It took a lot of mental conviction and calculations to finally conclude that I would not be needing my car. But at that moment I felt that taking keke NAPEP down to the market was much of a bad idea as well. It was like deciding to choose between two songs.
Speaking of songs, they had the power to cajole my body and soul into a different world. And they came with peace of mind.
I enjoy dancing to Fela’s Kuti’s hits, singing to Asa Bukola’s, but today I had decided Onyeka Onwenu’s would do.
Everything about today was different. The old man who sat close to me kept on taking calls and screaming out his voice about his goods, and whether they had arrived. He was obviously a business man.
I decided to switch off my phone to breathe since I couldn’t enjoy the music any longer, to breathe the air in Onitsha, my home town.
The keke NAPEP suddenly came to a halt, around DMGS round-about. Despite many trails it couldn’t move and it irritated me, I reluctantly got down, dipped my hands into my black purse to get out the transport fare and the old man said to me in our native language, “Ọ dị ka keke nke a achọrọ ka ọmalịcha nwa dị ka gị jebe afịa (It’s like this keke would not permit a beautiful girl like you to go to the market).”
I forced a smile to his dry joke and left. I took a cab this time. Before I had taken the cab, I felt my system changing, I felt an extra force to every action I took. Something about me had changed.
I got to the market and was rowdier than usual. My instincts had compelled me to quit and go home but I had this mad drive. Something took over me even more forcefully than earlier, I found myself threading upon the other side of the road, my brain unnecessarily processing things faster than it should. My fingers were trembling.
I stopped at a jewelry stand, a lot of people were purchasing and bargaining, the lady selling had a bell in her hands, she chanted the prices, “Ya fine fine jewelry here, buy, five-five-five hondraid.” She had this funny speech articulation.
I liked one, I picked it up, my eyes wondered in admiration of how glittering it was, but my fingers betrayed me, I threw it into my purse and unexpectedly I found my legs running swiftly, I couldn’t stop. The lady quickly raised alarm. I heard voices screaming: “Jide onye ori a oo (Catch that thief oo).” Everything happened so fast.
My adrenaline quickened, my heart thumped faster than ever, I was the thief, but how? I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t, my body failed me. I bumped into people but I didn’t stop until a red vehicle finally hit me.
A man grabbed me by the leg, I couldn’t run anymore, the rest of the mad, angry, hungry people besieged me. Someone had already pushed my head arrogantly. “Slay queen, people like you cannot get married!”
My voice became louder. “Please this is not me. I have money, I can pay you hundred times, I don’t know what—”
Before I could finish, a fat woman spat on my face, one slapped my mouth. They were millions of them shouting.
A man pulled down my trousers forcefully, I had held on too tightly, I pleaded, but they were all angry and soon they ripped my clothing, until I was naked. Their eyes stared consistently at my nudity, it was a look that told of lust rather than despise as I was light skinned and endowed.
“You’re a thief, you deserve no respect.” A tout grabbed my breast, another spanked my buttock. The lady I had stolen from pleaded with them to let me go. My eyes grew red, my cheeks, wet with tears. I told them that I could even get her a shop if she wanted.
I’m twenty-three, I have a job. I’m not a thief.
When I was seven, Aunty Ijeoma would constantly tell me, “Your mother is a husband thief, you will steal like her.”
Yes, she angrily said that to me in my mother’s absence, her elder sister was the first wife and my mum the second. She would place white eggs on my head and threaten me with words and I would cry in fright.
She said she possessed spiritual powers. I said prayers against her words when I grew to understand what she meant.
I do not believe in spiritual powers, but this once I think it’s real. She appeared in my dream yesterday, even though she was late. I have never stolen before. Sadly I don’t ever think I can recover from this stigma.