The bite of the cowhide lash brought me out of my stupor with a jerk. Its stinging pain sharpening my groggy eyes which immediately looked around, frantically trying to ascertain my current coordinates and altitude and more importantly the source of this “sexual harassment” as the whip had being laid across my bare buttocks.
But all I could discern around me was a horde of white robe flaunting humanoids each holding a koboko which they flapped against the their not-so-white robes as they stared at me, swaying and slowly chanting in unison;
“This new year…..you no go craze again”
I was on a hard, cold cement floor. Legs attached by chains to a bolt in the ground and hands hog-tied with my belt; the last piece of my clothing left on me.
One of them wearing a yellow sash, long tufts of grey hair sticking out of his ears and sporting almost waist-length dreadlocks, shoved a large clock almost up my nostrils and said: “Na just 15 minutes for us to enter 2013. No worries Jah Almighty go don heal you by then!”
As high priest ‘Ear-Hair’ dropped the clock by my face, raised his koboko and stepped backwards to carefully place one stroke across my nether regions, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this hell?”
This last thing I could remember was hanging out with my new friends across the street. I had come to Benin to visit my aunt for the New Year celebrations and it hadn’t taken up to a week for me to discover like-minded boys in the vicinity. We had being chilling in Nnamdi’s house since his parents were out of town and finally after days of continuous arguments, Hakeem had come through! The “Ukwani Igbo” was now available for me to prove my LasGidi bred prowess in smoking weed.
This woman’s scream was the combination of a Banshee’s shriek and an Elephant’s labour trumpeting. And it was always a precursor to a flogging spree. I managed to attract the attention of high priest ‘Ear-Hair’ before they started the chanting and flogging, and struggled to push the words out of my chapped lips “Oga abeg, I no dey craze”
Before he could reply, the banshee/severely constipated elephant woman screamed once more and blows began to rain on me again. I managed to get a glimpse at the clock in between my screams and pleas for mercy and it was 10 minutes to “Happy New Year!”
In retrospect, being in Nnamdi’s house wasn’t the last thing I could remember. The actual last thing I could remember was bathing in the mud puddle in front of the community market, after proving my worth to those dull Benin boys and walking out of the compound with my Gidi swag down to the market to meet my aunt, a series of weird things had begun to occur. First, for some unknown reason my voice sounded like that of Enya – high pitched as fuck, my head felt as big as the overripe water melon the Aboki in my street junction always trying to sell to me and boy, was I hot!
I was virtually on fire!!
So I decided to do away with those restrictive clothing and take a dip in the cool and inviting flood water on the street. On second thought I can begin to see where things had gone wrong:
I may or may not have entertained my “audience” of little children with very committed and passionate Azonto dancing.
I may or may not have invited a beautiful girl passing by to join me in my “Jacuzzi” and,
I may or may not have… on second thoughts never mind.
For a second time this New Year’s Eve I was shocked out of my trance-like state. This time with a bucket of ice cold water… in this Harmattan? According to the clock, it was now 7 minutes to the New Year and the horde were getting set for what I think was the final exorcism of the demon in me.
My mind once again went back to my actions of some hours earlier, I had really in the words of any unknown but very profound poet “shat the pooch”. It wasn’t that bad though, I just hoped aunty had conveniently forgotten to mention this to my parents. After all, the worst I had actually done was… to stumble on High priest Ear-Hair and two members of his congregation trying to discreetly move a corpse out of their temple.
Things made far more sense now. How the hell am I supposed to get out of this?
Beg and grovel?
The pungent odour of fuel filled my nostrils and I opened my eyes for the third time to find one of them standing over me with a receptacle apparently filled with the incendiary. High priest Ear-Hair threw me a look which contained a ting of regret, a wallop of pain and for some strange reason a hint of excitement and gleam of anticipation as he nodded for the man to begin dousing me with the fuel.
He finally deigned to speak to me for the second time, “My boy 2013 don reach oh, Happy New year! You get new year resolutions?”
As I closed my eyes and settled down to wait for the inevitable ripping sound of the match stick striking, my thoughts were simple; a New Year was supposed to be a chance at a better life, an opportunity to make a change and do things better. And what was coming, was obviously a big life change. If I had a chance to do it again, I so would not have stepped into Benin.
The match-stick scratched through the rough side bar and the phosphorus ignited with a whoosh. I opened my eyes for the last time, glared at high priest Ear-hair and happily announced in the best English accent I could muster;
Happy New Year Plonker!
The Director just had to ruin the moment….
*First posted on The Urbane Mix