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ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1981 (Part Thirty-One)

ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1981 (Part Thirty-One)

Gina did not look glad or relaxed. I could read it in her posture, without even getting close to her.

Rufus said, “Moyo, Gina is back!”

Steve hardly allowed the bus to stop properly before jumping down to run and hug her.

“Is that her?” Adolo asked Felicia rather softly.

“Yes,” Felicia responded. “That’s her.”

I got down slowly, and took my time locking up the door. Then I went to Gina. She looked down and didn’t meet my eyes. I thought, “She must be mad because she didn’t see us at her father’s funeral.”

We all trooped into the sitting room.

Gina said, “Obas told me what happened. Mister Rufus, I’m so sorry to hear about Josephine.”

Rufus grunted something inaudibly. I could see he was not eager to talk about Josephine.

I changed the subject by introducing both Adolo and Felicia. They greeted casually.

“I know you at the buka,” Felicia said. “I eat there regularly. Are you not Madam Double’s housemaid?”

Gina nodded. “Yes, I am.”

“Heard you lost your father,” Adolo said. She was trying to make up for Felicia’s rather condescending statement. “My condolences.”

“That’s so kind of you,” Gina responded. “You were really close to Sister Josephine. Must be very difficult for you. It happened all so suddenly.”

“A shock it was,” said Adolo. “I must leave all of you now. I’m exhausted from all the travel. I will sleep in the extra room. Goodnight.” And she left the sitting room.

Felicia went to Rufus’s room without saying anything.

Rufus, Steve, Gina and I were left in the sitting room.

I asked, “What do you want to drink, Gina?”

I went to the fridge.

“I’m fine,” Gina said. “I had a coke just a little while ago.” She opened her bag. “I brought you some drinks from the funeral.” She took out some bottles of assorted shapes. She got up sluggishly and walked to the kitchen table, and placed the bottles on the top, and then turned abruptly to face us, raising up one of the bottles. “You will like the whisky, Steve. It’s 40 percent.” She smiled. “And it’s sweet.”

Steve jumped up, ran towards her, and grabbed the bottle and checked the label. “Thanks, sweetheart,” Steve said. Then he opened the cabinet and grabbed a tumbler, twisted the cap off the bottle, and poured a generous measure of the liquid into the tumbler. He placed the cup under his nose, deeply inhaled with an audible “Aahh!” then he tossed the content in one gulp.

He shook his head vigorously.

“This is great!” Steve announced. “Moyo. You should try it. I don’t think Rufus is ready for anything like this.”

He didn’t wait. He poured me a large quantity before I could protest and brought it to me.

“Check it out,” he said, grinning.

I took the cup from him and took a sip. It stung my throat.

“No, you must gulp it down straight,” Steve taught me.

I did as he said. My throat burned. “This is insane,” I said clutching my chest. Gina giggled. But she didn’t look relaxed. There was a glaze over her eyes.

I concluded that she was yet to get over her father’s death.

“Give me some of it,” said Rufus. “Not much. Just a tiny bit. I want to take a sip.”

Gina opened the cabinet and brought out a cup and poured a little whisky into it. She asked, “Do want some ice cubes, Mister Rufus?”

“No, thanks,” Rufus responded. “Just a tiny bit.” It was more than a tiny bit.

Rufus took the glass from Gina. He tossed down the drink. He grimaced.

Steve took the bottle and placed it on the floor next to him. Then took the glass from me. He poured himself another full measure and slugged it. He quickly refilled the glass, and drank it; then half-filled it and handed it over to me. I gulped it down. Rufus extended his cup to Steve, who filled it and handed it back to him. Rufus swallowed the drink.

Gina looked happy. “I reckoned you would enjoy it.”

Rufus got up. “Enough for today,” he said. He did an exaggerated stagger walk to his room. “Goodnight guys. We’ll talk more Gina. I’ll give you your funeral present in the morning.”

“Goodnight Mister Rufus,” Gina said, with a smile. I was studying her face. The smile was not deep. Then she said, “Please excuse me, Steve. I’m dead tired. I’ll leave you to enjoy your drink. Goodnight.”

She picked up her bag and went into my room.

“Goodnight Gina,” Steve said, looking at her as she slowly made for my room.

“There’s something wrong with her,” Steve said. “Or what do you think, Moyo?”

“You are right,” I said. “She has not yet recovered from the death of her father.”

“Maybe,” Steve said.

“It will take some time for her to get over it,” I said. “I understand she was close to him.”

“She can get a good push from you tonight to get over it,” Steve said with a wink. “That’s what you are for. And that’s why she is here tonight.”

“You need to shut the fuck up,” I told him.

“And you need to get outa here,” Steve said, “and go and do your job. There’s still a bit left of this beverage.” He raised the liquor bottle. “I’ll drink to our ancestors.”

“We don’t share the same ancestors,” I reminded him. “Yours screwed mine up.”

He opened the bottle, and spilled a tiny bit of the liquor on the ground, saying gibberish: “Odik alarake sidemudi lurifu sapatu turani Ogunm. `Ashe´!!!”

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Offering libations to our ancestors,” Steve said.

“You are drunk, Steve,” I said.

“What am I supposed to do?” Steve responded. “Rufus has Felicia, you got Gina, and I got the whiskey.”

“Adolo is there all by herself,” I reminded him. “She’s there in the extra room.”

“Adolo wants you, not me.”

“You’ve asked her?”

“What’s the point?” Steve said. “It’s plain to see.”

“Nothing is ever so plain to see.” I philosophized. “Life is complicated. Too many things are hidden from plain sight.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“Nothing,” I replied. “See you in the morning.” I got up and went into my room.

Gina was seated on the chair, her bag on the table. She looked at me with sad eyes.

“I’m really sorry about your father, Gina,” I said. “He is in a better place now.”

“I know,” she answered.

“It will take you some time to get over it,” I continued. “I have not lost my dad, but I can imagine that if—”

“That is not the problem,” Gina said. “His death is the least of my concerns right now.”

“So what is the matter?” I sat on the bed.

She looked at me closely for a moment. Then her eyes welled up. Beads of tears began to fall down, as she looked away from me.

“I’m just so sad that when I asked you to do it the last time I was in this room, you didn’t.”

I didn’t respond.

“Now, it’s too late,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean it’s been taken from me,” Gina said. “I no longer have it.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“When it was available, I offered it to you with love, out of my heart,” she said. “But you declined. I shoved it in your face, and you looked away. Now it has been taken from me and I can no longer give it to you.”


“When I went home for the funeral,” Gina elaborated, “the very night before the burial, during the waking period, I was forced.”


“Yes,” she said. Then she looked at me again, directly gazing into my eyes. She transformed right before my eye, looking exhausted and aged, as if she was sixty years old. Her mouth opened and closed as if to form some words, but nothing came out. She looked down.

“Raped?” I asked.

She nodded.

“Who did it?”

“My brother.”

“Your brother?”

She nodded. “My stepbrother.”


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