SHE woke up that morning and there was gratitude in her heart. She was alive. That was enough. That was a new beginning. She opened her door, wincing at the creaking sound it made. She would oil the hinges, if she had oil to spare. But she didn’t. Not today.
The puddle had once again carpeted her frontage. She grimaced, wiggled her toes, and then sank her feet into the dirt brown water. It curled around her ankles and a floating leaf skirted in between her legs. She refused to think about it, her feet buried in muddy water and dirt, from gutters that had overfilled, scrubbing against her skin. Instead, she paddled forward, desperate the urinary.
She squatted over the hole on the cemented floor and lifted her nightdress, her breath held in as she relieved herself. Done, she jiggled and heaved up, then paddled back to her room. She would brave the bathroom later, when the sun returned with some warmth. Now though, she brushed her teeth and washed her face, changed to a day cotton dress and proceeded to light her kerosene stove.
Breakfast, and any other meal, was always what was available. She never thought about it, the lack of choices. She never saw that she had the right to complain. When a day brings with it what it wills, you take its offerings and do what you can.
That was the way of things. And as she swallowed the bolus of eba wrapped in the softened okra petals, she accepted her lot.
When her breakfast was done, she sat on her bed, a mattress set on the cement floor and clothed with an old worn cotton bed sheet, and pondered on what her activities today would entail. She could make another attempt to get work at the canteen two streets down. They’d turned her away yesterday but today was another day. She could offer to wash plates for them, or even pound fufu, she was strong and was skilled in the art of fufu pounding.
Or maybe she should stroll to the market place and see if any of the vendors required an errands girl. They always hesitated because she was more of a grown woman than a girl. But she would assure them that she was willing to do anything, age was not a barrier for her.
A door cracked open, slammed shut with same vehemence and then the hitching peal of an aggravated hiss rent the atmosphere and she knew that Nnebuogo was aiming for her door. She would be needing a favour of her without any prior notice. Sometimes, she wished she was more like Adaugo who never let her tales of woe ensnare her into granting one of her too many requests.
“Ndubuisi!” The call was accompanied by a bang on her door.
She sighed before she rose from the bed. “Nnebuogo, what is it this early morning?” She asked, trying to keep her voice firm as she stood in between her door.
“It is Ekene. You won’t believe that that child did not allow me to sleep at all throughout the night.” Nnebuogo, large framed and deep voiced, pealed out another hiss. “He kept whimpering until his father sent us out of the room into the parlour.”
“And what was his complaint?” She knew but only asked for want of something to say.
“He wants to suckle, what else would be his complaint? That boy wants to suck my breasts dry and I have said that it will no longer happen. Mba!” Nnebuogo gave her scarf covered head a vehement shake. “He is now two years and doesn’t need breast milk anymore. In fact, I blame myself for letting him suckle this long. But I was only using it as a protection means, eh. So long as he suckled, Ude would not plant another in me.”
“I have told you to feed him well at nights that way he will be too full to seek breast milk.”
“Will I give him all the food in the house because I want him to leave my breasts alone?” Nnebuogo hissed again. “Ndu, biko leave that counsel because there’s not even enough food to feed everyone, let alone overfeeding one person. Is it in this hard times that we will be eating more food than is necessary?”
“So what are you going to do?” It was what she wanted her to do that should be the question.
“My sister, I don’t know yet. But for this morning, I need to hurry down to Idemili, today is their market day and I want to get some cocoyam, azu-ndu and ogiri.”
“I myself I am planning to stroll down to the market square and see if anyone needs the services of an errand girl.” She hurriedly put in.
“Ewo! Are you still looking out for that kind of work?”
“What other kind is available to me, eh, Nnebuogo?”
“O ga di nma. It will be well.” Nnebuogo heaved a sympathetic sigh. “But… em, today might not be such a good day to try as it is the market day in Idemili. Maybe you should wait until tomorrow, lest you go out in this unclear weather in vain.”
She was not thinking of her, she knew. She was concerned about a babysitter for her son. “A trial will be better than sitting at home, Nnebuogo. It might provide me food for this evening, at the very least.”
“I have the piece of yam I did not finish last night, let me send Nnanna with it for you. I will add palm oil and some dry pepper. I think that will do for dinner.”
“I have palm oil and dry pepper but…” She stopped the words of rejection before she spoke them. What if indeed she went out in search of work and returned with no success, what then would she feed on? “Thank you for the yam, Nnebuogo. I am truly grateful for it. And you can drop Ekene here with me while you hurry to Idemili. He and I shall surely find something to occupy us.”
“Ewo! Ezigbo nwanyi. Good woman, may God bless you for your kind heart.” Nnebuogo beamed now, her wide face lighting up. “Let me hurry and prepare the others for school. If I am not shouting at the top of my voice like a mad woman, nothing ever gets done in that house. I will see you before I leave, my sister.” She was already paddling back to their room and to lay credence to her need to shout, she bellowed. “Nnanna! Have you mixed that water or is the snail that you rubbed you off in a bad way still crawling all over you?”
She winced at the grating bellow before withdrawing into her room. Today would go by without any attempt to get work but at least, she would have food in her pot. That, in itself, was a blessing of some sort and she was grateful.
Tomorrow, she would begin again her search.