Uche remembered bitterly that he would have bought a condom that evening, but didn’t just because he was shy. When he walked into the scanty pharmacy shop he was jittery. He scanned the faces of the people in the shop and his hands shook with fear. The chemist behind the counter was attending to a fully bearded old man shivering in double sweat shirts. Uche drummed his fingers on the counter to draw the chemist’s attention and looked around furtively. Yet the Chemist didn’t look up from the white tablets he was scooping with a small spoon from transparent containers as if he was doing tumbom tumbom with them. A young lady at the left corner, perhaps waiting for her turn looked up at Uche blankly and said nothing. If the chemist had looked up, Uche would have surreptitiously pointed at the Gold Circle condom hanging behind him with his left hand placed on his chest. That was his plan. But he didn’t look up; rather he hailed him: “ouchman kwokwo!”
“Good evening doctor” Uche greeted him and pursed in want of word.
“You came back early today” the chemist said.
“yes o!, it is the rain and njo-ahai” Uche said and scratched his head hoping the chemist would look up, still he didn’t.
“Who dey sick today? I just see papa heading home now with his big umbrella. I think this rainy season dey good for em body.” The chemist said and then turned to the girl towards the left:
“he must eat first before taking these drugs; each of them after meal, morning and night”. He handed her the four wraps of different tablets of drugs in small transparent cellophane.
“Ok doctor” she said and stood up and the old man followed her. Three other women came into the shop drenched in the rain outside and Uche sighed. He thought the shop would be free now so that he could tell the chemist that he wanted condom. There was no way he could say it before these women.
“Ouch man, what do I give you?” the chemist asked and finally looked up but it was as if the three women that walked in were all listening. Uche looked back at them and swallowed and scratched his head.
“a nam abia” he said in sluggish Igbo and stepped back so that the women could pass. Then two more people entered the shop. He brought out his phone and pretended to make a call and walked out of the shop into the light rain showers of the street without looking back.
Now he regretted it. He wished he had had the courage to speak up and ask for condom; after all he was already 21 years. He looked up in the sky as if he could see solutions up there but the gathering cloud frowned at him and he bent down again. He couldn’t discuss abortion with a woman who was old enough to be his mother. Ravens flying home from the impending rain made quack quack sound in the sky as if laughing at Uche’s misery. He sprang up and ran into his room and shot the door behind him. Then his phone rang; the name on the screen said “mama G”. That was what he called Igbeneche but he ignored the call. The phone rang and rang and rang and went dead.
Things changed from the day he carried Igbeneche on his old rickety Okada bike back from the market. She had invited him to come and eat hot asusu in her shop.
“It is good to eat asusu when it is raining like this” she said.
Uche came because he had always wanted to test the Abiriba asusu delicacy of mashed maize with ugu vegetable sauce. He liked it no doubt. Now he visited Igbeneche’s shop everyday not just because he got the asusu at no cost but because he thought Igbeneche was good to him. He helped Igbeneche to get things from the market and ran other errands for her. Uche had his eyes on Igbeneche’s daughter, Nwanne before Igbeneche took him out to that small hotel at far away Ogbo hill where they ate nkwobi and he got drunk and slept with her. He felt bad at first but Igbeneche said it was nothing. The following week, Igbeneche bought him a new GrandKing motor cycle and their visit to the hotel at Ogbo Hill became more frequent. Uche didn’t care again, even when the rumour went round the street that he was having affairs with the widow. He kept denying it. But he didn’t know how to continue denying now that Igbeneche’s belly region was curving outward. He was working in the rain when Igbeneche’s call came and he ran home to meet her because she sounded ill on the phone. The house was quiet when he entered, only the sound of the drizzling rain outside could be heard on the zinc roof. Nwanne had just left with a full trey of asusu to their shop. And the aroma of the vegetable sauce hovered in the room. Igbeneche was sprawling half covered on the bed with ashen face when he entered.
“You look cold” he said. He didn’t call her Ma. he swallowed the Mama G he wanted to call her, because Igbeneche had warned him to stop calling her Ma; not even Aunty.
“Yes” she whispered and smiled wryly
As Uche bent to feel her face with the back of his palms, she crossed her hands over him and kissed him.
“There is no one at home” she said in a quaky low voice.
“but there is no condom here” Uche said.
“Go and buy now” she said but Uche returned without the condom while she was already naked on the bed. They sighed together and smiled to each other and uche bolted the door.
Now he regretted it all.
to be continued….