We had barely started out on the journey when aunty Patience (my aunty) dozed off into deep sleep accompanied in like manner by loud snores. A woman sitting beside aunty Patience offered for me to sit on her laps but I politely declined. She gently drew me closer to herself and lifted me to her laps. “Who died”? She asked in a very tender voice. My all black dressing must have hinted her.
“My dad” I replied.
“When?” she asked.
“October 1st” I quipped.
She must have sensed that I wasn’t in a conversational mood and said sympathetically;
“so sorry for your loss dear” then she fell silent.
“Thank you Ma”
I said closing my eyes to hold back the tears that had started welling up.
After what seemed like an eternity our vehicle pulled to a halt in a rather busy area with a lot of vehicles and so many people hawking kpekere, bread, egg roll, banana, groundnut, and all sorts.
At that point, I asked the nice woman whose lap I had been sitting on if we had reached Lagos. To my utmost chagrin she replied in the negative and explained that we were in Ore. She said we needed to stop to take some refreshment and empty our bowels.
The woman woke aunty Patience who jerked out of her sleep and got out of the vehicle to urinate.
Few minutes later, we continued on our journey. Aunty Patience went back to her slumber and the woman lifted me back to her laps again.
Looking out of the window, the view provided a diversionary path from the barrage of thoughts criss-crossing my mind as the trees appeared to be moving along with us. We also drove past different rivers. The view was utterly fascinating.
After some more hours, we got to Lagos. We took another bus and we arrived at my Aunt’s house. My aunty and her family lived in the junior staff quarters of a military barracks at Oshodi. All the buildings were absolutely the same and can only be differentiated by the numbering on either end of each block. There was a pronounced absence of greenies.
The barracks was outlined by closely packed rectangular block of buildings painted in fading yellow colors. Each block was compartmentalized into ten apartments for ten separate families. Bare-footed children were playing around noisily in their tattered pants. Aunty Patience’s husband sat on a wooden stool, polishing his army boot, she greeted him and he murmured his response.
I also greeted him and he gave the cold “hmmm” response again looking me all over from head to toe like I was some alien from Mars or something similar. His stare seemed like that of a predator sizing up a prey. His menacing mien was a tad unnerving and I felt relieved when aunty Patience asked me to go inside and I was more than relieved to get out of her husband’s sight.
Inside was a gloomy sight; a single self-contained apartment. In one corner of the “palour” was a tiny iron bunk with flat thread-bare mattress, two moribund settees and a wooden center table. A looming picture frame of aunty Patience’ s husband dressed in full military regalia hung precariously from one side the wall. The paint on the wall was peeling off and the ceiling boarding looked like it would drop on my head evidencing a convergence of rain drops evidence from a leaking roof.
I was suddenly jolted out of my reverie by a voice asking in pidgin;
“na who be this?”
Standing before me was a rotund light complexion girl of about my height with a rather heavy chest. Her full blown breast made it difficult for me to place her age. My name is Esther I stuttered.
“I be Clara” she replied.
My life in Lagos had just started.