Braga, Portugal, December 2005
We got to Braga and rented a one bedroom apartment that looked more like a student’s hostel. It has a kitchen and bathroom inside the apartment.
As soon as we settled down, Solomon brought out a small nylon bag containing money; he spread the contents on the bed and asked me to count them as he went into the bathroom.
“It’s 13,000 Euros,” I said as soon as he walked out of the bathroom.
“Good then, the money is complete. Go and take your bath, we are going into the city,” he said.
I left for the bathroom and by the time I came out, I saw all our phones dismembered and scattered all over the bed. I didn’t ask why he did that, I knew he had his reasons and to make him know that I was also smart, I decided not to ask why he did it.
Twenty minutes later, we were in the streets of Braga, looking at shops that sold what we wanted to buy. The first things we bought were two Nokia phones and three sim cards.
Across the road from where we bought the sim cards, there was a large mall that sold virtually everything, even cars.
“I want you to go into the boutique over there, start picking the clothes you like. You have 800 Euros to spend,” Solomon said as he pointed to a boutique to our left.
I jumped and hugged him right there in the glaring eyes of strangers. I didn’t care; I just wished the circumstances were different. I loved him and I wanted him to know that at all times.
He watched as I walked into the boutique before he disappeared outside once more, then those horrible moments I thought he would leave me suddenly returned. The entire ‘pick up the clothes you want’ seemed like a set up to delay me while he disappeared. I didn’t know why it was difficult to trust Solomon totally.
The only good news with me at the boutique was that I still had the money he gave me at the hotel in case of emergency. I had temporal cover from any sudden unfavourable circumstances as a result of his disappearance but then, money wasn’t really the matter. The problem was that I didn’t know where else to go.
Unlike Lisbon, Braga and Porto has little black presence except for some coloured Brazilians who came to Portugal and suddenly saw themselves as semi white people.
I picked a few clothes but since my mind wasn’t at rest, I had no idea whether I liked what I bought or not.
More than thirty minutes later, Solomon walked back into the mall and found me still loitering around the boutique.
“Are you done shopping sweetie?” The voice had said behind me.
When I turned back and saw it was him, I smiled and hugged him. “Yes, I have.”
“I believe you have some money that was meant to be yours if I disappeared. Well, I am still here, so you now have to pay for the clothes from the money.” He was smiling as if nothing happened when he left, I just wished he knew how I felt each time he disappeared out of my sight.
I paid from the money I had with me and we left the mall. Across the road, we picked up the cooking pots and rice and some other things Solomon bought while I was in the boutique.
While I was inside the boutique killing myself over whether Solomon was gone or not, he was across the road buying pots for me. I felt like I owed him a lot of apologies for not trusting him but somehow I believed it wasn’t my fault. Despite everything I had gone through with him, he was still a half stranger to me. The place we met each other wasn’t particularly the best place lovers meet. Despite everything I told him about how I came to Europe and how I didn’t want to continue being a prostitute, the fact remained that I was a prostitute. I had reservations and I knew that someday, Solomon would through all my past on my face. I had a feeling that on one bad day, perhaps a day I would do something he didn’t like, he would tell me what I was and how he helped me and all that.
We got back to our new apartment and while I cooked rice, he worked on his new phones. He didn’t yet tell me if any of the new phones belonged to me but I knew he wasn’t going to leave me without a phone. As a result, I decided to be the good girlfriend and pretend that nagging wasn’t my thing.
Before I finished cooking, Solomon made a call to Lisbon and told his friend Francis that he could be in Lisbon anytime from the next day. I didn’t know why he told that lie because he just paid for one week accommodation in Braga.
“Are you really going to Lisbon?” I had asked.
He said he wasn’t going anywhere yet but that he didn’t want anyone to know where he was. I didn’t know how Solomon Ebot lived his life before we met, I didn’t know if he was a good or a bad guy but after everything that happened between us in the past few days, I felt that I had made him a bad guy. I felt he was just a regular guy who showed up to pick a prostitute for the night. That single move he made fetched him Jennifer who got stuck with him and changed everything he came to do in Portugal. I felt guilty about it but I didn’t know how to approach him about it. On the other hand, he was a grown man in his mid twenties, he should be able to decide what he wanted to do and the things he didn’t want to get involved. If Solomon had rejected my proposal to move in with him, I would still be out there in the streets of Lisbon and he would have still be living with his people in his apartment. I would still be a prostitute while he would have done nothing as exciting and adventurous as the unexpected journey we had embarked on. Despite the dangerous nature of what was happening to us, it was still exciting. I would not have gone to Porto and Braga if not that I ran away with him. I was sure he didn’t plan to go to those cities too; it just happened. The best news so far was that he was able to make Madam Grace pay for the adventures. It would have been boring and full of grudges if money wasn’t coming from elsewhere. I knew he had some money of his own but I was also sure he wasn’t going to fund the unexpected adventure from his pockets; people hardly did something like that. But the greatest gift Solomon had was his ability to pull money out of nowhere in a short period, it was simply the one reason why I stayed with him for long. I liked clever people and he was one of them.