A story of a Nigerian Woman who in the midst of making her ends meet found her just innocent day complicated …

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The winds battled the trees outside violently and it seems their battle will never end
as the rain rattled its drops on my roof. It has been raining cat and rat for the past six
days, and today was the seventh day. We had prayed for rain, but not this, for it had
become a herculean task going to work, the ground of the market place had become
muddy, making it hard for buyers to visit our stalls. The numbers of buyers coming to
the market has drastically reduced as most of them now prefer to stay back in their
homes patronizing the street stalls and hawkers for the incessant rain would not
allow them come to the market. We were all eager to see the end of the rain, some
had argued that the rain would go on for 14 days without stopping but Mama Tope,
the herb seller, said it would only rain for 7 days.

Well, today is the seventh day, and we shall know who is right I support Mama Tope
thought, I did not really believe that the rain would continue for two weeks, it seems
totally impossible.

Walking down my verandah, passing through my kitchen, I noticed that one of the
pails I placed to collect water from my leaking roof was already filled up, it needed to
be emptied. There are numerous leaks on the old corrugated sheets which made up
my roof, they had turned brown over the years, Baba Adio, the Carpenter had on
numerous occasion advised me to have them changed, but what can I do with the
little proceeds that I make from selling foodstuffs at the market, my stall is a very
small one though I make good sales most of the times the proceeds were not enough
for me, the proceeds were not enough for a new sets of iron sheets to cover the
whole length my old roof.

As soon as I picked up the already filled up pail, the light went off so I decided to
groove my way out to empty the pail before going to pick up the lantern and fill it with
kerosene. While feeling my way to the backyard in the dark, I unknowingly stumbled
on a small wooden stool that I placed close to the entrance the day before sending
the water crashing down, drenching me. As if I was been mocked by some unseen
forces, the light came on, I simply left the broken pail on the spot without making any
move further to get a dry rag to wipe the spilled water on the floor.

On getting to my room, the light went off again, I was trying to change my dress,
unbothered by the incessant taking on and off of the light, I proceeded to climb my
bed without any clothes on, the day’s activities had drained me, and the events that
had happened in the past two days had almost succeeded in taking life out of me.
I feel like a walking dead, I longed for a family, a husband of my own, everything felt
empty, there is a vacuum in me that needs to be filled. If only I had a family of my
own, perhaps my troubles wouldn’t be so overwhelming.

I had spent the last two days in the prison, along with 15 other market men and
women, others who were lucky to be bailed on time spent just a night, having no
family I had to wait an extra night in the cell, wearing the short prisoner’s clothes
which barely covered my body, the mosquitoes made a very nice meal out of my
body, they sucked uninvited, and it seems I had saved up my blood all these years
just for them to come feast upon. As if that was not enough, while I slept on the
rough floors of the cell, my inmates which I thought were very nice suddenly kicked
me, I woke up with a jolt, a slap from one of them brought me back to reality that
was when it dawned on me that I was still in a cell. That night I had dreamt about
the market, my stall with my wares, I was selling to a customer, a very handsome
man, who had come from Oke Padi to buy foodstuffs.

Tears freely found their way on my face, splitting in their channels, creating new
routes on my face as they found their way down my cheeks, I did nothing to rub them
off my face for it seems I have a large reservoir of waters pouring from the inside of
me through my eyes.

In the cell, the other women introduced themselves one after the other, from the
president, a woman in her mid-thirties with tribal marks crudely engraved on her
fluffy cheeks to the secretary, a young girl who called herself “moin-moin”. Her
choice of nickname actually intrigued me because she looked nothing like
“moin-moin” she was dark as darkness itself.

She paced around, like a small cat looking for some invisible rats too devour, she
made me lie down, and told me that they will ensure that I enjoy my stay with them,
which I later got to know was the opposite. I resigned to fate, as I was made to kill
the mosquitoes disturbing “Mama Peace”, I resorted to clapping my hands without
making a noise or waking up the inmates all through the night. I wished the earth
could just open up and swallow me, it all seemed unbearable for me.

The next morning after the wardens came to make the cell counts, breakfast came
as lunch. I was given a seat in the middle while “moin moin” made me tell my story,
the story about how I found myself in the prison.

“Mama Peace” had vacated her sit and in the next forty-five minutes I was regarded
as the most important of them all, I was the only one who had fresh information
about the outside world. Taking the president’s spot I recounted my tale tearfully.

Just as every other market day, I had come to the market with high hopes of making
good sales, I was very optimistic of these, for I had hit my right leg against a stone
while I was coming, and when I was a child my mother had told me that when this
happens, you are bound to get money that day. Market went on smoothly as usual as
I made good sales, until I heard shouts from somewhere nearby, it was my fellow
market people screaming “Thief! Thief!! Thief!!!

I rushed out of my stall, I saw some elderly men running after a young man, due to
the complicated terrain and murky situation of the market, he was easily caught, the
market women had claimed to have found a small revolver gun attached to his belt,
and they had easily taken him for a thief, who was looking for a stall to rob.

The young man had pleaded innocently, telling them that he was not a thief but a
police man, the angry mob never bothered to listen attentively to the young man’s
pleas, exerting their annoyance of recent troubles caused by thieves in the area, the
young man was beaten to coma. I watched from my market stall, I could not leave
my stall, since I was the only there, he was about been lynched to death, when
members of the police force came, dispersing the crowd, they easily identified him
as one of them.

Irked by this, the police men embarked on a mass raiding of anyone found near the
location of the incident, I was less bothered because I was not among those involved,
unknown to me the unfortunate turn of events that will soon fall on me. Those
involved had taken to their heels, the police questioned the market women about the
identities of those involved, many of them failed to be of help, for everyone seems to
know nothing about the whole incident.

The police did not take light of the whole issue, so they resorted to arresting the
market women, stating that if we fail to disclose the names of those involved, we
would take their places in jail. Thinking that was a joke until we were all swooped
into their vans en-masse and placed in different cell. Those with high influence were
bailed, they regained their freedom after a few brown envelopes had touched some
hands while we, the less fortunate were still there waiting for someone to come bail
us.

“So you been wan tell us say you no get malle wey fit bail you abi?” moin moin shot
back, I simply told her that I had no family around here, for I was without a husband.
Luckily, they took pity on me and they let me be for the next two hours, there I
prayed I find a way out of the mess I was in. Few minutes after we had our “lunch
breakfast” which funnily contained moin-moin that looked like garri soaked with
water inside, I couldn’t afford to have a taste, same applied to other inmates but
despite the bad state of the meal only one person gathered everyone’s meal,
humming to herself as she fed herself our own ration. That was when the reason she
was nicknamed moin-moin dawned on me.

Minutes later, I heard the footstep of the warden approaching, the sound from her
footsteps woke my already depressed spirit, and then I heard my name vibrating
through the walls…
I regained my freedom.

Later I was told the police had successfully fished out those responsible, the
policeman they was beaten was reported dead, he died from the injuries he
sustained during the incident, and those arrested were to be charged to court.
My legs carried me as far me as I could walk, I let the winds carry me, I protested
not when her current were too much, but when my legs grew tired of walking. I
walked, walked away from the dungeon that had been my home for the past 24hours.

I thought of if those culprits had not been found, we would have definitely rot away in
jail, I saw other men and women who were also arrested, they looked like a shadow
of themselves, the men looked like cursed stature, while the women looked
disheveled, crying their freedom out, others with strength resorted to throwing
different shades of abuses and curses at both the policemen and the culprits.

For days, I opted not to go outside, I simply stayed indoor, the rain helped my matter,
my aging body needed rest, I could still hear moin-moin’s mocking voice in my head.
Only few people visited me, someone who had helped me pack in my wares and
locked the door to my store, she came to give me the key. Others sympathized with
me, they made me recount my bitter experience in prison, which I did, but when they
started asking irrelevant questions, I simply kept quiet while looking into the thin air.
I was tired, tired from their numerous questions, only if I could show them the head
of a yam’s tuber, letting them know, it’s high time they left. As if they were reading
my mind, they began to take their leave one after the other, and all I did was to
thank them for coming. I chose not to see them out, and on my seat, I simply
watched them take their leave.

In the evening of my second day at home, I visited my stall to see if anything is
missing, everything was the same, in their exact spots just as I had left there, my rat
trap had caught one rat, and half dead, it looked at me, hoping I will see en ough
reasons from its unflinching looks for me to set it free, I simply ignored its stare, and
I took the trap outside, outside I saw some hens wandering about aimlessly, so I
found the perfect punishment for the rat, I threw him to the air, and the flying object,
as it came c rashing down, caught the attention of the wandering hen, seeing that it
was a rat, they swooped in circles around the unfortunate thing who lacked the
strength to run away, the trap had destroy its hind legs, so it could not move as it
could. I watched as then pecked their way into its skin, while I was a student, our
primary school teacher had once taught us that the hen was an herbivorous animal,
but what later dazzled me was the first day I saw a hen picking on the remains of a
dead lizard.

I cleaned my stall, and re-arranged my wares, covering the foodstuffs reasonably
well to prevent some further damage by the rodents that has made my stall an
abode. I placed my rodent traps at strategic corners in my stall, and everything
looked in order. It was already dark; I had intentionally come this late in order to
avoid the annoying sympathetically looks, and unending flow of life taking questions.
The rain had stopped, but the skies looked so cloudy, it was pitch dark, so I covered
myself with the thickness of the dark, and I cut my way out of the market, and while
I left, I knew at that very moment, I was not coming back, which I quickly brushed off
my mind, but my heart kept racing, I could feel my heartbeat, I knew this was no
place for me anymore.

Getting home, it had started to drizzle, and as if the clouds were unsure of raining or
not, they teased the earth with few droplets of rain, it was cold, so I made myself pap,
I had brought some balls of “akara” just across the street, I settled on my wooden
armchair rocking myself while I fed myself. The armchair was my father’s, one of the
few things I had chosen to pick while leaving the village upon his death. The chair
reminded me of him, my mother cleaning the chair, for it was his favorite. Memories
it bought back, and I simply stared at the wall, where I hung his picture, and despite
his cleanly cut image of my father smiling, it seems he looked sad, the picture was
not smiling back at me, I simply looked away, what different would it have made if he
was still alive I asked myself, I could not blame him for my woes, my misfortunes, he
tried his best for me as a father, I could only blame my destiny for my misfortune.
As I was trying to brush away these hurting thoughts, I remembered my Aunt, I had
actually forgotten about her, not until this moment.

The only one I really bonded with among my father’ relatives, married with three
kids, who were now far away schooling in the north, she had lost her husband to a
car accident few years after the birth of their last child. She had all alone raised her
children without any help from my father’s kinsmen, who seem not interested in our
affairs, but in the properties left by my father, We all call her aunty, for she had
grown in years, I still wonder how she had managed to retain her charming looks,
one thing I actually hated about her, is her three rolls of tribal marks, till this day, I
thanked my parents for not succumbing to the urge of giving us tribal marks, so
crude it seems to me, if ever I had the chance of having a child, though my chances
are getting so slim now, I will never give it a thought of giving my child those crudes
lines, called tribal marks, Aunty seems happy with her tribal mark telling us back
then that she takes huge joy at staring at them in the mirror, she even told us, her
husband had taken huge interest in us as a result of her tribal marks, which he
claimed was captivating.

Aunty had actually advised me to leave the village in search of a better life, she had
told me that our little village had nothing to offer me, she was quite delighted when I
came home telling her that I had built myself a house in the city, though she never
visited, but I felt her huge sense of satisfaction and happiness that I was starting to
build myself a future in the city, but my single state troubled her, after been
subjected to rape years ago, I have always had vowed never to give in to any man
again. Though I never told her what really happened to be, but she was greatly
troubled, not until now I have never longed for a companion, and it seems like there
is a huge vacuum in me that needs to be filled by a man.

Without thinking twice, right on spot, I knew what I wanted; I need a break from
these hurting realities, a visit to my Aunt will be refreshing, perfectly what I needed
to refresh myself, dashing straight to my room, I brought out my travelling bad,
stuffing my clothes into them, I resolve to going v to my village early tomorrow
morning for a brief visit, not even the incessant and annoying rainfall will deter me,
not even the gates of hell.

Rooted to the ground, she stared at me expressionless, like she has just seen a
ghost, tears freely found its way down her cheeks, cutting tributaries on her tribal
marks, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, dropping my luggage, I flung myself
into her waiting arms, and for the next five seconds, it seems the world only evolved
around us, nothing else mattered. She had grown old with time, her grey hairs, and
the scanty lines of wrinkles that graced her face a testimony of the years I had spent
away from her, it was only now that I understood how much we had missed from
each other’s life. We’ve been far away for far too long.

The day was still young, for the sun was still blazing outside in all her glory, After a
short nap, I proceeded to taking a walk around the compound, nothing much had
really changed, save for the big mango tree that stood beside the fence, I later learnt
that the tree had to give way in order to avoid its root spreading its tentacles
destroying the fence, I remembered how we had use to come in the evenings back
then, flocking in large numbers throwing sticks at the ripe mangoes, the tree that
was once, was no more. I explored all other part of the compound, and I found
nothing else more intriguing other than the tombstone of my Aunt’s husband.

I have cried enough in the last few days, so I resolved to shed no tears again, with few
strides, I found myself back inside the house, and a pleasant smell emanated from
the kitchen, I smiled to myself as I eagerly awaits the meal, I experienced a kind of
reassuring calmness which I have never experienced in the past few days. Tomorrow
I had planned going to the market to get some few stuffs for my short stay here. I
looked forward to sunset, for I know Aunty will make me tell her everything that had
happened to me without leaving any details out… I looked forward to pouring out my
heart to her.

The night had been a peaceful one, everywhere seems quiet, except for the rustling
of the leaves outside as they danced with the winds, and I slept my way to utopia,
and I dreamt of the village market square, filled with people wandering about on their
heads, while others were haggling about the prices of goods, hoping to outwit one
another in the bargaining process, I found myself walking on my heads in the same
manner other people were walking, and there in my dream, I was looking out for
something, for I was holding a very small jigsaw puzzle and only one piece was
missing , so I kept cutting through the crowds in search of the missing piece to
complete the puzzle, then I saw at the far end of the market, a man standing alone,
and I could easily tell from his looks , his tattered but neat cloth that he was a
beggar, while I walked past him, I tossed him some coins, and as I whisked away in
search of my missing piece, he called me back, raising up his head, clearly enough
for me to see, and I saw the semblance , for he looked so much like my father,
moving backward, facing me, he pointed to an empty stall directly opposite us, and
he said, “ there lies the missing piece of your life, take it and you will find the
happiness you so much crave for”.

I woke up not giving the dream any second thought; I simply dismissed it as just
another dream, I later re-visited my dreams again, when I later went to the market,
and while I glanced through the market, I saw a small child running playfully with a
kite in her hands, without looking down she fell down, so I ran over to her, helping
her to her feet, while she dusted herself, then the mother came around to pick her
daughter, and without a thank you, she disappeared into the market deep, but as
she was leaving, the child kept looking back, staring at me, and I wished she was
mine.

Turning back to continue my trip, I saw beside me, an empty stall, with the
inscription, “ to let” I looked back, and I saw an old man sitting on a small wooden
stool with a small bowl, which he uses in collecting alms, our eyes met, but he never
said a thing, then I remembered my dream,, and like a broken dam, they came
rushing out of their banks. Right there, I understood what the unseen realities were
trying to tell me.