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JIBITIJIBITI.

They have gathered again. Tall, short, old, young, and sucklings, they have gathered again.\r\n\r\nThere is always something to crowd about in this place, people milling around like a horde of horny bees. And they\u2019re always talking angrily.\r\n\r\nUncle Richards says they\u2019re called mobs.\r\n\r\nI know very little about mobs. The most I know is that papa always warns us to walk quicker whenever we came across them\r\n\r\n\u201cAlele, run and pass, you hear me?\u201d He would tug at his left ear so hard I wondered whether he punished himself to teach us a lesson.\r\n\r\nSomething I know a lot about though is beans. I know brown and white beans. I know big and small beans, the one mama uses for Akara. My brother never stops farting whenever we eat beans, a putrid flavor he deadens the atmosphere with. Sometimes, I think his fart is a big reason why global warming is causing us headaches.\r\n\r\nI know Ewa Agoyin, the delicious type of beans so mushy and tasty you\u2019re mad at yourself for finishing it, the spicy taste attaching itself to your tongue hours after you must have licked the plate empty. Never mind our brothers in Togo ate it first, we eat it better and me I eat it every day no matter what mama cooks.\r\n\r\nIt is because of Ewa Agoyin that I am walking down the street inside this hot harmattan sun that seems intent on baking my body. Everybody seems to be in a hurry. It is like this every day whatever the hour \u2013 morning, afternoon, or evening. Papa says even at night people are in a hurry. I don\u2019t agree, but I never go out that time so I keep quiet.\r\n\r\nIt is funny because the same people running as if they will die if they stop to breathe will now stop and congregate over each other especially if there is something to see, everybody trying to see at the same time. Papa says kidnappers and pickpockets enjoy this kind of assembly.\r\n\r\nI am on my way to Iya Risikat, the yellow madam that sells hot rice, dodo, okpewu and more importantly, Ewa Agoyin. Her canteen is about thirty houses from my house. I am so used to making this journey everyday sometimes I imagine the canteen advances to meet me halfway, maybe ten houses early.\r\n\r\nMy brother does not like making this journey at all even though he took more spoonfuls of Iya Risikat\u2019s steaming protein goodness.\r\n\r\n\u201cNa me go first start\u201d And he\u2019d dig into the food. He\u2019d take four spoons for everyone I took.\r\n\r\n\u201cNa pikin dey first stand up for where elder dey chop\u201d. And he\u2019d bid me leave the food.\r\n\r\nHis \u2018seniority\u2019 ended there. He would never go out to buy it especially in the afternoon when he\u2019d say \u201cYou see that mad woman for road? She dey fear me abeg. I no go. That woman can bite person one day\u201d.\r\n\r\nAnd we would laugh. And I would be on my way. He never went for us. Never.\r\n\r\nYou can\u2019t blame Ebenezer my brother. You must understand that Iya rainbow is not a calm mad woman o, not the kind we\u2019ve been used to on Alhaji Kasamu Street. Me I am just eleven years old but Ebenezer has seen more mad women come and go in this street and he says this one is the angriest. Where they went, I don\u2019t know. I guess it makes sense that nobody asks where they went since nobody asked where they came from.\r\n\r\nIya rainbow is always running. My brother and I used to joke that she is the true spirit of Lagos mascot. Even when she is sitting down, the few times she does that, she is always shifting her buttocks as if thirty thousand soldier ants are marching under. Several times she has knocked unsuspecting passersby over. It is always so funny. She comes running towards you and you\u2019re in her path, and you don\u2019t use the eyes behind your head to know that somebody is coming and leave the road, she will jam you and continue her Forest Gump.\r\n\r\nThat reminds me. We also call her JibitiJibiti. That\u2019s the closest we could do for a heavy duty trailer, those long snakes that swallow lives on Nigerian roads every day.\r\n\r\nBut it is only visitors that experience that one. We the people on Alhaji Kasamu Street already know what to do. It is not a strange sight to see a well dressed office person sprinting like they\u2019re trying to break Usain Bolt\u2019s Olympic record. This is because JibitiJibiti chose to chase that soul on that particular morning. Ah and you have to run oh, even faster than her.\r\n\r\nDifferent people have said maybe it is the color of dress you wear or even the kind of perfume you spray that day, but forget, JibitiJibiti can chase anybody any day even if you\u2019re naked. I\u2019ve never seen her chase a pregnant woman or young girls. And me. Ah well, I haven\u2019t mentioned she does not chase me? She does not. Some yeye people have said maybe she sees me as her child, but that does not even make sense. Me that I am bigger than my sixteen-year old brother. Whenever she sees me coming, she\u2019ll start cradling her arms like a nursing mother trying to send her baby to sleep.\r\n\r\nI never look her in the eye, but I know she is smiling at me as I walk past her. They say she used to be very fine. Omoge, like Iya Wuraola would say. Which I find hard to believe since the same people said they don\u2019t know where she came from. I don\u2019t know the difference between that time she was omoge and now since I\u2019ve never looked at her, but every time I go past her, I feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing as they respond to what I imagine must be a long stare. This is the only time I don\u2019t like Ewa Agoyin.\r\n\r\nToday sha I am walking with my auntie, thinking about how I\u2019ll walk back alone because she is going to take the bus back to her office at Maryland. She came to greet papa from work and now she is going back to take the bus under the next bridge. Sometimes when I\u2019m coming back, I hold the nylon carrying the plate against the side of my face so that I can pass unnoticed. Sometimes, it works. Other times, I feel her eyes piercing through the nylon and hot beans to slap my right ear.\r\n\r\nThe mob today is helele, like my neighbor used to say when the number of people in one place is overwhelming. They\u2019re gathering very close to where JibitiJibiti usually sits, when she decides to. JibitiJibiti is nowhere to be seen. This is a very strange day.\r\n\r\n\u201cAh ah, what is happening?\u201d I conference with myself.\r\n\r\nI run off in the direction of the throng of bodies, against my auntie\u2019s warning.\r\n\r\nI cannot get past the first burly man whose buttocks smell in a way that put Ebenezer\u2019s fart to shame. Cheii!\r\n\r\nI withdraw from this part of the crowd. Traders, schoolchildren with uniforms as dirty as our neighbor\u2019s yard, mechanics, and bricklayers all pile on each other. The numbers swell by the minute and me I keep shifting back as more people pile from behind. It is not me that they will press inside all these bodies. Papa will kill me if he finds out sef. That is if they don\u2019t kill me first. I have never wished to see JibitiJibiti more than now, so that she will come and scatter these people and I will glance what is calling this kind of attention.\r\n\r\nI really should continue on my way to Iya Risikat but today it is like the urge to know why JibitiJibiti allowed these people to gather near her home is stronger than my craving for Ewa Agoyin.\r\n\r\nI try another part of the crowd but this mechanic\u2019s armpit will weaken me so much papa will not have anything left to beat again. I really don\u2019t understand why they sell armless shirts for people with smelly rainforest armpits. Yeye people!\r\n\r\nI decide that the best thing to do is to withdraw and look for another window. The next opening I find is the worst one o, kai. This madam is just small that third Mainland Bridge used to big pass her, ahan. Her legs, yakata everywhere, one leg like a hybrid of Onitsha yam and Abakaliki pawpaw. Yellow enough to make Benue maize jealous, her bottom kuku cover everywhere.\r\n\r\nAs the numbers increase, the noise increased. So many people are saying so many things at the same time. I kuku remove myself and decide to pick their words, maybe it will be better. It is only in large crowds like this that you see adult men going ta ta ta like market women.\r\n\r\n\u201cSo na so this one sef take kpai?\u201d\r\n\r\nI inch closer to the thinly bearded man on the right who just spoke. He is wielding a portmanteau. Shoe maker.\r\n\r\nCheii!\r\n\r\nI move away quickly. Some kain mouth odor can run for local government chairman in this our area and win. Uncle Richards says our local government chairman is dirty, rotten in his core and foul. I swear this man\u2019s mouth was there when he said it. People say Uncle Richards is bitter because he lost the elections, but that\u2019s another matter for another day.\r\n\r\nI inch closer to the man on the left, who looked like the least badly dressed person in the crowd. He looked like one of those \u201coffering pastors\u201d, a special breed of \u201cMen of God\u201d who board molue buses randomly, preaching the Good News laced with bursts of \u201cYou will die if you don\u2019t repent\u201d \u201cJesus is coming soon. Are you ready brethren?\u201d \u201cWhere will you go if you die on this bus?\u201d They\u2019re usually very fired up and impassioned when they preach but just wait till it is time to \u201csow seeds into the ministry\u201d, you will see meekness how the bible prescribes it.\r\n\r\nHe is wearing a grey suit, the kind of grey that you call grey because you\u2019re out of colors and you\u2019re really trying to show you have home training. I keep at least five feet from him in case he had our local government chairman in him too.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis is just callous. Quite unfortunate.\u201d\r\n\r\nYes, just the kind of \u201coffering pastor\u201d. Their oyinbo is not Agege grammar school level.\r\n\r\n\u201cOne only wonders how long this has been here for\u201d.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe way e be ehn, be like something wey just happen this morning. As I take see am o\u201d\r\n\r\nFoul breath is talking. I am thankfully a distance from him.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe irony is not lost on me. Only a truly mad fellow would\u2019ve perpetrated this kind of evil\u201d. The offering pastor continues, haphazardly attempting the sign of the cross. His rather large striped tie reminded me of the snake uncle Okon killed last week.\r\n\r\n\u201cEjo\u2019o, I don\u2019t understand. Shey Na the first time wey we dey see this kain thing for road?\u201d\r\n\r\nI turn around to a yellow wall, her thick legs preventing an escape. The fat yellow madam had come to insert herself into the conversation. I notice now that there is something desperate about her kind of yellow. Fading grey spots are in abundance all over her legs. Her ankle ligaments are very black. Ah the work of Tura. I couldn\u2019t look at her face but she was the kind of woman who grew proper beard and chest hair like auntie Adaeze, our wicked English teacher.\r\n\r\n\u201cNo be today nyash dey for back\u201d\r\n\r\nShe continued sermonizing in the vulgar street lingua I fully understood, even at my age. The men indulged her.\r\n\r\n\u201cSo none of this is any shock to you?\u201d The \u201cman of God\u201d wanted answers.\r\n\r\nWith this kind of mobs, everyone pays attention to whoever is speaking loudest and this madam\u2019s voice could send our church speakers out of business.\r\n\r\n\u201cNa so e dey always happen for here. Shock ke?\u201d more people joined us.\r\n\r\n\u2018This one sef tey too much. You know how many times she don get belle?\u2019 A wave of oohs and aahs greeted this revelation. She contorts her eyebrows in a failed attempt to roll her eyes, but the intent is unmistakable.\r\n\r\n\u201cAbeggi wetin? No be some of una for here dey chook am? Abi una think say we no sabi?\u201d\r\n\r\nA few hisses drowned in the consequent grumbles that followed this revelation. I am almost spell bound by her August address. But I am very angry. Nobody has mentioned what they\u2019re wailing about.\r\n\r\n\u201cShut up your dirty mouth abeg\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cYou no go go cook for your husband\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cNo be if she don see person marry am?\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cAs you big reach, your mumu still big pass you\u2019.\r\n\r\nTorrents of expletives pour in from different mouths. I begin to drift from the assembly, or so it looked for they suddenly shrank in appearance.\r\n\r\nI feel being led away from the scene. Fearing the worst, maybe auntie Keziah went back to report me to papa and he had come to get me, I look up. I freeze, momentarily. The sun shone directly into my eyes but I knew I was beholding this face for the first time.\r\n\r\nI form the words \u201cChimooooo\u201d and \u201cHelpppp\u201d but they are caught trying to escape in my throat.\r\n\r\nI am indeed being led, by hand, by JibitiJibiti herself!\r\n\r\nShe appears to bleed from her neck down. In fact, it looks as if it is severed completely but she somehow manages to keep it on her shoulders even though we are breaking into a jog now. I notice she has a plastic bag in her hand. I wonder what is inside. I imagine I hear her ask \u201cdo you want to know what is inside?\u201d\r\n\r\nI shut my eyes. I open them. I shut them again. I open them again.\r\n\r\nNo, she is speaking to me. I look around but no one is even looking in our direction. I drop my nylon. She nudges my head. I think she expects me to look up at her. I cannot do that. I observe she is well dressed today, almost regal. Her finger nails are even painted. Maybe that\u2019s why people are ignoring us. Perhaps they think we\u2019re mother and son returning from Balogun market.\r\n\r\n\u2018She\u2019s not my mother ooooooo\u2019. I found my voice. I scream. I scream more, apparently not loud enough. She doesn\u2019t even bother to reprimand me in any way or lift her index to her lips as auntie Adaeze would whenever she flogged a student.\r\n\r\nShe suddenly drops the plastic bag on its side. A baby\u2019s legs pop out. I scream. I scream with all of my body. I wriggle out of her grip and begin to run in the opposite direction. I am the 200 meters dash champion of my school so I know my way with feet on land. But that mattered little for she was soon ahead of me, walking in my direction from the direction I am running to. She has changed her dress. This one is flowing. She is carrying two bags this time. I don\u2019t even want to imagine what she\u2019s carrying in there.\r\n\r\nShe walks to the main road. I don\u2019t know if she\u2019s trying to cross to the other side of the road or she is hailing a cab or bus, she just stands there. My legs betray me, for instead of running the other way, I find myself running towards her. She falls over on her back. I look around \u2013 everyone is minding their day\u2019s business. It seems I\u2019m the only one fascinated by JibitiJibiti. And it was not a voluntary emotion.\r\n\r\nThe recharge card seller is there under the MTN uber umbrella, fanning herself with a book. The mechanic is there, sat with his friends diving into what looked like a game of kalo-kalo. Even the bole woman is there fanning her roasted plantain and yam.\r\n\r\nI squint hard to make sure my eyes are not deceiving me. She suddenly gets up. Wait, she doesn\u2019t. I don\u2019t understand it. She\u2019s on the ground. But yet there she was walking past me. And she\u2019s not by herself. It happens again. I think I\u2019m back at home watching a nollywood movie with Nkem, but I am not.\r\n\r\nHow will I explain to mama Rashid that I saw her husband holding hands with JibitiJibiti? How will papa Toby not slap me to sleep when I tell him I saw him walking at the same pace with JibitiJibiti? The one that worries me is pastor jerry, the jerry-curled pastor of Grace Alone Abides ministries, that church with fifteen members. Why is he helping her with her bag? Even Alhaji Dosumu, the respected cleric took his turn walking past me with her. My eyes trail them till they entered a black SUV, one of those big cars that only enter our street during Christmas and Sallah celebrations. Their driver was mad too, I think. He is furiously revving the engine to life, but she is still under the car. I scream so much my ears continue to flap after I stop.\r\n\r\n\u201cWaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait!\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cJude! Jude! What is it?\u201d\r\n\r\nMy mother\u2019s emerald eyes are boring into mine. I gather my sheets closer. My sheets are soiled, whether with hot piss abi sweat; I don\u2019t even know or care.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhat happened? You look like you were chased by a ghost\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cYeye. That is what happens when somebody is sleeping inside this hot sun\u201d. My father walks out of the room. I realize I\u2019m still in my school uniform. Beads of perspiration settled over my school badge. I am very sure my shorts are in a worse state. I look around the room.\r\n\r\n\u2018Where\u2019s Ebenezer?\u2019 was all I could manage.\r\n\r\n\u2018He has gone to Iya Risikat. Why?\u2019\r\n\r\nAha.
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