ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1981 (Part Seventeen)
I was already tipsy when Gina screamed.
But the performance on the stage continued as if nothing was happening. Obaseki got up and went into the ushers’ chamber. I tried really hard to see what was happening at the other end of the arena, to get an idea of what was happening to Gina. I really couldn’t see her. But because Joshua, who was assaulting Gina, was wearing a white suit, he was relatively visible, next to Gina, who, going by what she wore during the day, was in a red gown. But it appeared that Gina was already on the floor, and Joshua was kicking her, as she continued to scream while it seemed he continued to hit her.
I got up. I wanted to go and get Gina out of the situation, but I didn’t know how to make my way to where she and Joshua were. Obaseki returned, and seeing me so worried and agitated, kept saying, “Just sit down, Brother Mo. It’s being taken care of. Just sit down. It’s alright.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Certainly,” Obaseki said, “we are handling the situation. We have guys here for exactly this sort of thing.”
“But what are you doing about it?” I asked, concerned that Gina was still getting hurt.
“They have gone to bring her,” Obaseki said. “They will bring her here to join us, and Joshua could leave whenever he wants. He cannot be coming here to make trouble. Two weeks ago, they reported that he assaulted a woman right here in the guest suites. It must stop. His membership will be taken away and he cannot come here again.”
And as we spoke, Gina was brought to our stand. She was crying. She had her high-heeled shoes in her hand and walked barefooted. She was surprised to see Obaseki and me, and immediately she saw me, she rushed over, crying, “Uncle Moyo,” and leaned against me for support, as she continued to sob. I held her and as she filled my hands, I realized that she was not quite as fragile as she looked. Even without her shoes, she was almost my height. I simply continued to hold her, patting her on the back, trying to calm her down.
“It’s okay now, Gina,” I said. “You are safe now. That monster has been thrown out. He won’t bother you again.”
Obaseki asked her to sit down. Still sobbing, she sat and I sat next to her.
“What will you drink?” Obaseki asked. “Do you want anything to eat?” She didn’t answer, and miserably continued to weep.
Finally, she said, “I just want to go home. Please take me home, Uncle Moyo.”
I told Obaseki that it was best to just take her home as she wanted. I asked her to wear her shoes, but she said the straps broke when she fell down from Joshua’s slaps and kicks. I got up and said, “Okay, let’s go.” She also got up. Obaseki went into the ushers’ chambers again, got some slippers from someone there and asked Gina to try them on. They were a good enough fit for her feet.
As we left, Gina held on to my arms. Obaseki whispered in my ears, “Brother Mo, just take her to your place for tonight and bring her to the campus tomorrow.”
I didn’t think it was a good idea. It had been quite a long day and I was not only tired, but totally physically and emotionally exhausted. I wanted to go home and enjoy the solace of my bed, all by myself. I was in no mood for any company, however beautiful, and I had not processed the whole matter of Gina sufficiently to understand where I was with her. True, I found her attractive, and she said she liked me, yet I realized that she really was a child. I had a sister, Bolaji, who was just about her age, and I could not imagine my sister in the situation Gina had found herself.
I told Obaseki that it was best for us to take her to her home.
“Where do you live?” I asked Gina.
“Very far, Uncle Moyo,” she said. “You know the road to Warri? We will take that road and take a turn to a side street.”
“Just show us where to turn,” I told her.
Obaseki followed us to the place where they packed my beetle. Then he announced that he was not going with us, but was staying back at the club to take care of the mess that Joshua made.
“I apologize, Uncle Moyo,” Gina said, as she settled in the front seat, next to me. I turned the ignition key, and there was just a click sound. I recognized that sound. It was the brush on the head of the kick starter that was the problem. It had happened before. Obaseki got some of his boys to push the car and when the engine finally started, I realized that my headlamps were not working.
Gina, obviously, noticed. “You need to turn on the lights,” she said.
“The lights are not working,” I told her.
“That is serious,” Gina said. “My place is really far from here. How are we going to do it? You will drive without headlights all the way through the streets? And we have no street light.”
It occurred to me that it would be virtually impossible to drive all that way without the lights. And our place was only a matter of minutes from the club. “You know what, Gina?” I said. “I will take you to my place. Rufus must be back home now. I will drop this car and take Rufus’s car. Then drive you home.”
“That sounds fine to me,” Gina responded. “Or you can just drop me off tomorrow morning. I can stay with you tonight.”
I was a young man and all sorts of hormonal juices were already happening to me; my imagination began to range wild as she mentioned staying with me overnight. But I also got easily scared. What was happening was going beyond the frame of my reference.
“It would just be best to take you back home, Gina,” I said. “It’s been a long day and a turbulent night.”
“I agree,” Gina responded. “Thank you, uncle Moyo.”
Gingerly, I moved the car and slowly managed to steer it to a rough path that bypassed the highway. I also realized that the engine would not start if, for any reason, it stalled as I was driving.
But I was also a master of moving broken vehicles. I had done it many times. I had taken a car that wouldn’t start all the way from Benin City to Ile Ife, on a terrible road. It was, therefore, nothing daunting for me to move my beetle home within a mile of my residence.
But somehow, I managed to screw up. It was a stick gear, and one must balance the clutch and the throttle quite carefully when maneuvering through rough terrains, the type of which I was driving on that night. The engine stalled. And wouldn’t start again.
I was furious. But Gina, surprisingly, burst into laughter.
“What’s so funny, Gina?” I asked.
“Uncle Moyo,” Gina said, “looks like we will spend the night here in your car. Do the seats recline?”
TO BE CONTINUED.
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