This afternoon and The race.
My Mother looks out from the awning she was sitting under and says, “This sun is too much,”. Her face wrinkled with worries and pains as though the sun is shinning directly on her face with all its might.
I look at her and smile before I ask:
“Mummy, have you forgotten this is the kind of weather, the hot sun we usually pray for then in I.T.C park?”
I watch her smile, and I see words of gratefulness dancing boldly on her tired, worried, sweaty face. And, just looking her in the face, I can tell that the memories of I.T.C park ten to eleven years ago play in her mind.
Then, ten years ago and more, we never prayed for rain. We went about our business everyday hoping the dry season never leaves. Our business at the I.T.C park where we first sold cold sachets of water. We would put in bowls lifted to our heads until my Mother and I were able to make enough money to start mineral business.
First, we sold a crate of coke almost every day. After sometime, we made yet another money, and buy another crate and that was when I began to love our business.
We would walk home to Orji, discussing our encounters with the different kinds of customers. We were eating the pieces of suya we bought on the way any day we were able to finish a crate and half or two.
My Mother is a very hardworking woman. Then, with two crates of minerals and some bags of sachet water everyday, she is able to make more money to buy a crate of Amstel malt and Maltina.
A time comes when things begin to get very hard. When he stoops slipping the #500 note for our weekly feeding into my Mother’s hands. Then, I begin to go to the park on Sundays, alone and that made my Mother very proud of me.
There are Sundays when rain falls and I will not finish selling the bags of pure water and the crate of mineral I buy. I will walk home, buy my Mother five hundred-naira suya, because I want her to become more proud. I will rather save the thirty-naira for transport fare for her suya for the next Sunday.
Then, whenever the skies begin to roar threatening to send down rains, we will pray for the rain to cease. Because if it doesn’t, my Mother will not be able to buy the fifty naira pieces of spagethi nor the ‘Decency’ bread in Ekeonuwa. She also will no be able buy me a pack of the ‘chikki’ noodles. We will only walk home, discussing dryly the day’s experiences managing eating fifty-naira suya.
Among all the experiences I have at the park, I tell my Mother all but two.
One happens to be about an old man, an Imo state Company driver, who always calls me to buy drinks for me. But, always ends up bringing out his penis from his zip trousers after he might have turned his eyes to search around . Many a times, he tries making me touch him but he is very scary.
I am young, naive, very low self-esteemed, I can’t tell my mother because she never talks about those things – about abuse, about sexuality. However, one of our neighbours at the park had claims she sees the man trying to make me touch his penis and when she tells my mother, I deny it and dislike Aunty Priscilla immediately.
I begin to wonder how she sees such horrifying sight and can’t come to do anything but to tell my Mother. My mother never says anything about it – not because she doesn’t want or have anything to say to me but because she can’t say anything about it.
The other is about when I met a teacher from my primary school, Sir Pee, who comes down from the bus he has already entered to be sure I am the one.
When I am still at the Royal Primary school, Orji, Sir Pee loves me. He does. I am calm and brilliant even though I never take even the fifth position.
While Sir Pee stands, he stares and can’t say anything and I run as far as I can.
Then, another is when I see Mrs Osuagwu; my form teacher at Girls’ secondary school Ikenegbu, Owerri, and I hid.
Mrs Osuagwu hates me because I am poor and I am always the last to pay my school fees. Because my uniforms are never ironed and I never signed more than #100 on the cards she will give to us, her students, to sign for her, and I dislike her too.
I know Mrs Osuagwu sees me too when she tries peeping from the glass and I run.
I do not tell my Mother why I breathe heavily. Neither did she ask because she thinks I am tired from walking around the park with a big bowl on my head. She allowed me rest for a while before I go into the park again.
It is weekend, when I get to school the next week, Mrs Osuagwu flogs me. She says it is for allowing myself abused. As if I have many other choices to choose from. Or it was my Mother’s fault that things are hard for us.
I remembered all these and more while I stared at my Mother and all I said in my heart were silent prayers and Thanks to God for getting me to where I am today, where we are today.