Your Brief Bio:
Elizabeth Edirin Enajeroh is a writer who hails from Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Her work has been published in Brittle Paper, Afreada, YNaija and tw Magazine. Her goal as a writer is to enter quietly into the lives of her characters so that she can unwrap their truth and expose it to the world.
Tweet-Style Story Summary:
This is a story about a Nigerian woman whose past imprints itself on her present.
Temisan dropped the metal spoon in her hand on the white ceramic plate in front of her and stared at her ringing Samsung phone on the glass dining table. Her throat constricted. It was him. It had been so long since she had heard from him, exactly ten years. She continued to watch her phone, as her heartbeat quickened until her phone finally stopped ringing. She closed her eyes, remembering his face, remembering his fingers. Her phone started ringing again. She opened her eyes and checked the screen of her phone.
It was still him.
Temisan closed her eyes and wondered what she would tell him if she picked up the call. She kept her eyes closed and held her breath as her phone continued to ring, and when the ringing finally stooped, she opened her eyes and her lungs once again filled up with oxygen. She looked down at the heap of moist Jollof rice on her plate. Her appetite ran away. She stood up from the dining table, took her plate to the kitchen and placed it in the sink without bothering to throw the remaining food in the dustbin - Temisan did not like leaving dirty dishes in the sink, as they irritated her, but washing plates that minute was the last thing on her mind.
She went back to the dining table, sat down and picked up her phone with shaky fingers. She looked at his phone number, reading out the digits loudly, hoping that perhaps, she had made a mistake and the number was not actually his. But she knew it was his number - even after all these years, she could still recite his number correctly even if she was woken up from a dream filled sleep. She held her phone and tapped her French-tipped fingernails on the dining table.
Then she closed her eyes, and the past ten years disappeared.
The memories became fresh.
She remembered the exact date of the last day she saw him: 11th March 2006. It was an unusually hot evening. She was in her flat at Ojodu lying on her bed, naked. Though the faulty air conditioner was breathing with scrappy sounds behind her and the blades of the fan were swinging with creaking sounds above her, there was still a thin film of sweat on her skin.
She turned over to her side and Ejiro was there. She loved to watch Ejiro sleep as that was the only time when she got to see his face properly. He did not like it when people stared at his face for too long, and she was not sure if it was because he was genuinely shy, or if it was because he thought he was not worthy of such prolonged attention. But Ejiro was worthy of even more attention because of his unusual beauty, which was uncommon for a man. She always teased him, telling him that God had made him a woman initially, but that God changed his mind last minute and decided to change him into a man, leaving feminine parts behind. The feminine parts were many: his fair skin devoid of any spots, his long eyelashes that fluttered furiously whenever he was angry, his smooth and hairless long legs without the typical hard mass at the top like other men, his hairless chin smooth as a baby's buttocks, and his pointed nose that looked like it was stolen from a white supermodel. Ejiro was beautiful in every sense of the word, but he was also very masculine with his deep voice, muscular arms, six-foot frame and massive feet.
Ejiro opened his eyes and his pupils found hers. And then he smiled, a smile that always broke something in her chest and caused a sweet tender ache. “How long have you been watching me?” he said, bringing his hand to her cheek. Then his fingers trailed down her neck and ended their journey on her left breast. He squeezed her nipple, a hard squeeze, but still a delicious squeeze.
“Ouch…” she said, though she could feel warmth growing between her legs.
“Like you don’t like it…” he said, and then he squeezed harder.
They both laughed. He sat up on the bed. “I am hungry o,” he said, rubbing his stomach in big circles. “What are we going to eat?”
Temisan laughed again. Sex always made him hungry. Sometimes, his hunger was satisfied by another round of sex, but she knew today was not going to be one of those days. “Well, I don’t have anything at home. I was to go to the market today until you came and tore off my clothes. But you are lucky. Mama Nkechi would have pepper soup by now.”
“That goat meat pepper soup I always see in my dreams,” Ejiro said, shaking his head. Then he slapped her buttocks, and the sharp sound sliced the air. The slap would have been too much for a normal girl, but for Temisan, the sharp pain was always pleasurable. “Oya Temisan, get dressed and let’s go,” he said.
Ejiro got up from the bed, which was just a mattress on the floor, and started wearing his clothes that were in a pile on the floor next to the bed. When he first started coming to her flat, she always tried to dress up her bare apartment to be more than what it was. But now, she was comfortable with her sparsely furnished one-bedroom apartment, which she knew was a far cry from his family’s mansion in Ikoyi. The thought of his family sent a sharp pain through her left temple.
They had been together for a year now. A hidden romance. Temisan had seen him for the first time when he came to her office, a Startel customer care center, at Ajose Adeogun, Victoria Island. The moment she set her eyes on him, she felt something tighten in her chest. She knew he was too much for her. She could see the Mercedes car keys dangling from his long fingers; she could see the thick gold wristwatch on his wrist; and even from where she sat, she could see one thousand Naira notes floating on top of his head. But Temisan didn’t care. She knew she wanted him. Immediately he left the customer care center, she went over to Ibrahim, her colleague who had attended to him, and begged her face red until Ibrahim had given her his number. That evening, sitting on her bed in her apartment, staring at his number on the grainy screen of her Ericson phone, with Destiny’s child’s Emotions playing from her small black radio in the background, she knew she was taking a risk by calling him. She knew he could report her and she could get fired. But those risks were drowned out by her desire to feel his long fingers on her skin. So she called. And he answered. And they had sex two days later. And they fell in love. And now, one year later, they were here.
“Temisan, I will carry you downstairs naked if you do not get dressed now,” Ejiro said, waving his forefinger at her. He had finished wearing his clothes, and he looked like a model with the plain black round necked tee-shirt and blue jeans trousers hanging on his slender frame.
Temisan got up from the bed, rolled her braids into a bun and stretched her limbs so her muscles could return to their normal shape - they were all over the place because of all the positions Ejiro had molded her body into. She looked outside the window; darkness had covered everything, and a half moon was painted on the thick black sky with two bright stars flanking it on both sides. She opened her mouth and released the big yawn that had been brewing in her stomach, and then she took slow steps to the wardrobe, arching her back and pushing her out buttocks because she knew Ejiro was watching her.
“You drive me crazy. You know that right. You are just…” he said. Temisan heard a deep raw ache in his voice that she didn’t understand. He walked over to her, turned her around by her shoulders, pressed her bare body to the wooden wardrobe and covered her mouth with his. The kiss felt more like he was drinking life from her. His hands didn’t stroke her body as usual; they cupped her cheeks, keeping her face firmly in place.
“Is everything okay?” she asked when his mouth finally left hers. There was something urgent about his kiss, as though he was trying to kiss her as best as he could because it would be the last time he would taste her.
“I am fine,” he said, smiling; the smile was not convincing. Then he bit her lower lip with his perfect white teeth. “Get dressed Temisan. If not, you know what I will do to you….”
Temisan smiled and licked the tip of his nose. Then she turned around and wore her black lace bra and red thong that were hanging over the door of the wardrobe. She looked into the wardrobe and of all her clothes staring back at her, only one caught her eye: the blue D squared t-shirt Ejiro had left in her house when he slept over two weeks ago.
“When are you going to tell your family about me?” Temisan asked as she chewed the shriveled toothpick she had used to evict tiny pieces of goat meat lodged between her teeth. Ejiro withdrew his hand that had been eating warmth between her thighs. He placed the same hand on his forehead like he was checking his temperature.
Temisan knew this was not the best time to bring up this discussion. Her mouth was still on fire from the goat meat pepper soup she had eaten in a hurry, her vision was blurry because of the two bottles of Guinness stout she had drank, her skin was itchy because of the relentless mosquitos desperate to drink her blood, and her ears were filled with Tuface’s song, Ole, blasting at full volume from the speakers in Mama Nkechi’s joint.
She threw the toothpick on the ground and looked at Ejiro. He was staring at her, his face blank, his eyes watery. He was so different from all the men who were seated on white plastic chairs around them, screaming about the Chelsea Vs Tottenham match playing on a small television set on a stool. A stranger could tell that Ejiro didn’t belong here at this joint, eating pepper soup under the moonlight, pretending not to be bothered by the healthy house flies, the rotten smell of the gutters, the oily smell of fried yam and akara, and the disconcerting sound of the okadas zooming past Olaleke Taiwo street with deadly speed. A stranger would not have to hear Ejiro’s British accent to know that he went to the University abroad. A stranger would know immediately that Ejiro was an outsider. A stranger would know that Ejiro didn’t belong with her.
“Temisan…we have been through this before,” he said, reaching to touch her hand on the white plastic table. “It’s just not the best time.”
“It’s just not the best time,” she said mimicking him, snatching her hand away from under his. “When is the best time Ejiro? Ehn. Tell me! It’s been one year. I have never been to your house. I have never met any of your siblings. Are you ashamed of me?” Temisan felt a fire burning in her chest, threatening to come out of her mouth. She knew she was about to say things she would regret, but she didn’t care; all she could see was red.
“Don’t talk like that…” he said, shaking his head like she was the one who was making a big deal out of a microscopic thing. “You know how my family is. I don’t want them to eat you alive. I have to tell them when I know they will be ready.”
The fire came to her mouth. “Of course, I know how your family is. Is your father not one of the richest men in Warri? Ehn. He has more money than he knows what to do with. After all, he owns three houses in Ikoyi, and he is always in City People and Ovation. He is a big man and you are his first son. That is why you can’t introduce me to him. After all who is my father. A poor old retired school teacher. And my mother, she sells Okrika at Yaba. And me what do I have? Only a small apartment in Ojodu where you come every Saturday to deposit your sperm. So, I am good to fuck, but I am not good enough to meet your parents?”
Temisan stopped to catch her breath. Ejiro’s face was still, and his eyes were hot. It was then she realized that there were no more voices around her. It was then she realized that she couldn’t hear Tuface’s song anymore. It was then she realized that all the eyes in the joint were pointed at her.
“What the fuck is your problem Temisan?” he asked, his eyes screaming violence. “I said, what the fuck is your problem? Are you insane? You know I love you. How can you say so much rubbish?”
Temisan knew she should have stopped then. But her vision was still tinted with a bright red and the words were still too many in her chest. She knew she had to continue speaking.
“You want to know what my problem is. My problem is that you are a bloody coward,” she shouted, standing up, pushing her chair backward.
The chair fell to the ground. Mama Nkechi walked towards their table, but when Temisan gave her a filthy look, Mama Nkechi retreated into the shadows. Temisan took her attention back to Ejiro who was still sitting down, looking at her with raw hate.
“You are a coward. Daddy’s boy. At least all I have is mine. I worked for every fucking thing I have. Is this car yours? Answer me!”
She threw his car keys that had been sitting on the table on him. It landed on his lap. He did not move.
“Answer me!” she said, pointing to his lap, her forefinger shaking. “Is the car yours? Is the money in your bank account yours? Everything you have is from your father. That is why you don’t want him to see me. You think I don’t know that he probably has one Uhrobo girl from one of those his nonsense dug baron friends that he wants you to marry. Poor Ejiro does not want his father to disown him. You make me sick.”
Temisan spat on the dusty ground. She felt strangely ecstatic. Her throat was clear now, and the red film that had clouded her vision had disappeared. In her head, she had already started arranging an apology when Ejiro picked up his keys from his lap, stood up and started walking away. She was angry that he was leaving. She didn’t want him to leave. She wanted to apologize to him. She wanted him to say wicked things to her so that the scales could be even. She wanted him to take her upstairs to her flat and enter inside her so that the world could disappear.
“Where do you think you are going?” Temisan asked, walking after him. She could feel warm tears on her cheek, but she wiped them away in one quick motion.
Ejiro turned back and looked at her, with pain all over his face and a small sinister smile smeared across his lips. “I would have given up everything for you Temisan. Everything. But thank God I didn’t because you are a bitch. I never want to see you again.” He turned around and walked towards his Mercedes.
Temisan felt as if someone had poured a bucket of ice-cold water on her head. They had fought before, violent fights that could break the strongest of relationships. He had tasted the harshness of her tongue, and he always said that that was what he loved about her, the ability of her mouth to open up and allow all her thoughts fly out without restraint. She knew he was not leaving because of what she had said - she had said other bad things in the past - two months ago, she had told him that he was the worst lover she had ever had because for the first time, she didn’t reach orgasm when they had sex, and three months ago, she told him that he deserved to be stoned by all the beggars in Lagos when he told her that he had never done his own laundry.
Temisan searched around in her head, rolling the last few weeks around, trying to make sense of it all. Then the answer came: There was someone else. Now she knew why his tongue had been tasting strange for some weeks now - another woman’s saliva had been sitting comfortably on it. Now she knew why he had kissed her like that earlier - another woman had come in-between them.
Temisan removed his tee-shirt that she was wearing, rolled it into a ball and threw it at him. It landed at the back of his head. He turned back to look at her. About two hot seconds passed. Then he picked up the tee shirt from the ground, entered into his Mercedes and drove off.
Temisan stood there for a while in her black lace bra and jeans shorts watching the Mercedes drive up the road until the darkness swallowed it. She didn’t care that she was half naked on Olaleke Taiwo street. She didn’t care that about twelve men were watching her. She didn’t care that the world around her had paused.
After about two minutes of waiting with her eyes firmly fixed on the darkness, she knew he was not coming back. She walked back to the plastic table. There was still no movement or sound from anyone. She pulled out a slim wad of one hundred Naira notes from her pocket, dropped it on the plastic table and walked towards her apartment.
Temisan looked at her phone as it started ringing again; It was still him. She took her gaze from her phone to the flat screen TV on the wall that had Sam Smith’s soulful face on it. The words of the song, Writing’s on the Wall, coming from the surround sound speakers sliced through her chest and thick emotions spilled out, staining everywhere.
She wanted to die for the first three months after the day Ejiro left. She called and called and called him. He didn’t pick up. She sent text messages, apologizing, begging him. He still didn’t respond. Then desperately, she sent him a text message, telling him that if he didn’t respond in one hour, she would drink a mixture of sprite and rat poison, and she would leave a suicide note saying that he was the reason why she had killed herself. He still didn’t respond. It was then she knew she had lost him.
The phone stopped ringing.
Temisan had followed him over the years. She had seen his wedding pictures on Bella Naija seven years ago, and just as she had predicted, he had gotten married to the daughter of one of his father’s Urhobo friends, the woman she was sure he had been cheating on her with. From the big smile on his wife’s face and the invisible smile on Ejiro’s face, Temisan could tell that his wife was the only one who was happy to be getting married. Temisan knew when his wife gave birth to their first child, then the second, then the third, and then the fourth. She followed as he contested for the House of Assembly in Delta state under PDP in 2015, and she saw the pictures from the celebration party on his wife’s Instagram page the day the election results were announced and he won. She followed him. She tried to stop, but she couldn’t stop. She always wanted to know where he was, who he was with, what he was doing.
“Temisan! Your phone will wake up Alero! And why is this TV so loud?” Temisan turned back and saw Nelson, her husband, standing, with curly black hair covering his chest and his round soft stomach spilling over the band of his boxers.
“Sorry,” she said, as she picked the remote control from the dining table and turned down the volume of the television. “I just finished eating and didn’t feel like sleeping yet. So, I decided to watch some Tv.”
“At this time?” he asked, pointing to the silver clock on the cream wall; It was 11.30pm. “Should I be the one to tell you that it is too late to be up? What is wrong with you? You know that my mother’s birthday is tomorrow. We need to go for Uche’s child’s dedication before we go to Eko Hotel. Turn off that television and come to bed.”
“Okay...” Temisan said. She switched off the television, picked up her phone from the dining table and stood up from the chair. She started to walk towards where Nelson was standing on the stairs.
“Go back and push that chair under the table Temisan. How many times would I correct you? Why don’t you ever listen?” Nelson said, pointing at the chair. Temisan sighed and went back to the dining table. She pushed the chair under the table, but the sound of the mansonia wood scratching the tiles made her stop. She knew how fussy Nelson was about the tiles, how fussy he was about the chairs, how fussy he was about the cars, how fussy he was about Alero, how fussy he was about everything.
“Don’t push it. Carry it my friend! Do you want to spoil those tiles? Do you know how much they cost?” Nelson said, his words wrapped with venom. Temisan sighed again. She knew what would happen if she spoke back to him, and she didn’t have the strength to caress fresh bruises. So, she carried the arm of the wooden chair with both hands and placed the chair gently under the dining table. Her phone started ringing. She didn’t need to check the screen to know it was still him.
“Why is your phone ringing at this time of the night? Who is calling you?” Nelson asked.
“It’s Amaka …” Temisan said, her voice tilting from left to right. She was afraid that Nelson would smell her fear - he knew her too well. “She called earlier to give me the details for the photoshoot next week Sunday, you know the one that we are meant to do for the couples’ edition for Lagos Style magazine. She wanted to know your measurements so that the stylist can pick out suits for you.”
Nelson’s evil eyes searched all the features on her face for any trace of dishonesty. Then he sighed and shook his head. “All these stupid photoshoots. I am a businessman. That’s what I am. I don’t know why you make me do these stupid things. Anyway, switch off that phone. Amaka is a single girl so she can be calling anyhow. You are a married woman with a child. You can’t be talking nonsense on the phone at 11.30 pm! Meet me upstairs!”
“Yes honey,” Temisan said.
Nelson turned around and walked up the stairs, and Temisan watched his watery buttocks vibrate under his thin white and blue striped boxers until his brown leather slippers disappeared. Then she looked at the screen of her phone and saw that Ejiro had sent her a text. She opened the text, her thumb slippery with sweat.
It’s me, Ejiro. It’s been so long. Call me. I need to see you.
Temisan read the text over and over, wondering what he wanted to see her for. She remembered the feel of his long fingers on her skin. She remembered the metallic taste of his blood on her tongue when she had bit his lip a bit too hard the day they had sex in her room, with her legs around his waist and her back to the wall. She knew she would see him. She knew she would allow whatever needed to happen to happen. She knew she would not stop it.
“Temisan! don’t let me call your name again. Or are you deaf? I want to see you here in one minute if not…”
Nelson’s voice from the top of the stairs interrupted her sweet thoughts. Temisan deleted the text from her phone and cleared the call log because Nelson checked her phone every day, and she was not allowed to have a password. Then she walked up the stairs with the taste of Ejiro’s blood on her tongue.