She is my new lover, skin the red of blood from the last days of menstrual flow, somewhat brownish. She has become the symbol of the arousal my body feels when the savory taste of well-made Okpa explodes on my tongue, multiple sensations, maybe orgasms even. Her breasts, those mounds of hills topped with greens, are beacons that welcome me into her not so loving arms. Arms that could be as hot as the space between the devil’s thighs after a long day spent roaming, looking for whom to devour. Then, there are days when she draws me in, whispering deceptive promises borne in the cool breeze to me while my nostrils inhale the fresh smell of earth moistened by rain. She is Enugu. Maybe someday, like Calabar, I will call her mine.
My legs started itching as usual and I decided to wander into Enugu some weeks ago. I intended to stay at a friend’s place but things did not go as I planned and I ended up looking for a hotel.
So I checked hotels.ng for good hotel deals. First thing, I discovered was that there are relatively cheap hotels in Enugu compared to some other cities I had wandered to.
The first hotel I went to, a hotel listed on hotels.ng, was Amazon Hotel at 16 Njemanze street of Ogui road. It had great reviews and their standard room price was 4,500 naira.
It was around 7am. I was physically drained from the events of the previous day. I walked up to this receptionist and asked for a room. I probably looked funny in my travel joggers, black shirt, crazy hair and tired eyes. After giving me a cursory head to toe glance, he told me that I had to sit at the reception and wait till 10am which is their checking in time.
I was gobsmacked and I still wonder how I managed to politely thank him and drag my tired body with my luggage to the road.
At this point, I could not be bothered to check hotels.ng for another hotel. I simply stopped a keke(tricycle) rider and told him to take me to any good hotel.
Never make such decisions when you are tired, you’d end up where I ended up.
First Hotel, 17/19 Annang Street, off New Layout, Obiagu.
My first warning should have been how confused the address was. It was like, they just could not decide the exact position of the building. So you had 17/19. My second warning should have been the building. It was ancient and in needed of renovation. There were places where rain water leaked through the zinc on the tiny balcony the hotel has at the front. I ignored this because I was tired.
I stepped into the hotel and I was told their price range. Their single rooms were 3,000. The double rooms were 3,500. The deluxe rooms were 4,000. The single rooms were your regular standard rooms with regular beds, functional Air Conditioners, and a tiny bathroom with space so little it would discourage you from thinking of bathroom sex. The difference between the single rooms and the double rooms were the presence of king-sized beds in the double rooms. The deluxe rooms were mini suites because in my head, they were too small to fit into the idea of suites.
I opted for a double room because king-sized bed. The receptionist then thought it was her right to ask me if I was expecting a man over because I was asking for a double room. I was not surprised, I am used to the average Nigerian’s interest in the sex life of others. She was shocked when I told her the room was totally mine.
I checked in and all was well till I stepped into the bathroom.
First, there was this damp patch in the ceiling, above the toilet, that dripped water anytime the water pumping machine in the hotel was turned on. Second, the hotel had a rusty, nonfunctional heater and I was so thankful that years ago I made peace with cold showers. The shower didn’t work so one had to use a bucket.
But I was tired. And it was clean at least. So I settled in.
And the visits began. Friends bearing so much gifts and love. Those are my favorite memories of Enugu. My friend, Shammah, who is a chef cooked for me. Fortune woke up early in the morning to go all the way to ESBS to get Okpa for me. Meg visited almost every day. Homer brought Roots chocolate cake for me. I had steady alcohol and all was right with the world.
I made the hotel staff uncomfortable. I demanded earlier cleaning of my room on some days. And on a Monday when water miraculously stopped flowing because whoever was in charge forgot to pump water when there was light and their generator could not carry their pumping machine, I punished the hotel staff for this by insisting that water be fetched for me in buckets each time I needed it. And I kept demanding even when I did not need it. They were clearly unhappy but I was a customer who had paid for 10 days.
Apart from the hotel issues, Enugu was beautiful for me. I satisfied my craving for roast corn and pear. I ate good okpa, okay okpa and the nasty okpa that tasted of nothing else but salt and pepper. I was surrounded by beautiful friends who poured so much love into my emotionally drained soul.
And after 10 days, as I sat at ABC transport company’s Enugu bus terminal with Chudi, this amazing young man who made the best peppered chicken I have ever tasted and who is creatively mad, I realised I had fallen in love with Enugu. I realised that I would be back to explore this city again. And I realised that I would avoid atrocious places like First Hotel.