We were at Madame Gres’. I was sitting out front of the smokehouse while my grandmother was curing meat for the slaves when he approached. At first I did not recognize him, for he was dressed as a gentleman, and it came upon me as a shock that it was the same man. I was sitting open mouthed with wonder when I felt my grandmother beside me.
‘You girl, your mistress is ill. Why are you hiding here?’ he said.
I was confused, having seen Madame Marie that morning in good health. She had wanted to read and gave me liberty to be with my grandmother. I stood to follow him, as he clearly expected me to. Something made me look at my grandmother for guidance but her expression was closed, the way it always was in front of the white masters. As I passed, she said in her language, ‘Ọ̀nà irọ́ kì í pẹ́ẹ́ pin.’
He waited for me to go first, and I could feel his eyes on my back. The skin on my neck rippled like an animals. He held open the door to the house and asked, ‘What did the old woman say?’
‘She said to come back and help her. She is too old to do everything alone.’ I did not tell him that she had said, ‘Deceit is soon exposed.’
I should have been wary of him for she could see inside of people. I rushed up the back stairs, but he was faster and waylaid me. I tried to push him away, but he had a serpent’s tongue and told me many lies, and he knew how to touch me in such a way that I felt I was drowning and that always left me hungry and pining for more. I tried to push him away, but he was the one who stopped me and then laughed and sent me on my way.
Madame Marie was happy to see me but required nothing and sent me back to my grandmother, who looked at me askance. She did not ask. She merely said, ‘Mú wá, mú wá” lapá ẹyẹlé ńké.’ Bring, Bring is the sound of the pigeon’s wings. I did not know what she meant and asked her to explain. And she said, ‘Some people know only how to take, never how to give.’
But I was young and foolish and did not want to listen to her. Whatever she told me I dismissed. When I was little I thought she carried herself with the dignity of a queen, but now I saw an old woman who was black as coal and who moved slowly because of her great bulk and rolls of fat.
I went to that devil night after night and saw his true face, and during the day he walked through salons, elegant and well spoken, and none of those white ladies suspected a thing.