Midnight Stars

by Tubal Cain

I am standin', looking, at this heap across the street and Iím imaginniní that if I ever run into real quids, Iíll settle down and build ma self a heap like this, 'cause it has what is called 'style.í

I hear a strange noise, its like someone is cryiní, I open-up the blind the more, Iím lookiní through a closed window. The security lamp outside is very bright. I see a gal just outside ma window. Sheís dressed in blue SLEEVELESS SATIN. Canít guess the age. Rain is drizzliní outside there. She's got no slickers, no "brella and no hat. Sheís cryiní like crazy and soaked wet. Sheís lookiní at me, cryiní. "What are you doiní cryin' outside ma window?" I yell

She moves her lips as if talking, I canít hear a word. Turn to the front door, I signal with ma hand. She moves.

I move to the palour and open the front door. Here she stands, pretty, yes very pretty without necessarily being beautiful. Sheís at the stage of life when if you are looking to find a woman you see a child, if you talk to the child, you discover a woman. "Good evening," she says. I turn round to look at ma clock, it is 2.00 a.m. "Good evening indeed," I say.

"May I come in please?" she says. She's drizzliní wet, thereís a tiny pool of water just outside ma door already.

"Who are you?" I ask, "I am Edith ya neighbourís daughter," she says.

"Go home then," I say.

"No oneís home," she says.

"May I come-in please?" she says again.

"Ma carpet will be soaked," I say.

"Iíll pull ma clothes," she says and pulls down the zipper immediately. The dress falls instantly to the floor. The top is completely naked. Iím seeing them. Yes, the apples. Iím wondering if whoever carved the acclaimed "Venus de Milo" saw anything half as good. Ma voice is gone. "Go away", I try to say, ma lips can't open, I swallow hard, no difference, she enters, pushiní past me.

"I could use a wrap," she says.

I look at them and the face. I remember precisely the 22nd hour of 29th of September 1932 when I first touched Ruth. But thatís another story.

"Please give me a wrap, Iím catching cold," she says.

I move to the bedroom, and pick a wrap; I come out and throw it at her. "Thanks," she says and wraps up. She parks herself on ma settee.

"Iím very hungry, please have you got some food?" she asks. I canít talk. I now remember Iím hungry maself; I go into the kitchen to warm the soup I left in the freezer.

I put the food on the table. She eats uninvited, I canít utter a word, I canít eat. I pour maself some brandy. She gets into the kitchen, picks a wine glass, gets back and pours herself some brandy. "Who are you?" I say surprisingly. "Iím Edith your neighbourís daughter," she says.

"Where have your folks gone?" I ask.

"I donít know," she says.

"Are you not living with them?" I ask.

"No," she says.

"What do you do," I ask.

"Iím a model and I dance part time too," she says.

"Very interesting," I say. "Where do you do all these?" I ask.

"At Minds Hotel. It's around Surulere," she says.

I now remember. Minds Hotelís where most pornographic films made within the country are shot. All the Live-in girls there are readily available.

Well, if this is what this generation of ladies in our society refer to as modelling, then, Iím wise to why more and more gentlemen are becoming Reverends.

"Now, what would a girl from decent family like Mr. Kayodeís be doing living in a place like that?" I ask.

"Whatís wrong with it? After-all everyone is doing it these days. If you donít realise it even those ladies that work around those offices do come around in the evenings and weekends to get customers. Donít you realise itís not easy making ends meet these days?"

"How did you get into all this mess?" I know Mr. Kayode is rich, heís comfortable and from all indications he has a lot of discipline as an individual. "Whereís ya wife," she asks.

"Thatí none of your business, is it?" I say.

"Well," she starts.

"Whatever pushed you into this way of life?" I ask.

"Well," she says, getting up, she moves to ma newspaper heap and picks up one of them.

"Itís all very mysterious," she says.

She fondles with the newspaper, then starts, "please donít interrupt till Iím through," she says. I nod.

"I never really liked school, so I left in ma second year at the University. I really wanted to be a model, so I approached a friend that was already in the business and she took me to a Lebanese living around Satellite Town. I was given an offer to appear for recording on two days of the week, for a fee. I was more than happy, other things followed. That was six years ago. Here am I now."

I am just staring at her; she puts her legs up the table and reads the paper aloud. Sheís mad, I think.

"General Doya says Nigeria is not yet ripe for Democracy," she reads. "Melancholia," she says. I look up this word from ma dictionary, it says "mental illness marked by depression and grounded fears." "This man is so confused," she says. Iím silent. "He is a classical example of the Frustrated Soul as described by FULTON SHEEN in his peace of Soul handbook, donít you think so?" she says.

"Never heard of him, whoís he?" I say.

"Heís a psychoanalyst, who believes that if a frustrated soul is educated, it has a smattering of uncorrelated bits of information with no unifying philosophy. Then the frustrated soul may say to itself: ďI sometimes think there are two sides of me - a living soul and a Ph.D.Ē that such a man projects his own mental confusion to the outside world and concludes that since he knows no truth, nobody can know, that his own scepticism which he universalises into a philosophy of life throws him back more upon those powers lurking in the dark caverns of his consciousness.

"Are you listening?" she asks. I nod.

He thinks such a soul changes his philosophy as he changes his clothes. On Monday, he lays down the tracks of materialism, on Tuesday he reads a bestseller; pulls up the old tracks and lays the new tracks of idealist; on Wednesday his new roadway is communistic; on Thursday the new rails of liberalism are laid; on Friday he hears a broadcast and decides to travel on Freudian tracks; on Saturday, he takes a long drink to forget his railroading and on Sunday ponders why people are so foolish as to go to church. Each day has a new idol, each week a new mood. His authority is public opinion, when that shifts, his frustrated soul shifts with it.í

"You really know how to criticise others, donít you? You should be ashamed of yourself instead of going about criticising innocent people," I continue.

"Are you any better than maself?" She says.

"You have no right to talk to me that way, Iím old enough to be ya grand-dad, besides this is ma house. Now leave immediately," I yell.

She gets up, kneels on the floor and starts begging. She loosens the wrap deliberately, it falls to the ground. I see them again. Ma voice is gone. She knows and sheís moving towards me.

"Go away," I say, pushing her away from maself,

"Stop acting," she says coming closer, "you want me now. You pretend you can do without me but ya face says it all." "You canít resist this," she says, holding up those apples.

I swallow hard. "Even Adam in the Bible needed company, he was given everything, he was not happy till Eve came. Stand up and do it now." She says.

I'm doing it. May be Iím mad. Rug. Settee. Kitchen. Bedroom. Bathroom. I wake up. Sheís sleeping beside me here on the floor. I get up. I'm floating instead of walking. I draw-up the window blinds. Sheís awake.

"Dí you want me to go away?" she says.

"Why not?" Donít you realise youíre a pros..." I stop; the expression on her face is indescribable.

"Whatís that you said just now?" She asks.

"Oh, Iím just asking if youíre not a 'emÖ professional model," I stammer, she keeps-mum and looks kinda gloomy. "Thereís nothing wrong with modelling," I say as sheís still looking at me.

"We are stars if you donít know, real stars."

Of course, I understand, real stars, yes, why not, sure, mid-night stars.

"Iím going out and Iím going out with ma key," I say, she gets up immediately.

"Whereís ma money?" She says

"What?" I yell.

"Iím talking about ma two hundred naira," she says.

"Youíre not serious," I say.

"Neighbours will decide that," she screams.

Ma voice is gone, I now understand.

"You pay up or I stay, it will increase by a hundred naira every passing day," she screams. I look up the clock on the wall, it is 7.00a.m.

Iím jobless, Iím broke, I have just thirty-two naira (N32.00) in this whole world so Iím finished.

Ma neighbours canít hear any of these. This is evil. She has already used every four-letter word I have ever heard and quite a few that are new to me. An endeavour like this is too lively for ma taste, Iím a quiet old man.

I have no choice.

Edith is expecting ma baby.

I wish I could be so sure.

Nothing can be hidden forever.

Iím a hustler from the east, stuck-on a hooker from the west.

Not an ex-hooker but a hooker.

Sheís still very active. Iím too old.

With no friends, no relatives, just Jerome and the expectant confounded kid.

No use going back east. I

ím not welcome.

Maself, Lagos and superstar for now.

Every one here calls me BABA-IBADAN.

I have no choice, do I?

Midnight Stars

Midnight Stars by Tubal Cain

© Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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