Oga, you no dey throw this thing well. You sabi say this thing na handwork’, I heard the dark, built shirtless man say as I was pulled back into my reality. I was supposed to be buying watermelons with my mom but my mind was preoccupied. The man to whom he addressed stood tall in the ‘boole kaja’ truck which I assumed had journeyed all through the night transporting watermelons from a Northern State.
‘You sef, try dey catch the thing well’, he replied as he threw the watermelons from the truck. Adjacent to him stood a Hausa man who had all of his goods arranged and was chanting in Yoruba with his intonation ripping through ‘e wa ba mi roja’. My mind begins to float back into space and I remember my lover saying to me ‘watermelons are very good for sex’. From there, I begin to spiral into the world of flashbacks where I reminisce how he kissed me from my head to my toes, leaving no spots untouched. I think about how my toes curl every time he kisses me just below my navel. ‘That’s it’ he says every single time I moan his name out loud. How he stares at my body ravishingly and mutters in Dele Momodu’s singsong voice ‘Emi nikan tan’
‘YEMISI!’ I am transported back to my reality as my mom holds my hands and says ‘you need to be cautious of your environment’ as she hands over the ‘Bagco’ bag of Watermelons to me. ‘I bought these four for two thousand five hundred naira so, no wasting in the house’, she says. She as most Nigerians has now felt the sting of the crippling economy and has resorted to visiting the market as early as 6:30am as opposed to buying her fruits from Shoprite as she once did. I wonder to myself, what am I doing in Oja Oba after the rain had just watered the earth at 6:47am?
‘Let’s look for fresh oranges up there’, she says as she points north. While we walk and look for what would be acceptable to my mother as fresh oranges, we pass a group of young boys, nothing more than 19 years of age. At their center is a medium heighted, darkish man who blows puffs from his blunt and stares me in the eyes. I am frightened by this stare and double up my steps to catch up with my mom. ‘Do you know what they’re smoking?’, she asks me. Fully knowing that I might have to explain if I indeed say yes, I squeeze my nostrils in like I find the smell offensive and whisper ‘No, ma’. ‘Marijuana’ she replies me laying emphasis on the ‘juana’ as she pronounces it ‘joana’. In a split second, I am tempted to correct her pronunciation as I normally would but I fear that my knowledge of this pronunciation would expose my intimate relationship with marijuana.
We finally find a rather old woman who is willing to sell her baskets of fresh oranges for a price suitable enough for my mom. As she packs the oranges, I am once again filled with thoughts about the man at the center. The look he had given me tore beneath my skin and in that split moment, he intimidated me. I pondered on the journey back to the car and wondered if he would still stand in the center of his friends and try to talk to me. I appealed to my ancestors to ensure that he would fail to do so because of his fear of my mother.
‘Saya lemu’, I hear the Yoruba orange seller shout at some Hausa men as they stroll past. They reply her in words that I do not quite remember or know the meaning. I begin to think about how a market such as the Oja Oba (King’s Market) that is so close to the palace is filled with more Hausa people that I can count. I am transported to a scene in one of my favorite books ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and I remember scraps of the day Olanna lost her family to a massacre by the Hausas who were once like family to them. I think to myself, what are the odds that in this very moment, my mother and I lose our lives simply because we wanted to buy fresh oranges. I suddenly feel the urge to round up our shopping as I ask my mom ‘Anything else?’
‘Go and drop these things in the car and come back so we’ll buy mangoes’ she replies sensing my impatience. I think about the boy in the center and his friend’s smoking marijuana and I reply her ‘I can carry everything, don’t worry’. As the smell of the rain continues to cover the atmosphere, I watch my steps so I do not end up in a poodle of water. The market is becoming a little rowdy and people keep hitting my shoulders as they walk past me. My fear of jazz as I’ve once heard begins to ambush me. After minutes that felt like hours of haggling the price of Mangoes, the seller agrees to reduce the price by a hundred naira. I am visibly upset with my mom for haggling for so long as I collect the mangoes from the seller.
As we walk back to the car, I ask her with anger ‘The hundred naira would change nothing for you, but could potentially change the woman’s life’. She pauses on the road, looks at me and says ‘My Lawyer, it’s because you’re still having three square meals in that house’. I begin to think to my self what the relationship between my three squares meals and the amount of time we have spent just to save hundred naira have in common when I hear someone calling out ‘Aunty’. I turn back and it’s the boy in the center. I remember where I know him from and I look right at my mom and mutter under my breath ‘hell no!’
To be continued