The car swerved past me into the street where I stood by its junction. I turned sharply and ran to a side of the street and looked at the car. There were six people inside the blue-coated vehicle. I counted the driver’s head, another person on the passenger seat beside the driver, and four heads at the back seat. I had not been aware that I stood on the centre of the street junction. I had been absent-minded.
Someone said something in a language I did not understand very well, but I made out the meaning in my head. It must be a curse. The woman’s voice sounded distasteful. I looked to the opposite side of the road from where I stood now and saw an old woman looking angrily at me; with her was a middle-aged woman who looked like she was the one who had said the curse. Their goods: peeled and unpeeled oranges were displayed on two round tables placed on a water-soaked table. The legs of the table looked like they were bloated and would soon crash from taking in too much of the water that logged under them over a long period of time. The middle-aged woman had a cloth spread on her laps with a partly peeled orange in a small heap of orange peels. A larger quantity of long, winding and short peels were on the ground scattered around the table and the bench they sat on. The middle-aged woman had her knife suspended in the air as she gawked at me.
“You no hear me?” The mama asked. “Na so mad people go dey waka everywhere with adacriti like say dem well.” Her pidgin was forced. I laughed loudly. I could not help it knowing the meaning of the word she pronounced as adacriti. Alacrity.
Then more to the woman with her than to me, she said, “nwa oma di otu a. Eh! O sighi n’ulo puta? Such a fine boy. Didn’t he come from a home?”
I looked from one person to the other, put my thumbs into my ears in a pointed position, leaving my other fingers stretched, stuck out my tongue and wriggled my fingers at them. The horror on the old woman’s face tickled me. I giggled as she screamed, “nwa ojoo! Evil child.”
I turned my sides to them and looked out to the road again.
I had lived with a couple all my life till now that I am twenty years old. They were my captives. They were my parents. My captives, the woman especially, were nice people. We lived in a slum. There were many potholes with dirty water trapped in the hollows, serving as nests to the many mosquitoes that never allowed us sleep well at night. Some of the buildings were mud with thatch or zinc roofings, depending on how much the families had. Some of the houses were incomplete buildings abandoned by the owners. Sometimes, three or four large families like mine lived there. There were also a lot of families like us.
My mother sold bits and pieces of stuff like matches, milk, kerosene, cigarette, sachet water, etc, just at the outskirt of the general community. My father took his hand sewing machine out everyday to amend people’s clothes and returned everyday with little or nothing.
But at eighteen, after I dreamt of a city of young people on the other side of the road, I knew it in my heart that it was time to leave them, leave the thatched building we all cramped in everyday. My mother was not very pleased; my father seemed relieved. He said that they had done all that they could for me. That after all, I had a penis like him. I had wondered if he said that to the three older boys before they disappeared from the house; I wondered if he would say the same to the younger boys. Did he say something similar to the girls?
I monitored the road. The vehicles were not slowing down. I placed my legs ready for a run immediately the road was clear. I bore in mind that the two women must be looking at me. I decided also that I would make my run smooth. I moved my legs like an athlete’s, one leg in front of the other preparing for the Olympic run, tugged my body slightly up and down, then stood in shock. I had felt a chill on the lower part of my body when I moved just now. Why didn’t I notice before? Had the women seen it? Was that why they cursed me? My penis was out, and I had been in the public eye for a while. I turned my back to the women and quietly tucked my person back into my underwear, and zipped up.
I remembered the first time I went out with my dad to repair his motorcycle. I was fifteen years old. We were at a mechanic workshop when my dad slapped my back and dragged me by my shirt to a corner of the unkempt garage. He did not say anything, he only pointed at it. I flushed as I put it back. I remembered him telling my mother that I was clumsy, and that clumsy boys did not make successful men in life.
The first time one of the grown girls, my sister, had seen my penis, we were eating from the very large rusted tray with small holes in it. She had asked me to bring the plates with her to the back yard. She had touched my penis, making me shiver as she cupped and stroked it, all the while giggling and touching her breasts. She had asked to breastfeed me, like mother did when I was a baby, which I shyly accepted, after which she put back my penis, zipped my trouser and asked me to go.
I faced the road again and began to watch for the vehicles. I had missed my first chance because I was careless. A jeep drove slowly by maintaining the slow-down side of the road, while the other vehicles sped by like they were avoiding death’s long, overreaching hands at their backs. I looked at the jeep as it drove by me and saw my head on the windscreen glass. My hair was disheveled. It had bits of dirt and foam from the old, stray mattress foam I sometimes fortunately slept in. I bathed before I left the house. The women must be watching. Did they also see this? I felt very sad. This side of the divide was too much for me to handle. The older people bore down with all their weight on the young ones. And with them, everything was clumsy and slow and dirty.
I looked around the street facing away from the road. There were cars parked on each side, close to the gutters. I walked slowly till I stood by one of them. I began to hit and pick the dirt off my hair. After that, I studied my face carefully. It was still as spotless as it was from my childhood, oval with plump cheeks. My big nose hadn’t changed as much as my face. I must not make another mistake. I took gentle steps back to the road. This time, I would cross.
People looked at me. My consciousness pushed me to notice. I studied the few faces I could. I am a very normal boy. I have a name: Onyebuchi Egbuchula. Rage burned inside my heart.
I walked into the road. Vehicles blared their horns loudly at me. My heart thumped and leapt into my stomach as the brakes of the vehicles screeched to a halt at the sight of me. My legs were firm, however. The drivers forced into an abrupt stop cursed me in different languages. A vehicle’s front mirror hit my arm. The driver had not seen me early enough and could not put a hold on the brake. I took the last step and then, stood on the zebra crossing. My heart leapt with excitement. I was beaming with smiles and satisfaction at my achieved feat.
I looked over to where I was going to, the place I had dreamt about. The first sight that greeted my eyes was a pool of dirty, mud-coloured water; soft, brown, water-clogged sands with marks of treaded under feet making their ways past. Was this where I was running to?
I turned around to where I came from.
is a food and animal lover who spends her spare times writing. She is a nature and animal writer. She also shares experiences on her blog: @taler.com.ng and on her Facebook page: @The Tale’r. Her works have been published in The Shallow Tales Review, Campus Vapor, and African Bard.