When you stroll down the road, it sucks you in and the word ‘complicit‘ comes to mind. The noise all around, like when you scroll down your twitter timeline, envelopes your thoughts before they are formed: everyone is speaking at the same time, it seems. Everyone seems to mind their own business until you make your business their business: like mistakenly bumping into another person. ‘Abi olosi ni e ni‘, he or she, most likely a he, would yell, making circles with his right index finger on his temple, your ‘sorry’ inconsequential. Hawkers rule the road, ages varying from five to fifty, you can’t exactly tell; hawking coconut chips which I hate; rat traps to check little beasts I hate; small household appliances; bread and butter. A construction company is repairing, destroying or constructing the road, you can’t quite tell, and you can’t ask either – that’s making their business your business. All you can see is a Caterpillar breaking down the left side of the tarred road, and the sheen of the sweaty bodies of the labourers milling around the jaws of the Caterpillar. Avoiding their noise and business, you have to walk, on the pavement, on the other side of the road like other pedestrians walking, to and fro, briskly.
Ahead is an overhead road, and beneath are parked yellow buses lined with two black stripes tending to remind you of the woman, beside the pavement, having her hair braided into thin, long rows just by a ‘pure-water’ seller. Her bleached light-skinned face is decorated with one tribal mark drawn, on each side, from her cheekbone to the edges of her mouth. Beside you, on the right, is a row of stalls, leaning against the blackened walls of a three-storey building that houses a bank, and a few businesses, including a barbing saloon. On the wall you see written boldly in red ‘DON’T URINATE HERE’.
To your left, just beside the Caterpillar, is another row of stalls resting on the long wall of a factory; you could swear Gala or some sort of sausage roll was made there, the smell fills your stomach with hunger. It is a Sunday; a lot of shops are closed. A shop nearby, with clothes hanging loosely on mannequins in front of it, blares the latest street anthem: Limpopo. A young boy, not more than six years old, dances Azonto mildly as he tries to balance the wide bowl on his head filled with various soft drinks. You wipe your face with your already-soaked handkerchief, perhaps that’s why everyone seems to be in a hurry – running from a sun that seemed to be everywhere.
Just beside you sits impatiently a cripple tugging at trousers and skirts. A woman throws five naira at him, but he doesn’t pick it up. He crawls amid the many brisk feet, stumping their way out of the sun, to a few metres in front of him, where a twenty naira note has fallen out of a careless pocket. Just beside him, a hunky man in a black suit says to the ‘pure-water’ seller, searching his pocket, as he throws an empty sachet of water into the dustbin. ‘Madam, I thought I had twenty naira in my pocket o. Please madam, can you take five hundred naira from me?’
‘Ehn…’ she says, ‘see this man. Five hundred naira for five naira pure water, where I go get change? Abi you no wan pay? Ehn? You must pay today! You wear suit, you no wan pay for pure water. You dey craze.’ she snarls and grabs his red tie with her sturdy hands.
Everyone keeps walking, and you do the same, giving them occasional glances: it is nobody’s business.
Damilola Yakubu is a graduate of Law from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He lives in Nigeria and was a partipant of the Farafina Creative Writing Worskshop 2013. He blogs at idiace.wordpress.com.