around with that body figure which drew cat calls (and on two occasions, an orgasm)from nineteen-year-olds?

You turned thirty, your Masters Degree unable to save you from the horror of working at a slave plantation for an office, where two-thirds of your salary was gulped up by intra-city transportation alone, and when you asked him to recommend you to a few high-end firms, he began to make enquiries about half-decent hotels, and asked you what your itinerary was on the weekend that his wife was to travel with the kids to see her mother. Clenching your fist was all you could do to restrain yourself from emptying the glass of Heineken on his jacket, so you excused yourself with all the politeness you could afford and stormed out of the lounge, but that did not stop him from casting knowing glances at you when you bumped into him at your hometown during Christmas of that year.

Thirty-one quickly wound down, you handed in your resignation letter when your underpaying boss began to show up too often at your workspace to crack dirty jokes, and when you told him that you needed a new job, he fixed his gaze on your bust in a manner so obvious that you wanted to ask him if he was trying to conjure laser beams from his eye sockets. Predictably, no late evening calls that characterised conversations between managing partners were made, but you got a new gig four months later, with some determination and a bit of luck (though you couldn’t help but feel that the seven-day fast and rare spell of celibacy had a role to play). A few half-hearted text messages from him followed, to which you responded with bland civility, and when your brother relayed to you how he complained of your evasive nature, you couldn’t resist the urge to shake your head.

A fourth plumbing repair at your present apartment had intensified the hunt for a new dwelling place, and since your boyfriend (who had blown out five less birthday candles than you) was between jobs, you had to find other ways to raise the rent. You were not ripe for an office loan, so you went to him again. A “you don’t check on your uncle at all” was replied to with a “sorry sir, I have been really busy”, and after your request, you ran a mental timer for potential incestuous behavior. He tried to kiss you twenty minutes after you told him that you needed five hundred thousand naira, “payable in instalments.”

You had agreed to meet him at the motel close to his office, not because you had begun to fancy him, but because you were fed up. You were tired of giving money to post-pubescent males to take care of their “sick mothers” who turned out to be their girlfriends, of swallowing contraceptives for the sake of men who would eventually propose to your erstwhile best friend, of fighting to keep an individual who within a four-year period had fathered two children with different ladies. Your exhaustion was bordering on the spiritual, and if a few moans was all you needed to move into a new house, you could see out a tortuous few minutes on white sheets all so familiar with semen; your doting, eager-to-please, sensitive boyfriend did not have to know. For you, there was nothing to hold on to, no respect to preserve, no hope that you would ever be seen for anything more than protruding hips a near-flat stomach and (no thanks to “referrals”) an easily moistened core.

You had the job of holding your breath as you tried to fit in his penis in your mouth, making the appropriate noises as you tried to measure the right quantity of spittle, trying not to use too much teeth, hoping that he did not capitulate too quickly and send emissions down your throat; you didn’t fancy swallowing that much . At least he bothered to trim his pubic hair, and his beer gut had not impacted heavily on the size of what you were sucking. It was not as big as that of Seun’s (the best memory from your national youth service year in Yola), but it was not of the cigarette stub variety either; Alhaji Umar, the pensions administrator at your first post-NYSC job in Kaduna, was in dire need of Dr. Azolibe’s help down there.

He did not kiss you, much to your relief. He did not bother to nibble at your nipples the way Albert (the last ex-boyfriend) made it a point of duty to do, nor did he take his tongue down to your clitoris or labia majora, the way Patrick (your first) loved to treat your thighs like a temple. He tore the condom pack, slipped it on, slid in as you placed your nails on his back, thrust at snail pace while you massaged his ego by placing your legs around him, and in a few minutes, it was a wrap. He did not look at you as you cleaned up after him, he did not ask to hit you from behind like Femi (the one who almost fathered a child with you) would have, and when he placed the twenty crisp notes which bore Azikiwe’s face in your palm, promising to wire the rest, smiling was the hardest thing to do.

***

10pm gives way to midnight, but the only message you get is a cheesy “I want to hear you breathe” from the clingy overgrown baby you are dating, the one that barely a month in, caused you to cringe with proposed names for future children. Nothing happens with your bank account as the half-moon argues with the stars, but you sit there, curled up to your knees at the edge of bed, your eyes popping in anticipation; the same look they bear when he keeps telling you to be patient for six consecutive days, the look they bear when he stops picking your calls, the same look that somehow refuses to fade out even after your line gets barred from dialing his number weeks later.

About The Author:

Ijeoma Yvonne Ucheibe is a lawyer, literary blogger, art enthusiast and media publicist. She obtained her LL.B and LL.M degrees from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Ijeoma is the curator of literary blog Bagus Mutendi , and the publicist for Classic FM 97.3’s weekly Book On Review show.