It was 3am.
I was startled out of sleep by the loud alarm from the old pendulum clock hanging on the wall. I blinked hard and looked at the direction of the alarm. For a while, I couldn’t remember where I was. Clara was not far from me and sleeping peacefully. I kept staring at her rather innocent face wondering if the images of her and Uncle Bello making out all happened in my dream. I must have had been dreaming, I concluded. My mind was still ruminating over these when Aunty Patience strolled lazily into the sitting room accompanied with a loud yawning. I quickly closed my eyes out of fear of only God knows what?
Clara! Clara!! Aunty Patience was shouting now, and then a loud “passawa”, which made me jump to my feet.
Ye! Clara screamed out of sleep rubbing the spot on her back which Aunty Patience’s slap had landed on.
“Get up from there idiot! You are deaf, you didn’t hear the alarm or you have not finished from your coven?” Aunty Patience bellowed.
Clara stood up, unbolted the back door and went outside grumbling and mumbling under her breath.
“Esther you don’t know how to greet? Or you need a slap to remind you of what you are supposed to say to an adult when you wake up in the morning? She scowled.
“Good…good morning ma”. I stammered.
“C’mon follow her and get lost,” she shrieked.
I let out a loud sigh of relief as soon as I got out of the house and only then did I realize I had been holding my breath all along. Clara was bringing out fire wood from the kitchen to the tiny open space that separated Aunty Patience’s block from the next. The kitchen was built outside, adjourning the apartment. I instinctively joined her. After bringing out all the firewood, we carried the heavy tripod stands and large three-legged pot. She set the firewood into the tripod stand and I joined her to lift the heavy three-legged pot to the tripod stand. And within minutes three fire stands was burning wildly with a large three-legged pot placed on each. In no time, rice, beans, yam, spaghetti and stew were being packed from the large pots on the fire into aluminum bowls of different sizes and covered with nylon and wrappings.
Clara then advised me to quickly go take my bath and dress up within the next five minutes if I wanted to avoid Aunty Patience’s wrath. The thought of having my bath gave me a rather weird but soothing relief. I had been sweating profusely and my nostrils had started running from the smoke and fire from the steaming food that I and Clara had battled to put together.
I went back into the house and my eyes gazed at the wall clock, the time was 4:50am. Aunty Patience had dozed off on the sitting room couch. I came back to Clara and she left to go take her shower and asked me to continue with the ripe plantain.
By the time I was done with it, I was sweating like a stressed goat with the clothes I had changed into minutes back carrying a thick stench of smoke with it. I quietly wondered about the rational for taking my bath or changing clothes earlier. There and then, I realized my life would be one rash and martial existence undertaken with military scheduling.
And for the first time since I got to Lagos, I missed the love and warmth of my family.