ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY 1982: (Part Thirty-four)
I could not believe my ears.
“You got pregnant from the rape?”
“How did that happen?” I was making no sense with the question, but the situation was hardly making any sense either.
My throat felt dry. The bottles of palm wine on the table were still unopened.
I had to drink something immediately, I was thinking, or I would suffocate. This Gina was going to kill me.
I looked for the opener on the table. There was none.
I yelled, “Mr. Man, where is the opener,” in the direction of the bar.
He came running with the opener, apologizing: “I thought Mary left an opener on the table when she brought the food. Come, let me open for you.”
He opened the bottle of palm wine. It was exactly the same as the bottles used for selling the local beers, such as Star, Top, and Trophy. Only the label indicated that the content was palm wine.
He grabbed my cup and began to pour the palm wine into it.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Monday, sir,” he said, pouring the wine.
“Thanks, Monday,” I said. “Please pour for the lady first, before me.”
“Yessir,” he said. When he filled my cup, he simply placed it in front of her. Then he took her cup, filled it up, and handed it to me.
I took a deep gulp. It felt light and a bit clingy to the tongue. At the same time, it had a creamy aftertaste that contrasts, strangely, with the light feeling. It is this contradiction that keeps the drinker’s curiosity going, as I end up finishing the entire cup in just a couple of gulps.
I refilled my cup. I glanced over at Gina. She simply took a tiny sip.
“You don’t seem to like it very much,” I said. “You are hardly touching the palm wine.”
“I love it,” Gina said. “I could finish an entire bottle without a pause. It’s so sweet. I like sweet things. But I must be careful. The alcoholic content is way high up there.”
“Really” I responded. “Who would have guessed!”
“Yes, be careful,” she continued. “Don’t be deceived by the sweetness. It is not Coca-Cola. Last time we were here—only last week actually—Joshua had two bottles and was behaving drunk.”
“You guys come here frequently?” I asked, jealous.
“Wouldn’t call it frequently,” she responded. “But we’ve been here a couple of times. Last time I didn’t drink anything. Because of my condition.” She looked down and touched her stomach tenderly.
I took a closer look at her. She was without blemish. But I noticed she seemed to have added about five pounds to her weight, which seemed to make her look even more womanly, though she really was a girl.
She smiled as she watched me looking at her. She seemed to read my mind and said, “Yes, I’m fat now. Not as pretty as before.”
“No,” I said quickly. “You look stunning, on the contrary.”
“That’s why I now wear the wrapper instead of pants and dresses,” Gina continued. “I feel more comfortable in the native wears. In a couple of months, I won’t be able to wear my dresses and pants.”
“That’s an expensive change of wardrobe,” I interjected.
“Joshua has been generous,” Gina said. “He gave me money to shop for maternity clothes. I have enough for two pregnancies.” She giggled. “I kept telling him that it was enough, but he didn’t stop bringing me clothes. All white. Some are very expensive fabrics.”
“Did you tell him about the rape?” I probed, gently.
“No,” Gina explained. “As soon as I found that I was pregnant, I decided not to abort. I was not going to tell anybody about what happened. But I could not hold it all to myself. So I told you that night.”
“Even your mother doesn’t know?”
“Oh, no,” she said, covering her mouth. “Especially her. She would die. Or kill him. Or both. But it’s certainly wasn’t going to be pretty. She never directly mentioned it, but….”
“I’m pretty sure she was raped,” Gina said, “by my own father. Before she became pregnant with me.”
I called out, “Monday, please bring me another bottle of palm wine.” My cup was drained and the bottle was empty.
“No,” Gina said. “Just finish my drink for me. I can’t drink more. It’s bad for my baby. Monday, please get me a cup of water. Not cold. Just room temperature.”
I grabbed her glass of palm wine, filled it to the brim from her bottle and downed it. Nothing was making any sense again.
“You knew you were pregnant when you met Joshua, and you are sure it’s not his child.”
“I’m positive,” Gina said. “That was exactly why I allowed him to touch me. I needed a father for my baby, and if possible—.”
Monday returned with Gina’s cup of water. She took it and smiled, then continued her sentence.
“And if possible, I was going to find one for the child,” she said. “When Joshua came to apologize, I went out of my way to entertain him and Obaseki at my place. I bought them drinks and quickly made food for them. You know, I played the wife material part. It worked.”
“Looks like it did.”
“The following day, he came to pick me up at the buka on campus and took me to a hotel,” Gina continued. “I allowed him to do anything but penetrate me.”
“That was a risk,” I said. “He could have raped you….”
“That would have been fine too,” said Gina, with a smile. “He would have thought that he was raping me, but I was actually setting him up for that.”
“It makes some sense now,” I said. I was already tipsy but kept drinking. I was also thinking that I had to bring Papa Ru and Steve out here to savor the drink.
“He kept coming daily to take me to the hotel,” Gina proceeded. “And everyday, I allowed him to go as far as he wanted, but stopped short of penetration, for about a month.”
“You were not swept off your feet?” I asked. “You did not lose control? How could you have stopped if you got carried away yourself?”
“I felt nothing for him,” Gina confessed. “I still don’t. I am hopeful that one day, I’ll be able to receive him and feel something. I’m hopeful, but doubtful too.”
“The day I was raped,” Gina said, ironically smiling and looking at me directly, “something died inside me. I have not been able to imagine myself being with a man again. That’s why I was so mad at you. I offered myself to you. You were afraid of commitment.”
“Commitment?” I was puzzled.
“Yes, commitment,” Gina said. “When you love someone, you must be ready to commit. I’m just a child, and I committed myself to you. But you failed.”
“It is wrong for me to be with a child like you because—” I wanted to explain.
“That’s the lie you told yourself so many times you believed it,” Gina said.
“I have to really think about this—”
“No longer necessary,” Gina concluded. “One day, Joshua sent Obaseki to me with lots of gifts. Jewelry, clothes, bags and a check for one hundred naira. Then he came the following evening, after I returned from the buka. He took me to the Hotel Plaza. That night I allowed him to have his way.”
I was technically drunk at that point.
Gina laughed, then said, “If I had not given in, he probably would have forced his way that night. I could see the determination in his eyes. You men are so stupid, sometimes. He felt so entitled. Something that didn’t belong to him! How does one feel so entitled to someone else’s thing!”
“You have taken gifts and money from him,” I said. “Perhaps that’s why he felt so entitled.”
“I am not a prostitute,” she affirmed. “I did not ask for his things. He brought them himself.”
“But you could have rejected them,” I shot back.
“It was my choice,” she retorted. “I chose to keep them. If he wanted a prostitute, he knows where to find them.”
“So the rumor is false that he is impotent?” I wanted to know.
“I’m a lady,” Gina said. “You have no respect for me.”
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “I think I’m drunk.”
“I was kidding,” Gina laughed. “He’s not a stud. Does that answer your question?”
“Before he finally got what he wanted, I told him I was a virgin,” Gina said. “He loved that. He promised to marry me. Then I allowed him. It was over in a matter of seconds. We kept repeating the same thing daily for about a month.”
“After about six weeks,” Gina said, “I told him I felt I was pregnant. He was ecstatic. He insisted we should go to the hospital to do a pregnancy test.”
“And the test came back positive.”
That was when the main door opened. I could see the entrance from where I sat. But Gina was backing the entrance.
At first it was just his silhouette. Then when I could see the figure more clearly, it was Obaseki entering the bar.
“Gina,” Obaseki said, marching straight to our table. “You—you—you are still date—date—dating Mo—Mo—Mo—yo! And you tell Jo—Jo—Jo—shua you love—love—love him. You can’t marry—marry—marry two—two—two men at the same—same—same time!”
“Obaseki, there is nothing—” I started saying.
“Shurrup Moyo!” Obaseki shouted. “I followed—followed—followed you all the way—way—way—from the Ekenwan cam—cam—cam—campus down—down–down here.”
TO BE CONTINUED