Friday, September 11, 2015
One day, I sat in a popular bank, in a bid to finalize a transaction. "Sorry, I will get back to you shortly, " the lady said. Then she spinned her chair to her right, facing the older looking man next to her. "Where is the file?" She thundered. He stuttered, bending into cabinets desperately. Yet, nothing. The impatient lady hit her knuckles against the open note books on her table angrily.It was apparent, in a less official setting she would have hit them harder the way she desired with more pressure without minding the hurt. "You see you in this office ehn, you! " she said, pointing at this man whose ego had been shattered in my presence yet I had to feign ignorance knowing that this disgrace would become a grave humiliation if he knew I witnessed it all. He might have been irresponsible about a file but it's not what is said BUT HOW WE SAY IT. Now, you dare not walk into one of these neglected looking offices that house requisite stamps and documents and because the sun is intense, you deliberately walk past one of these women at the car park who wear big gold jewelry, bright lipsticks oh! and have a knack for bizarre hair wigs and sporty looking cars, I must add. You dare not walk without the courtesy of a greeting in this country espescially if your last name does not ring a bell. Yet, when you go up a long staircase and her kitten heeled shoes noisily competes with yours, hold on to your decision - there is no nexus between courtesy and obligation. Waste the opportunity again, do not say "good morning". She is powerless until you walk into her office. Now she is not prepared to respond to unsolicited greetings. She rolls her beady eyes after cerimoniously finding a space for her hand bag. Everything flashes in your head, the car park, the stair case yet you must disclose why you would not leave an old office of files and rusty aplpliances. Before you voice a word. She is even impatient to hide her delight. She begins, "wwwhiya you not the one I saw this morning? She owns the exact response but she would magnify this scorn and utilize her own opportunity. Elevated 'wahala' is when she has a number of colleagues with similar traits and quest for an African norm you chose to ignore. She narrates her experience with even more detail than you would have imagined and they sweeten this bland tale, infact intensify her grievance, saying, " You don't mean it?" Before she ensures you spend more days than required to accomplish the goal that had set your feet in motion that day,she ensures she observes her lunch break, laughs on your time with another colleague in a nearby office in a loud manner that screams. "Now who is the boss?" We know these bitter women. Some have been hardened by the pressures of life and are even embittered by the absence of light romance. These women need flowers!!!
“Your name ma, the unattractive lady asked raising her head from her cluttered wooden desk to meet my gaze. I was irritated yet i concealed it; I returned a very disgusted glance and said, “Sandra Minimah,” with a finality that dared her not to verify the spelling of my last name. I looked away as she scribbled my name on the ticket with the alphabets an inch or more above the line they should have rested. “Destination,” she inquired, with her front bald hair struggling to remain hidden beneath the sky blue scarf she had on. “Port Harcourt,” I said in a tone mixed with even more disgust but a tinge of humility to avert the possibility of her handing me the naira notes I had given and in her husky voice say, “sorry madam I cannot have you on this bus”. I could not afford even another day in this place not after all I had been through amidst the prevalent chaos to withdraw the last currency in my account at the ATM spot at Chiromawa yesterday, the 24th day of July, 2014. There was a recap of the bomb blast that had occurred that day on the national television; I heard the female reporter say something about a high capacity improvised explosive device (IED) detonated at the New Road Motor Park in Sabon Gari, then she held a countenance that matched the severity of the news that had just been cast . This gave me even more zeal to leave Kano by all means. “Port Harcourt,” I reiterated, with a feigned smile that did not survive after I was handed my ticket. I got in the first seat behind the driver, my joy knew no bounds. I was running from dust, from the incessant deaths that had occurred even before my arrival in Kano. I filled my eyes with the passengers getting into the rickety bus, I was inadvertently alerted by some drops of poorly pasted jolof rice falling off from a bruised tiny stainless plate an approximately two year old girl had been feeding from; she had a small peach hijab which only revealed her ebony coloured face. I gestured to show she could sit on my lap after her mother had muttered some words in Hausa; she flashed a hearty smile revealing her fancy gold canine unintentionally. Perhaps she had presumed I was a Northerner, I was dark enough, had a conspicuous pointed nose and henna tattoo which my friend, Amina had playfully drawn on my skin. As the bus jostled past large mass of Sahara vegetation, brown fields, pyramids of fresh tomatoes and fruits stacked by traders along the road and herdsmen with healthy lazy cows crossing from one side of the road to the other which helped check our drivers speed as we journeyed that sunny afternoon; I stared at the gigantic rocks and I wondered how an individual had climbed so high to get a gubernatorial election flyer pasted there and in bold white paints had written the name of the aspirant. I leaned on the dusty glass windows and reminisced how I had found myself in the North West of Nigeria. It was January 2011, my mother, Patricia Minimah had driven down to my Aunts at Ada George, Port Harcourt where I was observing my holiday after the second attempt with the JAMB examinations to secure admission into the University. We rode silently, then she struggled to park her blue 2007 model Toyota car in our small garage on our arrival home. On entering our flat in Harvey Estate, it was apparent nothing had changed! The sitting room was as serene as it could be with our hoary cream coloured leather sofa which Mama takes pains to dust herself, to keep in shape till we could afford new ones, still looking flattened with traces of the massive behinds that had compressed them. The old air conditioner hung in its space noisily chilling the sitting room. Papa’s cherished painting hung beside it, perfect drawing of Papa in his military uniform except that Papa’s lips were not as large as the artist had drawn, for the token Papa had paid for that painting, it so reflected. The wooden table was finely placed in the center of the living room, sagging with a lot of Papa’s news magazines, our water dispenser was even faulty but Mama would not let go, she left it for guests to see to show she had one, to tell that there were times when we almost had it all. Except for these, there was nothing to write home about in this house, all our age long belongings yelled ‘average family’. I heard mama cursing with grave bitterness. I did not know what caused all this bitterness in Mama that made her interrupt the coziness I tried to gain with my head phones, I was forced to turn down my favourite Fred Hammond track and make out what the loud complaints was all about. “What sin did we commit, who have I offended?” Mama kept shouting. After several wailings, I realized, in the wake of terrorism in Nigeria, Papa had been enlisted as one of the officers posted to the metropolitan city to fight terrorism. Papa said we could stay in Port Harcourt but Mama refused and that meant I had to go too. I spread the news of our forthcoming journey to Kano around the neighbourhood hoping that the more I spoke about it, something somehow would serve as a hindrance but unfortunately that jinx was nowhere near. It was several months into the harmattan season, dust filled the air at noon with cold wind lifting fallen dry leaves in angry spiral tosses and throwing them back to another part of the ground. Amina, our neighbour whom Mama forbade I associate with for reasons I could not fathom had still been my friend in Mama’s absence, on our way to the market, on our several tours to Tiga. Amina’s mother, Zaynab had warned we avoid attack prone places, she had also warned that if I got into a vehicle with a man whose legs were stretched abnormally I should alight immediately because there was a possibility that he could have a weapon hidden beneath his attire, she had insisted I always take vehicles from the park but the irony of it all was that no one was safe and nowhere was. Mama had smiled over Zaynab’s hospitality and had thanked her but in the privacy of our apartment, she forbade me from associating with them but I did not see reasons they were just as harmless as we were. I was awakened by the prayers in the mosque opposite our apartment at 5.00pm. I set about my daily routine and later in the day, I approached Amina’s apartment to remind her of our trip to Tiga that day but something had changed about her, she did not look at me when I spoke, she mumbled something about her inability to accompany me, shortly afterwards, her mother pulled her in. I tried to figure what the problem was, I had apologized when I had asked what part of Hausa she hailed from and she angrily said, “I am not Hausa, I am Fulani,” judging from her tone, I could tell it was a fact she was weary of explaining, and she had also explained her maternal grandmother was Hausa, then I wondered why she was upset when I mistook her for being Hausa. Anthony! I thought, that could probably be what this was about. I had inadvertently told Amina that Anthony had asked me out, without the slightest knowledge that she had nursed unrequited feelings for him. I had met him severally with Amina, she had introduced him as a friend on our first encounter and on our subsequent encounters he had played and laughed with us in a way that did not reveal anything beyond the surface. I had slowly fallen in love with Anthony, a moderately handsome Lagosian, our first stares grew into first words and so had our love grown, it was only after he kissed me that he revealed he was Muslim. I began to fantasize about our lives together, making up excuses I would tell Mama when she gives a loud no! without a second thought when I reveal my likeness for Anthony- just the way she had disgraced Peter out of her presence. That one loved me to the moon but when Mama had frankly told me she did not like him, there was nothing I could do. I had not forced him to adorn himself in the faded white shirt he tucked into an old gray trouser and if he had listened closely to the kind of woman I told him Mama was, a woman who would alter the colour of her lips in conspicuous red, doubled her earrings on each ear at sixty, nothing would have made him fasten a brown tattered belt into that trouser. As I scooped every drop of the ice cream Peter brought along with his rotund shadow that afternoon, I unremorsefully told him that Mama did not like him and there was nothing I could do but also wish I could also swap his uneven dentition because our children could never own his teeth. “I love you Sandra, there is no place in my heart for anyone else,“ Anthony said, when I confronted him but my mind was made up I left him no choice but to carry on with Amina, his childhood love and for the days that followed I had learnt to live by myself, even without Amina. I had just served Mama our breakfast of partially heated potatoes and tea owing to the power failure that occurred minutes after I switched on the old micro wave. Mama hurriedly turned on our portable radio and relaxed into her seat after tuning properly, when our fourteen inch television went off. There was a knock at the door, from where I sat, I saw a short man standing in our veranda, he handed Mama a white envelope and she shut the door behind him as Mama tore the envelope desperately. “San…” Mama called out, without letting her pronounce the last letters of my name I combed our apartment for her brown framed reading glasses and took another sip from my tea cup. Mama knocked down the side table and it tumbled our breakfast as she raced out after reading of how papa had been among one of the soldiers that had passed on in course of a gunfire exchange. I called out severally, screaming, running after Mama with every bit of strength my twenty-two year old frame could afford, bare footed, with my turquoise flay gown fluttering around my long legs. Zaynab joined in the pursuit on realizing what had happened but Mama did not stop she ran faster than I could ever imagine her huge size could permit, with no care in the world she ran and suddenly before my eyes Mama ran into an oncoming vehicle even before we approached the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, she was stone dead. I did not cry in the company of Zaynab and Amina all along, but on our return days later when my eyes fell on the wasted breakfast, one of Mama’s high target wrappers that had left her waist on her way out tears trickled rapidly. I resolved to leave the nothingness behind to begin a fresh start back in Port Harcourt. Finally, our bus gave a loud cry as it halted after numerous hours; I secured a space for my belongings making them lean on my legs as I slid my hands into my pocket reaching for my phone to read a message notification, it began to drizzle; my lips broadened in a smile on seeing a gentleman in the kind of clothes that Mama would like. He offered to help shelter my small luggage, he wanted to know my name and in the years that followed our children began to have his teeth.
“kai" you are sweeter than your mother faa,”Danladi said, fanning himself with his ash kufi hat. He lay there on the large bed, his pot belly rising and falling with each rapid breath. He was smiling now, staring at her slender dark-skinned back, spotless but for a small birth mark that had missed her shoulders. Yetunde brushed her hair gently, turning from side to side yet, firmly covering her breasts with the white beddings not bothering with her uncovered bottoms that had hollowed the part of the bed where she sat backing Danladi. Then she turned, her lips curled with disgust.“What?” she growled, casting a stony stare at Danladi who did not even seem to know what he had done or said. He lay there staring blindly reminiscing their affair that had just ended after minutes of priceless excitement. “You are sweeter than your mother walahi” he repeated, as if it was a worthy compliment, then his eyes met Yetunde’s hardened face. She threw the pink hair brush at him. It missed his forehead, hit the edge of the bed and stopped on the marble floor of the hotel.“shege ya,’ he shouted. Eyes widened.Yetunde rapidly made for her blue dress, unceremoniously throwing it over her neck as she forced the zipper close. She reached for her black purse, counted the mint notes he had given her as partial consideration for five rounds without knowing he had bedded her mother too. She closed the purse and hissed. She was headed towards the door until she realized it was still bright, the sun had not hidden perfectly. She slammed her right fist into her open palm as she sat on the bed again, looking venomously at Danladi as his pot belly joggled in an attempt to wear his trousers. He was fully clad now and had become Danladi Hassan- the austere looking man who ran one of the largest accounting firms in Lagos. The man in whose presence half of his staffers quivered, yet she had turned him into her fancy toy that heeded her commands whenever. Her father had introduced her to Danladi so that he could put her through rather than busying herself with what he called a futile desire of becoming a musician but Danladi had promised to birth Yetunde’s dream in exchange for having Yetunde grace his bed. “Nonesense! Waste of time. Four years at the university studying accounting and you decide to waste your time singing?” Nicholas had thundered a long time ago when news had gotten to him that Yetunde was performing in a popular bar within the city and he had sworn that she would never have her disgrace him with such frivolities then he had spoken to Danladi who had promised to take her into his firm. Yet Danladi had betrayed that trust. Yetunde suppressed his reasoning, possessed them totally by her gracefulness, unearthly beauty and a full figure - Yetunde had owned him the day she started as his assistant at Danladi Hassan & Co.He sat beside her now, touching her jaw. “Call him now! “she ordered.“kai! Yetunde, look at the time faa,” he said, looking at his gold wrist watch.“I shall call him tomorrow,” he said, as she relieved her tightened eyebrows and tried vainly to conceal her smile, knowing that tomorrow Danladi’s bosom friend would birth her passions and her musical career would grow from there without her parent’s knowledge. Yet, it could not be. Remilekun began to push even harder for her and she married him in no time especially since it was the only thing that was going to excite her mother after Nicholas had woken up one morning and deserted them- his wife and three children, leaving with Seyi his step daughter, without explanation. He had shocked them all even Rosaline the house keeper, yet as days went by it was apparent the disgrace would last a lifetime. I hate this man; today, tomorrow and for as long as I do not want to be with him. He says I must be on my toes, like I do not know what being a wife means in Africa and when I tell him how much I want to sing- the first and only passions of my life that’s beginning to seem like a mirage almost going just the way my old habit of capturing my daily routines in a diary has disappeared, life can get so intense sometimes. He asks me if singing would put food on our table. Yetunde soliloquized walking from one end of the room to another; scheming a plan that would launch her musical ambitions that had been further trapped by the hopeless marriage that had even worsened her living.As if her mother had known this and had gifted her brown Honda car on her wedding day - that she would land in the house of a man who until their wedding night had not told her the only money he had saved up was merely less than ten thousand naira. Yetunde had fainted that night in her new home at Ada George; when he had roused her after several faint splashes of water on her face, he knew he would be a dead man if he touched her silk nightgown. Remilekun Idowu was her incurable disease of poverty and misery and she had severally refused to consummate their marriage especially with the knowledge of the debts she had walked into deceived by Remilekun’s flashy lifestyle. Remilekun wore expensive cologne, clothing and all the fancy things. She had never imagined he was a stupid broke ass when she met him that sunny afternoon at the mall. “Remilekun you are a daemon, do you hear” “You must be very dumb to think that at thirty-three I could acquire all these easily,“ he said, pointing randomly at the remnant of their belongings. “Whatever happened to living within your means Remilekun“ “.. a a a and you, Yetunde Nicholas were going to settle for a pauper ? Please!” “I cannot believe that you would ever do this to me,” they fought that night, when his colleague parted with the car and handed them the trivial cash worth to offset their debts. Items kept vanishing into the hands of ready purchasers until they had a scarcely furnished apartment. As new days came, it was clear that Yetunde was stuck with Remilekun. It meant that his shame was hers; and she had to be Remilekun’s woman in all the ways a woman would. Then Ayoola came after several attempts of getting rid of him – stubborn child that would not go away, she had mused at his birth, yet smiling slowly to convince well-wishers that his birth had brought her joy, as she rocked him on the small hospital bed.Ayoola grew into a bright boy looking like his father at four yet his asthmatic health condition intensifying. Remilekun was out, drinking with friends that evening, Ayoola was fast asleep, there was nothing stopping Yetunde from honouring a birthday invitation especially with the incessant calls from her neighbour, the celebrant. She looked her best in a multi-coloured blouse and a black jean trouser, yet when she entered the excellently furnished apartment; it was obvious poverty had gripped her, clad in a bizarre best, without a gift. This was your life Yetunde Nicholas! this was your life. She whispered to herself as she walked timidly to take a seat. Looking at the female guests, she realized how successful she had wanted to be, how smooth she had thought her life would be after Danladi’s influence had finally gotten her accepted by a big shot in the music industry. “What have you done to yourself Yetunde?” She had no answer to this as she raced back home in the rain that night after the party. Heavy rain drops battered her, soaked her, plastering her blouse against her skin revealing the red brassiere she wore underneath. She shut the wooden door, quickly ran her palm over her face to reduce its wetness as the strong wind slammed a window in the neighbouring flat. On seeing Ayoola struggle, tears streamed down her eyes. She shivered. Suddenly the light disappeared from the bulb; darkness covered the room, hardening her search for his inhaler. She turned on her cell phone, combing desperately until she felt his inhaler in the wooden drawer and forced it into his mouth. It was empty. Yet there was not even a dime in the house. Remilekun had taken their last with him and had even tampered with her savings. Yetunde wanted her life back and she watched Ayoola pass out - the only way she had thought. Remilekun had blamed her over time as if he knew she never wanted Ayoola in the first place, as if he had been somewhere peeking when she sat there watching Ayoola pass away in her presence. Yetunde packed her belongings and headed back home to FESTAC. Gradually her life began to come together and she would scrible in her diary daily. Danladi had gotten himself a new mistress because she had strained their relationship to wear the decency that came with marriage. Luck shined on her again when Wales, spotted her at a karaoke bar and had promised he had better plans. She lied about being awarded a masters scholarship by a Canadian university. She left home to pursue her passions with Wales. The sweet transformation was almost speedy; she tied the knot with her manager, Wales. Her life became all she had dreamt, yet she had to deal with his ex-wife calling now and then with the excuse of their daughter’s welfare. Now she wanted a child for Wales but it would not come. Frustration was slowly setting in. Numerous accolades in her name, she wanted more, yearning for motherhood again