FICTION: The Whore of Kalakuta

BY FALADE OLUWAKAYODE

They said I am a whore; that my mother was the whore of Kalakuta. I caught them whispering this, usually, solemnly, from the opened yellow stall with half-bent buttocks, to the end of the street that consumed all kinds of graffiti. They said our blood was hot for pleasure. Sex. And any man who came knocking found our knot doors, mother and daughter, wide open. And slack. For free.

Mama was used to the sassy talks. Me too. She was used to it so much that the day mama Segun came to our house and fought over the unpaid money for a paint of garri mama had bought from her some few weeks ago mama didn’t care. She asked me to keep quiet. She sat there too, mute, adjoined her legs on the pavement of our old house and watch as the lips of the young woman rain words.

Empty words.

There’s only one reason people should meddle into other people’s businesses: hatred. Not only had mama Segun come carrying it on her back like a new baby. She had also, through others who had surrounded to shame us, spit at us and see where this whole thing led us, nursed it with full breast milk.

Today, mama Segun asked mama for her money and everything that had always come. Every damn penny. Once, she had saved us a big disgrace by bribing the Nepa men from disconnecting our light. The other day, she was the one who borrowed me money to meet the man waiting with a parcel for my mother at the next bus stop. Her voice was so bold that she even called mama ashewo. Something so cheap. Abacha.

My mother had twelve children for five men whose identities are as vague as the silver linings in the sky. They never came and we never saw them.

Mama never told us about them. She usually felt inconvenient telling us about her past. She would wrap her hands around her chest and cry instead as if something was missing. The long and short of her story. The hashtags that need not be told. She never talked. She only sat, legs bent, and never told us who our real fathers were, where they are or why they had not come.

‘I say pay me my money.’ Mama Segun kept shouting. One woman had allied with her to raise voices. A frangipani tree stood erect watching in front of a badly styled graffiti. The graffiti said End Time. Since it was the frangipani season white fruits were starting to bloom. The other woman, slim, and wearing a maroon gown almost the colour of my monthly period was saying ‘The only thing you know how to do is to snatch people’s husbands.’ Her voice grew louder. ‘Pay her her money, slut.’

They said mama was first a stripper at night clubs. Then she met a man that changed her life for an incredibly long time. She became a star dancer for the man’s music shrine, Kalakuta, enjoying what she liked doing, coming late at night and leaving early in the midnight. The man too, who regularly painted himself in white clay or paint and sang in high spirits, almost naked, against some ambiguous thunderbolt gods took her on a long course of love. Then, something happened after she was pregnant for him and the dailies took it up, on their front pages in black and white colours and she left with a robust soldier man that regularly visited the shrine. With the naked man’s baby.

She never came back until she heard the naked man had died of AIDS.

‘Please mama Segun, I will pay you when I have the money. Pity me. Pity my children. I’m all they have.’

I wondered why mama said that, or whatever might have happened to our fathers to make her say that. Was it the AIDS?

But everyone surely had AIDS here. Either they came in or not. If it didn’t interpret by the shape of their stomach or the roughness of their faces or sweats, there’s always a frustration that tell that so many things were not working right. Like today. And, maybe, who knew, tomorrow.

‘Please I will pay you. Just give me time.’

‘I’m giving you just two days to pay up, if not…’ Mama Segun said.

It came as a surprise. The woman with the maroon gown flinched. Her mouth opened and withdrew.

‘You will pardon her?’

Mama Segun didn’t answer. She’s just angry.

Mama began to thank mama Segun heartily, rubbing her two poor palms together and saying thank you, thank you as if she wouldn’t stop. Thank you for everything. Then mama Segun left.

When two days came, another man with a big stomach and a cream Camry car had showed up to cover the week’s expenses. And mama Segun didn’t have to appear again like our fathers. Like the storms.

Now we’ve moved from that old house. The Camry man has accommodated the twelve of us. The shadows are left behind. And the names. They are there, hung to the ceilings and roofing of their mouth like spiderwebs. They are there fighting our silent battles in the heat. Now we are free like air and can blow in the direction we wish.

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