(An excerpt from the novel AFTER THESE EERIE DAYS by Abiose A.Adams… continued from here)

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I grew up with this lump in my heart. A painless, yet uncomfortable lump, though smaller than the hardships of life, yet could not be swallowed up by it. A lump that informed that I will become an important somebody in life. But where I sat that afternoon on the coast of Lampedusa in Italy, freezing from the breeze, a short, round man, poked me with questions that burst my bubble. Questions that reminded me of how out, of course, the foundations of my life had gone, and of course I no more knew how to be anything, near important.

“Who are you? Where are you going? Do you know someone here? Who invited you? Do you have a relative here? Any address?” He asked all at once. I wanted to answer, all at once too, but his questions made me feel so stupid that any possible answer, blanked out.

Secondly, what would I have said? That I was a victim of trafficking or foolishness? That I was not even invited -a persona non grata? That I was in distress and without an address? That I was as clueless as a ship without a compass?

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“I’m Collins,” he said and spat on the ground. He was wearing a pinstriped shirt, which was tucked into baggy stone-wash jeans. He pulled it up to his waist, repeatedly.

“I’m here to pick up some gals,” he looked at me a little longer, as though expecting me to say, ‘pick me also.’ He had the air of someone familiar with shepherding clueless girls like me.

“….but looks like they all perished at sea…” he made a funny sound with his mouth, shook his head pitifully, and stared into empty air.

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“Anybody you don’t see didn’t survive,” I answered, trying to guess his nationality.

“Hmmh…tell me…tell me. What happened…”

But he didn’t wait to be told. He walked away, towards the beach, as though he could still find bodies of his ‘gals’. And then dragged his feet in disappointment, towards me again.

“Join me…huh?” he bent his toady neck sideways.

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I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t even pretend to. Not with the hostile breeze.

I was freezing, but the sun was cold. Unlike the African sun, I knew, this sun in Lampedusa, this European sun, was faint, aloof and cold.

So I joined the bus in which was another girl. Just like me, she looked harassed by life and haunted by her past.

We were so caught up in our traumatic worlds that we spoke nothing to each other through a drive of over 1000 kilometres.

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As we drove, I understood why Africans killed themselves to get to Europe. The cities, the road signs, billboards, bus stations, train stations, were all planned. Nothing was accidental. No afterthoughts. No power outages. And then cars drove in silence. There was an absence of hooting and road rage.

Initially, I had thought I was tone-deaf, as I was coming from a country where vehicles were always, mooing and honking at one another. Every creature in Europe, observed traffic lights, even the birds of the air.

Finally, Collins drove us down to a block of flats in Via dei Fori Venezia. The house had an electronic gate. He flashed a card and the gate opened by itself. Incredible! A nondescript African girl opened when we pressed the doorbell and led us into the small but tastefully furnished sitting room on the first floor. On the wall hung, a big painting of Michael Jackson, but the woman that emerged from behind the curtain, doesn’t, by any means, look Michael Jacksonish.

“Meet Signora Magdalene,” Collins gestured at her. She was in a drab gown. Attached to her hair was an afro wig that blended with the dark of her skin, and complemented her richly applied purple lipstick.

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“Benvenuto…” she said forcing a smile out of her stern face.

“Come e stat oil tuo viaggio,” she added.

“Yes,” we said, not fully understanding what she meant.

I later learnt Signora Magdalene was a Benninoise who had naturalized after living in Italy for 28 years and had a major trafficking merchandise.

In an unsavoury flash of what happened in Cotonou, she went over all our routine again. We were to go for skin treatment and overhaul our wardrobe, visit a hair farm and a tattoo shop, and lastly, she took us to a sex shop. She taught us a little Italian to help us transact.

“When you see a buyer, you say; “ti vuoi divertire un pò?” or “che occhi belli”, you hear?” She emphasized, pulling her left ear.

Hmmh…so I am now a sex hawker, a whore, a prostitute? Or to euphemize it, a body hawker, I thought. The average cost of a romp, she told us, was 30-50 euros, based on experience and negotiation skills. And we were to remit everything.

Alas, the day came for me to step out. It was a snowy and cloudy night. As cloudy as my future was that night. It would be an error to return to Signora without euros. It was either I remit or I run.

So I hit Rome’s famous red light district as a street-hooker. That night I felt that uncomfortable lump again. Even in that situation, I knew who I was, and I couldn’t bring myself to selling myself. So I wrote the words, “ti vuoi divertire un pò?” with black ink, on a white cardboard and hung it, like a tag, around my neck. I added a wristband that said, “two euros per minute.”

From far away, I could hear the voice of a lady singing along a ‘Maria Carey’ track in the Karaoke booth. I approached the pub with gnashing teeth, numb hands and numb legs, ordered for a cup of hot cappuccino, sat on the metal chair, my trembling hands, receiving the warmth of the hot mug.

Soon afterwards, a guy in a snazzy, ox-blood suede jacket approached me.

“Ciao…..Bella ragazza.”

“What do you want.”

“I like your badge,” he said smiling, pointing to the tag.

“You want some?” I said, pointing at my body, looking at him with sarcasm.
The message on my tag and my iciness must have given him mixed signals. As he looked unsure of what I wanted- to sell or to sneer.

He took a seat beside me, looked away from me and then quietly, gulped directly from a Biondi Santi bottle.

“You want some?” he etched his brow, pointing at his bottle.

I shook my head. My eyes fell on his hair. It was weaved in corn rows of six and the tips which were braided fell on his neck and shoulders. His face was oval, his complexion chocolate brown, squinty eyes, well-trimmed sideburns.

“I don’t take wine.”

“You are pretty.”

He looked rich and classy. He smelt pleasant. And for once, I felt my self-esteem rising to the skies because he desired me. I imagined myself in his arms, and I suddenly wanted to be wanted.

“Thanks?” I shrugged shyly.

“Can I?” He said trying to touch my wrist. “Two…. euros…. per…minute? What does it mean?” He squinted, at the lettering and then at me.
I returned his look without an answer.

After few minutes, other club members greeted him… some said ‘buon calciatore,’ and others said, ‘boun giocatore.’

I had no smattering idea of Italian or French, or what that meant.

“Can I take you home tonight?” He turned at me again.

That was the familiar offer that always made my heart race. I understood what it meant, and I hated to hear it. I was silent for a while: my head dropped as I toyed with the froth of my cappuccino. Then I noticed he drew himself to full length. His left hand in his pocket, his head tilted forward, and his feet set. I wanted more than a one-night stand. I wanted him to hook me up with a job, not to hook up with me like a whore.

“Where’s home?” I looked up at him.

“You wanna come?” his voice grew huskier.

So many what ‘ifs’ assailed me. What if he was a ritualist; what if I get killed; what if he was a detective and I get deported; what if he asks for my charge? Should I say 30 euros for 15 minutes or two euros per minute? The thought of present necessities compelled me to bite the bullet. And I found myself nodding slowly, agreeing, thinking of myself as cheap, cheap and cheap!


Abiose A. Adams is a novelist, investigative journalist and programme officer at TheCable Newspaper Journalism Foundation. She can be reached on [email protected], @abioseadams, 08174217144(WhatsApp only).

Synopsis (After these eerie days)

She is ambitious but unschooled in street-wiseness. Seventeen-year-old Funto Colesworth did not know the trip to study her dream course, Medicine, in France, is one to nowhere until she finds herself in a brothel in Cotonou.

Rather than remain there to hawk sex which she is mandated to do, she escapes and joins another set of human traffickers to cross the ghoulish Sahara Desert with ten other trafficked girls. On surviving, she continues her flirtations with danger; gets into a close-shave with death in the Mediterranean Sea, where she is the only survivor amongst the girls. Arriving Italy breathless, Funto is introduced to Rome’s red-light district, where she subsequently meets a rich and snazzy footballer, Khalil.

Their whirlwind romance would have resulted in marriage and landed her a fortune, but her hopes went up in flames again when he is killed by his irascible, psychotic twin brother Hamil. Then she realises the more ruinous cost of naivety when Hamil implicates her, leading to her imprisonment in Germany. Thrown in gaol, and with no clemency in sight, Funto felt defeated until she meets a Ghanaian missionary, Duncan Melanby, whose romance with her leads to the fence-mending between father and daughter, after twelve eerie years.



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