The party was by all means turnt.
Food was in abundance – every variant of rice was available – as well as small chops, a gigantic red velvet cake and a whole barbequed goat. When one has camels as friends, the drinks better be pouring non-stop at your party or they soon lose interest and wander off prematurely, so I made sure the bar was well stocked. The cocktail mixtress and her two assistants were on point too, slaking thirsts with their different offerings like desert rain. A mountain of empty bottles on the floor and the general rowdiness around the bar testified to their efficacy.
What’s a party without good music? DJ Slam’s fingers were so sleek on his wheels of steel that the dance floor was smoking, and the roof was in danger of being taken off by the boom of the giant speakers. Everybody was bursting moves, some of which I was seeing for the first time in my life. My best friend Bovi’s shoki was not from around here, his high octane dancing powered by the innumerable refills of his red Styrofoam cup with Absolut. Even the usually reticent Shina was doing the boogie, and it was such a hilarious sight to behold as he danced aggressively and mostly out of sync with the music.
The party was definitely turnt.
She sauntered in sometime just after midnight. How it was that my eyes were on the door at that precise moment I can’t explain, but I saw her as she walked in, dressed in a simple white gown with long bulbous sleeves. Something about her struck me immediately, although I couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was. The strobe light washed over her a couple of times, intermittently illuminating her plain, unfamiliar and expressionless face.
I kept her in sight, as she first went to the bar where she took her time looking disinterestedly at the array of drinks, as if none of the stuff on offer really caught her fancy. Then she casually walked away from the watering hole, picking her steps one after the other and carefully avoiding people, until she got to and leaned against one of the pillars close to the entrance. There she stayed, silently observing the jolly assembly.
“Birthday boy, come and give us a dance!!!” It was one of the scantily dressed girls that had come in with Murphy earlier in the evening pulling me up from my seat and inviting me to the floor. She had to shout close to my ears to be heard above the din. I turned to smile at her as I accepted the invitation and by the time I looked back at the pillar, my mystery guest was gone.
I was soon lost in Wizkid’s ‘Jaiye Jaiye’ and subsequent tracks, until a warm, clammy hand urgently grabbed my right wrist. Instinctively I knew it was her, and I wasn’t wrong.
She led me away from the dance floor with her left hand without saying a word and I followed like a dog on a leash, past other dancers, past the legs of sitting revelers, past empty tables littered with plates and bottles. I had no clue where she was taking me or why, and absolutely no desire to ask. Her fingers just commanded that I follow.
Long flowing hair covered her neck and shoulders and it was only when we passed under the chandelier at the door that I noticed she wasn’t wearing any shoes. She didn’t stop outside the door and I didn’t want her to.
Hotel Paloma was sited in a newly opened up area and was the last building on the street. Beyond its high barbed wire topped walls was a farm and after that, thick bush. She walked straight out through the unmanned gates, beyond the reach of the wall mounted security lights and across the dusty road, her feet treading with uncanny familiarity towards the bush on the other side, still holding onto my hand. She had not looked back at all, not once.
It was as if I was sleepwalking, yet everything was so clear. The noise of the party gradually receded as we walked and the cool air slightly tickled my nose, making me want to sneeze.
A twig snapped underfoot just as we entered the bush, startling me out of my trancelike obedience. From out of nowhere, I heard my mother’s voice call my name quite loudly.
The night echoed her call, amplifying the sound of her voice and making it sound insistent, just like it would whenever she caught me doing something wrong or when she was passing a warning.
Suddenly my neck felt like it was bearing the weight of a thousand heads. My mother by now had started talking, scolding me to get back inside immediately, and asking if I didn’t remember her warnings about the dangers of walking the streets at night, especially with people I didn’t know.
I honestly didn’t remember her telling me all that, but I obeyed all the same. It felt kind of embarrassing that I still wouldn’t dare to disobey my mother, even on my thirtieth birthday, and after she’d been dead for more than a decade. Nne Emeka; disciplinarian extraordinaire, she who must always be obeyed…
I think she heard my mother’s voice too, because she stopped walking and turned around. Her flowing hair perfectly framed her face as her eyes with huge dilated pupils communicated her anger at being interrupted. They struck fear into my soul, willing me to stay, but I had to obey my mother.
Unseen crickets chirped their approval and frogs chorused in glee as I jogged back towards the Hotel and away from her. At the gate I stopped and turned to look at her again, still standing with her left hand raised, its fingers clutching the air where my wrist had been moments earlier. The white of her dress contrasted sharply with the surrounding darkness, and her figure looked so forlorn from afar that I was tempted to go back and place myself in her control again.
Mother spoke again, impatiently this time.
“Emeka! Enter that hall this minute!! Osiso!!!”
I unconsciously rubbed my wrist which burned slightly where her fingers had been clasped around it and meekly went inside, tail in between my legs.