Ukamaka Olisakwe (2020-07-01) by Yẹ́misí Aríbisálà
She steps out of the Uber, tugging the hem of her mini skirt. It’s past nine and Lagos is just gearing up for a feisty weekend. Yesterday she sat through a twelve-hour ride from Aba and spent another three hours in the hold-up at Berger. Her joints are sore, but she walks resolutely, certain of what she has come to do.
She has only entered the premises when she catches the eyes of a man at a corner, the couple leaning against a Toyota Venza. Someone whistles. “Hey, fine woman, how far?” he says.
Face down, she matches toward the entrance, and bumps into an impressively built man whose shoes shine like he’s slicked them down with groundnut oil.
He is speaking softly into his phone. His voice cracks. “Why do you keep doing this to me?” he tells the person at the other end.
She feels a pang for him. How refreshing it is to hear such emotion. She waited for seventeen years but couldn’t tell what her husband sounded like when he was vulnerable, not even when they had sex.
She thinks of her children, of the life she’s left behind. Wasn’t it yesterday that she’d married, that she gave birth to her first daughter?
She pushes through a sea of perfumed or sweaty bodies until she is standing by the bar. She glances around, notices a girl giving another girl a lap dance.
Glasses clink. Her ears hurt from the chaos, but this is the moment: the day she will do what she’s been told was reserved for bad women. The disco lights reflect on faces, on glasses, in sparkly drinks.
She waits for the music to soothe her body. For a moment, she feels she has made a mistake; she should leave; she should return to Aba, to the dull life she’s known since she turned eighteen.
Then Lova Lova spurts from the speakers and the music wraps itself around her in a comforting embrace.
She dances slowly, her face washed over by the rainbow lights. Someone grinds too close. Another whispers something seductive. But she is lost in the music, her chest bursting with emotions she has no description for, hips swaying this way and that.
It’s the night before she flees forever. And this night feels like healing.
About Ukamaka Olisakwe
Ukamaka Evelyn Olisakwe is a Nigerian feminist author, short-story writer, and screenwriter, author of two novels Eyes of a Goddess (2012) and Ogadinma (2020). In 2014 she was chosen as one of 39 of Sub-Saharan Africa's most promising writers under the age of 40 featured in the anthology Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara, edited by Ellah Allfrey. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times and various magazines including the Nigerian Telegraph and African Hadithi.