Clothes, everywhere. Clothes removed with an urgency of passion that now seemed spent. Two lovers lying on a poster bed. Bed in a hotel room with its balcony door open. A sultry wind beckons at the soft curtains, raising it ever so lightly, like a practiced voyeur’s peep.
Two naked heterosexual lovers. Young man engrossed with his cellphone. Middle-aged woman enjoying a cigarette. The air is that of opulence. It does not feel transactional, this affair, but it definitely is illicit.
One hour earlier, precisely a minute before noon, a middle-aged bespectacled lady wearing a beige skirt suit and remarkable brown brogues had checked into a hotel room. Fifteen minutes later, she opened the door for a young man who looked in his late-twenties.
Then clothes fell. They helped each other get rid of the clothes with such practiced urgency. There was a method to their movements and there was an ease too.
When he squeezed her buttocks, a gasp escaped her. She closed her eyes and hands went in search of his member as if she had kept it where she groped.
It was their first time at the hotel room and it would be their last. They needed to stay out of the news, out of the prying eyes of those who made the pleasure of others their business. Besides, he had a marriage to save and she had a reputation to keep.
They had met at a dinner with his in-laws. He and his wife and his daughter had arrived late for two reasons. 1. They lived in Shagamu, although they often claimed they lived in Ikorodu. 2. His beat-down Toyota Avensis had a leaking radiator and there had been traffic.
His wife had introduced him to her as a distant cousin but called her aunty, perhaps because she was older. The Vaughns were definitely rich and cosmopolitan but they held strong to aspects of their Yoruba values, so that when Aunty Remi wanted a post-prandial smoke, she excused herself and edged elegantly to the balcony.
He watched the different shades of scorn on the face of her relatives at the grand dining table. His mother-in-law hissed before her cutlery fell to the ground with a clanging sound. He had finished his meal and wanted some of the cool salty breeze on the balcony too.
She felt his presence once he got to the balcony door. She was first startled but she recovered quickly and then offered a reassuring smile. She took a good drag into her lungs and issued a plume of smoke out of her nostrils first, then let the rest jet out through an aperture of pursed lips.
He was uneasy but he spoke all the same. He said something that felt stupid the moment it left his mouth.
“Why do you smoke?”
She didn’t look at him when she said, “Why don’t you smoke?”
“I asked why you don’t smoke…” She paused so that he could put his name in her sentence.
“Boye”, he said, “I used to smoke.”
“So why did you kick the habit?”
He looked at her and looked towards the dining table where his in-laws and wife busied themselves with dessert.
“Your wife? Lara?”
Later that night as they journeyed back to Shagamu by way of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, his mind was with the car engine. He listened diligently for the slightest offensive sound knowing that a refill of the radiator was due once they passed Ibafo.
“What were you and Aunty Remi discussing?” his wife asked, “It was rude that you went to join her.”
“Nothing”, he said, “just small talk.”
“Aunty Remi said she is moving back to Nigeria. Did she mention that to you?”
“Yes, she wants to start a branch of her business here”
“And you said you people were doing small talk. That is not small talk”
Their daughter made a grunting sound and they both looked behind the car, ending that conversation.
This was more than one year ago. Aunty Remi had since moved back to Nigeria to establish her company. Boye had become her manager. The branch in Nigeria had declared a profit three times that of the London office. And Boye had moved his family to Ikorodu proper.
“Do you love her?” she asks issuing out a jet of smoke. She is smoking The Business Club, a fancy name for a dessert cigarette. They had once laughed about why she smoked post-coitus and post-prandial. She had said, matter-of-factly, that sex was food.
He had asked what that made him.
She looked at him in the most guileless way and said, “Carrot”.
They laughed for days.
“Do you love her”, she asks again.
“Do I love who? Lara?”
“Who is Sara? Oh Sara, at the office”.
Sara, the office receptionist, is a young lady with an OND in Accounting and a spread of buttocks that did not match her pimpled face. She was the last person that should come into a post-coital conversation between two illicit lovers.
“Do you love her”, the question comes again with an assured resilience about it.
“No. I don’t know”, he says. His voice is shaky and his hands are sweaty.
“Boye, you are fired”, she says.
He is motionless. He watches her as she stands. She picks her clothes from the floor and is soon fully dressed, save for her red thong, lying on the floor like a snake-skin slough.
She takes her bag from the bedside table and walks toward the door before she stops and says, “and we want a divorce”.
Dami Ajayi (@ ) the author of poetry collections Clinical Blues (WriteHouse Collective, 2014) and A Woman’s Body is a Country (Ouida Books, 2017), is a Senior Registrar at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Lagos.
Related country: Nigeria