Wednesday, 6 August 2014
SPOKEN FOR 05
She looked at the NYSC discharge certificate in her hands. She was of course glad, that the program was finally over. She couldn't believe that one year had passed already. But deep within, she was afraid for the unknown. She had worked as an admin staff with the Local Government office where she had been posted to in Sokoto. Sokoto was not a place where she wanted to continue the rest of her life though. She wanted to come back to Lagos, even if she didn't know what lay next for her in life.
She now had a degree; A Bachelors in Geography. She had wanted to study Political Science, but despite meeting the required cut-off marks for the entrance examinations into the University, she was placed for admission in Geography, and it was an open secret that the reason was because she didn't have any one to influence things in her favour.
Shomi still lived with her Madam. Madam Joyce had given her an opportunity of a lifetime; something she would never have gotten if she still lived with her birth mother. The woman had ensured she got an education, even if back then, she'd had to close early and miss the secondary school extra lessons just to come back to hawk Akara and Fried yams. Her weekends had been booked too. She never had any time to study or prepare for exams, but somehow, she had managed to scale through.
She remembered when she had gotten her O'Level results. She had been so scared because she had thought she didn't prepare well and was going to have to re-write them. The problem wasn't even the stress of re-writing the exams. It was raising the money for the form fees. As things played out however, Shomi had passed all papers in good grades and Madam Joyce had been so proud. So proud that out of excitement, she had promised to see to it that Shomi got a tertiary education.
Shomi didn't want to go to a Polytechnic. Perhaps it was the fear of the future that pushed her to do all she did. She didn't want to be mediocre. She didn't want to be like all the kids in the neighborhoods she had ever lived. All her life, she had never known any one who had made it in life. Every one who had surrounded her did not have a University degree. The norm in Madam Joyce's neigbourhood was for young girls to reach puberty, and start to hide in corners and uncompleted buildings with bricklayers or town thugs. The young men were the town thugs, whose job it was to wake up early in the morning to stop buses and okada riders from passing the road, collecting the usual fifty Naira toll. They were always possessed by the influence of cheap drugs and alcohol mixtures that probably gave them the courage and fearlessness of standing right in front of vehicles that were moving on full speed. Ghetto families grew everyday; with a thug father, a teenage mother, and innocent babies who would grow up to continue the cycle.
Shomi didn't want any of that. She had been hurt too much to accept any more crap from life. She needed to fight the norm and make a name for her self and whichever family she represented. It bothered her sometimes that the only family she had; Madam Joyce, was not even her family. Fate had brought them together under the bond of Master and service, with the grace of pieces of love here and there that propelled Madam Joyce to give Shomi a lifetime opportunity of an education.
It wasn't just Shomi who wondered about what next. Madam Joyce always thought about it too. She knew the girl wouldn't be with her forever. She would want to get a good job, and get married someday. The woman was afraid. Afraid to loose the girl she had taken as her own. When Shomi had packed her bags and left for Osun state where her University was located, Madam Joyce had wept, not just because the girl wouldn't be around to help fry Akara and yam, but because she would be lonely.
"How far today?" Madam Joyce said, tying her wrapper that was beginning to fall off her waist. She had closed for the day and was back home. Shomi had not joined her to sell Akara. She had gone out to look for a job. That had become her new habit in the past weeks. She went out every morning with a file and newspapers in her hands, dressed in the okrika skirt suit that she had bought from the main market. And when she came home she sat down looking and circling things in newer newspapers.
"I'm frustrated. I'm tired. What is the point of going to school if I can't find a job? All of them keep saying No vacancy no vacancy." Shomi hissed, frustrated.
"Nawa o. Is it so bad?" Madam Joyce asked, concerned for the poor girl.
"Today I even saw something else! I went into the Oga's office o, and the man came to sit beside me and started to touch my leg. He said I know what to do if I want the job. I made a 2.1 o! Two wan!"
Madam Joyce laughed, although her eye brows were high up in surprise.
"What is two one?" She asked.
"It means I did very well in school." She said.
"You have to do very well because that school fees came from my sweat, and yours too." She said.
Shomi's heart skipped a beat, like it always did every time she remembered this.
There had been a time that there was no money to pay the school fees. The fees was a standard 5,300 Naira, which was a lot of money. She had been so scared that she wouldn't be allowed to resume for that session. Madam Joyce had already told her to put school on hold till they made more money, but Shomi wasn't going to have that, and so she resorted to the lowest thing she had ever done willfully. Well, it hadn't come to her naturally. She just knew it was something she had seen her birth mother do, for which she got money rewards in return. She didn't have a choice, and when push had come to shove, she had done it.
It wasn't entirely new to her. After all, she had been raped at the young age of seven, and not by one person, but two boys who had taken turns. So when she had put on that very short black dress that she had bought at second hand value, and stood on the streets in the blindness of the night, her conscience had not pricked her that much.
Maybe it was a miracle, if those ever existed. She only heard about miracles in stories. She had gone home with a man who reminded her of the pot bellied man that had come to their house to sleep with Aunty Kemi many years ago. This man had picked her up and had promised to give her ten thousand Naira if she took good care of him. She didn't know the ropes of the game, but she wanted her money first. The man had counted wads of cash amounting to twenty thousand. And as she began to take off her dress, competing with her beating heart which was almost tearing the dress with its repetitive palpitations, the man received a call that his daughter had put to bed. The man loved his daughter very much. Shomi smiled, as the man told her to enjoy the room since he had already paid, but that he had to head to the hospital immediately to see his child and grandchild.
She had been happy that she had free money, free food, and a soft and cosy bed to rest for the night compared to the small corner where she squatted with a course mate. She had tried her best to hold back tears. It occurred to her that there was probably no person that had any regard for her. This man had a daughter who was older than Shomi was, yet, he was willing and eager to have sex with her. She wished she had someone who would dot and care so much for her, who would love her with the true meaning of love. But she didn't even know what love meant. Maybe it was a VIP feeling, meant for a selected few. She couldn't know what she had never known. Maybe she just wasn't worth it, whatever it was. If her own mother couldn't love her, then who else could?
Dapo looked at the time. It was some minutes past three o' clock. He sighed, realizing he had been working all day, literally. He had left his house quite early so that he could beat the traffic and get to work in time. He had just gotten an apartment in Ikeja. It was better for him, considering that he had been coming from Ikorodu all the way to his work place at Maryland. It wasn't just because of work that Dapo had moved houses though. He just felt it was high time he moved out of his parents' house. He was thirty one years old, and most of his age mates were beginning to get married and have kids already. His parents hadn't bothered him at all. He was the last child of five male children. His four elder brothers were all married with kids, so his parents didn't really mind that he was still a bachelor and lived under their roof.
He was still getting used to living alone. There was no cook now, and he had to admit that was what he missed the most. His parents' domestic staff had made him so blind to the realities of living alone.
He had planned on eating some cereal before heading to work, but he had woken up late and if he had spared one minute extra, he would have been late to work.
On his way out, he had noticed the Akara and fried yam joint that was just by the side of the road he always passed, to work. That morning, he had been so hungry but he had been scared. He really wasn't one to eat out. If at all he did, his meals came from only clean and hygiene-conscious fast food restaurants.
It was afternoon already and he realized that he was passing that same route. He had needed to get to the bank and to see some suppliers earlier in the day. There was no fast food restaurant any where close and there was already a gridlock traffic forming. He couldn't wait. He had to get something to feed his protesting stomach. He couldn't park his car because of the traffic. Luckily, he was on the lane closest to the edge of the road. He brought down his glass and denying his ego, although with his dark shades on, called out the woman that sold Akara. The woman was on the big side. He laughed. His imagination had captured the woman eating half of the bean cakes she fried. She hurried, tying her loosely knotted wrapper, with a tray of steaming and crispy brown Akara which had just been caressed by the generous glistening of oil.
"Good afternoon Sah." The woman said.
"How much do you sell them for?" He asked.
"Six for hundred Naira."
"Okay. Sell two hundred's worth. Have you got any change for a one thousand Naira note?"
The woman didn't hear what he said. Dapo sighed. He got that a lot, because of the British accent that he was trying so hard to drop. But it was difficult for him. He had grown up and schooled abroad and had only just come back to Nigeria for his NYSC and to work with his father's business.
"Shomi!" The woman called out. "I dey come, oga." She said, and quickened her steps back to her stand.
In a few seconds, a girl came back to him. The traffic had not moved, so he was still on the same spot.
"Hello. I'm sorry she most likely didn't understand what you said to her...How much do you want to buy sir?" She said.
Dapo didn't really know which of the twin attributes got to him; her good and fluent english, or her breath taking natural and effortless beauty. She had no earrings on, no make up, and her hair was plaited in corn rows. She looked young, but absolutely beautiful.
The honk of the car behind him jolted him from his scoping mode. He moved the car forward a bit and Shomi had to run a little to keep up with him.
"Two hundred Naira. Do you have change for a thousand?" He said.
Shomi nodded immediately and gave him a hurriedly done newspaper wrap of twelve pieces of Akara then
she ran back to get the change. But by the time she got back, the traffic had moved and his car had gone. She shook her head, not knowing what to do. Eight hundred Naira was actually a lot of money, and if she had learnt anything from Madam Joyce, it was not to cheat people.