Aunty Patience emerged from the house minutes after Clara had entered back in the house and met me sitting on the soak away crater.
‘Where is Clara?’ she asked.
‘I am here’ Clara replied from the sitting room before I could open my mouth to speak.
Without saying another word she went about dishing food.
‘Take these plates of food into the kitchen’. She ordered.
‘Yes ma’ I said and went about it with the dexterity of a hard wired robot.
Clara came outside and handed me a wrapper.
‘Use this for your oshuka’ she said.
‘Oshuka?’ I asked looking confused and lost. The word sounded Greek and foreign to me.
She took the cloth from me and rolled it into a ball-like shape.
‘That is oshuka’ she said placing the ‘oshuka’ on my head.
‘Good morning darling.’ Aunty Patience’s voice came out high pitched and cheery. I turned to see Uncle Bello standing cosmeticized with that usual icy expressionless look that sends the heebie-jeebies shooting through my spines.
‘Good Morning.’ He mumbled in reply more out of obligation than of expression of affection.
‘Good morning daddy.’ Clara greeted him.
Da… what? My ears popped. My eyes wide in utter shock.
Did Clara just call Uncle Bello ‘daddy?’ I ‘silently screamed’ within my head.
After all they did together barely five hours ago? I mused.
Or were my eyes joshing me?
Aunty Patience’s stinging slap on my back, snapped me out of my reverie, knocking off the ‘oshuka’ that Clara had carefully balanced on my head.
‘You are so mannerless!’ She shrieked.
‘You are standing there mopping at your uncle instead of kneeling down to greet him?’
‘Is this the kind of children Itohan raised for my brother?’ She kept on her vituperation.
Then she hit me again! I was appalled by her violence to say the least.
‘Good morning sir’ I finally mumbled still staring at Aunty Patience, my face a clear mixture of anger, disgust and disdain. Fair enough, Uncle Bello ignored my greeting. Not that I meant the greeting anyway.
‘Let’s go.’ Clara said gently tugging at my arm.
‘Let her carry the rice, you should carry the stew yourself.’ Aunty Patience sternly told Clara.
‘Oya carry.’ Clara gestured to me to join her in lifting the big aluminum bowl of rice to my head.
Until then, I had never carried that much weight load on my head. I stood there not knowing what to do.
Aunty Patience joined Clara in lifting the bowl of rice to my head and I felt my neck had snapped from the sheer weight of the bounty on my head. They both lifted Clara’s own to her head and she led the way.
‘Aren’t we there yet?’ I asked Clara, we had been walking for over 30mins and was now just on the outskirts of the barracks gate. We crossed the railway track and continued walking along the expressway. The day was already dawning and there were so many vehicles on the road, speeding past, just like I used to see on the television when growing up. I had no time to take in the rather amazing scenery.
‘We are almost there.’ She replied.
‘See that over-head bridge?’ She said pointing to a bridge. “That’s Oshodi Bridge; we sell food under the bridge at the other side”. It was dark, and the weight of the load on my head was becoming increasingly unbearable.
We got to the foot of the bridge and Clara explained that we had to climb the pedestrian bridge to get to the other side.
Sweating profusely from the heat of the hot bowl of rice I started climbing the stairs following closely behind Clara.
At the top of the bridge, I looked down and let out a shrill scream as fear gripped my heart at the sight of the height and the fast moving vehicles below. At that instant my legs failed me…