By Uduma Kalu
A young, fair lady dashes out from the crowd, and engages you in a dance. She wants you to pick her for a quickie. You smile, say okay, ask for the bar. She points inwards and goes with you to the place and asks for hers.
They come in different shapes and sizes, the prostitutes. And any of them can win the Miss World pageant.Â They can be anything: university students, workers, artistes or artisans. They are young, in their late teens and mid 20s. Some are exceptionally beautiful, fair, dim fair or outrightly dark or just chocolate. Some are fat,Â buxom or slim. Some are happy, dancing to the staccato beats from the juke boxes, playing Nigerian hip hop. But in the midst of this noise, the prostitutes are plagued by problems-personal problems.
Then, both of you go to the barÂ after paying the barman. But again, the noise. So, she takes youÂ to her room. It is just like the other hotel room you left-dark, fully loaded with bags and clothes, stuffy and hot. Like the other lady, she fans you.
You hope she is going home for Christmas, you ask her. Of course, on the December 27th. She is going home again on Easter, and that is bye-bye to prostitution. It is without honour. It is just â€˜managementâ€™. She wants to go home and marry. She was once married, though, but the man was bad to her. Her parents are dead and she helps out her younger ones now.
Why return to Akwa Ibom? Why not stay in Lagos?Â Yea, her State is rich now and Gov. Akpabio is working hard. She agrees and says Uyo is more beautiful than Lagos. But her state government is not caring. The people are poor and thatâ€™s why she is a prostitute. She wants to pick up her fatherâ€™s provision business. He died in 2007 while her mom died in 2006. She has saved enough in the two years sheâ€™s been a prostitute.
She is going by road. She does not have money for flight, even though Uyo has an airport. Where does the writer think she would get money for a flight ticket? You mean you donâ€™t have money for flight, since this year youâ€™ve been in the business? you ask.
The Lagos Governor, Babatunde Fashola, she tells you, has ruined their business. What he has done in Lagos, if it was her home, he would die. They will kill him! But heâ€™s done well, destroying the shanties, you remind her. She shakes her head in disagreement. But he made many people hungry, she continues.
â€œLook at me. A customer used to come with N1000 but now since Fashola destroyed their businesses, the hawking and the markets, there is no more business. They bring only N500. Poor people are suffering.â€ She will return home to Akwa Ibom and start her provision business.
You argue that out with her but concede that the poor people are mostly affected by Fasholaâ€™s mega city drive. She has no other room but the one she keeps in the hotel. She can be your friend, and gives you her number. Call her any moment.
But that will be next year-2010. She will be back on January 10. She wants to go out now to scout for business. It is prime time for business, and she wants to get money. Out in the open, it is dance and noise all over again. A man in his midlife asks you how much you paid for the quickie. He wants to hook up with a lady but must know the cost. You laugh it off and say â€˜nothingâ€™.Â He sips his beer. He doubts you, and dashes out. They call him Monkey Man.
One telling sign among the whores are worries on their faces. Some do not show it, though. Many stand at the entrance to the dance floors and watch happenings around them. Few chat or laugh. Even if they wanted to joke or laugh, the din from the juke box make it impossible. So, perhaps, tired of dancing, they stand, with hands across their chests and look about.
Nobody buys drinks for them. No man asksÂ for a dance. Their clients are mainly young men of their age, or slightlyÂ older-20s-30s. They are casually dressed, in jeans, T-shirts and shirts flown out of their trousers. They sit, drinking their beers without female companies while the women stand away and look on.
It shows the miserable state of the economy and the collapsed world of the youth. They express it in the nosie, whoredom, smoke and alcohol that soak their bodies.
Nobody sees money bandied about. Only the frustration on their faces. Few really dance or smile. And those dancing are mainly those with some customers coming to them. Many that do not get any customer are the sad ones standing and mourning their fate. They have huge bills to pay, and yet, no customer is coming. And they are sad.
But sadness is not the weapon for prostitution. It is about gaiety and sexiness. You must look sexy and happy, dancing sexily to the beats to attract men.
All of them are scantily dressed. Some in tight T shirts showing off their full boobs, or tight pants showing theirÂ fat,or well rounded or slim thighs and the cleavages of their buttocks as the pants are even pulled well down. And they wear nothing else inside.
As you enter the whorehouse, the whores swoop on you with their eyes. And their bodies. The bold ones close in on you, asking you to buy some drinks for them, or they will just prop their boobs at your face in their skimpy dances.
Immediately you show some interest, they will be eager to help you out. You ask for the bar, they direct you, of course, with a tag that you buy for them.
And since you need information from them, you agree and conversation starts. But the noise is high and so you canâ€™t talk. The young lady asks you to come to her room, and you agree.
She unlocks her room and you step in after her. In the room, there is darkness. She puts onÂ her candlelight. It is stuffy, choked up by clothes and bags and all. There is virtually no room. A bed, perhaps six feet by four inches lies in theÂ perhaps 6 by 8 room. There is no electricity in the neighbourhood, she tells you. You ask why there is no electricity.
Outside, there is light. It is generator, she replies. The hotel management does not allow them to put on their generators. She begins to fan you, after putting the beer on the small table close to the room, with a smile on her face.
And the conversation continues. She expects you to ask the price for what she calls short time. But you sip your beer and say you are not there for sex but company. You are alone in your house and need some company. She doubts you.
You make love to your wife and girlfriends, you tell her. But she counters. You donâ€™t need only your wife and lovers. You must enjoy outside of them. You point out the heat in the room. It is choking. You will die if you make love in such stuffy place.
Why doesnâ€™t she buy an air conditioner? She wails at you. Where is the money? You mean you are not going home for Christmas because of money?. She will go, she replies but later in the month. Already, she has sent out words to the family that she will be back on the 29th of December. Is she going by air? She does not understand you. Oh, the roads are bad.
How will she travel? By road, she tells you. But the road is bad, and the traffic tight. She says she has no money for plane. Why? The flight ticket is barely N16, 000,-N19, 000 to Benin by Aerocontractors. She looks mockingly at you. She might just pay N4000 to Benin and go home, and save the remaining for the family. There is no business.
She insists you make love to her. You say no. Not in such a stuffy room. Does she sleep in such stuffy place? No, she says. Sheâ€™s got a room at Agbodo Crossing. You can visit her there. No, she insists. No one visits her there. Every business ends at the hotel room. It is her office. And like any office, every visitor is received their. But you want to be her friend.
You canâ€™t visit her at the hotel. She is reluctant but gives her phone number, reels out the days she sleeps in the room. This Christmas, she will be busy all through the week, and will barely sleep there. From that mid week, she will sleep out, then back to the hotel till after Christmas. She wants to make all the money she can and go home for Christmas. Her parents and younger ones expect her.
You give her your number, tell her your name to save it with, and insist it is Igbo name, not English or foreign, like hers which is Helen. She has lived in Enugu, she tells you. But relocated when the NASCO biscuit depot there was closed.
Because of poor sales. They moved to Onitsha. Would she return there if they ask her? She is not sure as she couldnâ€™t get a room to live in Onitsha. The company put her in a hotel room for sometime but she could not get a room in the town, and so she resigned her job. What about the adjoining towns-Nkpor, Ogidi, Oba, Asaba etc?Â She does know them, and the transport fare would be much, she says. You doubt her storyÂ and you tell her so.
Business has been dull but she will go home. A knock at the door. You donâ€™t want to disturb her business. You ask to be let out for her to continue her business. You will wait for her outside. She doubts you, and wants you to make love to her.
You reply that you will wait. She agrees, and but doubts you, opens the door and you go out. The client goes in, and she shuts the door. After sometime, she comes out again. In between, other customers walk in with a whore leading the way to her room. The whores chatter away with the idle young men, while others seduce you with their eyes and bodies.
Shortly after, she comes out. You buy her another beer, ask of a certain lady, of course a fake one, from Kogi. She replies sheâ€™s been there for only a year, and that the ladies there are from Igede from Benue, Edo and Calabar (Akwa Ibom/Cross River), wishes you goodnight and continues her sexy dance along the corridor, and then on the dance floor.
You drive to the next hotel, this time more populated than the other, also by younger ladies who are more beautiful. Every room in these hotels is fully occupied by prostitutes. All their eyes rest on you, full of expectations and silence.
The music is a din here, blasting your ears. And the ritual continues, like the sea, flowing without a beginning, without an end.