Thursday, 30 June 2016
UNILAG FOR HUMANITY PIC-FIC SERIES: AWWS AND AWES By Miracle Okpala
because air had freely occupied spaces in it. Combing was not an option right now. The last two
combs she used had sustained broken legs in the process. She would leave her hair that way till
her stylist (who also happened to be her sister) would bring a magical touch to the scary hair.
The previous night was really ‘nighty.’ The wood supporting the unevenly chopped, weak bed
had caved in, and for the first time in her life, the physical and spiritual seemed to unite against
her. She was in a dream where she tripped in the mud and landed on her back. In reality, her
back had hit the floor because the wood supporting the fragile bed had bowed after over twenty
long years of service. It was forest dark as the candle light had died a slow death, it was indeed a
hero. What could she have done without it all these years when electricity was not an option
because this part of the world where she lived was deprived of the joy of Thomas Edison’s
invention? Finding her way in the dark would have been an issue if her eyes had not mastered the
darkness. She tiptoed trying not to wake her sleeping sister, at the same time being careful not to
step on her only sister who was a huge fan of sleeping on the floor. Remi’s answer had never
changed when asked why she would not join her sister on the bed.
‘I love the floor. It is really cold, a natural God-given bed. In fact, it is way better than these
spring beds, you know?’
Bola knew that her sister did not mean what she said. Who would prefer the concrete floor with
holes all over to a spring bed? Even a mad man would go for the bed. Remi had only given that
answer for two reasons: firstly, the only bed they had was weak and would not carry two people;
secondly, she was the older one so she preferred to take the pain of the hard floor so that her
sister could enjoy the ‘luxury’ of the half-dead bed.
Well, that luxury was no more. Bola would be joining Remi on the floor now. She reached for
the old mat that stood lame behind the door. The door itself was more like an ornament than a
security device. It was moist from water sweeping into the house when it rained. It also had
segments. There was a part of it that hosted rats, rats poorer than church rats due to starvation.
Another part hosted wood-eating insects that lived larger than the rats because they had food to
eat. The last part was for mosquitoes. Bola could bear anything but mosquitoes. They left red
spots on her fair skin after each feast on her blood.
She lay the mat and put a shabby wrapper over it. Sleeping on the ground was not something she
was used to so she kept tossing and turning till daybreak. She smiled as the first ray of sunlight
hit her, temporarily forgetting that she looked like a mess. Remi, who was the hard working one,
had already left for her hairdressing salon. This was what kept them alive ever since they lost
their parents in an accident. ‘Remi Beauty Salon,’ which was the name of her shop, was a stone’s
throw from the house. Bola joined her sister about an hour later to have her hair styled.
Hassan woke up at 8.30am. He made for the kitchen to prepare breakfast but stopped halfway
and drifted to the bathroom. He picked up his white toothbrush that had funny looking, hard
bristles. He applied the red toothpaste extravagantly but dropped it and headed back to the sitting
room. There he picked up a blue shirt and began ironing. A lot was going through his mind. Why
had Bola declined dating him? He was a polished young man with a degree from Harvard. Why
would a girl turn down a guy working in Chevron, living in Banana Island, and driving a Ferrari?
Bola did not seem to care about his financial status. This was what actually stood her out from
the tons of ladies that bugged him daily.
He recalled how he met her. It was on a rainy day. He had splashed water on her long gown
while driving home. He parked his car on the left side of the wet road and hurried towards her.
“I am really sorry. The road was free so I doubled up my speed. I did not ever think I would meet
anyone let alone a beautiful girl like you.”
He added the last phrase not because he noticed her face but to reduce the insult he expected to
receive from her.
“It’s okay. I am not angry.” She replied with a soft voice and continued walking.
“Do you mean that?” Hassan stammered, still in shock that she did not shower invectives on him.
He offered her a ride and she hesitatingly accepted.
He hissed upon realizing that he had burnt his shirt. He picked up another shirt which was not
surprisingly blue and tried to iron without having the thoughts of Bola. At 10am, he was looking
like a contestant for Mr Nigeria. His hair was overgrown and needed a haircut; he would fix that
later today. His cologne filled the air with lovely fragrance. He straightened his back and put a
call across to the only girl that had been on his mind for the past few weeks.
“Good morning, Bola. Please hear me out, I need to see you. I can’t seem to get you out of my
head. Text me your address, I will come over.” He paused to take in some breath.
The text came in fifteen minutes later. It read: 15, Shittu Orija, Dustbin Estate, Ajegunle. He sure
needed directions. He was used to driving in Lagos but somehow, he had never gotten close to
Ajegunle. Google map was a buddy and in a few minutes, he had a semi-clear idea of where he
Dustbin estate was a place where heaps of debris occupied vast areas of land. Here, humans and
animals lived like siblings. The potholes swallowed his tyres hungrily and at a point he had to
park his car and continue on foot. He walked past naked children playing in the sand, looking
inexplicably excited. He had never seen children this happy. He would have begun figuring how
this children were playing happily in front of weak and bending houses, but Bola stole his
thoughts once more.
“We are from two different worlds. Nothing serious could come out of a relationship if we tried.”
That was Bola’s opinion. Well, he agreed with her on the former. They were indeed from two
different worlds. He never thought a place like this existed in the world, let alone Nigeria. It was
crystal clear why Bola had turned him down. She felt she did not measure up to his standard.
Who was she to decide that? He could make decisions himself.
He knocked at the moist door and watched two small rats race out of a hole in it. He observed no
one was in and asked a little child building a sand castle for help. She pointed at a salon and
resumed her construction.
REMI BEAUTY SALON was finally in sight. Bola was sitting on a wooden chair, having her
hair retouched by her sister. She smiled as soon as she set her eyes on him. Her sister smiled
more although they had the same smile.
“I never expected you to come. How did you find your way?” Bola asked still smiling.
“This was the only place I could find my joy.” He said, smiling at her, “I must confess that those
residing in Dustbin Estate are the strong ones. Driving here has taught me a lot of things. I intend
starting a project here.” His eyes wandered to the yellow kegs in front of the shop. His love for
Bola could fill them to an overflowing point. He stared into Bola’s brown eyes and felt a
glimmer of hope. Something told him she would be his soon. After conversing with her and her
sister for a while, he walked into the barber’s shop just beside the hair salon to have a haircut
while Remi continued styling her sister’s hair.