I am the author of Twenty Ways I Thought I Died 1& 2, Paradise Street, Paint My Heart, and Pathetic Couple.
Can I enter sir?
Who are you? I sat up quickly from the bed I have been lying on for the past twenty minutes.
My name is Oju. Your wife aske me to come and keep you warm tonight.
My wife? I stood up in a hurry.
Don’t fear. She is a brave woman sir, and she know that you need warm tonight. So she ask me to come since she is busy.
Who sent you!
Your wife Ese sir. She tells me to come here.
Who told you she is my wife?
I just feel so sir. If she is not your wife, why she tell me not to make love to you. That I should just keep you warm small. She do like she jealous small to me, but I understand.
Ese said soo? I asked very surprised.
Yes sir. Is she not your wife?
But you are suppose to know that. She has been coming here right? And you know her family.
Well we are not to ask question. Only mother Agatu know all the answer. We just give good time.
And what do you get in return? I asked curiously.
We get promise of a better tomorrow when Delta men and Benue women will be like family. They will send their son to marry us, and we will give our daughter to them to marry them. It not easy to get good husband here. Our men not many, and many are still very small and the other many are lazy. So we need men to marry us and take us. Delta have good men and they have oil. Many are very rich. When Delta get power like Lagos, Benue will be their wife first before another tribe.
You said your name is Oju right?
Oju I want you to do something for me and I promise you I will come back and marry you.
But you marry Ese already.
Yes. And she is very possessive. So I want to leave her and marry a Benue woman that is loving and kind like you. Will you marry me Oju?
Yes my master! I will. She said with tears and joy in her eyes.
How old are you?
I don’t know. Its mother Agatu that know.
Okay. Do you trust mother Agatu?
No. She like money too much. And my mother say not to trust somebody that like too much money.
Where is your mother?
She is in Tiv. She marry Hausa husband and live with him for there. But she no born for him now.
Oju help me escape to Tiv, so I can go tell your mother that I want to marry you. Then I will come and marry you after some time.
You promise me sir?
Yes my dear. I lied through my teeth and she bought it. She is an illiterate who was so pure in heart to believe such blatant lies soo easily. She looked just like a black doll as she smiled shyly as if she was my new bride and I was about to deflower her. Come here Oju and let me tell you how much I love you.
She coiled on my bed, as I caressed her hair that was plaited in two. I will only make love to you when I return to marry you.
Yes my lord. I will wait for you and I will not let any man touch me ever ever again. She stressed. I will kill myself if any man come to me again.
My heart sank after she said those words. Am I not endangering this young girl's life for the sake of my freedom? I will never return to marry her and she might just kill herself if her mother Agatu sends her to a man. I hope she didn’t mean what she said, the same way I didn’t mean what I told her. Now I just need to focus and let her help me escape tonight. It has to be tonight.
My lord, when will you go to Tiv to see my mother?
Tonight. I want to go tonight. You have to help me escape.
But do you know the rode to go to Tiv?
No but with your help, I can find my way.
Okay I help you. Let us stay in here till the yard is dark. Then I will go tell mother Agatu that you ask me to sleep with you in the night to morning. As soon as everybody go sleep, we will go out small small through the back gate where we throw dirty. I will take you to reach the mouth of the near village. When we reach there, the security will be there. I know one man in the security, I use to give him mother Agatu plenty food when he live with us for his circumcision.
Circumcision! At that age?
Yes. His people do it when they grow to man. If not for my plenty food, he for die because that man like food pass woman.
Wow! I managed to exclaim.
Yes. Don’t worry, he will take you to Tiv in the morning. I will tell him to take you to my mother compound so you will reach there. My mother know him well well.
Okay my darling. You are soo sweet. I just wish I can have something with this girl. I said to myself. She is soo innocent and caring and very naive. I would have if not that I was soo tired emotionally and needed my strength for my journey.
Everywhere became dark after a while and Oju went out to tell mother Oju I had asked her to spend the entire night with me. After some minutes, she came back to me and said all was set.
Did you see Ese? I asked with eagerness.
No. She said softly. Do you want to change your mind?
No way my love. Why should I? Its you I love now. I am only asking because I don’t want her to catch us.
She will not catch us. She has drink plenty drink. She drink too much. All urhobo woman be like her. When Ese drink, she will laugh and laugh and sleep anywhere she finish drink.
Yes that is true. I know her well and that is why I don’t want her as a wife anymore.
Yes. You be good man and you need good woman like me. She smiled and curdled her chubby body in mine.
It took me all the strength I had in me not to make love to her. It is true that men admire strong intelligent women, but they are quickly drawn to naive ignorant women, who know nothing but marriage and submissiveness.
We were in that position for two hours I guess, then she said she was going to urinate. After a minute she came back and said it was time to leave. We slowly tiptoed round the hut to the back gate that was made of straws. Everywhere was very dark! Much darker than Lagos. I thought I had gone blind. I held on to Oju's hand more tightly than ever as she moved like a rat amongst the dirt that littered the entire ground we ran on. It felt soo good to know I was running away and to my freedom! I could see my family once again and run away with them. As we ran, I kept my mine fixed on my family. I saw the faces of my sons Jude and Timothy. Then I heard Ruth’s voice saying, come to us my husband, come quickly.
We ran for a very long time! And we didn’t say a word to each other for fear that our voices may travel. Her hand was like the cane of a blind man, and I held tightly to it as it led us in lots of turns. And when it was time for us to bend down, she halted me with her other hand and pressed me to the ground indicating I should bend. When it was time for us to roll, she pulled my hand from hers and rolled and I just followed suit.
It got to where we had to swim, and I got soo scared that I spoke for the first time since we began our run. I can’t swim Oju.
My confession didn’t even move her nor was she worried as to what to do next, it's like she had her plan already in her head.
My master, no fear okay. You swim on my back.
With that she dragged me into the river and pulled me, while I grabbed her from behind leaning on her back. The water was cold, yes very icy cold. I thought I would die but Oju just swam like a fish and it felt like I could feel her fins.
After some minutes we were out of the water. As soon as we came out, Oju hugged me tightly and said. My lord, you see my mother soon and you marry me.
I could see her white teeth in the darkness. She was soo happy! That was her goal, her vision to be married to me. That was the only thing on her mind. If this girl had a goal of going for higher education and becoming a lawyer, she would have with the faith I just saw in her now. But her goal and hopes were misplaced. All this struggle for a man who was using her. What a shame.
We walked for another mile or two then we saw a small light from afar.
My God is that electricity! I said aloud.
My lord no shout. It is man sunlight. Na wetin we call am. Na only from here you fit see am.
She led slowly through the narrow path, and bent down to look for a stone. Then she threw it towards the light.
Who is there? Came a man’s voice.
Moin is Oju. She said softly.
Oju! He rushed from where he was towards the light.
Moin am here come. She threw another stone.
He traced the stone and came to us. What are you doing here Oju? And who is this man?
This man is my lord. He come to marry me. Please Moin take him to my mother village for me.
Please help me sir. I quickly added. I want to marry Oju but her mother there won’t let me. She just wants to sell her to men and keep the money. So I want to go seek blessings from her parents first, and come take her with me.
Please Moin help me take my husband to my mother village.
Oju, this will cost you some money. You know I have to keep this a secret, so I will need to bribe my fellow security men.
I have money wait. She turned my back to us and lifted her dress to bring out money from a purse she tied to her waist. Take it! She said she turned back to us.
How much us that? Moin asked.
I no know but it plenty. Pleas help me Moin. She said in tears.
Okay I will help you. Now you have to be going back now before anyone sees you.
Wait Oju. I stopped her. How did you get the money? I asked like a jealous husband.
Not here my lord. We talk later and I tell you when we marry. I go now, see you okay. Come quick quick and marry me. I love you.
She tiptoed to kiss me and ran off in the dark. Her lips were so warm despite the cold. So soft despite her harsh life. Now I was wishing I had made love to her. She was far the sweetest girl I had ever met. Her love was soo beckoning that I wanted to follow her back and forget about everything! Her kiss was soo brief that I wished for more but she was gone. Why didn’t I kiss her when I had all the opportunities too?
My name is Moin. What is your name? The security man brought me back form my thoughts.
My name is Domingo. Domingo Fishman. Its was then that I realised I had not even told Oju my name. All she called me was my lord and master.
Okay Domingo make we go now. First I take you to my house and you sleep there. When I come in the morning we will go to your in-laws house quick so I can come back before night to my job.
Okay Moin. Thank you so much.
The road to his house was not cramped like the one that brought us to his village. There were electric lights in some places, or human sun as Oju had called it. We got to a small room that stood alone in an isolated compound. He knocked the door and a woman opened the door so swiftly like she was waiting for him to knock.
Luter, we have a visitor. Light the lamp. He announced sternly.
As soon as the small oil lamp was lit, we entered. It was neatly fixed and very humble. It felt like a home. I saw a little baby sleeping on the bed and the woman had a wrapper to her chest.
Luter, this man is my friend. Give him hot water to bath and one of my cloths. You sleep on the mat with my son while he sleep on the bed.
Okay my love. She muttered slowly.
No way. I will sleep on the chair, I can’t..
He cut me off with a wave. You are my friend husband and my guest. I take care of you okay. Please I collected money from Oju because I no have enough to bribe and transport us to your in-laws. Not that she is not my friend. God used Oju to give me life again. With that, he walked out back to his job.
I wasn’t even going to argue with him again. Let him win, I was soo tired. I knew my bathing this night meant no bathing in the morning due to our early rise. So I bathed hard and well and curled on the bed to sleep. It wasn’t comfortable, but I was comfortable. I dreamt of Oju while I slept and in my dreams, I did everything I could not do with her and it was amazing.
Mr Domingo get up we need to leave now.
I struggled from my sleep to see Moin hitting me. When did you return? I asked.
A while ago. Get up and rinse your mouth so we can go.
I got up and used the chewing stick his wife gave me. I tried to use it and then washed my face.
I was given another cloths that looked better that the one I wore to sleep. A small bag was given to me and in it was kola nuts and dry gin.
You have to give this to your in-laws when you get there. You cannot go and meet them with empty hand. I know say you run to come here, but we still have to appear like men.
Yes you are right. I thanked his wife and we left.
We boarded motorbikes going to Oju's mother’s house. I knew when I get there, I will be able to plan and understand the road form Tiv to Lagos. I would just tell them I am going to bring my people and come with Oju for the final marriage. They will lead me safely out of this place to my destination.
As I was on the bike, I began to wonder if Oju got home safely and what was the situation over there now. Definitely they must be looking for me now but I hope no one would suspect Oju.
After a long ride, we finally got to Tiv proper, Oju’s village and her mother’s compound.
The compound was tiny as it was surrounded by smaller buildings. It was obviously a polygamous home and each room or boys quarters had a small fence as a demarcation.
Mama Oju! Mama Oju! Moin called out in a friendly tone.
Yes o! Who call me?
It is I Moin!
Immediately she caught sight of him, she ran into his arms and hugged him like her brother. She was a very young woman to have a daughter like Oju. She must have had her when she was a child. She talked for some minutes with Moin in their language and gave me two glances. Then all of a sudden, she jumped up and started calling all her neighbours and co wives in her dialect. Before I knew what was happening, everyone gathered around me and Moin announced.
This is Oju’s husband and we have come to marry her. With that announcement, clapping and singing and dancing began all around me and I was just in their middle thinking of how stupid I have become.
© 2021 Jade George Anibor