What the police and hotel security saw when they entered the hotel room was a naked girl covered in cuts and bruises and blood.
“He raped me, he raped me! Please tell him to leave me alone”. Vivian kept mumbling.
Chima was arrested and detained at Area F Police Command Ikeja, Vivian was taken to Duro Soleye Hospital for treatment. It was not how Chima planned to spend the weekend and public holidays, becoming a captive of the public was not in his itinerary. When the cell bars shut behind him and he breathed in his first lungful of urine scented air, his beards grew rapidly as if it had just received a fresh boost of fertilizer.
The 6 weeks Chima spent as a detainee at Area F Police Command were the most telling. He was often stripped and ‘interrogated’, with batons and boots, curses and starvation. He had nothing to confess, nevertheless the police went about extracting it religiously. By the time he released from detention, Chima knew he would always perceive the yellow-green smell of Area F forever. The pungency of it had clung to the ceiling of his nostrils like cobwebs in an abandoned building. Taken straight to the Magistrate Court, he was charged with assault and rape. Bail was set at a 100,000 Naira and he was transferred to KiriKiri Prisons. The journey to KiriKiri Prisons Apapa was in a rusty old truck, seatbelts were an abomination. Safety was completely ignored like the dental care of a Fulani cattle herdsman.
He was hobbled into KiriKiri, 20kg lighter than when he made love to Vivian. The scars he now bore both physically and mentally did not make him immune to the hazing that ‘Alejos’ or newcomers received when they arrived KiriKiri. Alejos ranged between the ages of 17 to 50, all at the mercy of the ‘Orientation Officers’, inmates who had arrived before them. FEAR THE RICH MAN AND THE POLICE was the most poignant inscription inside the prison cell.
Compared to his Area F incarceration, KiriKiri represented peace after the first night, a peace of the graveyard. It was an Eden of sorts, the prison grounds were full of ‘wildlife’ and fresh air. Lush vegetation combined with regular farming activities and serpents (in uniform and without) made for a more benign passage of time. And time stretched out like the limitless ocean in that inhabited but lifeless world. The inhabitants were like effigies, zombies with seemingly no purpose but hopelessness and a resignation to fate. The emptiness was infinite, the nothingness was unfathomable like the universe before the creation of light. So Chima was now a mere number, he felt like an astronaut of an undisclosed mission trapped in space. Gradually he was running out of oxygen.
The 2 weeks he spent at KiriKiri felt like a decade and he had aged accordingly albeit psychologically. Like a sailor who had survived a shipwreck, he was now fortunate to have been washed ashore. But his Island of refuge was populated with savages. Chima had a hard time re-integrating with the ‘outside’ world. Victor had disappeared initially but made his presence felt through surrogates. He hired a lawyer for Chima and contacted his neighbours, one of them was Humphrey who volunteered to help secure Chima’s freedom. Humphrey who was built like a basketball player but believed it was his duty to save everyone. The bail conditions were somehow ‘perfected’ and Chima was ‘free’ again. His trial continued like frequent asthma attacks, he had no idea if he would survive the continuous onslaught. Physical contact with Victor was impossible. He had skated back to the United States. Phone contact with Victor after KiriKiri eventually tapered from infrequent to non-existent.
The court case lasted for about 13 months. 13 months of jargon, procedure, adjournments and magistrate vacations. Finally, “Commissioner of Police vs Chima Okafor” was dismissed “as the court pleases”. However, the real circumstances that necessitated the termination of the case remained a mystery to Chima.
“Would you like something to eat?” Vivian asked after returning from the ladies room.
“Sure” Humphrey answered
“Who will foot the bill?” Chima asked suspiciously
“I will” Vivian said.
Vivian fawned over them like a mother hen and made sure their gastronomic needs were catered to that afternoon. Later she would joke about Chima’s fine cheekbones. Humphrey would laugh heartily at the joke, Chima would grit his teeth and keep his composure. She would mention that she regretted everything that happened, she will say it was due to an unforeseen attack of delirius tremens.
“That’s what the doctor said it was. He said it was possible through alcohol abuse.
“I haven’t swallowed a drop of alcohol since then, but I think that it is due to something else entirely.
“Do you remember this?”
She waved something in front of them. Humphrey was fascinated, Chima was stunned, for between her manicured fingernails were the remnants of the LSD strip she was holding the morning he was arrested.
“It looks harmless” Humphrey said
“It is harmless, at least to some extent” Vivian responded.
Chima who had lost his voice just stared as she went into a long narrative.
“I found it in my handbag after I was discharged from the hospital”.
She told them how she was upset and ashamed at what had taken place, but that one day while doing some research for her final year project, she had stumbled across an article on LSD. “I realised that I had blamed you wrongly for having it, but for what it’s worth, it may have cured my alcohol addiction”.
Chima and Humphrey who really had no idea what she was talking about just nodded and she continued.
“My parents had forgiven my reckless behaviour but my conscience was killing me. I had to do something”
She told them how she had confessed everything (except the LSD) to her father’s Personal Assistant, and how together they were able to convince her father to drop the charges.
“I’ve had your number since that night but I’ve been afraid to call.
“Please don’t hate me” she implored with tears in her eyes.
After a moment’s hesitation and an awkward moment of silence, Chima decided to unburden his mind. He quickly related the events of that fateful night and his struggle since then.
“It’s good to see you again” she said when he had finished his story. She marvelled at his resilience not knowing he had contemplated suicide several times without the will to carry it out.
“I am really sorry for all the pain I have caused you and hope you forgive me” she added.
Chima knew the pains of the past will never be undone, he also knew he had to allow himself a chance to heal. He tried to ignore the rise of her breast, her female scent and the seductive sound of her voice. Instead he chose to ignore the alarm bells ringing crazily in his skull. The desire that was growing inside him every time she spoke, everytime he caught a whiff of her perfume was driving him insane. A complete recovery from his affliction was only possible if he took the medicine that was before him.
His voice was hoarse when he asked “Are you saying that you still have feelings for me like you did then?” She shook her head.
“I had no feelings for you then, we had just met and it was purely sexual”.
Chima sighed in disappointment. The boner he had been carrying since Vivian returned from the ladies room was suddenly very painful.
“But I have never stopped thinking about… what might have been…”. She let her voice trail off.
“Me too” Chima said a bit too quickly, making both Vivian and Humphrey to stare at him sharply.
She produced a piece of paper with a phone number written on it.
“That’s my fathers Personal Assistant, he will help you to recover some of the things you have lost, it’s the least I can do.
“I have to go now, it was nice seeing you again”.
Suddenly it became clear to him why he’d not been able to move on. Why he had not been able to maintain any relationship since his ordeal begun. His illness had been cardiac all along and Vivian was the remedy. But Chima just sat there as she stood up and walked out of Mama Cass.
His arousal eased finally and after a speechless glance at Humphrey, he ran outside after her.
He approached her tentatively. “Vivian wait!” He said
“I no longer blame you for what happened.
“I’ve always thought about you and also what might have been if you hadn’t gone crazy that night”.
“Thank you” she said without even looking at him.
“Don’t you want to know where I live?” Chima asked carefully sensing an opportunity for complete freedom.
She looked him straight in the eyes and said matter of factly.
“I thought you’d never ask”