by Ifeanyi Dike Jr
I was speaking to my friend, Dami about this week’s theme; I blurted out,-“Rags to Riches” with as much excitement as a deflating balloon. And with a look that barely hid its intention, she insinuated what I was already thinking.
“I know right” I responded to the question asked by the roll of her eyes – this story is one that’s been told possibly through every medium tell-able, from songs to movies and even dreams and visions.
Most common in Nigeria, everyone has a story of how he/she started from scratch, with little or nothing and these stories usually end in a question I presume is rhetorical- “see where I am today?” (Well, I hope it’s rhetorical). And I’m not by any means saying that it’s a bad thing or that these stories are false. Not at all.
As I get back to my desk, in a room void of light except that which is emanating from my laptop, I’m still thinking of the best way to write this piece. So that I can at least lighten the effect of an obvious cliché, I want to do an article that has never been done before and isn’t even remotely familiar.
So, I’m staring at a blank page when suddenly a light bulb comes on over my head (no literally, the light bulb over my head came on, Dami turned it on).
Shall I tell the story of my friend Liz? Then I’d have to use a pseudo name like Jane? Ok, Jane it is.
Jane was three when she lost her parents and she had to move in with her aunt who lived in a nearby town. (Is it still classifiable as a town when there is no phone signal?).
Things were tough at home and once Jane turned twelve, she got a job at the local bar. Of course, her aunt couldn’t afford an education for an un-budgeted child so there was no hope for school.
Jane would work all day and at night, before she went to bed she would look at fashion magazines and hope to be like the girls she saw on the covers. The girls were pretty and they always looked happy. A far cry from what she saw in the mirror.
They were her friends when no one would talk to her. They travelled the world on the cover of magazines. Jane wanted to travel the world on the cover of magazines too; all she needed was an opportunity.
This is why when Uncle Steve (a pot belly middle aged drunk) told her all about the always animated city of Lagos, her eagerness grew. Everyday around the same time, she would wait for him to come and tell her tales of tall buildings and tarred roads.
“Six o’clock,” Uncle Steve said. She was going to follow him to the city. Her mind was made up and knowing Jane, there was no turning back. Two weeks had passed and even though she was fascinated when she first arrived in Lagos, she was starting to get impatient. It wasn’t like Uncle Steve said.
There was no money hanging from the trees, or food handed to everyone on the street.
Uncle Steve wanted in on her model potential body- And who wouldn’t? Jane was a beauty. It wasn’t long till he had his way. He promised Jane that if she let him have her, he would make her dreams come true, give her a starting point.
It was disappointing and sad, that she found herself in this kind of situation again- without options, without hope. But she would rather do anything than return to her aunt, she had come this far.
Friday evening was gusty, the perfect time for Uncle Steve to get warm. He let her stay on top then he looked into her eyes with a smirk on his face “it’s not painful this way, you will like it” he whispered. Jane tried to hide her face- but there was no shade. That bastard had taken all she had left.
The second week and the fourth time counting.
She thought she was used it by now, but her skin still crawled. The only way she could distance herself from his pot belly was by assuming the dominant position.
Uncle Steve came home drunk one day, reeking of tobacco, his belly protruding more than ever- Jane hated his belly. This time, she refused his advances. At this point she’d would rather join those girls he picked up the other night-“at least they earned money”.
And Jane did just that, she lay on her back for a living now. Meet Jane the prostitute.
Uncle Steve had hardened her heart towards life, towards men even. She was now ruthless.
Emboldened by her bitterness, before she got in bed with the client from India whose pores reeked of garlic, she was sure to settle the price. Foreigners looking to have fun were often big fishes. But tonight was different. He didn’t want to be Jane’s client. He just wanted to take pictures.
He kept saying said her body was amazing. Amazing enough to be a model. She was in disbelief. She pushed her body against his as if to say “stop telling me lies and get on with it”.
But he was serious, he wanted to get her into shows and put her on the cover of magzines.
She broke down in tears. She was to be a model, look happy and pretty too. This was two years ago and from photo shoot to the catwalk, our Jane is living her dream.
Yes! Stories like this have almost been out-told but they transcends all generations.
Whether its gutter to glamour, dunce to diva, feable to fashionable, abandoned to absolutely fab or slutty to sophisticated, the message of hard work, tenacity, diligence, and all the other boring stuff rings true.
The so called new school do not understand the concept of ‘slaving it to make it’. I believe you put the same amount of work whether you are a fashion designer or a doctor, the common ground is the constant pursuit of a satisfactory destination.
The rags to riches story doesn’t always have to involve rags. Some of the ones who have had it good all their life still need to have an innate or at least a developed ability.
Even those that have inherited to maintain an empire shoud aspire for a riches to wealth story. You can only get better than your last story…
This article was first published on www.234next.com on June13, 2011