Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mammy Market

One minute, you want to be all grown up and escape the duties of a glorified housemaid carried out daily by you after high school graduation, get into college and abuse the longed for freedom, the next minute you wanna get out of the godforsaken institution and do what garduates do. Get a good paying job and paint the town red. The joke of the year!!!
College was Ok but I couldnt wait to get out. I thought the job market was a bed of roses. Actually I felt that a job was waiting for me at home. It was a rude shock when the people with authority announced the commencement of national service. A programme designed initially for fresh graduates to mingle with different cultures and to gain experience, if a little in the job industry. The programme had been cancelled due to corruption and political waste. It now served as a bottle neck to squeeze out the unemployed graduates. I dreaded it. I didnt know what to expect and I felt like I was being sent to prison. Pa was very concerned but he hid it well. He didnt want me to go too far from home but we did not even know what to think until the postings came out.
National Youth Service Corps. Well, I went to check my posting and dreaded seeing it. Yippe, I was posted to a neighboring state. I was relieved though I had started wishing behind Pa's back to be posted to the north. I really wanted to learn the language. No north for this youth. I packed my bag and set out that bright morning. In like two hours I was at the camp. I nearly swooned when I saw the number of youths like me on the grounds of the training college used. There were police officers, army officers, Man-O-War and only God knows, everywhere. My bag was searched and I was frisked. I had a sudden misgiving about coming. I thought camp was supposed to be fun,instead they were treating us like prisoners. Then came the registration, we stood out there for hours. I actually made the only girlfriend I had in the one year of service,there on the line. I was number 1,500 and something in camp. We were so many we were like ants.
Around 9pm, we were handed mattresses and we all slept whereever we could.It was definetely not fun. It took me three whole days to settle down. I had to alter the khakis , they were like 10 times bigger than me. I got lucky with the boots though. Marie and I became fast friends. We had gone to Mammy market one evening to get some spaghetti,only for us to see some nice looking girls guzzling away. They were all drinking "Shanko'' (small stout). They were later joined by another girl. She was nursing '' baba dudu'' (big stout). My mouth watered. it took an effort on my part to tear myself away from the small store. It had been so long that I had taken alcohol. I was just about to get into a relationship. I liked him very much but not comfortable with the religion factor. His religion does not allow alcohol. So ever since I met him,and decided deep inside my heart that I was gonna date him, I stopped taking 'shanko'',trying to form good girl.
Marie and I got back to my room,looked at each other and made a sharp turn. We went back to the store and bought two bottles of 'shanko'. We promised the owner of the store, Oga Ope that the bottles would be returned the next day. We had a field day with the two bottles and I didnt really wanna get up when the army officers came in the morning with shouts of''lets go lets go''. It actually sounded like ''leggoleggo''.
We went through the morning jogging and exercise. Later that day, Marie and I strolled to Mammy Market to return the bottles. We noticed a group of guys sitting down at Oga Ope's store, drinking. I was not sure about their status on camp because they were not in khakis or the whites. We gave the bottles back and chatted with Oga Ope for a few minutes. One of the guys said "hi'' and I said "hello'' quietly. If there was one thing I had vowed to avoid, it was camp romance. The guy that said hi was a big, dark guy in glasses. I noticed that it was just one of them without glasses. To me, they looked like young men that had wandered in from town. They definitely did not look like corpers to me. They radiated with confidence and there was an overall sense of maturity.
We made to move away from the store but I came to a perfect standstill when the light skinned one rose up to a magnificent height and strechted his big hand towards me for a shake. Suddenly, I felt shy and flustered. Out came the deepest voice I ever heard from a human being. I melted like butter to my toes.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Fall Out

Memories for me serve as an escape route. I travel down this lane anytime the matters of this life get confusing and overwhelming. Happy memories that bring a grin to my face. Recently, I have been getting more confused, excited and puzzled about this small world.
Ola and I were enrolled at the kindergarten of a nearby staff school while Tai and Kenny attended an international school. The international word in the school slogan was a big deal to Tai and she reminded us at every opportunity she got that the international word was missing from our school slogan. They even had white teachers. See me see trouble o. We had Mrs Orakartete though, she was white but Tai insisted that was just one white lady to tens of them at the international school. My teachers were Mrs Makinde and Mrs Orakartete. Tai didnt want to know about that. Tai was the aggressive twin. She controlled her brother like a puppet on a string. Even I could shout on Kenny, as tiny as I was. He was the tallest and if we have to consider the Yoruba cosmology, he was older than the three of us but he behaved like a robot.
One evening while we were left to our own devices, an arguement broke out. Tai started about the international thing again and Ola nudged me so that we could shout Tai down. Actually we were scared of Tai, if a little bit. She was fat and dark with a permanent scowl but she was the most generous five year old I ever came across. She let us into her parent's bedroom one day and we had a field day jumping on the huge bed. Kenny just stood there and shed tears like one egbere ( bush baby). He knew the shit that was waiting for them. Tai pranced and Ola pounced. She couldnt take it anymore. It lasted a minute before Tai got up covered in dirt and suggested a way to prove her point; she could take us to the school. It was not far at all, so she claimed.
We decided to meet behind the neighborhood mosque. We didnt want nosy neighbors to see us setting out. We ran through the corner streets, weaving our way in and out until we came
out at a major intersection. We were serious about this proof. we needed it like yesterday. The intersection had a small park filled with almond trees and three major streets led off it. we had come through one.
Tai hestitated, she was not really sure which of the two roads led to the international school. Kenny offered an opinion and he was shut down with a quelling look. Ola and I left her to deliberate and we walked to the trees and picked some almonds on the ground. There was a loud cough and we jumped a foot. There was a mad man sleeping on a park bench and we became so frightened we trembled in our shoes. By the way we were not wearing shoes!!! We ran to the twins , they were into it. For once, Kenny stood up to his sister and insisted it was the other way. They were both pointing in opposite directions. After some time, we decided to head back home but alas we couldnt figure out how we got to the intersection and it was really dark.
The mad man suddenly jumped up and staggered towards us. His raggedly robes flew in the air like flags of different countries. I howled like a banshee and we clutched each other in pure fright. Our heads were gonna be cut and eaten. He peered at us then turned and walked away. We howled louder. The shouts from across the street made us reduce the volume of the racket a little bit. Right there across the street were the Tapa girls that sold dankwua, guguru (popcorn) and groundnut in front of the mosque on our street. They were like four or five in number, all in their teens. They crossed the streets and asked us what the heck we were doing there . I started to explain then all hell broke loose. Tai suddenly took off with Kenny in hot pursuit. Ola decided to follow suit but with ear splitting screams of ''gbomogbomo gbomogbomo'' (kidnapper). I lunged after Ola but the eldest of the Tapa girls grabbed me and held on. I kicked and screamed for all I was worth but she didnt let go. I guess she took pity on my tiny self. I thought I was being kidnapped. I screamed until I was hoarse and limp. She picked me up and backed me. God bless her soul. Ola and the twins were long gone. In different directions.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up to a lot of noise. We were actually on our street. Why my friends took off like that, I dont know till today. We knew the Tapa girls well and played with them every evening in front of the mosque. My mum was outside screaming and crying. There was a search party in front of my house. The neighbors were getting ready to search for us. There was a sudden shout, somebody saw Ola dashing into her compound, she was fished out and her mom pounced on her. I watched the drama still at the girl's back. The had stopped in confusion. My mum asked Ola where I was and she said I had been kidnapped. There were wails and wails, my mum's the loudest. The Tapa girl stepped forward and lowered me to the ground. I wanted to get kidnapped, really get kidnapped when I saw the blazing fury in my mum's eyes. There were shouts again. Shouts of ''thank you'' to the girls.
The neighbors dispersed and I could see Ola being led into her house with her ear. I looked longingly at the Tapa girls, I wanted to go home with them. Drink fuura, eat dankwua, anything but my mum's wrath. I guess I enjoyed being backed. I must have slept off immediately she put me on her back but no way. We all stepped into the house. That night my mum beat the living daylights out of me, it was aunty Dupe , our housemaid that saved my life. I vowed to stop talking to my three friends especially Ola, she was supposed to be my best pal.
The very next day we teamed up again and ended up being chased by a neighbor's alsatian. The things we did...eehhh.!!!!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Full Mind

Today, this morning actually, I tossed on my bed not quiet awake but conscious in the throes of a vivid dream. I am sure it had gone on for nothing less than half an hour. It was so vivid I found it difficult to believe that it was a dream. I bolted upright. Alas, it was no nightmare just a series of events that played out like a full drama in my mind. A drama I had played a major part in. Despite the blasting air conditioner, I was sweating. Something was terribly wrong somewhere.
I dashed towards the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. No way was I going to sit down and try to figure out what had just transpired in the dream world; that realm is beyond me.
I got ready for the job, whistling and desperately trying to harness my mind to simple things like taking the Special K breakfast and backing out of the garage without running over Pa's seven year old german sherperd. That dog.......aaaaawwwwww.
At the job, my boss pissed the pants off me and I felt like taking off the pissed pants and throwing them in her face. For real!!! why do females make the worst bosses? I hope I do not turn out to be one. At lunch, I tried to figure out what the drama had been all about. Nothing came to mind, except the nagging suspicion that somehow I had misplaced my priorities again.
I decided not to crucify myself. What will be will be. I concluded in this full mind. I was sitting down on a park seat nibbling a chicken sandwich. I watched as four kids chased each other, screaming in excitement while two women watched. Their mothers, probably or nannies. Somehow they reminded me of little me and the gang. A gang of five year olds. We did not have child minders but our mothers had a string of housemaids who scrubbed the dirt off us after a wild day of climbing trees and riding our bikes into the neighbor's fish pond. Ola, Tai and Kenny, my childhood friends. I have not seen them in years but I still remember how close and loyal we were. We were just five years old but we had the zeal of a teenage hip group.
A smile tugged at my lips as I remember that cool evening of 1984. My mum had just given birth to one tiny hairy baby. I am yet to see a baby with that full head of dark curly hair like my sister. I was very happy not because I got a sister but because for once I was being ignored. Nobody was paying any attention to me because of the newest arrival. I glowed with the freedom of going on self imposed adventures with Ola and the twins. We explored all the forbidden places, like our bachelor neighbor's apartment who brought home different girls everyday. We were five years old but we were curious about what went on behind the closed doors. So we made it a point of duty every night to hang around the bedroom window trying to catch a glimpse of anything, actually any underwear and we were ready to announce to the whole world.
One evening, like two weeks after the hairy baby was brought home, me, Ola and the twins had a major fallout. It was a big mess. I will gist you in my next post.