10 April 2011

The Proposal by Victor Osa Asemota

Ehime was in a dense jungle. He found himself having to fight for breath because there seemed to be no air in the forest. He tried to move in search for air, but he could not move a limb. He had been fastened to the trunk of a giant Iroko tree by strong vines. When the noise came, it was abrupt, rambling, and unnerving. The jungle that had been a silent vacuum a few moments ago now exploded against his eardrums like discordant sounds of a million rain drops on a tin roof.

The babble preceded a storm that plucked leaves from the evergreen trees. His heartbeat slammed against his ribs making his chest heave like a breathing mountain, when he saw the fallen leaves turn into reptiles. They bared their fangs, flicked their tongues, and he looked on wide-eyed as they slithered towards him, their eyes flashing like moist coal on fire.

Ehime waited to die.

He felt something cold lick at his lips. It tasted like cascara herbal infusion his mother used to force down his throat as a child. The smell he perceived was that of a million dead rats in an ancient air-tight cave. Ehime forced himself to prise his eyes open, and there it was, a spitting cobra, its salmon pink throat contrasting with the black gleaming head that puffed atop its elongated body. Its dark gleaming eyes, a finger-tip from his face, glared into Ehime’s soul.

His mouth hung open in a stifled scream, as if wedges had levered his jaw open, and the cobra inserted its head into it licking a cold way down his oesophagus. He tugged at the tail of the snake, and to his amazement, it came out easily and he felt light as hot air. He ran like a gazelle that had escaped from a lion, and the vermin began to chase after him.

He skidded to a stop, right in front of him, was a chasm. He gaped downwards, but could not see the bottom. Rather than confront the animal onslaught, he took one limp step into the void of the ravine and plummeted into the abyss-.

Ehime was woken by a loud banging on the door, persistent and impatient. With sweat dripping all over him, he sat up. He did not know whether to be happy that it was only a nightmare or that the knocking was the beginning of another episode in the ordeal. He flicked on his miniature flash-light and peered at the clock near the bed. It was well past midnight.

A fright more gripping than the nightmare descended upon him. Ehime opened a drawer in his bedside cupboard, pulled out his Sigma pistol and checked that it was ready to go into battle. His fingers felt the cold metallic moistness of the gun which lent a touch of firmness to his jangled nerves.

‘Ehime?’ a voice said as the banging continued.

It was a woman’s voice. Ehime waited. The voice came again, unmistakable now. That was Omolara. ‘Who’s that?’ he asked, trying to detect whether she was being compelled by marauders.




‘Are you alone?’

‘What kind of question is that?’

Ehime flicked a switch, the single bulb threw harsh light on his clammy sweat-covered body, and hid the gun under the sofa cushion within quick reach. When she saw how his sweaty shirt adhered to his chest and shoulders, Omolara’s impression was that Ehime had been in an amorous romp.

‘What’s happening?’ Ehime asked, a little disoriented still.

‘I should be asking you.’ Omolara gazed at the half opened bedroom door. ‘I’ve been knocking for ages.’

‘I’m sorry, Honey.’


‘I don’t really know what happened.’

‘I’ve got another bag on the next landing.’

‘I’ll get it.’

When Ehime had gone down the stairs, Omolara dashed into the bedroom. She opened the wardrobe and glanced across to the bathroom. There was no other woman, she found with relief, her slamming heart beginning to simmer down like a pot of soup newly taken out of the torment of the fire. She felt guilty for suspecting Ehime so easily. ‘What is happening?’ she asked as Ehime returned with her bag.

‘Nothing. I was sleeping.’

‘What with all that sweat?’

‘I was having a nightmare,’ Ehime said and shuddered. ‘It felt definitely out of the ordinary, unexpected.’

Omolara pulled him to her bosom with her long slender arms. She rubbed his back and shoulders, a mother trying to lull her child to sleep. ‘My poor baby,’ she cooed.

‘Thank goodness you came,’ Ehime breathed and put his arms round Omolara’s broad hips appreciatively. ‘You would have met a stiff tomorrow.’

Omolara laughed. ‘What fabulous story! I never knew that my honey was still a baby that cried when he had nightmares.’ She patted his head fondly.

‘It’s not funny, Honey. I feel that somebody is after me.’

‘Who could possibly be after you?’

‘I suspect Taju.’

Omolara almost laughed again, but she saw Ehime’s lips, pursed, pulled inwards, signs of the tension and anger fermenting inside of him, so she contained it. ‘Come on, Ehime. You’re more sophisticated than that.’

‘I’m serious about this, Honey. Believe me.’

Omolara turned his face up from where it was resting in her lap so she could look into his eyes. ‘How do you mean?’

‘For a couple of days now, I’ve sensed eyes boring holes into my back.’ He pulled her head down and kissed her lightly. ‘I’ve applied a trick or two I’d picked up here and there, and I’ve seen two men turning the other way awkwardly.’

‘You’re letting James Hadley Chase influence you. He wrote some of those books before my mother was born.’

‘This is not paranoia. The nightmare might be what it is.’ Ehime stopped fiddling with Omolara’s strong ebony hair. ‘But the tailing is real. I’ve done my own counter-tailing, and one of the men led me to Satellite Town.’


‘Where does Taju live?’

‘Satellite Town.’

‘Constitution Avenue?’

Omolara nodded an affirmative. Her mood changed, creating a crease in her forehead as her eyebrows pulled down, nose flared. She wondered why most Lagos men didn’t take a simple no for answer? They expected every woman they desired to fall for them; her feelings were irrelevant, a whiff of cotton before the wind, if they wanted her, the woman must go along. She smelled the noxiousness of distaste as her mind stepped back six years when she turned nineteen. She had just defied her father’s will for her to study law and enrolled for journalism instead. As if the gully created by that was not enough, her father had started harping on her marrying Taju, the man he had nominated.

Things came to a head six months ago, when her father and Taju had mauled Ehime twice in three weeks.

‘Are you sure of this?’ Omolara said coldly.

‘I’m not Taju’s favourite fan, but I don’t hate him enough to go to the mundane level of assassinating his character.’

‘It’s time I had some sense knocked into his skull.’

‘What are you going to do?’ Ehime said and hoped Omolara was not thinking of some violent action.

‘I’ll have to tell him in clear terms to leave us alone.’ Her father’s role in the whole thing came to mind, but she forced it out immediately.

‘You won’t do that.’


‘I’m the one they’re stalking, not you,’ Ehime said. He observed Omolara’s chin jut out, but he knew, from experience, that her anger was brewing toward Taju. He didn’t tell her that he thought that Omolara was hiding their relationship because he was a common high school teacher. Her profile as a top-notch television reporter was daunting. He caressed her face and kissed her lightly.

‘I guess I have to talk to my parents,’ Omolara said. ‘At least you can’t stop me from that.’

‘I can because I am the subject.’

‘But it’s linked to me.’

‘Your dad hates my guts,’ Ehime said. ‘His rancour is bile in my mouth.’

Omolara hugged him for a long spell. ‘If we are strong, it will only become a stroll in the park, no matter the potholes on our way.’

‘Then let’s get strong,’ Ehime whispered and responded with a firm hug in his strong arms. It compressed the breath out of her. She gasped and exhaled onto his solid chest. Omolara loved the crushing sensation.

‘We are strong,’ she murmured. ‘I feel it.’

‘Not many waters can put out the flame you ignite in my heart,’ Ehime said. Omolara sensed unsteadiness in his voice as if he was afraid. ‘You have meant more happiness to me in the last year than I had known the two decades before.’ He tightened his hold around her as if he wanted to prove that his life depended on her love. ‘I want to keep it that way.’

Omolara bent her head backward to look at Ehime. She saw a distant determination in his eyes. ‘Why do I feel that this is a vow you’re making?’ she said.

‘Call it what you like, Honey, but I want it the way it is now.’ Ehime said, looked into Omolara’s eyes, and nodded with a hardly imperceptible movement of his head. ‘Forever.’

Omolara leaned back from the hug to see him clearly. ‘Take time off work tomorrow and let’s do something meaningful.’ she said.

Ehime wondered if Omolara was asking him to take time off for a day-long love making session. ‘What do you mean?’ he asked.

‘Let’s go to the registry.’

‘Registry?’ Ehime could not make sense of it.

‘I want to marry you,’ Omolara said casually as if she was talking about a dance date, and went to the loo.

Ehime blinked several times as if he was trying to douse peppery stings in his eyes and hit his old coffee table with his knee. The pain that seared through his wobbly legs confirmed that he was out of the nightmare. He chuckled ruefully as his mind went back many years.

His parents had just been killed in a road accident, so he was taken under tutelage by an aunt who always accused him of using witchcraft to eliminate his family. When one of the aunt’s children had died of cholera, she had blamed Ehime for the death and placed a curse on him: ‘Never will the womb of a woman carry your offspring,’ the aunt had proclaimed like a Sango priestess. That pronouncement had remained with Ehime, an abnormal swelling on his mind, especially after he had suffered a couple of jilts from girls he thought he had really loved. Now here was Omolara offering marriage on a platter. She must be playing pranks on me, he thought.

Two evenings later, Ehime showed up at Omolara’s house to spend some time with her.

‘Ki lo mbere (what do you want)?’ Chief Akaka Omolara’s father, asked as he opened the heavy steel gate.

‘I was wondering if I could see Omolara, sir.’

‘What do you want from her?’

Through a slit in her bedroom door, Omolara could hear her father howl like a cyclone, voice threatening already, and for reasons she couldn’t explain, decided stay inside and let Ehime sort her cranky father out.

‘She’s my friend,’ Ehime answered simply. He was beginning to feel the hostile welcome and understood why Omolara had warned him not to come to the house yet.

‘What kind of friend can you possibly be?’ Chief Akaka sneered, and waved his hand dismissively.

Reminding himself that the situation between him and Chief Akaka had taken a different shade, Ehime ignored the scorn. How love diverts one’s attention and renders you docile, he thought as his mind tinkled with a hundred stinging retorts with which he could have flattened this shrivelling old man. Sometimes you have to swallow red saliva and spit out the white because a woman loomed large in your heart. ‘Baba, you will change opinion by the time you know me like Omolara does,’ he said.

She no know you.’

‘More than anybody else. That’s why she’s my-’, Ehime bit his tongue and changed what he was about to say. ‘That’s why she’s my girlfriend.’

His big voice dripping with the slimy slur of slander, Chief Akaka laughed out loudly. ‘It is confirmed as I had suspected,’ he managed to say between bursts of laughter that brought tears to his wrinkled eyes. ‘Olodo ni e (you’re an imbecile).’

‘What I just said, sir-’.

‘Out my house, olodo,’ Chief Akaka shouted, moving menacingly, gait leaning forward, toward Ehime. He had his walking stick poised to strike.

Belief that Chief Akaka was too civil to assault him because he asked for his daughter, rather than fear — he had been in too many street brawls as a teenager to shy away from frontal attacks — made Ehime resist the tendency to bolt.

He was mistaken.

Before Ehime realised that the man meant business, the weapon was upon him. The first strike caught him in the left side of his head. He yelled and clutched at his ear, too dazed for any evasive action. Another blow got him right in the centre of his head, and a third would have landed, but he raised his hands instinctively. He caught it on the left hand. The blow was so ferocious that the little finger of his hand was reduced to pulp before he was able to manoeuvre the stick out of the old man’s grip and throw it behind a sofa.

Chief Akaka must have been surprised by the amount of blood gushing from Ehime’s ear. He just stood gaping, a bewildered spectator in a bloody fight, as the crimson red spread down the young man’s white cotton shirt like an invading army.

In spite of the pain raging in his ear, Ehime felt a kind of grisly pity, which he found bizarre, for Chief Akaka. The man looked vulnerable now that he no longer held his weapon. Ehime could easily crush this ancient in one swipe and assert control over his territory. But the blood of anger that boiled in his heart faded in the warmth Omolara’s love provoked in him. He looked at his blood-splattered chest and shuddered.

Omolara who had been watching the confrontation through the slit in her door, her mouth dry, was too paralysed for any action. She knew her father to be temperamental, volatile, a lightning in the rain, but the viciousness with which he had attacked Ehime chilled her spine to immobility. She could only wish that Ehime would go away before he bled too much, or was attacked again. If she came out now, Ehime would never understand why she hid while her father assaulted him.

She was still at a loss what to do when Ehime seemed to have perceived her wish, and, like a vanquished bull, retraced his steps and dissolved into the darkness outside. In her heart, the love for her father went limp like mimosa before the heat of the sun, a taste of sawdust in her mouth as she tried to swallow the insipid feeling he had evoked in her. When she was sure that Ehime was out of hearing distance, she came out to confront her father. ‘What did you do that for?’ she said, grasping hold of her sanity with twitching fingers as the venom of frustration raged in her soul like a snake that had swallowed chilli peppers.

‘Taju is the man I choose for you,’ Akaka said, felling like a guard who had successfully fought away the fox that threatened his poultry. ‘That boy is poison.’

‘No, Baba, he is not,’ Omolara said. Eyes cast down and damp, her head tilted to the side, and shaking slowly, she said, ‘Ehime is my husband, your son-in-law. We got married at the city hall two days ago.’

Chief Akaka stared at his daughter, but his brittle wrinkled eyes could not see her. He gaped at the blood stains on the floor, shook his grey head, and feeling like a stranger in a shrine, slouched to his bedroom.

The Proposal was written by Victor Osa Asemota.

Copyright © Victor Osa Asemota 2011.

I was born in Benin City, Nigeria. My interest has always been composing poetry and reading fiction. Some of my poems have been published in the Guardian Newspaper in Lagos, Nigeria and in various collections such as Collected Whispers of the International Library of Poets. I studied mass communication in Nigeria, before moving to Spain in 2002 where I teach English. But I want to communicate with you through my writing, rather than by what or where I have been. I am presently revising my first novel Memories Are Forever.


Anonymous said...

Nice one here. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Thats so interesting and i think im in love with you

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