Osakpolor Street was less crowded today considering its usual mad-rush of people on peculiar market days like this, but the unexpected rain had paused the busy activities of traders and buyers and so, everyone was on their heels trying to escape the merciless stripes of the rain. Lucky car owners jumped into their rides while pedestrians hit the walkway as if in hot pursue for a trophy only in this case, the trophy would be ‘staying dried’.
Esosa cursed beneath her breath as she raced down the walkway seeking a proper shelter from the rain. Her handbag which she had used as a shield above her head was dripping off water on her white blouse, her most favorite blouse. She sighed gustily and nodded in affirmation as to why she despised the raining season. Reason she wouldn’t even get an umbrella. She just wasn’t a fan of all the wetness it brought and the stress of holding an umbrella all day, she scoffed…no way!
Her glance had fallen on a shop which unlike others was less crowded by people, all at the front door with bodies draining of water and shivering from the sudden cold. The shop was yellow painted and embroidered with funny decorations and pictures of women dancing round a burning pot. A huge sign that read “Switch” in birnin was positioned with shining bulbs of green few inches beside the shop.
Just as she joined the crowd hidden beneath the shelter provided by the shop, Esosa noticed a woman hurrying out from the back door of the shop into a car that spontaneously sped away. A suspicious thought crossed her mind as she stared into the transparent glass window of the shop and took in the scenery. There was nothing basically unusual about the shop except for a red satin cloth spread on a tiny stool with skulls of dogs and whatever animals spread about it. Curiously, Esosa walked up to the door and pulled the handle. Surprisingly, it wasn’t locked.
“hmmm, that’s strange” Esosa muttered as she walked quietly into the shop which was deadly quiet except from a ticking clock hung on the wall facing the entrance of the door. A mirror she hadn’t noticed earlier, occupied the left wall and she conveniently stood in front of it and took in her appearance. She chuckled as she noticed how terrible she looked. The rain had messed up her makeup she had taken good thirty minutes at home to fix. Her hair braided in a woven style popularly known as Senegalese curved out her round face of perfectly dark brown eyes and pink lips. Her mascara had leaked out from her eyes dotting her cheeks. She stared at the stain on her blouse at the mirror and began to dig through her bag for her handkerchief. The sound of a shut door jerked her in shock. She sprung around to see who the entrant was but froze as she came face to face with a strangely looking woman whose face was plastered with a cockling smile.
“Ah there you are, I’ve been waiting for you”, the weird looking woman who was one sighted muttered, moving closer to her.
“Huh?” Esosa asked startled…
Tonia hurried up the stairs to her bedroom.
“Jesus , I am late o!” She muttered beneath her breath, taking the stairs two at a time. The rain had almost ruined her evening, no thanks to the heavens and to make matters worse, the traffic was depressing. If she had known, she would have taken the Osato’s way instead of going through the back of the market at Osakpolor street.
But come to think of it, how was she going to explain herself? What lie would she have given to cover up where she had been if she hadn’t gotten home an hour early? She queried herself for the umpteenth time as she pushed open her bedroom door and stepped into it.
The room which was largely built looked a lot like the one she had onced lived in probably because she handpicked the color herself when they had been renovating the house. The color reminded her so much of the life she once had but quickly, she shook the errant thoughts escaping into her memories and went to the wardrobe. Quickly, she changed her clothes and then headed down to the kitchen. After looking around and deciding what she should make for dinner, she set to work to make her husband’s favorite meal: Ogbono and pounded yam but just as she was about to set the pot of water for the yam, the gas cylinder ran out.
“What the hell?!” Tonia panicked. “Jesus, this isn’t happening” she wailed. Her husband would be home in any minute and if by the time he got back from work, the meal wasn’t ready, she was finished.
She began to pace the kitchen, pondering on her next line of action and then it hit her; she would go to her neighbors. Without hesitation, Tonia raced to her neighbor’s house, Mrs Osabor. She found the woman breaking eguisi at the back of her yard.
“Please ma, I’m sorry to bother you, can I borrow your gas cylinder, please? I’ll return it as soon as I’m through”, Tonia pleaded.
“Oh! Why? What happened to yours?” Mrs Osabor asked genuinely surprised at the request as she put her tray of eguisi on the floor.
“Ehem. Ehem…my own just got finished and my husband will be back any minute, so…I” Tonia stammered.
Chai if this creeping old woman doesn’t help me out, my own is finished o, she thought restlessly as she stared helplessly at the woman.
“Oh! Ok…well, no problem. I will get you the cylinder. You are lucky I just finished cooking myself” Mrs Osabor answered, a wary expression on her face as she walked slowly into the house.
Tonia heaved a sigh of relief, but only to hear her husband’s car pull up on the drive way.
Ernest dropped his suitcase on the cushion and walked round the house like a social service worker on inspection. Something was amiss but he was too exhausted and hungry to figure out what it was, probably also because the aroma escaping from his wife’s kitchen was tormenting the rattling muscles of his belly.
He called out to Tonia.
He walked into the kitchen in annoyance only to find her walking in with heavy strides towards him from the back door.
“Where were you? He demanded eyes red like fire.
“Honey, welcome back” Tonia answered shifting towards the dishwasher in an effort to evade the rage she could feel radiating from him.
“Come, I asked you a question.” He implored moving towards her.
“I… I went to the neighbors to get a cylinder. Ours got finished” Tonia stammered in anguish trying to avoid his contemptuous stare.
“Wait, you mean you went to the neighbors to borrow a cylinder to cook for me?” He asked in disbelief, totally bewildered by the thought.
“Honey, I didn’t know what else to do. You were going to be home at any minute and I knew how hungry you were going to be when you get back so I…” Tonia explained blubberingly only to be promptly interrupted by a hot slap on her face.
“Are you mad?” Ernest yelled “What do you mean by you didn’t know what else to do? Didn’t I leave you in this house all morning? What the hell were you doing all that time that you couldn’t fill the gas before dinner time?”
Tonia said nothing but only held her face, desperately trying to hold back the tears that were about to escape from her eyes.
“Didn’t I just ask you a question? So all you do in this house is eat my food and swell up like a toad abi?” Ernest lashed out “look, if you know what is good for you, go and return whatever rubbish you borrowed from our neighbors and find a way to fill that cylinder. If by thirty minutes my food isn’t ready, you will know the kind of person I am…Nonsense!”
Ernest stomped out of the kitchen and raced up the stairs in fury. He was bubbling in anger and couldn’t quite understand why Tonia had become so lazy. Every day, he had to come home only to find her lazying about like a balloon lost somewhere in the sky. The sight of her irritated him and he didn’t know why. Probably it was because she had become so fat and shapeless. “No, that’s not it” Ernest thought as he removed his clothes and sat on the bed.
“Then what was it? “Is it the sex?
The frame that held the picture of both of them on their wedding day grinning from ear to ear caught his attention. He picked it up and stared hard at it, considering how strange and unfamiliar the people in the picture were to him. Although some memories he thought were dead came breezing back like the unexpected rain that day, he tried to fight them back. He had loved Tonia the first time he had met her and maybe he still did, but then why does he hit her at any slight provocation? Why does the sight of her irritate him? Ernest scoffed as he searched within himself for an explanation but all he found was nothing, nothing that held no comfort to him. He cupped his face in despair as the tears began to roll off his cheeks….