How Old Are You Now? 1

Episode 1

By Nenye

We are all gonna die, trying to get it right….”

Dirty Thirty. I think whoever coined this term must have either been a cynical unhappy woman who needed a name for her perpetual horniness or a man suffering from bouts of misogyny and a twisted sense of humor.

I wish I had the time to explain ‘Dirty Thirty’ to you if you do not yet know what it means, but I don’t, and Google is your friend anyway.
My phone is lying on my bed while I am tidying my makeup, my mother’s voice blaring out from the phone’s speakers, grating the insides of my head in places I never thought a headache could reach. She is praying for me, like she always does, but birthday prayers are different, and for my thirtieth, her words are a torrent of heavily layered blessings and pleas.

“Turn down that music, Muna! What’s that?”
I switch Vance Joy off from my Macbook mid-wailing, “It’s off now Mummy.”
“Master Jesus! In the mighty name of Master Jesus!”
“My Jehovah Overdo! The Lion of the tribe of Judah! The one who says the final Yes! My Jehovah Agidigba! The one who makes a way in the desert! There is no one like you Father!”
“No one like Him Mummy.”
“Baba God! I put my daughter in your hand always. Today is her Tartieth Birthday! Thank Baba God for life, Amen?”
“God, bless her as you use to bless all your children. Bless the fruit of her labour. Bless her pot Daddy’m! Bless her pot!”
“Mummy…” What the heck does ‘bless my pot’ even mean?
“Bless her pot so that the sweetness of all the food she cooks will invite a good man that will taste her food and marry her! Baba God! Bless her pot so that she will find a healthy rich man to take care of her and give her plenty fine-fine children!”

I line my lashes for about the fiftieth time this morning with mascara as I whisper another Amen.
“Baba God, Time is going, but the time of human beings is not the time of God. God’s time is the best! Ogechukwu ka nma, Amen?”
“Amen… Look, Mummy. I am running out of time. I have a job to get to and I can’t afford to be late.”
My mother pauses, then lets out a long-suffering sigh: “Munachimso, you are now lacking patience. You are changing, my daughter.”
“Maybe we should talk about this when I come back from work?”
“Is your work more important than this prayer I am praying for your birthday?” She is decidedly disbelieving that any self-respecting woman of my age would pick work over a mother’s spiritual intercession, and how can I blame her? There is something about living in a rented one bedroom apartment and having your own car in Lagos that causes your family to think that every faucet in your home gushes out crisp naira, and all you need is a husband to preserve it all, including your spoiled rotten soul.
I sigh: “Mummy, Biko. After work, okay? Keep praying for me. When I come back we will round it up.”

I can almost see her shoulders sag in frustration. She is probably sitting by her dresser in that ancient bedroom, her wrapper hanging loosely around her breasts, her bottle of Goya oil nestled deep in between her clasped thighs, the cane not far away from where she is seated, because when you have acute arthritis, you either choose a cane or a wheelchair and even though the latter is easier, God forbid it that my mother allows herself to be confined to something that will prevent her from stirring her ogbono soup with just the right amount of aggressiveness.
“God bless you, my daughter,” she says in a defeated voice, and I want to say, “God bless you too Mummy,” because she would like that. But I say, “Thanks” instead, because that is all I can muster before I hang up.

“That was quite intense, though…”
I turn around, jolted. I had momentarily forgotten about Stanley, naked and sleek from the shower, wearing my bathroom slippers and finger-combing his beard.
“Yea, conversations with my Mum are usually like that.”
He crosses the space between the bathroom door and my bed in short strides and cups my face in his oversized palm, “Happy Birthday Beautiful.”
I want to sneer, “Yea right you Bastard. Is that why you fucked my friend last week?” but I say nothing, because I shouldn’t care. He is here after all, isn’t he? Looking down at me with his watery brown eyes, droplets of water lolling down his bald head and getting lost in the lushness shrouding his square chin. I sit obediently while he clasps my neck ever so gently; before trailing a finger down my chiffon blouse and squeezing my breasts with both hands, a wry smile forming around the corners of his mouth.
“I don’t have time for this…” I whisper.
“I will make it quick.” He rasps and I roll my eyes. Dude isn’t that the only way you know how?
I let him turn me around and bunch my skirt up to my waist, tugging at my panties with an urgency that rips it into two.
“You keep ruining my underwear!” I groan as he lowers my head to the bed and taunts my buttocks with his penis before ramming into me unceremoniously.

Thrust. Stroke. Thrash. Wildly. Yea. Just like that.
A sense of shame swells in my head as I holler, “Yes Daddy!”
Aren’t I too old to be bestowing fatherly titles on men who have more glorifications to their stellar body count records than their resumes?
And true to form, the sex ends just as quickly as it began, with him collapsing on my body, sweaty, heaving, and laughing. I feel his wetness across my lower back and cringe.
Damn! My phone is ringing again. It is Chichi.
“Birthday Girl, Where the heck are you? Boss dey find you oh!”
Shit. I wriggle off Stanley and sit up straighter. “I am coming. I am just turning in to buy fuel.”
Chichi hisses, “You bloody liar. You better leave birthday sex for after work hours and get your ass down here!”
“Chichi leave me jor,” I spring out of bed and start to repair the damage on my face, watching Stanley with the corner of my eye as he gets lost in his iPhone and rolls to the other side of the bed.
Ehen?” She retorts, “Isn’t it your Dirty Thirty?”
God. That term. I cut her off as she bursts out laughing and toss my phone in my bag, straighten my skirt, and search for a new blouse because the other one is now scrunched up in the middle.
“Please don’t forget to drop my key with Baba Yusuf,” I say to Stanley as I grab my bag and Macbook on my way out.
I hear him ask, “Where the party at?” but I ignore him.
I am in the Ladies’ Bathroom, talking to the mirror.
Get a grip Muna.
Get a grip Muna.
Get a grip Muna.

My nose is running. My eyelids are wet, and I keep blinking. My mouth is dry. My heart racing at full speed.
God. I am a mess.
Getting to office, The first thing I had done was report at my Boss’s, that dreary room littered with testaments of his love for travel. My Boss, who has insisted severally that we call him Kola, looked me over from the plushness of his mighty mahogany seat and said, “Muna, you messed up the calculations again.”
“Sir?” I was truly bewildered.
He reclined in his seat. “Tega from MTN called again. The logs you sent to them, shabbily done. How you stay so consistent in your incompetence is always an enigma to me.”
“Oh my God, I am so sorry Sir. I didn’t know..I thought that…”
He raised a hand to silence me. “See? That is the problem. You are always thinking. You think so much that you forget to do. Tell me, how do I explain to Tega that you messed up the logs because you were thinking?”
I looked away from his steady glare, removing imaginary dirt from beneath my fingernails.
Kola shrugged: “You need to figure out what your contribution to this company is and how to better hone your focus. As at this time, you are all over the place, and I can’t keep making excuses for you.”
“I am really sorry Sir,” Empty words. I know. Empty words.
He signalled for me to leave, and as I turned around, he said, “I don’t want to ruin your birthday for you, really. We will talk about this next week. Happy Birthday Dear, or is it, Happy Dirty Thirty?”
As I shut his door with a smile that did not reach my eyes, I was convinced that my face was burning.
I ran to the bathroom and here I am, grasping for steadiness, for a grip, for anything.
You messed up the logs and so what? Breathe. Muna. Breathe.

You mess things up all the time. Are you ever going to grow up?

Just give me a few minutes, will you? Make that a few seconds. In a few seconds I will be fine. I will wipe my face, dab on fresh cologne, and sashay out in true birthday spirit, into the waiting hugs from my colleagues, the teasing, the singing, the cakes, the shared silent jokes and winks with ChiChi.
Just give me a few seconds, and I will be fine.

Night finds us at Club 57, me and my ‘friends.’ There is ChiChi, my wingman, Laura, the two-faced bitch who makes it a point to sleep with every man I introduce to her, Jam-Jam, my married friend who left her six month old baby at home to turn up with the girls, and Seyi, who comes to hang with me everytime I ask and is literally the life of every party.
Tonight I just want to down shots and shots of tequila and wriggle my body to Wizkid and Davido. I already feel bloated from eating so much cake at the office, and my belly is jutting out of this really tight dress I am still shocked I can fit into, but I do not care. Tonight, I want to grind my buttocks against the crotch of a faceless, nameless man, to flirt heavily while I blow circles of shisha smoke in his face. I want to make suggestive purring sounds in his ear like a dumb twenty year old, because when you’re thirty, you have to slash your age by about a decade before you allow your body to do stupid things.
They tell us that we are supposed to know our bodies by thirty, that we should embrace the flabbiness of our stomachs and the new downward sloping of our breasts as testaments to our well-lived girlhood and a blossoming into a fulfilling womanhood. The internet uses this word often, Embrace, for it is supposed to represent such a powerful and womanly feeling.

They say that at thirty, you can do anything, say, pee on a stick without quivering. That shit is for teenagers. At thirty, you take pregnancy tests and get positive results and birth children out of wedlock that you post on your Instagram and hashtag MyPurpose. At thirty, you are supposed to be liberal, liberal and feminist, especially if you are single. At thirty, you should have drinks with friends and look down your condescending noses at women your age who sacrificed it all to raise a family.
Should it matter, though, that only yesterday, you were a starry eyed nineteen year old with a sheet of paper tucked in a bible underneath her pillow, bearing a list of everything she wanted to become in the next ten years? Should it matter that you absolutely hate your job and you are failing so badly at it, failing at everything really, including the most basic of relationships? Should it matter that only last night, you sat hunched on your toilet seat, your vision blurry from tears, because the test stick affirmed your pregnancy fears and you have no idea how to go about the business of raising a child whose father you are thoroughly ashamed to reconcile a future with?

“Muna Are you alright?” Chichi’s breath is in my face, alcohol and cigarette. I realize now that my bare feet are in a pile of my own vomit, and there is shattered glass all around me.

All of this does not matter now, does it? At thirty, you’re supposed to have your shit together, shouldn’t you?

PS: Bybarh is excited!

11 thoughts on “How Old Are You Now? 1

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