“Na so dem open mouth dey look me! Na so me self give dem eye!” I said triumphantly to the listening ears of my roomie Janet.
“Ehen… wetin come happen na?” She inquired further.
“You self be mumu, why you no tell me say you don land modeling contract, I for teach you dat waka wey dem model dey do… err…wetin dem dey call am again…. CATWALK!”
As she stood and gave me some steps of her own, I stared on but my mind was far away. I remembered the auditioning and everything that happened earlier at the modeling agency vividly.
Immediately I had jumped up in the air and licked the dust off my palms, the man who had given me the flier beckoned to me and I followed him to his office to the displeasure of the other girls. The office wasn’t well furnished, there were cobwebs everywhere and dust particles on the seat. He brought out a handkerchief from his pocket and dusted a chair which stood behind a very odd looking table and sat down. I sat down as well but didn’t dust the chair; he avoided my gaze and produced some papers from his drawer and a pen.
“What is your name?”
“Senorita!” I replied full of confidence.
“Was that the name you were given at birth.”
“Shio…see question!” I answer.
“Do you have an I.D card?”
‘Dat one na tori, no be wetin you yan me yesterday be dis oo.” I say.
“Okay… I am just trying to help you fill your form.” He says.
I shrug and look away, angry at myself and him. How could he act the way he did at the reception? Why did he embarrass me that way?
“Are you still interested in the position?” He asked.
“Why I no go interested?” I answer, giving him a hurting look.
He took a deep breath and exhaled, piercing me with his gaze, he asked.
“I hope you understand that modeling is not for the lily livered.”
“My name na Senorita, Seno for short… I no tell you say na Lily livere.” I protest as I felt he called me another name.
“That wasn’t what I meant but err… I’ll look past it. Could you give me your house address? Where do you stay?”
“E no far… abeg no dey waste my time, do this modeling sharp sharp, I wan comot go meet my bobo.” I say nonchalantly.
“You dey craze? You tink say dis place na for play play? If you no wan do model comot for here… na serious business we dey here so. If na my Oga you meet, e for slap you comot for here quick!” He warned as he rapidly changed to pidgin.
“Oga abeg no vex… I never tey since I come Lagos so… I need help. Na for my friend house I dey crash, sometimes I dey see food chop before I waka reach bed. Helep me Oga, I wan model abeg.” I plead, falling on my knees and crying profusely.
“E don do… I hear you, na ya kain pesin we dey find…if all de gials for reception be like you ehn… Naija go know say, models don land. But I wan ask you something…”
“Ask… Oga mi ask abeg.” I said, wiping the tears that clung to my eye lids with the back of my palms.
“You fit keep secret?”
I jump up from my kneeling position and beat my hands on my chest hard, looking at him, I say;
“You never no Senorita! My mouth no dey gree open once secret cross am!”
“Okay… that’s all I need to hear.” He said switching back to English.
“Shebi I don get the modeling job!” I ask quietly.
“Hmmm… well… it depends on you and my reports, but come back tomorrow…. I’ll give you a solid response, I just need to take a look at your file again.” He said.
I fall on my kneels a second time and plead.
“Oga…anything, I fit do am! Abeg give me modeling make I do… I no fit dey for poverty again.” I cry.
He opened his drawer and brought out a sharp razor blade, I stared on as I couldn’t understand what was happening. When he beckoned to me, I walked over to him.
“You will take this oath of silence, all that will happen to you from now on will be a secret, the day you utter the words to anyone, you will die.” He said, emphasizing the last word of the sentence.
“Na today I begin die?” I said, sounding tough.
Using the razor blade, he drew a sharp line on my right thumb; I didn’t utter a sound but watched as my blood dropped to the floor rapidly.
“You can go…come back tomorrow by eight am for the proper auditioning.” He said.
I nodded and fled through the door running home as though my life depended on it.
I was still engrossed in my thoughts when Janet nudged me roughly;
“You dey here so? Seno….” She called.
Janet had a problem in pronouncing my new name, it wasn’t a difficult name to pronounce but somehow I feel she is jealous because I found a better name than hers. Janet used to answer her native name during our village days but when she came to Lagos, she too changed her name as well. When Janet returned to the village last year to give me the details of Lagos, I was thrilled and excited to follow her to the exotic city she had so vividly described. Arriving at her one roomed apartment had been wonderful as I had never seen a city so complete like Lagos and I was too happy to lounge in the house she called her own. However, my true nature beat me to my senses as I began to get fed up of living with her, I started to wonder how she had lived in Lagos for over four years and was still living in a small one roomed apartment. I made up my mind to change my living conditions once I had enough money but the issue is; I have never had more than two thousand naira in my life.
“I dey jare my sister… make I sleep small, dem say I go waka reach deir tomorrow.”
‘Dem teach una catwalk? Ya picture nko? Dem no snap una picture?” She asked.
“No… dem just give us form, add question join body …dats all.” I reply, yawning and stretching.
“Ah… dat one no be modeling ooo… e be like one chance!” she said sounding disappointed.
“Abeg Janet, I wan sleep…which kain nonsense one chance you dey yan.” I snap.
Janet shrugged and lay down on her bed to sleep while I stretched out on the floor. Since I moved in with her, Janet had guarded her bed like a mother hen. She had never for once offered me the warmth of the bed even on cold nights. The hard ground hit my back like ice cold water and I muttered to myself;
‘My time to hammer don dey near, after dis modeling, my body no go ever touch ground again I swear.’
The time for the second day of audition was supposed to be eight am but I was at the venue at 6am. I waited alone till it was ten minutes toeight o’clock before some girls started trickling in. The woman at the reception walked in at eight am at the dot. We were only ten girls and I was too happy to be among the privileged few. She asked us to write our names down again and one girl helped me spell my name, I quickly memorized the spelling using the commonest things I could remember. Putting my nursery school ABC rhymes skill into practice, I quickly formed spun a song from my name; vowing that no one would ever write it down for me again.
“S for Shepe, E for Efo, N for Nothing shele, Ofor Ogi, R for rice, I for I no go die for Lagos,T for tori and A for akamu…dats spells SENORITA!”
At ten am, a bus arrived the modeling agency and we all boarded the bus, we didn’t really know where we were going, all we knew was we were going to be models. The driver took us to a big hotel quite far from the audition venue, I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. We alighted and went into the reception area were a young lady spoke to us in a very funny accent, I didn’t understand, I just kept nodding and repeating the response of my fellow models who seemed to have no difficulty in understanding the tongue twisting language of the receptionist.
We were ushered into an air-conditioned room where we were given different foods to eat and drink. I mentally insulted myself for not carrying my Ghana-Must-Go bag to the place so that I could pack all the leftover foods and drinks. The food kept coming and even when my stomach was full, I couldn’t stop eating, I vowed to eat for the next day as I wasn’t sure of food. The other models watched me and laughed, and then one of them said to me;
“Shio… you wan burst?”
“Wetin consign you?” I spat.
“Models no dey chop plenty ooo…abeg softly…”
“Food na shit… e go soon empty for pit…” I retorted.
I looked around for a polythene bag but could find none, the food before me was too large to waste and I couldn’t bear the thoughts of the receptionist and other workers in the hotel, eating my food while I go home to soak garri without fish. I cleared my throat and asked one of the waiters who had come to clear our table.
“Abeg una get cellophane?”
“No ma…” He replied.
I rejoiced silently at the ‘ma’ he added to my title, ‘Senorita don step up sha’, I say to myself.
“Una mean say, for dis big hotel so, una no get shikere cellophane.” I asked again.
“No madam.” He replied.
I rejoiced again at the title ‘madam.’
“Okay ooo but I no go leave dis food for here lai lai…” I warn.
“Eat as much as you want, we have no polythene bags ma.” The waiter said and walked away.
The other models had began to chuckle and make jests of me but I ignored them, I gave all who cared to listen a firm warning as regards my food, especially since the waiters were all around the place, clearing tables. Standing to my feet with my very full stomach I walk to the reception where I ask for the way to the toilet, the receptionist shows me and I follow her direction.
The toilet wasn’t what I expected, the beauty of the place brought tears to my eyes, the whole place was confusing as it was beautiful. It was decorated with mirrors and small toilet seats beside the mirrors which I was to learn later that they are wash-hand basins. I walked over to the wash-hand basin and tried climbing on top of it but it was too high for me. I jumped but my buttocks couldn’t reach the small wash hand basin, in the process of my jumps, one lady walks in and gives me a funny stare as she couldn’t comprehend what I was doing struggling to sit on the wash-basin which was obviously hand wash. She opened one of the doors directly opposite the mirrors and wash-hand basins and entered the small compartment which I recognized as the toilet as I sighted the toilet bowl through the door she had just opened. I had initially thought the doors led to rooms within the hotel but since the woman had proved me otherwise, I entered the toilet and sat down on the loveliest bowl I had ever seen. It was the same as the one in my compound but neater and better. I got down to business as I struggled to empty my stomach of all the garri I had soaked before leaving the house and if possible all the unpalatable dishes I have ever eaten before today. I ended up filling up the toilet and walking out of the restroom without flushing or cleaning up.
I arrived at the room where I had sat earlier with the models, thankfully, my food was still there but all my fellow models weren’t in the room anymore, they had disappeared. Remembering some of their names, I screamed;
“Nene! Ojiugo! Lola!”
I ran back out into the reception and kept calling to the alarm of the receptionist and waiters. They all ordered me to keep quiet.
“Why I go quiet? My models…I no see dem again… my own don finish today. Senorita! Food don kill you ooo…” I wail loudly.
The receptionist keeps speaking to me in a reassuring voice but I don’t understand a word of what she says, I keep screaming till the man who had given me the flier yesterday emerges from one of the rooms. I rush into his arms, nearly hugging the life out of him.
“Calm down…what is the problem?” He asks.
“Na shit ooo… I run go shit kia kia… I return, I no see dem!” I wailed louder.
“Keep quiet, they are with the Don, pull yourself together.”
I begin to lift the hem of my shirt over my head hastily.
“What are you doing?” The man demanded.
“You talk say make I pull… I wan pull na…” I sniff in reply.
“I didn’t say that… come with me, the interview has already started.”
I nod and follow him into the room he emerged from, the room leads to a staircase which we climb till we get to our destination. He opens the door to one room and ushers me in, my fellow models are there with some hefty looking men, smoke fills the air as a result of cigarette smoke.
“Is this the only one left?” One of the men asked.
“Yes Don.” The man with me replies.
I quickly scan the room; there were atleast five men while the others are the models. Some of the models were drinking liquid while struggling to swallow some kind of lump-balls, a few others looked shaken and scared. I shuffled my feet and stared at them, regretting my decision to visit the toilet earlier, suddenly, it seemed as though my stomach was empty.
“What is her name?” The Don asked the man who brought me.
“Senorita!” The man replied.
The men laughed and some of the models laughed too, the Don remained silent and after a while, he looked at me and said;
“What did you audition for?”
“Modeling sir.” I reply.
“Hmmm…before modeling, you must pass the test…” He said to me.
“Test… err…shebi e no hard?” I inquire.
“Give her the kolanuts…” The Don said, turning to the man who brought me, he asked.
“Bongo…has she been sworn to secrecy?” For the first time, the man’s first name was used.
“Yes Boss, she knows that if she talks…it’s straight to the blazing fire of hell!” Said Bongus trying to sound threatening.
“Good.” The Don said looking at me quietly. “Senorita!” He called.
“Sir!” I answered quickly.
One of the men walks over to me and gives me a bowl of over fifty kolanuts, I accept with thanks but don’t understand what it’s for.
“Swallow them all… if you want to use water, fine! If you want to use beer, fine! But you must finish them and defecate them in due time.”
I watched as pills were given to the other girls and they quietly swallowed the pills. I was relieved that I had emptied half of my bowel already before coming.
“Those pills are to help you defecate them quickly.” The Don proffered.
As I popped the heavy kolanuts into my mouth and struggled to wash them down my throat I wondered;
“Wetin consign Kolanut for modeling? Abi dem be Padi?”