Sunday, May 3, 2015

When In Nigera - Chapter 4

New-York had a certain kind of something that Nigeria possessed more of; noise. As Patricia walked alongside Ola, the little girl whose parents were in crisis, the street were extremely busy considering that it was very early in the morning. Recording stores had already opened up and music blasted the whole city. Ola bumped her head to some of the songs as they walked to her school. She’d insisted on going to school even after what went down with her parents, and she wanted Patricia to accompany her there. Patricia knew nothing about the streets of Lagos or the way to Ola school but she couldn’t say no to the little girl.

Patricia took a mental picture of every lane and little corner roads they walked past because she knew she would have to find her way back to Ade’s place alone. A part of her knew she was probably making a big mistake and she could face a possibility of being lost, but the little girl who was beside her gave her courage to continue.

“You will tell my aunty that you made me late.” Ola said to Patricia as they drew closer to a school sign board. Patricia chuckled. “Wait; are you my uncle’s wife?” Ola boldly added.

“No, no, I’m not but I’m your uncle’s friend.” Patricia answered nervously. Ola’s question had caught her off guard. The fear that she was losing the images of the streets she’d captured in my head was what concerned Patricia the most.

“Hmmm, that’s what the other aunty said the other day. But anyway, we are almost at my school. Mrs. Kemi is very mean. She will whip me for coming late.” Ola stated nonchalantly, getting Patricia’s attention. “No, she won’t. I will make sure of that.” Patricia reassured Ola who didn’t seem one bit bothered. The educational system in Nigeria baffled Patricia who was a foreigner. She thought Ola was too young to be whipped for something as little as tardiness. Patricia instantly felt the need to protect Ola from anymore hardship for the rest of her life. The incident of the morning was enough for one child to bear for a lifetime.

She pushed the school gates opened. “There she is.” Ola pointed to a lady who was standing in front of the entrance of the school reception area. What am I going to say to her? Patricia is an only child and has never had to worry about taking her younger ones to school or lying for their sake. This was all new to her, but lying wasn’t.

“You must be the principal…” Patricia smiled, stretching a hand forward for a handshake.

The woman hissed saying, “And you are?” There was no doubt that her students feared her. She had on this old red wrinkled dress suit, with red pumps to match that looked as if she inherited it from her great grandparent. A gray wig was neatly fixed on her head which made her appear much older and meaner. She began to swing the cane in her hand back and forth. Ola drew back in fear.

“Madam, I’m a friend of Ola and I’m so sorry she’s late today. It’s my fault that she’s late; please let her slide in for today…”

“It doesn’t matter if she’s late or not she can’t go in, her school fees hasn’t been paid yet.”

“My mummy said that she will come and see you.” Ola spoke with sadness in her voice.

“Shut up you little girl!” The principal shouted. Patricia drew Ola closer to her side. Ola was so little and with her head against Patricia’s hips, Patricia asked, “How much is this school fees?”

“How does that concern you? Are you are parents?”

“Look, just tell me how much it is and if you allow Ola go to class for today, I promise to bring the fees.”

The woman took a good look at Patricia. She began contemplating if it was worth her while to answer to Patricia. “2,500 naira, and if by the time the school closing bells ring, and I don’t have the money in my hands, Ola will not be allowed into my school again.”

Ola came in front of Patricia and hugged her before her principal could even finish. Then she ran off to class.
“By the way, are you not from here?” The principal was ready for some gossip.

“Thank you very much madam, I promise to bring the money.” Patricia answered as she climbed down the mini stairs out of the school reception area.

Patricia was back on the street. For the 3rd time since she left Ola’s school, Patricia ran into the same woman who was frying something that smelt like heaven. Customers lined up in front of the woman’s wooden shop waiting for their turn. They all seem to buy bread alone with the reddish substance shaped like meatballs which Patricia didn’t know was akara. Patricia’s stomach growled.  After she came across the same joint for the 4th time, Patricia agreed that her worst fear had come true; she was lost.

She refused to panic. A young teenage boy walked up to her. He’d been watching Patricia make circles around his mother’s shop. He’d quickly grabbed his school ba and decided to approach her when he saw her walk past for the 4th time.

“Excuse me, you dey look for somebody?” He spoke in their language. He smiled when he saw the confused look on Patricia’s face as she tried translating what he’d said into English.

“Are you looking for somebody?” He asked again. Patricia gasped as if she’d finally met someone who was just like her. “Yes, please, yes.”

“Who's the person you’re looking for?” The boy asked, swinging his hands back and forth. His youthful eyes held hope for Patricia. Patricia hesitated before answering. What if he didn’t know who Ade was, then all hope would be lost again. With her fingers crossed Patricia answers, “Ade. I don’t even know his last name but…”

“Oh, bros Daniel? Ah… everyone knows him na. Come,” he took Patricia by the hand. “I’ll take you to him. His place is not far from here.”

After some minutes past of them walking, Patricia started to recognize where they were. “There he is.” The boy pointed straight ahead. As the figure he was pointing to came closer, Patricia recognized who it was.

“What the hell! I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” Ade stated angrily. The last thing he wanted was for someone to get lost under his watch. Only God knew he’d had more than enough to deal with already and Patricia was the very least of his problems.

“I’m sorry, I followed Ola to school I didn’t think it would be this hard finding my way back but I was wrong.” Patricia frowned as she watched the look of annoyance play across Ade’s face.

“Come, are you stupid?” Patricia became still. “You don’t know anything about Lagos so please don’t move around without proper knowledge. Didn’t they teach you that in France?” Patricia forgave at once right there as he ranted on and on. She blamed his outburst on what happened to his sister that morning.

“Thank you Seyi,” Ade dug his hand into his pocket and gave the young boy some change and the boy left before Patricia could even thank him.

“Look I’m sorry okay?”

“No,” Ade sighed. “I should be the one saying sorry. I didn’t mean any of those things I said, it’s just that what happened this morning just threw me off…” Lines of frustration ran deep on his face. Pity; that was all Ade could get from Patricia.

“It’s okay, I understand.” A pained smile formed across his face.

“Can I trust you?” Ade asked, drawing closer to Patricia. He didn’t know why he’d suddenly asked that question. 

Lately, Ade felt as though he was the only man in the world. With him having to feed and care for his sister and niece, he felt as if the whole world was resting on his shoulders and there was no way he could let of some of that load because giving up meant leaving his sister and her daughter in the hands of an unstable man. Patricia stepped back. “I know it’s too much to ask so soon but,” Patricia swallowed the saliva that was forming in her mouth. Not wanting to hear any more from Ade, she answered, “No. No, you can’t trust me…” Patricia couldn’t be trusted and that was no lie.

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