Thursday, February 9, 2017

RAINBOW by Merit Gogo-Opene

Some days were better than the others. Some blossomed with hope even of the little we owned. Some were just as calm and non-spectacular like the long days without electricity here in Rainbow. If we had electricity how could we even know? our bulbs had not been replaced for as long as I can remember. Rainbow! I lived here with my siblings born of different fathers by Mama. "Go slow dey da side.” The good ones would announce breaking our long chains that left us chasing after customers. Kai!I have seen sege on the streets of Port Harcourt. I had started hawking apples when it was as low as eighteen naira then Mama had not had my three younger siblings who completed the unintentional football team housed in our home at Rainbow. To call that place a home... the most dignifying title I would ever know. For the rest of the world anyone born out of our appalling settlement was a never do well. In disgust, I watched passersby hold on to their bags whenever I walked with my older brother Soba as if he was going to steal from them. The circumstances of our birth had not defined our living patterns or corrupted our choices but who would believe that with Soba’s overgrown hair and beards? Yet there must be one thing that created this divide which made these fortunate beings in fine cars think that I, Queen a twenty- two year old apple hawker could steal from them as well. Sometimes they dragged the apples and threw their money at me as the traffic lights turned green. Poverty is a bad thing. I hawked the different locations Aba road, Air force junction I sold there and I dreamed there. If we did not sell above a thousand five hundred naira daily we had no edible entitlements. Soba hawked boiled groundnuts and he was occasionally unlucky. After gathering the amount Mama had ordered us to bring home each day, I swapped trays with Soba as the male folk were quicker to buy from women especially as I was light complexioned and well curved. Mama had taught me the ways of men yet I refused to earn by her trade for there could be some other way. I set out very early and I could tell the time by some of the car owners who frequently plied my route. It was midafternoon when I turned around and could not find Soba. I scouted his possible spots vainly then I relaxed. After all he was a grown man and if he did not know better than waste his chance at supper. I touched the cars I hoped I would ride in someday I took note of how long I would wear my hair and how I would possess my steering with my left hand too and those wardens and school security officers who chase us will respect me and flash toothy smiles when I ride in my own car. I walked back to rainbow. “Queen ehhhhh Soba don hammer” “wetin…” “I say our brother don make am abi you be learner?” I was too tired to get into the details of his story. I dropped my tray half filled with apples and began to scoop rain water from the big drum outside our batcher as Gozie paced the compound in his sagged brown trouser. He kept talking about a game Soba had predicted and had won a whooping sum which was too good to be true. “We dey leave rainbow, una go go skul” That was how Mama had concluded the meeting after Soba had told us how he had made over a million naira from a sports game or whatever it was. I could go to a supermart and buy icecream without Mama bringing from her man friends, when Soba took us around in his car I felt like those women I wanted to become only that I did not drive with my left hands. I wore fancy clothes to the university as I hoped these days I prayed for not to end, I knew that I wanted something more than this was it my overly big dreams that Mama said were bigger than me or could people have these days and yet want something else to complete them?