BANTU KNOTS

They said he was found strangled. A thin black lace thong gripping his neck to the bed post like a choker. Odunsi the engine’s soundcloud had been on repeat for two days before Mr Lekan insisted Mama Kofo break in to tell that unrepsonsive young man to change the konji music and take out the dustbin. Police began their short investigation. Everyone spoke about the suicide in hushed tones. Some uniformed cleaners came to clean the BQ, I saw the instagram logo on their white van. None of the neighborhood agbales wanted to clean a deadbodi room. Officer Maduka, questioned everyone in that compound. They felt it wasn’t suicide. I’d walked by the akara woman and got catcalled. ‘Na woman go kill you!’, the busty ankara wrapped woman had admonished the bros. He got upset saying he didn’t like being cursed like Lanre.

By the time I strolled back from the Paga shop, the white van was being loaded with big black nylons bags, bed frame and large metal and plastic containers by two silent women and a stout man in grey jumpsuits and green hairnets. I greeted the team well done and entered the rusty brown gate. My slender fingers handed over the soft wad of one thousand naira notes to my Mother watching Zee World. What is that smell she asks. They’ve come to clean Lekan’s room. ‘Thank God o’, she mutters as her thick ringed fingers flick the naira notes in a quick count. Continuing, dropping the cash beside a glass cup of smoothie on the stool, she turns to me her bubu making her look stuffed. ‘Thank God, you listened to me when I said I don’t want that Corper around you or my house. Nkechi, my instincts never lie!’ I nod obediently and excuse myself.

I stripped off my black joggers and orange ‘African Queen’ crop top. The habit of not wearing underwear didn’t come from the need to breathe. A child’s palm can cup my breasts. They are that small. Its a habit that made Lanre and I’s quickie quicker. In the shower I massage the fade stretch mark soap up and down the curve of my wide hips. Absentmindedly rubbing my damp thighs and hips. I think back to the last time I saw him. He had been laughing outside the yard with taller lady and her weird hairstyle. Jealous I’d spotted them together that morning from my father’s bathroom window. I turned away and continued scrubbing the white tiles marked cream with age. I knew that laugh. Its a laugh that I’ve emitted whenever he tells bad jokes after toe curling sex. Later that day I’d seen another woman, his ‘friend’ Queen, leave hurriedly. She seemed annoyed but stopped to chat with Mama Kofo before hopping a bike. No one saw Lanre that evening at the Suya man’s place. I asked Nana the next day when I went to her Auntie’s shop to buy matches. I thought I heard his door creak in the middle of the night in my dreams.

The next day the Police closed the investigation ruling it a suicide. The previous evening, loud prayers, shouted amens and incense had floated out the next compound. I kept getting asked if i was okay by my father. He’d praised my cooking, less salty and lumpy. I slept fantasizing about Lanre. His lips, were they deeper pink or pale like harmattan cracked lips in death? Did his erection quickly go flaccid like a punctured balloon? Or was the body transported from the morturay to Oshogbo with its penis erect like Ma’s mini pistel used to pound Egusi? A suicide? I’d seen the tall woman with the shiny black hair in knots in my dreams last night. She’d bent over me, the coiled knots on her circular head shadowing the glow from the pale peach ceiling bulb. Her bent fair breasts which had hovered over Lanre’s lean chest hung over mine. I’d seen them when I’d carried his frozen ice-cream bowl of Ofada stew to the back window to knock. She’d closed her eyes in concentration as she rode moans and oos out of his arched dark brown form on the rumbled faded floral sheets.

I’d walked away from the back window to the side door at the kitchen and called out his name several times. I still don’t know if my irregular breathing from my breaking heart was the reason my shouts wavered. He’d come to the black metal door after I’d heard the bang of the front net door. Davido’s rap slipped out of the room into the clean, small kitchen. One of the things I dislike about relationships is sharing your favorite music with the other person. The past week since his death I couldn’t listen to Happy Hour, erotic Desire or Odunsi’ Divine jams. We stared at each other for 40 seconds before we both spoke. I raised the white plastic in my numb left hand to his eye level then dropped it on the wooden cupboard filled with food stuffs. That plastic had been my ticket out of the house that Wednesday.

As usual I’d said, ‘I’d be with Nana at the shop’. My Mother nodded as Radia swirled in her turquoise sari plotting on the Indian drama series station. ‘I need to give Nana her stew’, I announced to my distracted Mother. I wore my slides at the waiting room door. Nana hadn’t been at the shop so I didn’t need to beg her to cover for me. I went to Corper’s house in the compound on the right hand side of ours. What a surprise I stumbled on! Lanre isn’t cheating with the Bank Cashier Corper Queen. No, he’s doing bondage play with an older woman. She looked married. Maybe she even has kids with those drooping breasts. In his room, I noticed he’d sent her away quickly. How quickly can one untie bond wrists that fast? ‘You’re my desire’, swirls with the warm, dry air the ceiling fan twirls around the neat room like a hurricane of lies. I spotted an inside-out black thong stained with creamy residue amidst the rumbled bed sheet. A discarded condom in the Tasty Fried Chicken nylon at the left corner mocks me. His orange boots and white tennis shoes stood at attention at another corner. Crisp notes in a thick bundle of naira next to today’s newspaper confirm Nana’s suspicions. Lanre began apologizing about the messy bed. He was having nightmares before I called him. He wrapped his hands around me trying to kiss my neck. ‘I have to go. It will soon be time to boil water for Ma’s wheat and warm the white soup’. His baby pink lips pressed warm kisses to the hollow of my neck and I ask. Why did he fight against trying kinky sex but religiously searched pharmacies at Mende for anal sex lube? Wasn’t the 45k I’d given him just this August enough? I could have used that money to start selling make-up with Adaobi on Her_Makeup_Store on our IG campus sales page.. I withdrew his palm from my small breasts stepping back. I walked out on his grave expression and silent eyes. Opening and closing his mouth unable to shout beggings and answers to my retreating hips. He looked like a catfish that had flopped out of a market seller’s basket, scurrying on the dusty concrete in a vicious frenzy.

I’d left him with his bustier, naturally beautiful lover. I’m sure he’d hidden in her in the toilet beside the front door. So why was she in my dreams licking my pink lips? I don’t have pink lips. Why can I hear someone gulp and moan my name before she slaps someone on the bed beside me. In a dream last night I’d dodged the slap. I’d stared in wonder as she gyrated on me, wetness pooled in between my thighs. The next morning while spreading my washed baby pink silk nightie. I’d put the patch my squirt marked a map of Nigeria on up to face the sun. My bony fingers had just snapped on two yellow pegs when I overheard Mama Kofo. She sounded pleased repeating the Police investigation has ended to a quiet person. During the midnight, Bantu knots will slap again, asking if Lanre likes to use women or just me. Why did she sound like me? A faint pleading male voice gasped, ‘Nkechi! you’re hurting me. Bondage-play isn’t forr angahh’. When tiny brown nipples hover above my face reaching for something black, squeezing its coarseness and jerking it.  My fingers grabbed a fistful of my yellow cotton bed sheets while I tossed about asleep. A tiny patch of tears no longer mark the pillow case hanging in the wind.

After returning the bucket to my room I walked past the parked silver CRV out the brown gate. I crossed the road after a yellow danfo zoomed by. ‘Nana! Biko open the gate’, I call into the empty shop through the metal bars. I hear the sweeping sounds pause. ‘Chi?’, asks a smiling, golden brown, young woman holding a long broom against denim shorts. Sweat sticks a lemon Saved Youth t-shirt to her chest and heaving full bust. ‘I was just thinking of you, come in’. I drink some cold burgundy zobo in the shop. Nana packs sand and dried leaves into a large blue parker her voluptuous bum up in the air. ‘Why would he kill himself? Chi, have you thought about it?” A cleaner, composed Nana inquires. ‘I don’t know..I’ve been having nightmares about him. I wonder what the Cele prophet cleansed away.’ ‘Erotic nightmares..babe you have issues’, her smirk is covered by a raised tumbler. We chat about Nigerians’ attitude towards mental health until a small boy interrupts us. A beep from my iPhone distracts me. I freeze as a text from Lanre airtel, pops open on my screen. ‘Baby, come on! Pick my calls. I’ve messed up. Come back let me make it up to u. Please Nkechi, pls.’ This yeye Glo won’t kill you, my mother always says. That Wednesday afternoon my sticky fingers picked his call on its fifth ring. I’d served hot wheat from the steaming pot into mounds on damp glass plates before responding. I didn’t go back to his house. I’d felt humiliated and used. I couldn’t have gone back! Nana, offers me Panadol for an instant headache. My trembling right palm collects the refilled purple stained tumbler as I ask myself repeatedly ‘Or did I?’

END.

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