I stopped living with mother once I turned 22, barely a week after she found that wrap of weed under my pillow. Long before my dysfunctional romance with Jumai and Suzanne, before Ayonette hung my heart on a line to dry, my mother and I had started what would be a chain of complicated relationships with women.
It’s your life Victor, good luck, she said with all the measured resentment piled in her voice that pale Sunday morning I told her I had to go.
Since I didn’t live with her anymore, I had to find a means to earn myself some living, and I did. Got hooked to this big mag in town that paid me enough money to cruise on. So I had to joggle school and work which was fine with me.
Back then I was going real hard on freelancing and I had enough bread to afford a tentative accommodation before I moved to a two-bedroom flat with my friend, Tekena and two other guys. Tekena, who we called Tek, was a friend I met online who was coincidentally posted to my state for his youth service. He was eventually posted to the town for his Place of Primary Assignment and he came along with the two other guys he had met in camp with whom he shared common interests like marijuana and pussy with.
We split the rent.
Tek worked at the magazine I served as assistant editor for, deliberately arranged by me, while Kelechi and Itodo taught chemistry and mathematics respectively in a school close to home.
We all met at home in the evening when we got back from work, and spent the rest of the night living like boys did—smoking pot, arguing trivial stuff, playing FIFA and bantering football. Tek supported Manchester United and his impassioned voice soared above ours during such arguments, his smooth, inveterate southern pidgin English rolling seamlessly off his tongue. Kelechi was a Chelsea fan and Tekena’s most vicious opponent during such banters. Itodo talked the least. He just smoked, contributed some comments here and there, a quip or two, some laughs, and that was it.
Kelechi, slightly older than the rest of us, had a face stonier than a balled fist—the sort to get one into trouble very easily. He had a drawn-down scar on his temple that made him even look like a drug dealer, so we called him Al Pacino every time we needed to persuade him to help us buy weed, which was all the time. Sometimes one of us went with him to act as his consigliere, other times he went alone. On one of those days he went alone, he came back home not with only weed, but with an ugly girl trailing behind him.
She looked like she came straight off the set of a low budget porn movie with her heavy makeup and exaggerated lashes. She chewed gum loudly and fiddled with the tail-end of her braids. Her name, Naomi, she said, but we could call her Nahnah. After making her comfortable in the room Kelechi came out grinning, and explained to us how he had met her at the bunker we bought weed from and instantly connected with her and somehow he got to bring her home immediately after.
It sounded real odd to us but who were we to judge?
She left the next morning but kept coming back like an untreated flu, visiting every other time. Sometimes she came along with her friend Jane who also looked junkie, and hooked her up with Itodo who was too shy to get a girl of his own. We got real used to her anyway, and she started to seem alright to us. I mean, if you didn’t pay her face much attention she had enormous boobs and even bigger behinds. She had this badass butterfly tattoo behind her right ear and wore an anklet on her left leg. And, we generally considered a girl automatically more attractive if she smoked grass. Point is, it didn’t take her more than two weeks to fit right in. Plus she cleaned and cooked so we didn’t complain about how much she now cut our weed rations. Madam could smoke half a jar of grass in the morning alone and still ride Kelechi through the whole afternoon.
At the end of every month after we picked our cheques we did a little house party. We bought drinks—vodka mostly—and lots of grass and coal for shisha. Cookies and catfish and snacks and sodas too. Nothing big, just the boys getting wasted for sport. Sometimes we had some female friends over and then one of us would get lucky with one or two depending on how high we all were.
The blood moon came on a Friday, on the last day of that damp August. We had all just been paid so it was fitting. There were a lot of hysteria about the blood moon everywhere so we thought we could catch up on it too. Even more fitting was the fact that it was the day we set our party for, so when the evening came we set a table in front of the flat and moved the speakers out. Tekena and I went to get the drinks from a supermarket at the junction while Itodo went to get the chewables. Kelechi, well, simply set about procuring the women.
By 9PM we were crowded languidly around the table, feasting. All seven of us, including Nahnah and Jane and another more attractive friend they came with. Whatever was left of the fishes laid bare on the table like fossils of extinct creatures. At that point we were munching on junks and mixing soda with vodka and laughing aloud in a drunken exhilaration while swinging our inebriated bodies to music loud enough to draw concealed hisses from our neighbours.
Thirty minutes later, while Itodo was tying another round of kush with all the finesse in the world and Kelechi was trying to negotiate his way into a ménage à trois with Nahnah and her pretty friend, the full moon hatched in all of its orange glory. By this time we were already floating, soaring high above the Lokoja skyline, feeling invincible, laughing about nothing funny while patting our backs and stomping our feet on the concrete interlocking. Nahnah tried to get a picture of the moon with her phone but was disappointed at the outcome. Tekena started to tell of an Ijaw myth that suggested that the blood moon came with a looming doom but Kelechi cut him short by saying that the night was a happy one that shouldn’t be tainted by any outdated superstition.
Time passed and darkness drew over the town like a blanket. Thunder cracked and lightning flashed. The moon hid behind the clouds and the rain started in lazy drizzles. We started to pack up to move inside when the girls suddenly announced that they had to go. It didn’t make sense, but they insisted that they had another party to attend the same night. We asked to walk them to the road and they refused. They left and we the guys settled inside the living room, still smoking pot while listening to Kelechi grumble about his ill-luck with the ever elusive threesome.
Less than thirty minutes later we heard a knock at the door. Gently at first, then a bit more prodding the second time. Probably a disgruntled neighbour coming to tell us to tune it down. There’s nothing more difficult to do than getting the door when you are sitting with a group of friends. No one tells the other to get the door and no one is willing to get it. So we sat still till the third knock. Kelechi got up reluctantly and sauntered to the door, his potbelly poking out in front of him, impeding the hook of his briefs. While we watched, he opened the door, stopped wide-eyed and backtracked into the room, the steel barrel of a handgun following him in.
Soon there were five of them inside the living room, masked and armed for the loot. We were all on our bellies, being stomped upon by heavy boots and our buttocks slapped with the flat end of heavy machetes. It didn’t take so long and they were done plundering us with the most undeniably impressive agility. Mobile phones, video game console, cash, unopened bottles of vodka, DVD player, sound system, CD collections, laptops, shoes, Kelechi’s jeweleries hidden under the rug and even Itodo’s watch that was hidden deeper than all of my most ignominious secrets, all gone.
We remained bellied to the ground for a few minutes after they left, and then sat up, speechless, taking in the sourness of our losses as amiably as we could. Literally saw Tekena pinch himself just to be sure he wasn’t in an ugly nightmare. He wasn’t. A cascade of realisation washed through him like a blistering cold shower. Itodo got up first. He went looking for something, then came back around to announce, with the grimmest chill in his voice, that they had taken all of our weed too. Kelechi just sat there, burning, bare, stomach sitting in front of him, his scar glistening in the faint lamp. I got up, climbed the sofa, shrunken, folded into a fetus, shut my eyes and listened to the rain gain more and more ferocity until it turned into a downpour clattering heavily, almost maliciously against the aluminium roof.
To this day, it’s hard to tell what hurt the most—the helplessness we felt as men armed with death raped our treasury, the agony of starting over again, or the coming to terms with our own naivety when we realised that since the incidence Nahnah’s number stopped going through and the night of the blood moon was the last we ever saw her.