Seven hundred naira would hold me for one week if I managed it well by sticking to a meal daily and drinking enough water. I needed a job to take care of my second semester needs. I was tempted to sell off some of the clothes Maduka gave me but I immediately dismissed the idea. The embarrassment I got concerning those clothes was an eye opener. I even need money to get more clothes and shoes before these ones becomes like a school uniform also. I need another shoe, I have a wet looks shoe and a palm sandals. The sole of the shoe had worn off badly that I wondered if I was bow-legged. It can not survive the next semester. I would need to change the sole or get another shoe. I also realize that some students must be waiting to see the day that I will change my shoe. The best thing was to get another shoe and start wearing it immediately.
I hit town once again. I walked through the length and breadth of Owerri looking for any job that could pay anything. I ended up at Executive Gardens Hotel at Okigwe road. I got the job of a Bar man on a monthly salary of two thousand naira. I was quite happy at first but after working there for a week I almost abandoned the job and run away. But run to where nah?
I resumed for work as early as 7AM and because people do not come out to drink in the morning hours, my job was to join the room cleaners in cleaning up the rooms and dressing the beds, we change toiletries, disinfect the toilets, scrub the tiles on the walls of the bathroom and so on. The kind of stains I saw on bed sheets in some rooms after the guests have checked out are better left untold.
After working in the rooms until 1PM, I go downstairs to the bush bar and begin to clean up and set the tables and chairs in readiness for the day’s business. I stock up the Freezers with drinks; I take record of the opening stock of drinks and cigarettes in the bar. It was a Bush bar with DJ and life band facilities.
At 6PM I go back upstairs to take my bath and change into the hotel uniform of white shirt on black trousers then I return down stairs to join my colleague to begin the night’s activities. I do not rest until 2AM or 3AM when the last drunkard would have left. What actually bring business to the bush are the girls that come to hustle. I have never in my life seen such a careless and shameless display of immorality. The girls come from every where claiming to be students of the several higher institutions in eastern Nigeria. They come in varied shapes and sizes dressing seductively to woo the male, any male, as long as he has got cash. Many students from my school, including my lecturers come to patronize the bar and the girls. The girls were on take away basis or short time basis at the chalet in our hotel.
By 9PM the bar is at the peak of activities with either the DJ or the Life band entertaining and customers dancing. Men and ladies drinking and smoking, bar men running hitter titter to attend to customer’s need. The girls dance to every music showing themselves while the men sit and watch and eventually pick their choice of girl by sending us the bar men to invite the girl to their table
By 12 midnight, they begin to fizzle out in twos’, some go into the hotel to spend the night together and others to “God knows where”. I then sit down after the last person has gone to count my tips which I had tucked into my back pocket to avoid adding it to the company’s money that I collect from customers.
Till this day I still wonder how some ladies came to the hotel every night and went away with different men each night. Some would have had three to four short time sessions with men in the hotel before finally going home with another man. They called it hustling and they don’t give a damn.
An incident I will never forget at the hotel happened the night a fine gentleman was brought to the hotel by his friend just to prove to him that his fiancée was not whom he thought she was.
The so called fiancée in the company of her friends and five men were on a round table setting eating Nkwobi, drinking assorted spirits and smoking cigarettes. They were chatting loud and having fun.
The fiancée was high on spirit and she stood up to dance to entertain her client for the night. With her cigarette in her left finger, she zoomed into the client who was seated; she pulled his chair backwards so she could have a space between him and the table. She then came between him and the table dancing seductively and rolling her back side in his face. She then sat on his crouch facing him with her full Bosom under his nose. Her cream coloured mini gown slipped up revealing alluring thighs. The randy client dug his head into her bosom and did things with his mouth. Her mates on the table were cheering, we were watching.
It was when Mr. Randy grabbed her butt and squeezed that hell was let loose.
The gentleman fiancé screamed “chineke me ee”! awunanam ee! (My God, I am dead) the man screamed stamping his feet as he charged towards the table: Nkechi! He shouted: Nkechi! Ihe a, obu ilo k’ogini! (Is this a dream or what?)
Jesus! Jesus! Was all Nkechi kept muttering as she jumped off her client sending the client and his chair tumbling over and she ran out of the bush bar leaving her bag and shoes behind. They were engaged to be married in a weeks’ time.
We did not resume for the second semester as stipulated in the academic calendar, we rather resumed into a long session of industrial strike action embarked upon by the academic staff union due to non payment of salaries and allowances accrued over five months. Students went back home after waiting for a week without resolution between the government and the academic union.
I continued my routine work at the Executive Gardens. I was paid my first salary of one thousand seven hundred and fifty naira after deducting the amount I incurred as loses due to breakages and forgetting to collect monies from some customers. Many cunning customers sneak away without paying for their drinks. Some would have finished drinking and eating pepper soup before remembering that they forgot their wallets at home. We also have the “book me down customers”, these are regular customers who drink through the month and pay off at month end when they collect their salaries.
But I was okay, my accumulated tips for the month was about one thousand five hundred naira so I had over three thousand naira with me.
We stayed home for two months before the strike was finally called off by the academic staff union and school resumed in earnest. I had worked for three months and I could boast of over seven thousand naira. I felt very rich and so I boarded a bus to the popular Ariaria Market in the city of Aba. I went with a colleague at the hotel, a cleaner who had told me a lot about how one could get very cheap commodities at the market.
I purchased four trousers, four Polo T shirts, two short sleeves shirts and two long sleeve shirts. We later left Ariaria Market and went to “School Road” street to buy a brown Timberland safety Boot and a black brock’s shoe. I spent two thousand five hundred naira on all the purchase. I never knew clothes and shoes could be that affordable even though the shoes were fairly used they were rock solid that one could easily take it for brand new from Italy. I bought a lot of food stuff too and I was ready for the second semester of my 200 levels.
Within two weeks on resumption of the second semester, I had redeemed my image. Maduka bought more clothes for me again, I told him I have enough as I narrated my holiday experience to him, he however dropped the three trousers, four shirts and one canvas on my bed. Chinasa watched as I changed into different clothes daily for two weeks stretch. He could not hold his tongue as he shouted again on a Monday morning when I wore white Polo shirt on a fitted blue Jeans and Canvas;
Old boy! Abi you go rob Boutique? Make una see Omo o! I just dey look you all these days I no want to talk! Omo na who provoke you nah?
Guy leave that yarn o! na God dey do am; I replied
There was also mixed reactions from my class mates, but I noticed that I got more friends, especially the ladies.
I stopped going to the Hotel daily except for weekends that I went to help out with work. I was not being paid salary but I earned my tips.
Our first semester result was released mid way into the second semester. My total CGP was 4.80. I was still the best in class. I wrote a letter to Mr. Adegoke and gave him update of what I did during the holiday till date. I got his reply after two weeks and as usual after reading his mail, I was charged the more. I dug into my books harder. He reminded me that I should never take my tests or assignments for granted. He said if I could score the whole forty points in my test and assignment, all I need is forty more points out of the 60 examination points to make an “A”. He said majority of students take their tests and assignments for granted and begins to struggle to score the whole 60 points in examination which is always not possible. Those are the average students, I was a first class material, he had written.
My self esteem rose higher in the second semester as I got several compliments from Guys and babes alike when I dress. I had grown into a 6 feet 3 inches tall young man. I have good stature with hard hands developed over the years farming in the Village. I have a gap between my incisors and when I smiled or laughed my cheek dimpled. I have dark eye brows, dark shinny hair and moustache. My stomach was flat with six packs and my waist is narrow upon long tapering athletic legs.
Poverty had not made me to realize my natural endowment until in my second year in the university at the age of twenty three
Towards the second semester examinations, I became involved in several tutorial lessons organized by year one students. I was paid by the students at the end of each session. They imposed levies on all attendees to pay me.
It was another long vacation and a busy one for me. I went back to the school where I had taught during the last year’s holiday and I was engaged. After teaching in the day, I went to executive Gardens to work at night. I was put on permanent night at the hotel. I sleep between 2 to 3AM. I slept in the hotel as there were rooms for staff member s to sleep at night.
There was this morning that I decided to cut my hair at the hotel’s beauty salon downstairs. That was the first time I went in there to cut my hair because I just discovered that it was free of charge for the staff.
The raining hair cut style then was “Tyson cut” or “punk” I requested for Tyson cut with a side pattern. After cutting my hair, an idea struck me. After the December GCE examinations which I wrote as a mercenary, I was free during the day until at nigh when I worked at the Bar, I used the day time to stay with Silas the barber at the hotel and in three weeks I was cutting the hair of little kids and teenagers while Silas cut the adults but on Christmas eve, I barbed both the old and young, boys and girls. I had to stay with Silas at the Salon due to the influx of customers during the yuletide though I would have preferred to work at the bar on such a night.
The two months strike came to an end too quickly, I was too preoccupied making money to save for the rainy days. Once again I went to Ariaria Market in Aba and bought a brand new super taper Clipper, I bought two yards of white silky fabric and pegs for covering Customers, I bought assorted brushes and combs, methylated spirit, dusting powder and cotton wood. I bought a two feet mirror also. I spent just a little over four thousand naira. I returned to the hostel and kept my purchase properly secured in my box.
School resumed in January 1993 and I entered my three hundred levels. I would be 24 years old in May.
Chinasa was the first person that I cut his hair in the hostel, he had said he wanted to go for a hair cut in town when I told him that “wetin dey for sokoto dey for sokoto”. He asked what I meant and I told him to wait and see. I brought out my clipper and other barbing accessories, I unhooked the mirror I hung on the wall and I told Chinasa to follow me as I pulled a plastic chair along from the room. We went to the front of the hostel and I plugged my electrical extension box into a socket in front of the building. I told him to sit down while I wrapped him with the cover clothe, I pegged the clothe behind his neck and I gave him the mirror to hold so he could see his face as I work on his head.
Omo na wetin you wan do? Chinasa aked
Wetin e be like say I wan do? I asked
You sabi barb hair! He asked concerned; I never see you barb hair before o! omo make you no use my head to learn work o!
Relax! I said; you no go pay!
Omo! No be money be my problem o! I get money to take go barb my hair for saloon o! I no like to do osho-free o! If you spoil my hair ehn? He sounded scared.
Relax Chinasa! You too dey talk! I said.
I cut his hair, he was happy. I cut the hair of fifteen other students that morning at 3 naira per head. That was the end to penury in my student life.
In other not to obstruct my studies and my quest for academic excellence, I resorted to barbing only on weekends and public holidays. I stand from 7AM to 7PM barbing students. Students would queue in front of my room waiting in turns for hair cut. I was sure of six thousand naira every weekend. I began to lend out money without interest to students that were broke and those that need money to travel home. I had a debtor’s note book to keep track of my increasing debtors, even the Porter of my hostel, the “Man o war “president and the SUG president were among my debtors.
My story changed and my fame spread in the school community. I began to visit the student centre to eat and entertain friends. I grew from borrowing test books to buying my own text books and lending out to students too. I opened a savings account with union bank and my savings grew every Monday morning so that at the end of the year I was over eighty thousand naira rich in my bank account.
During the long vacation of 1993 at the age of twenty five, I did not go to teach. I went to Executive Gardens Hotel to work.
I travelled to Aba to buy shoes at school road. I changed my wardrobe entirely then I bought fifteen pairs of assorted shoes. I took the shoes in a travelling bag to the hotel and sold to Staff and Customers. I sold at twice the cost price and people still thought it was very cheap.
The owner of the Hotel was an Abuja based politician. I never met him until much later. I begged the General manager to allow me to display my shoes on a table at the entrance of the bush bar and he obliged.
I went to Aba Ariaria every Monday when the merchants opened bails of Clothes and shoes in order to get the finest products before owners of Boutiques in Port Harcourt come to buy off everything at exorbitant rates. I became very comfortable by my own standard, money was no longer my problem but my problem was how to spend the money. It was just me alone in the world, no relative. By this time I was like a staff of the hotel, every one knew me as the Yoruba boy that barbs hair, sells shoes and serves in the bar. Almost every one that worked in the hotel owed me money at one time or the other. My dress sense improved greatly as my taste changed. The power of money. Also at this juncture I had started to speak passable Igbo Language by virtue of my association with Igbo people at the Hotel. They insisted I must learn and speak the language.
1994 I was in 400 levels at the age of 25. My grade at the end of my third year was 4.76 CGP. I went down a little in my third year but I was fortunate to have started up as a four pointer from inception. I wrote to my mentor, he also had become a PhD holder. He had bagged his doctorate and also secured employment as a lecturer at the prestigious university of Ibadan, the premiere University or so that called it. It was a vey voluminous one I wrote to him as I updated him with all that happened in my life over the year. His reply was equally voluminous with emphasis that I do not loose focus on my academic pursuit. Once again, I resolved to stay focused. I decided to start burning the midnight candle.
It was on saint Valentine’s day in 1994 at the bar that I first felt the impart of the love cupid arrow. I was busy working at the bar at night. It was Val’s’ night and the number of customers that thronged in was over whelming that we had to resort to “pay before service” basis. It was work from 2PM till dawn of 15th February.
I was giving change to a customer who had come to the Bar shelf to buy drinks. My eyes beheld her as she entered the bar; she stood at the door and looked around as if looking for someone. Something hit my heart and it stop to beat for some seconds. Jeez! Was the word that came out of my mouth. The man I was giving change looked behind and saw her too. “biko give me my change bar man!” he scowled; you never see woman before?
I gave him his change, I did not know how much but he grabbed it and went away with his drinks.
She looked around until our eyes locked; she smiled and glided towards me swaying gaily like she was on a run-way. Her eyes sparked like crystals as she smiled, she was about five feet nine inches tall. She was neither thin nor fat. She was perfect. Her Bosom was full and appropriate for her frame. Her curves were perfect in her fitted black mini gown, her stomach was flat and she had the loveliest legs on earth. This emotional confusion had never happened to me. I was still a virgin at 25. Though I sleep and dream of making love in my dreams sometimes only to wake up and notice sticky discharge in my boxers, I have never had Sexual intercourse in real life.
As she stood before me smiling, something moved in front of my trousers and I had to move closer to the bar shelf to hide my bulging crouch. I could not understand what was happening to me.
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Hi! She said
Hello! I replied
Please I am new in town, I don’t know how you guys operate here but I need a bottle of Heineken beer and some chops; she said
I was breathing fast, I was confused so I pointed at a lone chair and told her to go and sit.
There! Someone will attend to you please! I stuttered.
No! Sorry please, I stuttered again; you will pay here and collect your drinks, then you can go there and enjoy your drink. The smell of her cologne was mesmerizing my senses as she opened her purse to pay up.
Keep the change she said.
No! I said as I gave her the bottle of Cold Heineken beer.
You said no? She asked
Yes! I replied
No! Yes! What are you saying? She asked
Sorry, I mean the change! I don’t want to keep your change; I replied
She laughed, my heart jumped. I was fighting to keep my emotions under control
Why! She asked; you don’t collect tips here?
We collect, but I cannot collect from you! I said
Why is that? She asked
Are you married, did you come here with someone? Are you waiting for someone here? I asked all three questions together
She laughed again and my heart almost tore through my chest. She did not know what her laughter was doing to me. I did not have any line to use on her; I had never wooed any woman in my life. This is when my classmate would have called me a “Jew man”
Please I will bring your change to you, go and sit there before someone else takes over the seat. She collected her drink and swayed towards the lone seat at the far end of the bar. The bar was dimly lit but she shone as cat-walked towards the seat making heads to turn to stare at her. She was beautiful to behold from behind. The curves, the firm round buttocks and the fresh long legs.
Omo na wetin dey do you? Emeka my colleague had asked
Mekus! I swear I no understand wetin dey happen to me o! Woman never affect me like this before o! I don see babes tire for this hotel nah, but none dey like this one! I explained.
You sure say she no be hustler? Emeka asked
She don marry? I asked Emeka
Which kain stupid question be that? I sabi her before? Emeka countered; I beg attend to customers’ biko! See as your trouser don swell because of the girl.
I cowered immediately; so Emeka had seen it? I needed to stay away and calm down so my crouch could calm down also.
So many thoughts went through my mind. What could a beautiful girl like this be doing here alone? Perhaps to hook a man. I have been seeing girls come and go from the hotel, I have seen all shades of the female specie but this one was unique. She was young, say between eighteen and twenty two years. She said she was new in town, but how could someone new in town locate here of all joints in Owerri? I opened a chilled bottle of Gulder beer and gulped straight from the bottle as I sat behind the bar shelf away from prying eyes. It helped me. The chilled drink sent charged sensations through my system and I became calm.
To Be Continued…