by Innocence Katung Katricia
He stood watching her lying on her back, naked on the bed. Her palms supported the back of her head as her legs played before his eyes in an open-and-close motion, unashamed of his gaze. She loved to be listened to whenever she talks. So, he watched her in silence.
‘I’ve been naked all my life, Joe.’ She was smiling at him, as if expecting him to say a word. He did not. No woman had made him speechless before. Except this woman he had picked up two years ago at Olowu Street in Ikeja, this perfect body of beauty eight years older than him. ‘Do you know one thing I’ve discovered with all the men I’ve been with? They all want to see my nakedness. That’s the price I have to pay for my beauty. It becomes a thing of pride for the man who unwraps me. I chose to always unwrap myself and be happy.’
He could still remember.
The first day they had sex, he had wanted to pull her clothes off her body. She stopped him. ‘I will do so myself. Everything you see in me has been taken away. Do not deny me the pleasure of this moment.’
He let her.
After she was naked, she waited for him. The first move he made betrayed him. The smile on her lips could tell that his body smelled of innocence. But his eyes, the desire in them, showed her a man reckless with hunger, the hunger of one eager to return to his origin. It was his first journey but she was with him, riding and guiding him along the way. She took his hands:
One hand on her left breast: “Touch me here,” she said.
Another on her right breast: “Touch me here,” she said.
She took his face in her palms.
‘When last did you play as a child?’ She dropped a kiss on his lower lip.
‘I cannot remember. It is many years ago.’
‘Did you miss your childhood?’ Another kiss fell on his upper lips.
‘I do.’ She engulfed his mouth in hers for a while before they both came up for air.
‘Then see this body of scars like the most beautiful playground you will see once in a lifetime. Play with my body like a child; I will make you a man.’
He did. And she kept her promise.
That night, the sex was a wild one. Nothing he did could tame her savagery. The first thing that spilled out of his mouth after he regained his breath was a confession:
‘You fucked as if you have history.’ And she laughed out loud, the kind of laughter that could have set a record of victory against any thunder.
‘It is a history oppressed on me.’
‘The brother of my late mother. He undressed my body for eleven years.’ There was fury in her voice. There was sorrow in her eyes.
He asked her the name of the man who wrote the history of loss on her body. She muttered some words he could not understand. Years later, he would come to remember her words: You cannot hold the name of a man who stole your body before you understand the language of childhood.
‘I want to dance. Do you want to dance?’ He did not expect the swiftness with which she veered off the conversation. Her spontaneity captivated him. He nodded, knowing he would do anything to make this prostitute happy, this woman that his heart was beginning to bend towards to, with love. Immediately she stoned the atmosphere of the room ablaze with Bob Marley’s Exodus, on repeat. He was shocked. He had expected RnB from a woman after sex. She took him to the centre of the room and began to jump up and down with him until they landed back on the bed, while she kept hitting him on the chest, his arms, on his head, mildly as she laughed until they both initiated another round of wild sex.
Move! The voice of Bob Marley was belching forth. She was atop his body, moving in command.
Oh, yea! O-oo, yea! All right! Bob Marley was still with them in their hour of need. They were mourning together.
Bob Marley was still singing:
Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move!
Her body and his were moving as one, they were coming.
Open your eyes and look within… the voice of the ageless Rastafarian advised.
He opened his eyes and looked into hers, as if he was about to dig into the history buried in every scar in her body, the way the reggae song is burrowing along with their passion.
‘I love Bob Marley,” she shouted.
‘I love you, too,’ he shouted back at her.
That night, in his twenty-fourth year of existence, she taught him the secret of life: You begin to live the day you encounter love.
He did not fail to return to her over and over again.
‘You have given me what I have searched for all my life- love. If you will not go to your father, I know the way to send you home. I will cover my nakedness.’
‘I will go and talk to my father.’
She was looking at him with sympathy. ‘It’s like you don’t seem to remember your father, Joe. He is a man of God, a pastor, and in his words, “The eyes of God.” Did he not say he would rather die than let his son live with a prostitute? Teach me how to hide from the eyes of God, if you can.’
His father had referred to their relationship as a night journey through Lagos-Ibadan expressway without headlights. ‘You’re in death-trap even before you set out,’ he threatened.
‘I am still going to talk with him. Whatever he says, I have made up my mind. I cannot live and be happy without you.’
‘You will find me when you return, then.’
‘I love you, M’
‘Call me by my full name.’
For the first time in the two years they have been together, he called her by her full name- Mary.
‘I love you, Mary,’ he said and as he rushed out of the room, too afraid to look at the misery in her eyes, he did not fail to hear the last words she spoke:
‘Tell your father, the eyes of God, only God knows the smell of sin.’ And her laughter followed him as he dashed into streets of Lagos, to dare his father one last time before he would take control of his destiny.
That night, when he returned to tell her they should run away to somewhere far away, where the universe may embrace them with kindness, to tell her that he had fallen in love with her and her songs, he found her waiting for him in the bathtub, her naked body full of death. And when he stared at the empty bed, expecting to see her nakedness unafraid of his eyes, he knew, she had gone into the darkness to hide herself from the eyes of God.
Innocence Katung Katricia is a poet, fiction writer, editor and the 2017 winner of Korea-Nigeria Poetry Feast Prize.