TRUE STORY AGAIN:
She was fully dressed when she climbed into bed next to me. She had her tight jeans pants on, and some blouse with all the stuff ladies wear below them.
I didn’t care. That fateful night, my girlfriend was mad at me for reasons I can no longer recall.
It doesn’t matter. We always had one thing or the other to quarrel about. We both knew the relationship was heading off the cliff, but somehow didn’t know how to go our separate ways.
But I had nothing on. I always sleep nude; I can’t sleep with anything on except a cover cloth.
Normally she would sleep naked next to me, but since we were quarreling that night, she slept with all her clothes on.
Within minutes, I was fast asleep, dreaming that I was attending an art exhibition in London.
In fact, I was fast asleep in my house on the Old Ede Road, Ile Ife, Nigeria.
In my deep dream, I was discussing with the artist holding the exhibition, when I felt that someone was pushing me real hard, screaming at me.
“Wake up! Wake up!” The voice screamed at me. “Wake up! Robbers are in the house!”
It was my girlfriend next to me on the bed. She was shaking me. “Listen! Robbers in the house. They are upstairs!”
The sleep left me instantly. My eyes and ears became alert. I heard screaming coming from our neighbors upstairs. It was a duplex: one family lived in the apartment upstairs and I, single, lived in the apartment below. It was university housing leased to us. The husband and wife upstairs worked at the university as administrators, and I was a Senior lecturer.
The couple living upstairs had their two sons living with them.
This was in 1987.
“Thieves! Robbers!” the wife screamed. “Neighbors! Everybody! Thieves! Come quick! Help us! Thieves!”
“Shut up!” a strange voice commanded. “Or we will kill all of you.” I heard some blows delivered. Slap! Thud! Bang! “Shut up or we’ll kill your children before killing you, witch!”
Soon all was quiet upstairs.
“They are coming for us now!” my girlfriend whispered, scared to hell.
Moments later, I heard blows falling on the side door leading to our apartment. I heard the door give way. I knew they would soon be inside our apartment and would find us in the master bedroom.
I decided to hide my girlfriend in the space above the large wardrobe, behind the suitcases. It was a large space and she could easily fit in there. She was very slim and lightweight so I easily picked her up and tried to place her behind the wardrobe. But she was in a crazy panic, and kept falling back down, instead of just latching up and getting into the empty space.
It soon became clear that the robbers would soon be inside the bedroom, so I gave up that approach. “Let’s hide under the bed.” She quickly slid below the bed and I slid in after her.
Remember that she was fully clad, and I was absolutely naked as we hid under the bed.
A moment later, the strange voice yelled at us in a deep voice, “Hey, get out from under the bed!”
What! They found us, I was thinking, scared. What are going to do now?
My girlfriend was trying to shove me from under the bed. “Get out! Go and meet them,” she was telling me. “No, I’m not getting out,” I replied. She used her legs to try and get me out, but I pushed back. We started a struggle under the bed, and I realized that it was futile to keep fighting at that moment. The robbers could clearly hear us and they knew we were under the bed.
So, reluctantly, I crawled out, finally.
I was greeted by the beam of a really bright flashlight. I covered my eyes to shade them from the glare of the blinding light.
The robber in the room stretched out his feet and used it to lift up my balls, teasing me. I was ready to pee on my body at that point.
Then the robber yelled, “Sargent!” And I heard the reply of “All clear,” coming from outside the bedroom, and echoing from one voice to another infinitely into the darkness of the night. There were many of them, I realized, and they were really organized. From time to time, while the robbery went on, the guy with me in the room would say, “Sargent!” and the same response of “All clear” would echo again from one voice to another.
“Hey you under the bed,” the guy said, “come out now or I’ll shoot you!”
My girlfriend scampered out.
“I want money,” the guy said, his flashlight still fixed on our eyes.
“I have no money,” I began to sing. “I beg you in the name of God, please spare us. I’m just a poor folk. I have no money. If I had money, God knows I would bring it out now!”
My girlfriend, still shaking, said, “He has money!”
I looked at her in disbelief. “Give them the money!” she shouted at me.
Quickly, I realized that I actually had some money. I had withdrawn one hundred naira that morning to service Bintu, my battered Volks car. I spent about sixty naira at the mechanic to service the car, and had about forty naira left. It was inside the pocket of the pants I was wearing that day.
“Yes,” I quickly said, “I have some money.” I rummaged through the wardrobe, pulled out the pants and was trying to find the money inside the pockets, but the robber asked, “Is it inside the trousers?” I nodded and he grabbed the pants from me. That was when I noticed he had a large black bag that hung down his neck. He shoved my pants in the bag, and boomed, “I want more money!”
By that time I was ready to shit. “Oga,” I begged, “this is all I have.”
“True,” my girlfriend begged him. “That’s all he has.”
He turned at her and yelled, “Bring out your jewelry, you!”
“I don’t live here,” she began dancing and singing. “I’m just visiting him. I’m a guest here. I beg you, please….”
“Shut the fuck up!” he yelled at her. She covered her mouth with her hand, still dancing on the same spot.
“Remove all the chains and bracelets on you,” the robber commanded.
I noticed she didn’t remove her stuff before climbing into bed.
Another robber entered the room. I couldn’t see their faces because the flashlight was still fully pinned on our eyes.
My girlfriend quickly tore all the jewelry on her from her body and handed them over.
The robber screamed, “What about the rings on your fingers! You want me to cut off your fingers to remove them?” She forced the rings off her fingers and handed them over, saying, “Yes, sir! Take them sir!”
The robber looked at me and said, “Look at you, shitting like a girl. And you call yourself a man.”
The other one said, “See how ugly his girlfriend is. Fine man like you. What are you doing with this wọwọ woman? You have no taste. See how she thin like bonga fish. So, so bones, no flesh, no yansh. Nothing to hold sef, I for fuck am small. Yeye people!”
“We want more money,” the first robber yelled at us.
I resumed my song, “Please sirs, we have no more money! Please spare us! I don’t have children; I don’t have anything. If I had more money, I would have….”
“Shut up!” he yelled. Then he turned the torch off our faces and pointed it at the wall. The light fell on one of the paintings hung in the bedroom. He studied it for a minute, and asked. “What is this?”
I replied, shaking and singing, “Just a painting, sir.”
He studied it for a moment. “What does it mean?” he asked me.
I looked at the painting. I was perplexed. “I don’t know sir!” I said.
“How can you not know? Didn’t you do it?” he yelled at me.
“Yes sir,” I responded. “But, sir, I just do them, I don’t know what they mean.”
The other robber said, “They are everywhere in the house. In the sitting room, bedrooms, bathrooms, everywhere. I took a look.”
The first robber said, “Really? Come and show me. Go on.”
Here I was in total nakedness. I led the way out of the bedroom, and went into the sitting room. He would point his flashlight at one painting after another and ask me, “What does it mean?”
I would look at the painting as if for the first time in my life, and answer, “Sir, truly, I don’t know.”
“It looks beautiful,” he would say, one after another. “You painted all of these?”
“Yes, sir,” I would say, as I led him from one room to another.
“You are talented,” he said. “What do you do?”
“I am a lecturer at the university sir,” I replied. “I’m waiting for the next salary. I am already broke, sir. When the month ends, I will have more money.”
“I was laid off by the university,” the robber said. “I have a family to feed. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be bothering you,” he explained to me.
“Yes, sir,” I responded.
“Both of you go and sleep,” he said. “You are so talented. Keep on doing the good work you are doing.”
The two of them slipped into the night, joined the others outside, and disappeared.
My girlfriend came out of the bedroom and asked me, “Are they gone?” We both sat on the chair in the sitting room. “Won’t you wear something?” She threw the covering cloth at me.
We sat there silent.
At dawn, neighbors began to appear, one after the other, commiserating with us.