I’m a terrible drunk.
I laugh obnoxiously when I teeter dangerously at the peak. When I crash, I sob violently like a jilted bride or I sing like an insane drug addict. The in-betweens are always blank. I don’t mind. When I’m drunk, I don’t stagger. Staggering is for beginners. My walk is a mix of a cat-like strutting and area boy swagger. It’s a beautiful imperfection.
There’s a river near the club. It’s the perfect scenery because when it’s 2 am and bodies mesh into bodies, sweat intertwining with semen, the breeze from the river keeps the bodies cool. When I dance, some weird thirsty male pressed against my back, I look at the river and get jealous. It knows what it’s like to be free. I don’t. I detest the sight of it.
The boys near the club have grabby hands like the sellers at Dugbe. They grab your arm, your breasts, like they are brand new clothes but, this time, you are what is being advertised. When I walk past, they only hoot. Tobi says it’s because of the cloud of darkness that follows me. I think it’s the walk, the cat-like strutting and area boy swagger. It’s not what they’re used to.
The river taunts me every night and I know it. It calls loudly like an estranged second wife but I ignore it like a proud husband. The last lover I had called me a coward. The bastard was the coward, afraid to be fully anyone’s. When the river calls, I yell back that I’m not a coward. If I were a coward, I wouldn’t be at the club. I wouldn’t pay the slimy bartender with a payment that cannot be converted into naira every two weeks. Stop calling me a coward.
Drink, drink, drink, the sweaty people scream and I drink. Vodka, whiskey, beer, palm wine. They all mix at the bottom of my stomach, a strange concoction of spirits that will possess you. I’m a champion of the spirits. Dance, dance, dance, the horny men scream and I dance. Shakushaku, azonto, tesumole, the occasional sexy salsa. You become intoxicated with the music till the beat is in your very bones.
When I finally get enough power from the spirits, I walk, catlike strutting and area boy swagger, to the very end of the river, far away from the club, and I stare at it. It stares back, serene.
You’re a fool, I tell it. You can go anywhere and you stay here like a fool, in one spot. Go! You’re free. It doesn’t reply. It moves quietly, waiting for me to appease it.
I’m not a coward. I’m here. I’m here, facing you. It reaches out for my feet in a show of affection.
I’m not going to apologize to you, I fold my arms upset.
But I’ve been waiting for you. That’s why I’m still here so we can be free together, it rumbles softly.
Oh…I’m sorry, I say. It doesn’t reply. I sigh as I feel the spirits begging me to make peace. I put one foot in.
I didn’t mean to say that. I just want to be like you. I thought you were showing off. This seems to soothe it, though it stares hesitantly.
I put another in.
The river is like an upset man. You have to be fully submerged to please him. Its hands grab my feet and rise slowly to my knees. The spirits are quiet in my belly. Its hands move up, cooling my hot shaking body till it holds me by my waist.
I’m sorry, I say again.
The river embraces me till all that is left floating is my head.
You’re a coward, it speaks. It kisses me and swallows me whole.