ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1982 (Part Forty-Three)

ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1982 (Part Forty-Three)

“Hey, Moyo,” Hilda yelled. “Are you alright? Are you with us?”

“Yes, I am,” I responded. I pulled myself back to the moment.

The traffic was light and the road excellent. The Lagos to Benin expressway was the best road I had ever driven on. The bus zoomed along on it effortlessly.

“You went so silent and looked so vacant, I could have sworn you were not here,” Steve said.

“I was here alright,” I answered.

“Thinking about Gina?” Hilda asked.

“Heard from Gina recently, Moyo?” Steve asked. “Isn’t she pregnant now? That’s what Obaseki told me.”

“Yes, she is,” I said. “Probably almost ready to deliver, actually.”

“Sorry I was fooling around with you guys last time she was around,” Steve apologized. “Guess I was drunk on Jimi’s wine. That beverage was so smooth. I know nobody who parties like Jimi.”

“You mean the night you came into my room while Gina and I were talking?” I asked. “And you were gyrating your hips like Elvis Pressley and singing Fela’s “Na Poi?”

“Yes,” Steve said. “That night we returned from Ife and Rufus got his equipment back.”

I remembered sitting on the bed with Gina, and she looked at me, saying, “Joshua told me everything that happened that night at the hospital,” Gina said. “The night he took me to Jude Hospital.”

“How are you doing?” I asked.

She smiled, and her face brightened up. “I’m actually doing really fine. I spent almost three months at Jude Hospital. Dr. Jude was the one who saved my life and the life of my baby. Let’s just say that God used Dr. Jude to save my life because he told me that it was a miracle of God that I didn’t lose my child.”

“I hate all these Nigerian evangelical doctors who use God to–.”

“No,” Gina said. “Dr. Jude is not a Nigerian. He is a British doctor who has been practicing in Benin for a long time. He is very expensive. But he offers free abortion treatment for underage girls, rape cases, incest, and other situations like that.”

“Really!” I exclaimed. “A white man doing that in Benin?”

“People know him for the abortion services,” Gina said. “They were going to shut him down, but he was the one who saved the governor’s mother after she had a car accident. She needed special surgery very urgently and the surgery could only be done in Europe or America. Dr. Jude did it here in Benin and saved her. Since that time, nobody had dared to touch him. They know that he is a very valuable asset. Without him, where would I be with my child?”

“You look really good, Gina,” I observed, looking at her soft and relaxed face. She was no longer tensed up or sounding anxious. “Still dressed in white, as usual now?”

She nodded, smiling at me. “That’s what I always wear now, by Joshua’s wish.”

“You hardly look pregnant,” I said. “If you didn’t tell anyone, they couldn’t guess.”

“Six months gone already,” Gina said. “This is why I came to see you. Joshua is insane about me. If he sees you talking to me again, he will kill you. He has sworn to me with a knife and I believe him. But I wanted this last talk with you.”

I nodded.

“Joshua and I will start native ceremonies for our marriage next week,” Gina said. “We want to be married and settled before our child is born.”

“That makes sense to me,” I answered.

“Once I became conscious at Jude Hospital,” Gina continued, “Joshua wanted to know if the baby is yours. I asked him to give me a knife. I bit the knife and swore to Ogun to kill me if the baby was yours, or if I ever had sex with you before. Or even if I ever kissed you.”

I kept quiet.

“Joshua was happy to hear this,” Gina said. “He was delighted. What he didn’t ask was if he was the father of the baby. I wouldn’t have been able to swear to Ogun that he was the father. I was scared that he was going to ask, but he didn’t.”

Stunned, I remained silent.

Tears began to drip from her eyes, yet she was smiling. She didn’t look sad. She seemed in a world of her own.

She touched her stomach, looking down and saying, “Moyo, if he asked me to swear if the pregnancy was his now, I would swear on anything that he is the father. Do you know why?”

I shook my head.

“Joshua looks so happy,” Gina said. “That’s why. He looks and acts like a different person now. I can’t break his heart by telling him he is not the father. It would kill him.” She was looking down and sad again.

Then suddenly, her face lit up. She beamed, saying, “Moyo, we are going to London for our honeymoon next month. The baby will be born in Britain. He will be a British citizen. After all, his life was saved by a British man in Benin City. Joshua has property in London, and I will continue to stay there when he returns to Nigeria, after our honeymoon. I’m sick of the country. I will be happy to move to London.”

She began looking into my eyes. “I will study to become a nurse in London, to take care of women. We have too many heavy loads to carry.”

“I won’t see you again after tonight, Moyo,” she said looking into my eyes. “But I wanted to do two things.”

She opened her bag and brought out a bottle of gin.

“I wanted to kiss you on your lips. I wanted to open this bottle, and we will share a drink from the lid of the bottle. I will call you my husband. And you will call me your wife.”

She was looking into my eyes.

We did as she asked.

Then, before we stepped out of my room, she stopped me. Opened her bag again and brought out a small plastic container. She brought out two socks. “I’m returning your socks to you,” she said. “I removed them when I came here the first time, and always kept them in my bag.”

I took the socks from her and threw them on the table.

We went to the sitting room, hoping to find the others there. We totally forgot about them.

There was a large note waiting for me there. On the piece of paper, they scrawled, “WE HAVE GONE PARTYING AT THE NIGHTCLUBS!!! HAVE A GREAT TIME WITH YOUR SWEETHEART. SIGNED HILDA AND EVERYBODY.”

“Let me go and drop you at home,” I told Gina.

She smiled.

“Joshua would not hesitate to shoot you,’ she said. “I will find my way home alone.” She took a black shawl from her bag and covered her head with it.

Without looking back, she slipped into the dark street and disappeared, as I continued to stare in her direction.

“We lost Moyo again,” Hilda said. “You got that glazed look in your eyes again. You sure you want to continue driving?”

Steve said, “I’ll drive, Moyo. Pull over.”

I slowed down and pulled over.

I opened the door and jumped down. Hilda got down too. She said, “I’m sitting with you at the back, Moyo.”

Steve got behind the wheel all by himself at the front seat.

As he pulled the bus back on the road, off the sidewalk, a white Mercedes Benz car zoomed by. It made Steve swing the bus back really sharply.

“Hey, watch it folks!” Steve shouted after the car. Then he kept yelling, “You dey blind?” He opened his five fingers in the Yoruba slang that says, “Motherfucker. Who born you!” Then he followed with “Wèrè! Crase-man! Go die for village joor!”

“Steve,” said Hilda, “you know you can’t be doing all that swearing in the traffic in London, now? You have to leave it behind in Lagos.”

Steve said something in response that made her laugh, but I didn’t hear him.

I was paying close attention to the Mercedes Benz, with the two occupants, a man and a woman seated at the back, wearing white. The driver was also in white.

Later, as we drove into the Murtala Mohammed Airport, the white Mercedes Benz came into view again, but Steve did not notice it.

Steve parked the bus and we started unloading the luggage.

The white Mercedes Benz stopped about twenty-five yards ahead of us.

The driver stepped down and opened the boot. He brought out the luggage.

Some touts stepped forward to assist with the luggage.

The two occupants in white stepped down from the backseat and followed the touts with the luggage into the airport. I followed them with my eyes as they disappeared.

Rufus moved near me and nudged me with his elbow. He whispered, “Did you see the person I just saw?”

I didn’t answer him.

“Am I going to get a hug?” Hilda said, coming over to me, throwing open her arms. “Will be expecting you in London .”

“You mean in Brixton,” Steve corrected her.

Rufus yelled at one of the bag touts grabbing at their luggage, “Hey, don’t touch my equipment bag, you son-of-a-cold-beer!”


(Thanks for hanging out there for an entire year)


Picture shows us at an art exhibition over the weekend in Buckhead, near Atlanta, GA.

Left to right: Andrae Green, Augustine Esogbue, Nnamdi Okonkwo, me, Don Roman.

Interested in some of my published works?

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