I have been home now for the past two days and I haven’t missed a thing. This morning we had pap, just pap. How do these people live like this? My skin is riddled with mosquito bites and the service here is poor. I miss home and Deji, he hasn’t even called me. My mother’s and grandmother’s friends have been trooping in and out of our house expressing their sympathies over the loss of my grandmother and praying endlessly for me, hoping to get money out of me. Of all the things I have experienced since my return this has proved to be the most annoying. I have worked hard, very hard for my money and then these poverty stricken clueless women come in here and say half-hearted prayers. I wish I could send them all away but I can’t. My mother would be eternally disgraced; I dare not disrespect the elders.
Alhaja has been here too. She didn’t even recognize me. Her eyes were green with envy and she said so contemptuously “So you have returned”. I could care less about her right now, she’s not Aunty’s friend as she claimed. She only said that to gain my mother’s respect, she is actually her business partner who sends her pure yam flour from Osogbo. Aunty then repackages it suitably for her rich friends and acquaintances who are particular about the quality of their yam flour.
As I said I could care less about her, but with Alhaja came her driver Lasun who I had had a brief affair with. He kept staring at me as if he had never seen me before. Finally he got a chance to speak with me when I went out to the backyard to hang out the laundry.
“Misturat…” he said warmly
I looked back at him and then said “Yes?”
“Ah ah your face is not welcoming”
“Ehn ehn why should it be welcoming, are you not aware that I just lost my grandmother?”
“I know… but for old times’ sake I expected you to at least smile or be happy that we are seeing each other again, after all we are not strangers abi?” he smiled and moved closer to me.
I shook my head sadly “Why am I surrounded by foolish people? I just told you that I lost my grandmother and here you are talking about old times! Aren’t you old enough to know the right thing to say?”
Now I knew I had said too much but I couldn’t stand the sight of this uncultured and ignorant man. How could I have ever considered him worthy of my time, much more my body? The stupid things I’ve done! He smells of stale sweat and he’s still wearing this ankara that he’s been wearing since I first met him, just look at those bumps on his cheeks! I am totally repulsed by this man.
“Misturat, are you talking to me?” he said surprised
“No, I’m talking to your shadow. Please, if you do not have anything reasonable to say leave, I have a lot to do.” I turned my back on him and continued my laundry.
Me? Misturat called me foolish! Is it because she has been to Lagos that she spoke to me in such a manner, is it not this same Misturat that used to beg me for one thousand naira to buy clothes? I have been disgraced! She can’t get away with this. If not for the fact that my brother is too selfish to think about the good of others would I still be in this town? If he had given me that money I would have relocated to Lagos and started my own pure water company and I know that I would have been very successful. The youngest of my siblings dare not speak to me the way she did. Upon all my investments; the suya I would buy for her even on credit, the times I paid for her hairdo, the clothes I bought for her, we even went to that famous eatery once where I spent a quarter of my salary buying the snacks she wanted for her friends and family. Lasun, you have been humiliated!
It was the day of the burial ceremony even though Misturat’s grandmother had been buried the day she died according to Islamic rites but there was the ceremony to do according to tradition. The dead woman would be honored by her children who have gathered money (they could not get to take care of her when she was ill) to throw a lavish party where they would wear the same cloth, kill a ram, cook pots of jollof rice, amala, ewedu and fried meat, buy crates of coca-cola and hire the services of a noisy excuse for a band whose speakers blared so loud that people who lived miles away became aware that a party was ongoing. The guests would also be honored with souvenirs of plastic bowls, handkerchiefs, napkins and plastic handfans.
Mrs Olagunju (Misturat’s mother) was joyful. Her daughter had funded her own share of the contribution towards the burial. She had bought new shoes and a purse to match the lace fabric and damask which would serve as the headtie. Her other children too were appropriately dressed. Today they were rich and famous, tomorrow would be another story. But who cared about tomorrow when today had not passed? She took majestic steps around the different canopies, kneeling and thanking everyone for coming and making sure that they had been fed. They in turn prayed for the dearly departed and a few gave her envelops containing money- five thousand naira, a thousand naira, five hundred naira. Who cared? Money was money. The ceremony was taking place on the football field of the town’s government owned secondary school. She looked up ahead and saw the grumpy faces of guests who had not been served then looked away unconcerned, they were not wearing the aso-ebi.
She moved around the canopies again until she found Misturat. The girl had totally changed within and without. She was more beautiful and refined but she was now condescending. No one could touch her things and she complained about every meal. She was also disrespectful to her until she reminded her that she nursed at her breasts and was carried on her thighs. Children! She called out to her:
“I want you to go to the music stand and tell the band leader to start calling out our names so that we can dance and our friends can spray money on us. They have eaten now and would soon want to leave. Do it now, I don’t want them to leave yet, do you hear me?”
“Yes ma” Misturat replied glumly
After running her mother’s errand Misturat was going to sit down with her sister when a boy walked up to her.
“Aunty Misturat, Alhaja said I should tell you to go to that classroom” he said pointing to the block of classrooms close to the school’s gate “to get the souvenirs for those wearing the aso-ebi”
“And she mentioned my name?”
“Yes she did”
Misturat was angry. Why wouldn’t this woman let her be? She walked towards the block reminding herself to leave within the next couple of days now that the burial ceremony was over. She walked into the classroom and saw Lasun sitting on one of the tables. Great! She thought.
“”Where is Aljaha?” she asked irritated
The door behind her slammed, from behind it came Lasun’s friend. Misturat looked back at Lasun and knew she was going to be raped.