Ifenna came into the room and left immediately. “Ifeoma, mummy is crying”, he said to his sister in a loud whisper. They came back and sat on both sides. I couldn’t hide my tears. I dabbed at them and sniffed. I closed my eyes for some seconds and then opened them.
“It’s okay for mummy to cry sometimes. Now go and remove your uniforms. I will come and warm your food”, I said.
They left reluctantly. I looked around the room and it dawned on me that my world as I knew it was crumbling. I got up from the bed but my legs couldn’t carry me. I fell back on the bed, took in some air and got up again. My legs were steady on the ground. I went to the kitchen with the thoughts of my visit to the house running in my head.
Handed with the address Rita gave me, I set off to the house. Luckily for me, she did my hair quickly so I could go and be back before school closed.
Rita’s father’s house was on 30 Omona close. I haven’t been in that area before. So, I did not know what to expect. I kept my hopes up. The tarred road stopped at a point called ‘see Morocco see Spain’. I got to know why it was called so later. I was told to enter a keke Napep because the road was not so good. That was an understatement. The road was so rough that I held on to a bar on the side for dear life. The other passengers didn’t seem to mind. I guess they were regulars. It was not up to five minutes drive but it was the longest five minutes of my life. Yet. I stopped at Omona street and walked down to Omona close. It was a street with houses, lots of houses facing each other. The houses were built so close to each other. Kids played on the streets as no car was in sight. I wondered if cars drove in there at all. “Don’t they go to school”, I asked one of the kids playing.
“We never pay school fees”, he replied as he pointed out house 30 to me.
My hopes crashed like the ceramic plate Ifeoma broke the other day. No, it was worse than that. The two storey building had no paint on it or whatever was painted on it has washed off a long long time ago. The gutter in front of the house was filled with debris and stinking. I couldn’t look down as I walked on the wooden stick placed across it. I pushed open the gate and walked into the compound. A woman was washing some clothes outside while two men, both wearing only shorts were sitting in front of a stool that stood a bottle of schnapps and two glasses. “Seriously! Don’t they have jobs”, I thought. I greeted them as I made towards the woman washing.
“Who you dey find?”. I heard from above. Looking up, I saw a man fully dressed with a chewing stick in his mouth. He had a newspaper folded under his armpit. He must be Rita’s father.
“Goodday sir, abeg, I dey find Rita papa”,
“Wetin you want”, he asked
“Na Rita send me come”
“That one no be answer. Wetin you dey find”
“Sorry sir, I dey find house”
“How many rooms, you want?”
“Rooms?”. That was when I took a closer look at the house. The front balcony, the one where the man stood on had six doors facing the road. I took another step back and saw the narrow passage way on the ground floor. Indeed, it was face me, I face you.
“Sorry sir, I didn’t know they were single rooms. It thought they were flats.”
“No problem, soldier go, soldier come, barrack still remain. If you no want am, person wey want am go soon come”, he said.
I bade him goodbye and almost ran out of the compound. I stood at Omona street for almost 20 minutes before a keke napep came by. Already, the skies were darkening and rumbling with thunder. “Please not the rain”, I muttered as I jumped into the keke. It was like a cue, it started dropping little by little and then it hit crescendo. It would have been better off if I was walking because the rain splashed into the keke as it navigated through the rough road. My legs were wet before we got to the bus stop. We got to the point and the driver stopped.
“Abeg, make una come down here o. Na last bus stop”
“But driver you said you would get to the main road”, I protested.
“Madam, you no get eyes see say the road don block?”
“What! What the hell is that?”
“Na see Morocco, see Spain be that. Nobody fit cross that place now as e dey rain. The water go just carry you throw way”, the man replied.
“So, you are saying I will stay here till the rain stops?”
“Is there no other way out?
“There is but e go cost you small money”
“Please, I will pay you. Carry me out of here because I have to go and pick my kids from school”.
“Madam na 300 naira o. Enter make we dey go”
“Wait first make I check if my money complete”. That was when I saw my car keys and remembered my car was on the Moroccan side. I have to wait out the rain after all.
Hours later, kids have eaten and doing their assignments. I look around the house again and ponder. How can I live anywhere else but here? This is my home too. I will fight for it. I thought of house 30 Omona and shuddered.