For several minutes, we remained quiet. Suddenly i stood up and brought out my wallet.
”I don’t know how much you bought your phone but here is $200. Use it to replace the phone but as for the shoes, i may also decide to pay for it someday” i said and kept the money on the table. As i pulled my plastic chair back to step out, she grabbed my hand and started crying.
When she stopped the tears, she said that it was all her fault. She said she didn’t know what came over her that made her ran away with my phone and money. She also said that she was ashamed of herself and had never done such a thing again.
”I have another phone now. You can take your money back, it is ok” she said.
”Don’t worry Chinelo, take the money” i said and sat down again.
We sat there and talked about life as a prostitute. She didn’t like what she was doing but then no prostitute would admit that she liked what she did.
She said she was saving money to go to Italy.
In just a few minutes, i had detected two lies from her.
First when i asked if she would like to spend time with me, she said ‘i don’t know’ , then she said i could go and get another girl.
Secondly, she said she didn’t like prostitution yet she was saving money to go to Italy.
I could have offered some advice about Europe but i was nearly killed in Portugal for trying to help a runaway prostitute.
”What hotel are you lodging” Chinelo asked. Her friend looked angrily at her but she didn’t care.
”I am staying in this hotel, i told you i came here for you” i said.
Some moments later, a Ghannain man with large pot belly came to our table.
”Customer, i am here” the girl sitting with us said as she got up and went to the man.
”This is the kind of things and the kind of people you people deal with here simply because of money. Why can’t you think of something to do in Nigeria. There are many hairdressers, decorators, cake bakers in Nigeria, why can’t you go back home, find one thing to learn and make your living from there”? I said.
She kept quiet for a while and started crying again. I was moved by her tears, it seemed so genuine this time.
”Its ok, pick up your money and lets go” i said as i held her hand and pulled her up from the plastic chair where she sat. We walked into the hotel lobby together and went upstairs.
I left her in the room and went out to buy whisky.
She must have been surprised to know that i had no single luggage with me except a black plastic bag that was given to me where i bought cloths.
When i got back, we drank whiskey and talked. She told me how she became a prostitute.
It had started in 2005 December when her aunty who had a restaurant in Aba came to the village. She had returned with a small Toyota car nicknamed ‘first lady’ by Nigerians. She had also brought bags of rice for the village women. After Christmas, the lady had asked two ladies from the village to follow her back to Aba to help out in her restaurant business. Chinelo was one of them.
She had followed the lady to Aba and had worked in the restaurant for her. Unknown to her, her aunty was into prostitution business. Aunty Rose as she called her, was known for organising girls for businessmen who paid her.
Aunty Rose had managed to convince her to sleep with a businessman who sold used tyres. According to Chinelo, the man used to go to Ghana and Cotonou to buy tyres and brought them back to Aba to supply to the retailers.
After sleeping with the man several times, he had promised to take her to Ghana and open a shop for her there. She had agreed.
By the ending of February 2006, approximately two months after she came to Aba, she had sneaked out of Aba with the man and followed him to Ghana. The man had lodged her into a very cheap guest house where she had stayed for weeks. According to her, the man would come to Ghana, did his business, slept with her and returned to Nigeria with a promise to open the shop for her on his next trip. But each time he came again, he would give one excuse and continue making promises. Then she had met with Joy, a Benin girl who had introduced her into the business of prostitution.
After some months of working as a prostitute, she had returned to her Village for her father’s burial. His father had died while she was in Ghana. It was on her return from the burial that she met with me in the bus during my first visit to Ghana. She had spent all her money in the burial and was in urgent need of money, that was why she stole my money and ran away.
When she finished her story, i wanted to ask her why she stole the phone too.
She told me how miserable life had been for her. She had wanted to be a hairdresser before she was taken to Aba. She said she still wanted to be a hairdresser but the idea of going to Italy had confused and corrupted her mind to the extent of not even paying more attention to any other thing.
”But it is not too late. You can still go back home and start all over again” i said.
She shook her head and said she couldn’t go home again. She said she had no place to live since her aunty won’t allow her to stay in her place in Aba. She had nobody in Lagos, Port Harcourt or Onitsha where she would like to stay and work.
”What if i find a one room for you in Lagos and pay for a year, would you stay there and learn the hair dressing” i asked.
She looked at me and nodded.
”Alright Chinelo, we are going back to Lagos together” I said. She didn’t believe it. For several minutes, she thought i made that promise just to have sex with her that night but when she finished her bath and returned naked in the room, i told her to put her cloths back on.
”You have been having sex for money since you came to this Country, it would be a wicked thing to do if i sleep with you again tonight” i said.
She put on her cloth and slipped under the bed sheet. Ten minutes later, she closed her eyes and slept.
Chinelo was tired of life, but luck had just smiled on her. We were going home together.
” It is during our darkest moments that
we must focus to see the light”