I met him sitting at the corner of the bus park;in bathroom slippers
He packed his wares beside him, and by 'wares' I speak of a pack of plantain chips. Honestly if I summed them all up,and sold them all, the money I would get from the sale would not be enough to buy my makeup.
I watched him bring out his N50 scotched egg.That was all he had for breakfast.He made the sign of the cross and prayed over it,like it was some princely breakfast.
He could not have been more than 12 years old,it was a Monday morning,everyone else was at school
Instead all he had was his bag of Plantain chips,the large rosary bead on his neck and the heat rashes on his skin.
My heart went out to him. Slowly, and unsure of how he would react, I walked up to him and handed him a N500 note from my wallet. I could tell that it looked like a million dollars to him. With a shy smile, he said thank you, and then got up to show the money to his older brother,(I assumed so), sitting at a corner, not far from him.I could tell he sought permission to spend the money.
I was a bit scared myself .(This is Lagos, and no one helps strangers without an ulterior motive).My eyes begged not to be misread. I remembered the ankle chain on my left ankle and prayed that they would not think I was some agent of mermaid spirits looking for whom to initiate into some devilish coven. In our part of the world,that's the way people think..
Sometimes I like to pretend that these people are not there.But they're everywhere,especially in the marketplace and at the bus parks;
Children sprawling on the floor,with dirty bodies, dirty clothes, hair made bald by ringworm;
Others loitered at the bus parks, being mentored by bus conductors and bus drivers.Soon they would grow up to be like them
By age 40,they would be washed out,by weed , dry gin loose women and poor food.Some of them would take to the high way,with cold blooded eyes and not a care in the world.
The mothers,shabby and unkempt,had yellow teeth and skin shriveled by the sun,or local coarse skin-bleaching creams. Ignorance and poverty turned them into shadows of what they might have been in the past.
Their fathers,(if they ever existed) would have given up on life.With large eye glasses,torn bibles, washed out clothes, bitter hearts and numerous ailments.Having spent their lives dreaming and hoping that someday, things would get better,only to realize one day that the life was almost over.
Yet I relax and dream of millions;ogling at pictures of Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet and Oprah Winfrey.Watching Kimora Lee Simmons and all the Kadarshian vanities ;ogling at their fancy designer clothes, shoes and bags; or dreaming (like I love to do), about one day when I would live in one of those big mansions that I always fantasized about; Food and clothing were no longer a problem to me.I had so much to eat that I sought ways to get them out of my system.So I drank spicy teas with tasteless milk and sweeteners. In the evenings I would go the gym and seek for ways to sweat. That way, I could get rid of all the food I had consumed. (as if someone forced me to eat them in the first place).
Kim who? Kardashian what?and what in the world were Gucci and Luis Vuitton? These people I speak of have never even heard of those names.All they have ever asked of from life is to be able to eat some food , have a decent place to sleep, and ( for those of them who had some sense) get basic education at least.
These people are everywhere and they too are part of the world we live in.So much so that I'm starting to think that they are in the majority,
As I looked at my small friend with his bag of Plantain Chips, and his N50 breakfast, that Monday morning, all I could ask myself was " What have I really done to deserve the life that I've been blessed with?"