I look at Vera my wife now as she rocks our six-month-old daughter, Sarah, the second of our two children and all I can do is smile. The little girl does not want to sleep. She has no idea what I want to do to her mother all night and I am sure she does not care. She is just a little girl who wants her mother. I will wait my turn. As I make that decision I ask myself what could be better than spending the rest of my life with the woman I love and the two children we have together?
I recall even now how I stood by her side, giving encouragement, wishing I could take over from her and ease her pain when she was in labour for the birth of our first child, Joseph. It was in fact because I was there for the birth of our two children that I decided that it was enough pain for one lifetime for my beautiful Vera. Every sensible person will agree that two children are enough in this uncertainty that we now call our world. I look at Joseph sleeping in the corner and I know that my joy is complete.
“A penny for your thoughts,” Vera says breaking into my thoughts.
“You don’t want to know. Just wait till I get my hands on you,” I say in a wicked whisper.
“I can’t wait,” she says and I know that the night will be one to remember as with all things Vera.
This bliss would not have been had I listened to friends and family. And this talk about sex workers, arrest and rape in Abuja takes me back to a different time and place. Lagos in the late 2000s when fresh from the police college I had been assigned to a task force in the state of aquatic splendour. I had no idea what the assignment was and I did not bother to ask. The attitude I had adopted upon joining the force was to detach from what I was ordered to do, go through the motions until I could pass my correspondence exams and move on.
What I did not bargain for was that this very first assignment would have a profound effect on my life.
That night went very quickly and I remember it as if it happened only last night. I had been given the day off and told to report to work for the operation at 10pm that day. We got on the operational vehicle, a pickup van with a black maria in tow. We soon arrived the Opebi area of Ikeja, Lagos, smack in the peak time at a strip club. Before then, my knowledge of such establishments was from a few scenes I had seen in a handful of Hollywood movies. So the shock of seeing young girls on a stage in real life left me standing still for a long time. I must confess that part of the reason for my inertia was seeing Vera in the middle of the raised stage in her birthday suit. It was the most interesting sight I had ever seen up till that moment. My training soon kicked in and we arrested all the girls we could find in the club and those running the place.
We went to other strip clubs but my mind was not in it.
“What is wrong with you Moses,” my boss asked me the next day. The same day the papers were splattered with the shame of our operation the night before.
“I am all right,” I replied. How do you explain to your boss that you have seen something that had altered your whole life in just one look? He would definitely say you are mad especially after you explain what you had seen to him.
“Get hold of yourself. I need your undivided attention for the task ahead,” he said but the damage had already been done. There was no going back for me.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not take my mind away from Vera’s naked body. At that time, I did not even know her name.
I soon left all I was doing in order to track the progress of the case. I found out to my amazement that all of the girls had been granted bail and it was as if nothing had happened the previous night. If some of the papers did not have the pictures, I would have thought that I had just woken up from a dream I was trying very hard to recollect.
I soon found myself at the premises of the strip club, which had been sealed. This was another indication that I had not imagined what had happened the night before. That I had indeed taken part in an operation where some girls, which the screaming headlines in the media were describing as prostitutes, had been arrested.
As it is often the case, the girls had been given a media trial in the court of public opinion and handed a harsh sentence. And only one of the numerous strip club owners deemed it fit to grant a newspaper an interview to defend his girls saying that they were not prostitutes. He had explained that most of them were undergraduates who were using the money they were making from the strip club towards getting an education.
It was at that point I realised that I had started a search for Vera. A search for which I had no help from my colleagues, all of who thought I was going round the bend.
“Why do you care so much about finding a girl in a strip club when there are countless lovely girls in this command trying so hard to catch your eye?” said Princess one afternoon when she saw me at the canteen where I had gone for launch. To tell you the truth, I did not have an answer to her question. And that was the last time I brought up Vera. Apparently, tongues had been wagging about my enquiries after her whereabouts at the command. It took me exactly one year and six months to find her. At that point I had more or less given up on her.
Continues next week