“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
The bulky man eventually came and collapsed on me, almost suffocating me with his weight. I punched him with the little strength I had left, for him to get off me, wondering if he had suffered a heart attack. He finally arose and pulled on his boxers and trousers, while I gathered my legs in my arms and edged away from him. My naked body was marred with bruises from where he had handled me roughly. I cried.
Barely moments after he had left the room, another man entered. Fear gripped me anew at the realisation that they all intended to rape me. I cowered and sobbed, and begged him, as I had done the man before. But this man was even more terrible, as he mocked me and called me all sorts of names, while telling me all the things he would to me. After slapping me around for a while, because he said he liked it rough, he violated me over and over.
By the time the third man had his way, I was well and truly broken. Begging was no use. Fighting was no use. Screaming was no use. No one was coming to my aid. And my resistance seemed to heighten their enjoyment of their hateful acts. My body and mind ached, and there was no medicine to ease the trauma.
After the last man was satisfied, I heard the door to the bedroom lock behind him. That was when I knew that I had become Tony’s captive. I went in the bathroom and sat under the shower and let it wash me endlessly, as I cried and pitied my existence. I had thought staying in my husband’s home against my will was hellish… But it seemed I had jumped from the pot into the fire.
I would have given anything to see Ope’s face right then. Anything to hear his comforting voice and feel the assurance of his love. If only I had had foresight. If only I could turn back the hands of time. But all my wishing and speculating was vain. All that mattered was how I was going to get away from Tony.
I remembered my phone and looked for it to call somebody, anybody. But I couldn’t find it anywhere. I then realised that I had left it in the kitchen, and by now, it would be in Tony’s possession. There was no way to escape the room, unless I broke down the door, as the windows were barred against burglars. I was well and truly screwed.
The next morning, the door opened, and another strange man walked in. This time, he had food. He told me to eat quickly, because my next appointment was already waiting! On a Sunday morning. At 8am. I was beyond horrified. It seemed Tony had thought fast on his feet, and turned my vagina into his gold mine after all.
I was hungry, but I pushed the plate away. “I want to talk to Tony!” I said to the man.
“Lady, just eat the food,” the man replied and walked away.
“I want to speak with Tony!” I shouted after him.
The door opened, and in walked an angry Tony. “You called?”
Now he was before me, I didn’t know what to say or how to say what needed to be said. Was I to beg or to demand? To appease or to challenge? “Tony, I’m begging you. Let me go. We’re even now. I forgive you. Please just let me go.”
“You forgive me?” Tony asked, amused. “For what exactly? Giving you what you deserve?”
“I don’t deserve to be violated, Tony. Or made a sex-slave! No one does!”
“Am I not feeding you? Putting a roof over your head? Have I not given you your own room?” Tony asked wickedly. “The only difference is, I’ve delegated the fucking to those who actually want to fuck you!”
“I want OUT! Please, have some humanity!” I cried.
“Said the cold-hearted bitch!” Tony spat back. “Let me give you some advice. Play nice, and you might actually start enjoying it again. And who knows, maybe you’ll get promoted. You know, this business is actually quite lucrative.”
OMG! He had no plans on letting me go. I couldn’t believe how he had turned against me. Was he always this evil? How had I missed it? In that instant, I lost my mind. “You fucking bastard!!!” I yelled.
I lunged towards him to fight with strength I didn’t know I had. The injustice was unbearable. I would rather he just killed me there and then. My screams, punches and kicks were rewarded with a nasty blow to my face and two punches in my belly. I was floored. And even while I was down, he kicked me hard in my crutch, which was still sore from its abuse yesterday. I wailed, rolling on the floor like a mad person as he exited the room and locked me in again.
Twenty minutes later, the door opened again, and in walked my first client of the day. My new life had begun. Soon I would realise that thinking and feeling were the barriers to my trade. They made me aware of my bondage, of my objection, of the injustice. They made me fight, and my resistance was always met with violence…and pain. Emotional and physical pain that could only be numbed by refusing to think or to feel. To them I was dead. And I had to be dead to survive.
But some didn’t want to sleep with a corpse. So even when I didn’t resist, they would beat me and knock me about, spit on me, pinch me, until they got some feeling and some protesting…and then they could savour their victory in subjecting me and overpowering me. Others got their kicks from insulting me and forcing me to do objectionable things like drinking their urine and swallowing their semen.
The more I played dead, the less I desired to live, and to escape. Thinking of escaping was like its own torture. It was a mental torment, because it presented me with hope, when there was none. I even tried talking to one of the nicer clients to help me to escape. But that only resulted in me being belted by Tony. 100 stripes on my back. I endured the pain for days after and I dared not speak to another John after that.
I ate two meals a day and served an average of 8 clients daily. The meals were tasteless and cold. But I’d learnt not to complain by Day Three. The slightest resistance from me was met with slaps, punches, kicks and even rape by Tony. And when he wasn’t around, the strange man who served my meals was around to make sure I didn’t cause any trouble.
The idea did cross my mind to buy my way out of my predicament by telling Tony about my savings account, so that I could trade it for my freedom. But I knew that it might only result in my investing in Tony’s new business, while I remained his captive, because he was certainly not to be trusted. So, the savings account remained the ray of hope that if I could escape, if by some fluke the opportunity arose, I would have some means to get far away from Tony. I kept a small bag of essentials packed for that contingency.
It must have been three months before the occasion arose. By then, Tony and his henchman, who I came to know as Dayo, had become a little slack. I had learned to be cooperative, amiable and even innovative. They didn’t even have to keep me locked in the room anymore, though I wasn’t allowed to leave the apartment. It was a small window of an opportunity, but it was all I could hope for. And I was ready to take it.
I was in the lounge, between clients, watching TV with Dayo. I asked him if he wanted a cup of tea, and he said yes. They had the knives and dangerous kitchen utensils locked in a drawer, so they were no longer concerned about me going to the kitchen alone. I had even made tea for all of us a few times, with hopes that I would pull of my trick one day, without any suspicion.
So I went to the kitchen, and placed two cups filled only with water in the microwave for three minutes. I then went to the bathroom attached to my bedroom to ease myself. When the timer was done, I called out to Dayo, asking him to help me get it, because I was in the bathroom. But I waited with my small bag for what I knew would happen when Dayo opened the microwave.
I heard him hiss, and say “I thought you were the one making tea!” when he finally got up to go to the kitchen.
I waited. Surely, the scream I had excepted came, as the steam rushed to his face, scalding him with the pressure of the boiling water. In that instant, I ran into the kitchen and picked up the frying pan from where I had tactfully kept it and slammed it on his scalded face, and then over the back of his head, as hard as I could. He fell to the ground and I made my escape.
I emptied his wallet of the measly N10,000 and took the keys to the apartment to lock it from the outside. My heart was racing fast, because we were expecting Tony to return any minute. I took the stairs, because I knew Tony would use the elevator when coming up. When I got downstairs, I heard Tony waiting for the elevator. I had just about a minute to get a bus, before Tony would have any idea that something was up. The elevator doors were taking long to open.
Eventually, they did, and Tony walked in with someone, who I can only imagine was my next appointment, and they closed after them. I dashed out of the apartment building, and unto the streets, scanning for a bus, any bus to enter. I entered the first one I saw, and I was gone. But I wasn’t to be relieved until I had made it out of Lagos. At the bus park, I was on the edge, half expecting to see his car pull up and a couple of thugs force me into it.
I boarded the Bus to Ibadan an hour later, and sat at the back, my arms wrapped around the only possessions I had left in the world. I didn’t have my phone or anyone’s number memorised, except Ope’s. But I couldn’t call him then. Maybe when I arrived in Ibadan.
It had been a long time since I had been home to Ibadan. I had returned with the family after Uncle Bill’s wedding. However, after completing my Secondary Schooling, I’d begged my uncle to convince my mother to let me stay with him and his wife in Lagos. He did, thinking I wanted to be close to him, to continue our ‘sexcapades’. I remember him entering my room one night, and trying to continue where we had left off. I had told him if he laid a hand on me, I would scream, and let his wife know all the nasty things he had done to me over the years. He was stunned.
After a year of A’Level, I moved into the UNILAG Campus and entered the next phase of my life. I never returned home, and I hardly contacted anyone at home. We all lived independent lives. It was each man for himself. My parents didn’t know how I was paying my fees or surviving in University. I think they assumed my now rich uncle was helping me out, but if only they knew the truth.
The journey to Ibadan was long enough for me to catch a little sleep. It was the most blissful sleep I had had in months. I dreamed of freedom. I dreamed of love. I dreamed of Ope.
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