The ‘LISA’ Series (2): ”Don’t you have somewhere else to be?”
Getting off the bed wasn’t difficult after all. You will have to replace your alarm clock, however. Or call Marty – your closest female friend, former roommate, and the fixer in your life, to help you figure out what to do with it. But you doubt there would be a chance for redemption. It was unlikely that it survived the fall – so much for disrupting your sleep.
You remember your empty fridge. Not that the first thought you get every morning was of food. It was just that you skipped dinner last night. You head out of your room but stop outside the door and return to make your bed. Then you use the bathroom; brushing your teeth and taking a quick wash. You have been trying to be more organized and put-together. Even if it didn’t quite matter to you what people thought, you were your greatest critic. You had to approve of yourself. Now you can eat.
The fridge situation was worse than you had imagined. At least, you had thought you had some milk. But there was none. Your cereal had run out too. No eggs, no vegetables. All the items that used to be in stock were gone. How did you lose track of everything?
You slam the door of the fridge as if it is its fault for being empty. For a lady who has paid her own rent and lived well alone for over a year, except for the few times Marty slept over, you are quite disappointed in yourself. “Oh, well.” You sigh. The rumbling of your tummy and the ugly sight of dresses piled on your sewing machine in your workroom remind you that you cannot afford to skip another meal. There was so much to do. There was no choice but to go buy, well, something.
Outside, you realize that the weather is indeed cold and you were not crazy for wanting to sink into your bed earlier. Your hair is let out now. The cornrows are aghast and ugly but you hardly mind. You are only going a few blocks away. For the first time this morning, you look at your phone. You missed an alarm: “Complete BUS321 essay.” You tiredly press the power button as you now arrive at the store. There are three people already waiting to be attended to. One of them is a woman likely in her 40s – or 30s maybe – you have never been good with guessing people’s age.
“Wetin you wan buy,” the seller, Fatima, a girl you are accustomed to buying from, asks. “Good morning, aunty Lisa.”
Now aware of your being behind her, the 40-something or 30-something-year-old woman turns to look at you. “Lisa? That’s my daughter’s name.” she chuckles, a little too excitedly.
You force a smile. It’s not that you do not like her. You are just really hungry and want to get back in. Besides, you did not fancy the fact that she now knows your name. If she sees you another day, you’re certain she would call you out. That’s how friendships start. And you don’t want one. At least, you’re not in the mood for making one today.
“That’s nice. Good morning ma” And then you turn to Fatima. “Good morning, Fati” you respond, hiding displeasure. The girl does not look at you anymore. She is busy attending to the young boy buying bread. You play with the idea of buying bread too to escape cooking but your thoughts stop short as you notice that the woman is still staring.
You raise your brows. She continues staring. But her eyes do not meet yours. Rather, they are focused on your crown. You want to ask if she has something to say but Fatima interrupts.
“Aunty, wetin you say you wan buy?” Fatima asks her.
“Beans, four cups.” she turns to answer but hurriedly looks back at you. “Is your hair virgin?” she blurts.
Who still uses the term ‘virgin’?
“What?” you did not intend to feign ignorance. But “virgin hair” is not a phrase you’re comfortable with.
“Have you relaxed it?” She begins to sound impatient.
You sense the impatience and wonder if she was a different person from the woman who was acting nice earlier.
“Oh, okay. No, no relaxer. It’s natural.” There is subtle stress on “natural” because you want her to remember the proper term. Then you look at Fatima as if hoping for her to rescue you already. Just in time, she hands over the beans in a plastic bag. The lady collects it and steps aside for you to get closer to Fatima.
“Eh ehn. No wonder it’s very rough.” Your eyes widen. Your mind battles with your mouth. You resist the urge to say something rude. “The hair is long sha,” she finishes.
“Thank you,” you say, pissed. You do not know when you say “Fatima, please give me bread. And butter.” Somewhere in your subconscious, you make up your mind to go to the market later. You just needed to eat something this morning. And if you tried to cook anything in your current sour mood, you might purge after eating it.
You turn to see her there, fiddling with the cellophane. Still watching. You want to ask her “don’t you have somewhere else to be?” But your mother trained you better than that.
“Madam, I hope there is no problem.” You say instead.
“No, not you.” And then to Fatima, “Fatima, please give me pepper. Fifty naira.”
“Sell for her first,” you tell Fatima.
“Thank you ehn,” the lady says. “But if you relax this hair, it will be so long and very neat.”
You pretend not to hear her. Fatima hands over the pepper and she leaves after saying goodbye. And then Fatima gives you your bread and butter.
You collect it and pay her. As she hands over your change, you swallow hard to help you stay calm.
“Please, next time don’t shout my name out like that where people are.”