The searing heat of the sun sealed a mark on our skins, cutting it open as a sign of identification. Just like the six gruesome tribal marks on a Fulani man’s face, we were obliged to live by the result of this period.
It all started that Saturday afternoon as I walked down the ostracised street on a mission to batter some food stuff. I had told myself that the market price would make no difference in this poor economic period. At least no country is to blame for a deflated economy. The episode of Coronavirus has been a better excuse to a lot of incompetencies.
In those beautiful better days which we never saw as beautiful, mum would advise me to get whatever I wanted from the market, as she would say, “Go inside the market, don’t buy from these ọnụ ahịa people,” as if the traders who displayed their wares at the rare of the market buy goods at a freaky cheaper rate than those at the market entrance. But this time, life has flipped the other side of the coin.
The patience I exhibited waiting for Mama Oluchi to complete her groundnut frying then attend to me, would be noticed by anyone around that I was expecting some soothing words in exchange. Really, I was expecting those beautiful days she would say, “Nne, take this one,” and the busy mouth would gradually ease off the stress of waiting for too long. Little did I know that life has takes a new route, as she meticulously packed her groundnut as though she would suffer a huge loss had one seed of it had fallen to the ground. She did not even care that I had spend a protracted time waiting.
Our attentions were bought when the drama kicked off scene after scene. The thunderous masculine voice of one of her customers wreaked the walls of my ears that I started wondering how she persuaded her buyers to buy those Aba-made boxers of hers. Like all the inferior Aba clothes in Ngwa road, her commodity didn’t lack the trade mark of every Aba-made wears, which were unique for obvious loose threading and irregular seam lines which have the resemblance of my grandfather’s bedspread.
Well, this economic condition can reduce anybody to anything. But this is totally different from Dede Okwasa’s case, a young bachelor who resides opposite our compound. So presumptuous about himself, he doesn’t even care about the brown patches on the G-spot of his boxers, as he could walk down the busy road with only a flimsy boxers wrapped around his groin to buy a bread and bottle of Pepsi, his usual bachelor dinner.
“Chai! Those boys must be hungry,” Mama Oluchi exclaimed as she gave a divided attention to her customer’s pandemic coated story.
“Give them food nah,” was the friendly badinage my mouth almost let out but my scruples hadn’t been lost to that insolent extent.
My mind was in retrospect of those radical days when jungle justices were the legal sentence for criminals in Aba. Once in my primary school days, I witnessed the burning of a man alone Omuma, I didn’t see his face but he was struggling so hard in the fire and those able-bodied men were dicing his body like onions in the fire. Mum was trying to cover my eyes from that bloody scene as she sat behind me on a bike, but my curious eyes found its way in the darkness.
“Hope you didn’t see that disgusting thing?” she asked. From her perfunctory question, I knew she was trying to do what every other mother did at that scenario.
“The boys didn’t even come with gun,” the deep-voiced woman continued. She had just narrated the story of a heist that took place in her area yesterday night. Food was all they asked for before some area boys went after them.
“Ohi akaala nkụ, (stealing is too much nowadays)” one of the women added as she weighed the smoked fish in the scale of her right palm. She had told a story of how her neighbor came back from the farm the other day complaining. “Do you know,” she said in a conspiratorial tone, “old women now steal these days?”
My face puckered as if she was telling a lie but I stood to hear the gist as I was reluctantly selecting the stuff I came to buy. She told how an old woman was harvesting her neighbor’s cassava from the other end of the farm.
“Ifụkwa? Did you see that?” Mama Oluchi exclaimed.
Life was just getting tougher as women who hadn’t opened a newspaper for the last decade now know the incompentencies and biasness of our government. Mama Oluchi said again, “Thank God they did not beat those boys.” She had just mentioned how the government had not been doing anything for the easterners but little did she know that it wasn’t only the easterners that found themselves in this unfortunate situations. I probably knew she was right to an extent, because in previous news I had heard that the Federal Government was giving 20 thousand naira and some food stuffs to the northerners to manage in this lock down period. They had always seen them as the needy but what about these boys stealing?
“Would they resort to theft if they had enough?” I asked myself.
“Everyone needs to look for way for survival,” she continued, “since the Federal Government is usually egocentric.”
That rang a bell in my ear as I remembered that evening dad shared his usual news-instigated sermon. “We are survivors,” he said, coaxing us to believe that we had survived this pandemic and can’t be hurt by it anymore.