Coming to Lagos (Continued)
When Soji returned from school, I was behind the door, holding its handle as if undecided to go out or not. He pushed it from outside, wanting to come in. He was shocked when he saw me. He had not been warned I was home. He got himself together quick enough and greeted.
We were a little confused on how to relate. At first, he said nothing beyond the greeting. I responded. He came in. I stole glances at him. He did same. Our eyes did not meet. My first impression was that of a shy boy. His school uniform was dirty and oil-stained.
“Who are you?” I said my name. He repeated the name. “Yes. I am Baba’s daughter. Father to Mummy.” “I don’t know you personally. But I have heard Mummy talk about you people. Yes…Yes. Mummy mentioned that before she travelled. When did you come? Where is Mummy? Did she cook? Is she at home? Welcome home. What are you doing then standing at the door?” The questions were too many I did not know which one to answer first.
With the door-question, I realized I was looking for nothing at the door. I acted. I left the door-handle and entered proper. He began changing his school uniform. I answered his questions one after the other. “Mummy is not at home. She did not cook. She left you money somewhere on the table. You should buy something to eat when you return from school”.
“I was about to ask if she left money for me. Good you guessed my next question.”
I continued. “She did not say where she went. The bus that brought us dropped us in front of the house. We came in, she went to the bathroom. I took my bath after her. She gave me a change gown. I was wearing it when she said she would be back. That was not long ago, really”. I asked Soji if he had asked a question I was yet to answer. He was now more relaxed and looked less shy.
Looking on the table, he fished out his meal-money. He pulled from under the bed a plastic basket. Hanging in the side-holes were spoons and forks. On top of the plates was a knife. I recognized at once the plastic basket was our container for plates and cutlery. As if Soji read my thought. He turned to me. “This is our plastic basket for plates and spoons”. “You don’t want to sit alone here”. I understood at once he wanted me to come along. I wore a slippers-pair I saw in a corner. “My slippers. But you may have them. That way, I will get Mummy to get me another pair”.
Soji still had his school sandals on; with a bowl in hand, he opened the door. I followed as he led the way to the house-exit.
“Look over there!”. He pointed to a mosque. “We go there to pray. We go with Boda Fatai. But with or without him, we like to go there.” I could touch his excitement as he talked about the prayer. He was yet to master the process. He had an alibi- the prayer-leader said the words too fast. He went twice to the Koran school with Jelili, one of the house-children. He could only learn few letters in Arabic. He was surprised that the language was written different from English. “Can you believe that?” He paused to catch a breath. We continued to the food-vendor’s place talking excitedly.
We went round a corner to arrive at the the food-vendor’s place. The shed was part of the mosque. I wanted to know if Soji liked beans that much. “Not really. My taste is fluid. Sometimes, I eat it endlessly. Like this week. The week before it was rice.
We only stopped talking when the woman shouted at us. “How much beans?!”
“Ewa o ni 50 Kobo.”
She scooped into the bowl.
“With beans-water too, please.”
“Now, tell me exactly what you want!”.
“I told you already. I wanted 50 Kobo worth of beans. Only that I did not know you were going to sell me only beans-water. Beans-water is free once I bought beans.
She scooped weevil-infested beans into the bowl.
“I don’t want that.”
The bean-seller did not as much as look us in the face. She simply scooped on, then she pressed the weevil with the back of the scooping-spoon. Soji appeared a little rested with the disappearance of the weevil under the beans.
“What else do you want?” she asked rudely.
This time around, I answered.
“Pay here. Take eko in the basket there.”
Soji paid. I took one eko-wrap from the basket.
A child ran out from the mosque. Actually, I wasn’t so sure from where he appeared, he practically happened on us, all of a sudden. Before I could blink an eye, he was already on us. He knelt down to blow fire. At first, he blew with his breath alone. When he wasn’t getting far that way, he grabbed a hand-fan and began blowing away with full energy.
The pre-fire smoke entered our eyes, the beans-sellers’ eyes too. The child was coughing where he knelt, yet he did not stop. The woman yelled. “Terrible being! Direct your smoke somewhere else!! Do quick so fire come out!!! Abirukireke!!!! Leave the fire alone till I finish. Go away!!!!!”
She was not yelling again when she said she was sure the terrible child was intent on removing her eyes from their sockets. “Only God will pay you back in your coin!”
The child had stopped blowing, only coughing intermitently. He was not kneeling anymore. He sat in a corner, if not for the cough, he made no sound. It was as though the words were not meant for him; he appeared too exhausted to care. His reaction reminded me of the proverbial goat back-sending a curser’s curse.
I told the beans-seller I had never met anyone so terrible. I spoke my anger not in Yoruba but Igashi. She did not understand but noticed I was angry. I turned to Soji. “If I were you, I will never buy something from this woman again. Never again!”