Osarieme strolled out of Mama Puts Buka her previously raging hunger satiated, at least for the time being. She was always hungry her body incessantly craving sustenance. She’d accepted it long ago but was certain there was more to it. Quite possibly she was eating her emotions letting the pleasure of food substitute a greater yearning inside.
Not up to one minute under the beating sun her body begins to betray her by spewing sweat from her dark pores. Her body reacts this way every time as if it is not the very same sun she was born under. She waddled to the nearest bust stop conscious of her body remembering a time where her plump physique was coveted instead of the way it was now scorned.
She swathed her face once more with her now soaked handkerchief and sped up to the nearest arriving bus and dragged her body into the nearest seat.
“Madam e be like say I go charge you for 2 seats oh” the conductor laughed. The driver simply looked back at her and scoffed.
She was used to unkind words. She’d be ok later. She was always ok after, as long as she had a hot meal to ease her anxieties.
This day in particular she was unfazed. Unfazed by everything and everyone around her. She was in a sprightly mood.
Earlier that day while peeling open the wrap of her second mound of pounded yam in the buka, a gentleman requested to share her table which she didn’t find unusual as the place was always packed with dinners vying for seats and her table was one of the few where a seat remained. The gentleman was short much like her with sable brown skin tinted as if it didn’t know whether to be red or brown. He wasn’t the most handsome man in the world yet he was far from ugly. He smiled at her while they ate silently. He smiled in a way that seemed seductive but Osariemen was sure that her eyes were deceiving her as a result of the excessive yearning that her constant lonely nights caused her.
When the gentleman finished his meal he trotted up to the food counter and seemingly requested a pen and paper from the waitress behind it. He scribbled something down and made his way back to their table all this she observed covertly. Upon return to the table he placed the paper in front of her and winked and then quickly departed from the establishment. She was tickled and surprised. She briskly examined her surroundings hoping no one was looking. She quickly and haphazardly folded it and brought it close to her as if it were her last hope in life and hastily scrambled out of the restaurant feeling an unfamiliar sense of femininity and grace.
Osariemen reached home slightly before dusk. Her sister who was also her housemate sat in the parlor watching part 2 of a random Nollywood film. Osariemen greeted her, went to have her bath and awaited the call for dinner from the house help. She dried her body and tied a wrapper from an old aso-ebi outfit of a wedding she attended the year before. She sighed recalling the painful feeling of attending yet another wedding for which she was not the bride and was also not called upon to be a bridesmaid. She had reached the age where her spinsterhood was greeted with much contempt and those who didn’t judge her would pity her instead . Driving the painful thoughts from her mind she remembered her great fortune.
The man from the restaurant.
She wouldn’t get her hopes up too high she would simply relish in the comfort of being desired. She pulled out the piece of paper and ceremoniously mulled over the numbers her mind and caressed the paper between her fingers constantly until the flimsy paper became almost transparent. It would be two days before Osariemen would drum up the courage to call her mystery lunch partner. By then she had already memorized the number.
His name was Festus Idehen. That was almost all she knew about him and about all she would ever get to know in the next three years of their seemingly clandestine relationship, for you see he never invited her to his home and he would only visit her at twilight hours barely breaking dawn in her home when he would scramble out of her bed to make it out before the cocks crow. He would only come to the house in the daytime once in a few weeks to greet Osariemens elder sister out of respect, since she was at least 15 years his senior. After some time Osariemens sister began to encourage her to get married, not realizing her sister was nothing more than a warm body to Festus.
Osariemen carried this shame lightly as it was not as painful and heavy as the lonely nights that had eventually become her companion before Festus came along. Osariemen had given over her body to her lover wholly in hopes that at her age she could still conceive a child. Desperation had set in and a child was her goal, marriage would simply be a welcome prize if it ever happened.
Osariemens dream did come true when at the ripe child bearing age of 42 she had finally conceived. Joy untold consumed her and peppered her waddled gait with enthusiasm and anticipation. She didn’t bother herself with how she would inform Festus of this new development.
She began to speculate that he had an idea that she was with child as his visits had become less frequent and had almost come to a complete stop. She surmised that it was either that he speculated that she was with child or that he had found a new lover to enjoy himself with.
She only could celebrate the fact that she had possessed the fruit of his loins that she so dearly craved. A bitter- sweet victory.
Osariemens celebration would be short lived as she began to fall ill and symptoms developed rapidly and deadly. The night sweats sores, fevers vomiting, drastic weight and hair loss seemed to her so severe and she began to wonder what sort of pregnancy this was. She shrugged it off as she had no experience with being pregnant and supposed it was to blame. It was during this period that she had received word down the grapevine that Festus had suddenly died and there were rumors of his extensive weight loss, hair loss, fevers and etc.
Osariemen panicked in realization that there was something greater at play and she mindlessly hoped it was some sort of curse that way she could at least hope to consult a Priest or babalawo or that the cure could be eventually attained from a pharmacy. First she’d consult a doctor but if that did not work she resolved that any form of reprieve would do. Obviously Festus must have already gone to the doctors and still died.
Stress and the illness combined to render her unconscious one day. When Osariemen came too with her sister panicking over her in tears she was informed that she had lost her twin babies.
She hadn’t known.
The next bit of news floored her and crippled what little was left of her soul and cracked her hope into pieces that blurred her vision and numbed her existence.
“Madam you have AIDS.”
The doctor told her while holding her hand gently. She would have felt self-conscious being called madam since it revealed how old she had become with no child and no husband to speak of and now no lover as it dawns on her that Festus gave her AIDS.
*Self Esteem comes from within. Never let others opinions create your path. For you are the one who has to live with its consequences
(Aware of paragraphing issues. Still learning to handle that.)