A single bead of sweat makes its journey from the crown of her head. Maneuvers it’s way down through the nappy roots of her day-old twist-out and cruises towards the canal between her shoulder blades. There, it rests among the others. A pool of sweat beads, resting on her cocoa butter-laden skin, dancing among strangers with no care – like her.
Others call her mysterious and seductive. She prescribes to being anonymous and free. She moves with a unique sensuality to the rhythm of hip hop, soukous, and reggae in a crowded basement on the east side of Lagos. The snare drum of “Karolina” by Awilo Longamba pulses out from the speakers. Her spirit pulses out from her being.
Karolina is a girl so difficult to forget/
She walks so heavenly and has shine in her eyes
From Monday to Monday I feel crazy about seeing you/
When I phone you, you are almost never at home….
Her hips isolate themselves and rotate around in a circle, while her hands grasp onto her chest, the sides of her neck, the small of her waist. Slowly at first, then faster. Her ass bounces while her kinky curls follow. Onlookers can only dream. Some take their chances, but she belongs to herself tonight. Before tonight, she belonged to someone else.
She reaches across her forehead to wipe the remnants of the last song away, with her mahogany skin glistening under the hazy crimson lights of the club. The sun has gone down long ago. Her inhibition has gone down long ago. The heat of the summer lingers on for what seems like forever. She just wants to forget it all happened.
The night winds down until it is no more. Midnight becomes early dawn, and the fullness of the club empties itself out onto the streets of Ikoyi.
She pulls out her phone from her bag: 3 missed calls, 4 text messages. All from him.
She opens their message history. Expired texts saying “good morning”, funny videos of animals dancing, their chosen terms of endearment (“honey” and “my sugar”), and the text she sent yesterday: a neat “I never want to see you again.”
11:53 p.m. – “Abeg, call me.”
11:59 p.m. – Make you no hate me ooo I know say you no go wan see me again..
(“I know you don’t want to see me again but I don’t want you to hate me.”)
12:34 a.m. – I been done call you before be like say you go somewhere..
(“I called you a few times, guess you might be out somewhere…”)
2:21 a.m. – E be like say u don tire for me. I go leave you waka..
(“I guess you’re over it. I’ll leave you alone.”)
She stared into the blue filtered abyss of her phone’s screen.
It was only supposed to be for the summer…
Just as soon as she thought she had sweat away the pains of someone else’s sins, the feelings of hurt and betrayal came rushing back to her. Her emotions were no longer hers. The crumbling of her being wasn’t under her control.
The man selling late-night grilled suya skewers half a block up the road saw it all. He yelled over to her, “How you dey?” (“Is everything ok?)
“Everything dey fine!” she responded back through tears. I dey fine.
She didn’t anticipate any of this. She didn’t want it. It wasn’t hers to hold. A summer fling: simple, casual, no strings attached. What was supposed to end after three months became like a waterfall. A river current she was swimming against. A chocolate cake she indulged in past fullness. A man she thought was just for the season became her magnum opus. And then, he became the person she wished would unsuspectingly fall off a cliff.
She gathered herself. Threw her beaded gold purse, holding just her keys, ID, and red lipstick for retouches, over her shoulder, and tried not to trip over her heels when she got up from the pavement. Her phone lit up.
3:37 a.m. – “I can’t sleep without you next to me.”
3:37 a.m. – “I’m sorry, Nkechi.”
3:37 a.m. – “Please, abeg.”
She read it twice. She contemplated. She hated herself.
She traversed back up the road to her car. Plodded. She had never been more conscious of her actions until this moment. She wanted to make the bad decision. To make the wrong choice. She shook out her curls and fluffed them just so. She sat for a minute and gazed out into the landscape of her homeland. The Ikoyi streets were so empty, it was like the world left her alone on purpose. She pulled out her phone.
3:52 a.m. – “Leave the door unlocked.”
And on she went. Into a shark’s mouth, into a summer that was meant to last forever.