When you woke up in the morning to the sound of horns blaring; horns of cars and heavy duty automobiles speeding past with reckless abandon. You just couldn’t help but wonder what the fuss was about, though living not so far from the Oshodi expressway, which led all the way down to the neighbouring Sango-Ota, Ogun State; through Abule-Egba, Meiran and Alagbado, somewhat made adapting not such a long drag. The name of your street was Olanipekun and you lived at number eight.
You were already two weeks gone in Lagos. Preparations for your entrance exams into Model College, Meiran had begun. That was the school your mum said you would be attending. Your lesson teacher, Uncle Tolu would be around later at mid-morning. The thought of which encouraged you to get off from bed to freshen up a bit before embarking on your routine morning chores. While you were at it, your aunt called out your name.
“Yes IJ” was your response.
That was the name she preferred you called her. You were within the same age bracket and she was just a class ahead of you. She attended the girls’ high school, Agege. However, you knew why she had called you. It was time to go fetch some water across the street. You usually did that with her every morning before she went to school. Almost every house in your neighbourhood had a well of water dug in front of it but in the house where you lived, it was different. Instead, what was at the rear of the house was a well dug halfway and left, somewhat covered.
“Yes” was her response
“Why is that well always covered?”
“The one behind the house”
“Can’t we just fetch some water there, instead of going to that mama Efe’s house every morning?” You said with some innocent sarcasm.
“Usman was found dead in it”
Puzzled you said, “Usman! Which Usman?
“The son of our neighbour downstairs, Alhaji”
“Zainab used to have a brother?”
“Yes Alhaji downstairs. He used to have two children, Zainab and Usman. Usman was the younger of them. He was dumb, unable to speak and used to wander around the compound. So on this particular day, he fell off into the well and nobody knew. Everyone looked around for him to no avail, until his body was found floating in the well two days later”.
IJ’s narration had a chilling effect on you. It felt as if you knew Usman personally because you could somewhat connect with him, his soul. You imagined how lonely he must have been and even felt, not been able to communicate his thoughts, fears and feelings. Even though you were not dumb like Usman, he was like a glass before you, and you could see yourself through, in his story. Therefore your knees jerked in response, and you both spent the rest of the walk across the street in silence. Only the slap-slap sound of your foot wears was heard.
When you got to the compound you usually fetched water, there was a queue already which you both joined. You had to, because mama Efe, the staunch, dark and firm looking middle aged woman, ran the “mini water corporation” in the area. Everyone knew how irritated she easily got, especially in the morning.
‘’Hey you! Wetin you tink say u dey try do?’’ She snapped at a guy trying to jump the queue.
‘’Your money na N10!!” She barked at a young girl who asked her for a N5 change.
“Na 25 litres you carry’’ She declared to her.
‘’O girl make you begin go back house, if you sabi say you no get money’’. She said pointing to our direction, to a fellow standing just behind IJ.
“No free wotar today” She exclaimed.
IJ had momentarily looked at her with her right hand on her chest, as if trying to confirm if it were her mama Efe was referring to.
‘’No you wey wear black cloth’’ she had said with her finger pointing earnestly. IJ had let out a sigh of relief.
Back home, your lesson teacher arrived moments after IJ left for school. Your entrance exam was coming up this Saturday and you just couldn’t wait. The thought of attending boarding school excited you so much.
Your lesson teacher, Uncle Tolu was intelligent, though you found him a bit eccentric. His clothes sometimes seemed to carry him instead. Sometimes he freaked out when you asked him questions. Other times he was patient. He seemed to be frustrated or unfulfilled about something. Sometimes when he gave you an exercise to do and you were busy at it, he would seem to have relapsed into some deep thought of sort.
His mastery of the English language and Mathematics fascinated you though. He taught you word formation, prefix, suffix, synonyms, antonyms, vowels and on and on. How to pronounce them, how to spell them, and how to correctly construct words grammatically. He was thorough, kept you on your feet most times, and gave you lots of word problems and algebras to resolve. Sometimes, you thought he was a bit overbearing.
Therefore today, he tried to make you pronounce a certain word; ’’queer’’
“Kweer”, you said
Gbam!! He banged his hand on the table.
‘’I said kwir!!’’