If we must blame anything, then it has to be the recession, because, before it, Ponle lived a not-full, not-hungry life, just like everyone else. Yes, she had no husband, but she had in the market, a shop where she sold party aso ebi, and made decent profits she trained her daughter Feyisara, with. If we choose to blame the recession, we must also blame the man who brought it in, that President Hezekiah Ewenla. And given the situation of things, a story about President Hezekiah Ewenla would be incomplete without the story of how he came into office.
So, the how.
That year, there were two candidates vying for the post of President. One was Raymond Ebenebe of the One Nigeria Party, ONP. The second, Hezekiah Ewenla of Unity and Progress Party, UPP. Of these two, Raymond Ebenebe seemed the worthier option. He was said to have schooled abroad, and when he spoke, everyone could tell that he possessed the right amount of gra-gra needed to snap Nigeria into shape. But he had no generous sponsors, and so the effectiveness of his gra-gra soon melted away like a bar of soap. On the other hand, Hezekiah Ewenla came highly recommended. He was the political son of a former-former president, and this former-former president was the chief sponsor of his campaign. So, while Vote Raymond Ebenebe for President! posters faded away in the streets, Hezekiah Ewenla’s fame spread like a disease. Posters with his face appeared here and there like weeds, and television and radio stations repeatedly broadcast him until he became commonly known, like sand.
Whenever Hezekiah Ewenla’s campaign van appeared in the streets, women came out to wiggle their buttocks this way, that way, and when it hurtled down the streets, children chased it, singing along with the loudspeakers:
Hezekiah Ewenla na the man o
Na the man!
Na him go make our country beta o
Na him o!
Hezekiah Ewenla na you we go vote o
Na you o!
Hezekiah Ewenla went from state to state, an itinerant preacher bearing the Good News. In Abuja, he promised development in the economic sector. In Lagos, free education, and business empowerment for widows. In Kano and Adamawa, footages of him surveying barren lands were broadcast on the 9 o’clock news. He carried children in his arms and handed out food items to the aged, and the people who loved him loved him more, while those who hated him hated him more.
“Propaganda,” these haters who happened to be the paltry supporters of Raymond Ebenebe, said. “This country cannot be better, we all know that. Even if it will, sef, it won’t be through this man. What is he? An angel?”
“Hezekiah Ewenla has good plans for Nigeria-o,” his supporters argued.
As though to prove them right, Hezekiah Ewenla’s party stepped up their campaign strategy. Days to the election, UPP vans appeared in the streets and sprayed N1,000 notes fia-fia, like confetti. After the money came bags of rice which were dropped in the street like dead bodies. Like vultures, the people fought over it, even those who hated everything Hezekiah Ewenla. And while the rice was boiled on the stove, and the N1,000 spent to meet temporary needs, they agreed that Hezekiah Ewenla was indeed a man with good plans. And so, all, except a stubborn few, pledged their support to Hezekiah Ewenla.
More things came: Akosombo ankara, T-shirts, wristbands, and face caps bearing the UPP logo of two dark-skinned hands joined together in unity. Also, tins of Gino tomato paste, tubers of yam, tins of Three Crowns milk, 1kg packs of Honeywell semolina, and bars of Canoe soap. All the local government chairmen and Ward Councillors who attended Zonal UPP meetings and were staunch campaigners for Hezekiah Ewenla got credit alerts and a hen, or a she-goat dyed the red and blue colour of UPP.
On the day of the election, people voted with their bellies full, their lips and fingers stained with chicken fat. Some chewed chicken wings to the polling booth, some others kept pieces of fried goat meat in their handbags to munch on while they waited on the voting queue, and a large number fanned themselves with Hezekiah Ewenla hand-fans. Eagle-eyed, they monitored the votes to prevent any doctoring, but this proved unnecessary, because even the election officials wiped their faces with handkerchiefs emblazoned with Hezekiah Ewenla’s smiling face. And when Hezekiah Ewenla was unanimously declared president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the whole nation erupted into a volcano of celebration.
In all states, fireworks went off in the sky like it was New Year. Beer parlours declared free beer, and prostitutes from hotels put out banners that said: DO TWO ROUNDS, GET ONE FREE. WE DEY CELEBRATE OUR PRESIDENT. People danced happily in the streets, and enemies reconciled because it was a time of all-round happiness. When Hezekiah Ewenla came on TV and said, “My fellow Nigerians,” they all shed tears of joy and clapped. Some couples made love to the cadence of Hezekiah Ewenla’s voice; they wanted to make presidential babies. Women who gave birth in that period declared unequivocally that their children, no matter the gender, should be called Hezekiah, nothing else.
It was obvious, Hezekiah Ewenla’s tenure would be a festive one, one that would contain a lot of parties and fàáji. And of course, people would need fancy and expensive aso–ebi to wear to these parties. So, before Democracy day when Hezekiah Ewenla would be sworn in as a president, Ponle requested a loan of one million naira from the market cooperative that she was a part of. The cooperative’s administrators hesitated at first; Ponle made very little from her shop, she lived in a rented apartment and possessed nothing so valuable to be held as collateral. But then they reconsidered—Hezekiah Ewenla, the people’s choice, had just become president. Why not be a little more trusting, generous?
With the money, Ponle rented the shop next to hers and became the owner of two shops. She repainted both shops, installed floor-length mirrors and fluorescent lights, and then she stocked up bales and bales of ankara, voile lace, Polish lace, cord lace, aso oke, Hollandaise, George, and original G. L. jewelry that was the latest fashion among socialite women. She printed and distributed business cards that contained her phone number, her shop address, and the title: MADAM PONLE FABRIC Store in imitation gold cursive. And then she waited for Hezekiah Ewenla’s inauguration, his four years of presidency.
The inauguration came and went, with some women coming to buy fabrics from Ponle, to ooh and ahh as they ran their fingers over the deluxe print of her Ankara, the stylish cut and colours of her aso oke and cord lace, and the quality of her jewelry. “We will surely come back,” they said after they paid for their purchase and left. So they would find even more items to buy, Ponle bought more fabrics to replace the ones they bought and she waited. But like a tea bag in water, President Hezekiah Ewenla showed what was inside him: barely five months into his tenure, reports of mismanagement started to leak in newspapers. By the end of the year, the ailing economy finally lapsed into recession.
The recession was like the wind; what—and who—did not feel its touch? Prices of everything—sachet water, soft drinks, cement, and even matches—doubled, tripled, and then quadrupled, and importation of consumer goods like rice, frozen foods, King’s vegetable oil, etc, was stopped. The people were dumbed with surprise. “Let us be patient with Presido,” they said. “Maybe he’s straightening out the kinks in the government.”
The value of the Naira dropped, and the blood pressure of traders, businessmen, and consumers rose. Petrol prices inflated, and car owners abandoned their cars and took public transport. Food rations reduced in quantity and quality, and people no longer ate what they wanted, but what was cheap. Parents of house-helps abandoned them with their Madams to ease financial burdens, but the Madams sent them back because, recession. For well-behaved house helps who had never offended, the Madams found offences to tie to them. A Madam accused her house help of not mopping the ceilings. Another accused hers of over-mopping the tiles: “Do you want us to fall down and die? See how smooth it is. Oya, go and pack your bags before you kill us in the house.”
Parties were no longer commonplace, and the few who could afford to throw one used it as an avenue to beg shamelessly for money. At weddings, masters of ceremony said, “Ah-ahn, spray the couple na. It is only people that spray them better money that will be served food-o.” Invitation cards declared brazenly: HERE’S OUR ACCOUNT NUMBER, IN CASE YOU WON’T BE CHANCED TO ATTEND OUR PARTY.
Companies cut down on workers, and people roamed the streets in search of jobs. Salary earners lost the will to live, because salaries when they eventually came, were dry like whooping cough. Husbands who could no longer bear to see their family suffer cleaned out their bank accounts and gave their wives to cook soup with meat. They ate and cracked jokes at the table and said, “Nigeria will get better.” But in the middle of the night, they crept out of their beds and committed suicide, and by morning, their lifeless bodies were found dangling from trees and ceiling fans like overripe fruits. Some male bosses offered to sleep with their female employees before granting them a salary advance to pay house rents or their children’s school fees, and when it was over, the women lay wide awake in the hotel rooms and wept.
Now that the economy was in a coma and financial analysts wore themselves out to provide suggestions for its revival, everyone saw in Hezekiah Ewenla, the things they had chosen not to see before: His mouth like an expressway, his tribal marks like the welts of a soldier’s whip, his belly like a sacrificial calabash. “Look at the ugly thing,” they said. “Chai. God just created anything, sha. See the fool. Why did we even vote this ugly thing?” When people who had hitherto supported Raymond Ebenebe said, “Did we not say this man is terrible?,” others answered, “You better shut up. When he gave us things, did you offer them as sacrifice and not consume them?”
People phoned in to radio programs to weep and curse, because accompanying the recession was the news that Hezekiah Ewenla’s wife and children were traveling around the world with taxpayers money, flying first class, wearing designers, eating rice and chicken and coleslaw every day while the original taxpayers languished in Nigeria. Newspaper editorials were rife with angry remarks, and columnists and cartoonists became vicious, angered by hunger and stories of the Ewenlas in America, away from recession.
Memorabilia of Hezekiah Ewenla were angrily harvested and burnt at rubbish heaps. Parents who named their children Hezekiah changed it angrily, knowing (and seeing) now that Hezekiah Ewenla was the name of a man destined to be unfortunate. Instead, they called their children names of what they eagerly desired: Riches, Succor, Wealth, Satisfaction. Anyone who mentioned Hezekiah Ewenla and good governance in the same sentence was beaten up; so angry was everyone. And it was with this red-hot anger that the administrators of the cooperative called Ponle to request that she pay back what was loaned to her.
The phone calls terrified Ponle, the same way the truth that she would never sell any of the fabrics in her twin shops terrified her. Before the phone calls, she’d moved around, visiting her customers who, pre-recession, bought clothes with the ease of buying a sachet of water. But when they saw her, they rubbed their palms together in concealed poverty, smiled the too-cheerful smile of freshly poor people, and said, “Let us fill our stomachs first. The clothes we have can serve us for a while.” And even though she’d smiled and said, “You’re right-o. This recession ehn,” in her mind, she’d cursed them.
She’d tried to cheapen the prices of the fabrics too, anything to get them off her hands and pay her debts, but who would leave food and chase clothes? As the fabrics gathered dust on her shelves, and the cobwebs hanging from her ceilings began to thicken, she’d awaited with trepidation, the phone call asking her to pay her debts. And now, it was here, ringing and ringing on her phone, beeping and beeping, with vicious text messages.
The cooperative’s administrators threatened to come lock her shop if she did not pay her debts. They threatened to come with military men who would lock her in the guardroom. How could she be so callous, they asked. Did she not know that they, too, had families to feed? If all debtors were like her, then what would become of them? Ponle pleaded with them. “Bear with me, please,” she said tearfully on the phone. She told them she still had a lot of unsold fabrics, as Hezekiah Ewenla’s government was not favouring anyone. But these administrators did not care. “And so?” they said. “Look, we are giving you one week to pay up. Otherwise! And don’t try to run away-o, because we will find you.” Then they hung up.
Ponle ran about confusedly. She got prayer water and sprinkled it all over her shop to rid it of jinx. She laid hands on her fabrics and declared prayers into them like they were sick men and her, the healer. “You are a beauty that cannot be hidden. I declare sales into you right now!” she said. But no buyer came. In her account was sixty-eight thousand naira, a far cry from the one million naira debt she had to pay. She went to her neighbours to ask them to borrow her money, so she could pay her debt with fresh debts. But her neighbours looked disbelievingly at her as she spoke, as though she was vomiting purple earthworms from her mouth, not words. “Have you come to mock us ni, Ponle?,” they said when she was through. “Are you not experiencing the recession?”
Ponle called Feyisara at uni. “Please, my dear, any amount you can find. Don’t let your mother be put to shame,” she said.
Feyisara replied, “Mummy, stop. I’ve been drinking garri non-stop for three days. What money do I have?”
“So you don’t have anything?” Ponle asked.
“Ahan mummy. In this recession?”
“Toh.” Ponle sighed.
Time was ticking away. On the third day, she went to church and wept at the altar. “God, hear my cry,” she said. “Help me, you who raised help for Hagar in the wilderness. Help me, Lord. Gbà mí, ojú ò mà gbọ́dọ̀ tì mí ; help me, I must not be put to shame.” She rolled on the tiled floor, tore at her scarf and promised God that if He would help her, she would serve Him all her life. She would attend church every Sunday and pay her tithe. She would not go into any situation without consulting Him. She would stop sinning. She would stop wearing jewelry. She spoke and cried and cried and spoke until her voice became hoarse and she fell asleep. Two hours later, she woke up, re-tied her loose wrapper, rinsed her face and took a bus home.
It was in that bus she saw it, pasted at the back of the seat in front of her. A rectangular poster that read:
SOLUTION! SOLUTION!! SOLUTION!!!
Are you bothered by financial troubles or spiritual ones? Spirit husband or wife? Barrenness? Generational Curses? Do you want an end to it? Call: 08162456719 now to get your own solution.
For a while, she regarded it silently, her eyes on the fat little cherubs whose faces graced the four corners of the poster, and at the money bag that sat regally at the lower left-hand corner. This could be God at work, she thought to herself. By the time the conductor was calling her stop, she’d saved the number in her phone as SOLUTION.
She called the number that night, and a man picked up the phone. His low, firm voice made her heart race. “Speak,” he said, and as she stuttered her need of a solution, she wondered if she was doing the right thing.
“I’ll be at your shop tomorrow,” he said when she was done. And then he hung up. She had not told him her shop address.
But he was at her shop when she arrived at the market by the next morning. His presence terrified as well as excited her, this small, ordinary-looking man wearing an ordinary-looking sokoto and buba that made her doubt that he was a man for whom impossibility was impossible.
“Alimi is my name,” he said to her as soon as she offered him a stool in the shop. What, he asked, did she say her problem was?
Again she told him, her tone sceptical. Halfway, he interrupted her. “You don’t think I can help you,” he said. “I can see your heart. You doubt.”
“No sir o,” Ponle said.
He laughed, an eerie sound like the rumble of a premature thunder. “You can’t fool me, Ponle.”
He stood up and touched her shoulders. She stiffened. “Look,” he said, and pointed to a dustpan lying carelessly on the floor. When she looked, the dustpan had become three bundles of crisp one thousand naira notes. Ponle gasped.
“Do you believe now?”
She nodded vigorously.
“I don’t do anything for free,” he said to her when she grabbed the money to see if it would vanish. It did not. “I give, but I also like to be given to. When the time comes, you must pay me.”
“I will pay sir. I swear I will. Just help me out. I have only three days left. Anything you want, I will pay. I promise you.”
He chuckled. “We will see,” he said. And then he was gone.
They came that day, strange customers whose faces Ponle had never beheld. They neither spoke nor smiled, but pointed at a bale of fabric, and when she brought it out and gave to them, they didn’t ask for its price or haggle. Instead, they overpaid her in wads of five hundred and one thousand naira notes and went back the way they came, never to be seen again. All day, they kept coming, and the piles of her fabric kept diminishing until it was reduced to nothing. And at night, when both shops were completely empty of fabrics, they stopped.
Now that she had the money, Ponle waited for the cooperative’s administrators to come and disgrace her like they threatened. But when they came, before they even spoke, she shut them up with money.
“Take and get away!” she said. “What is money, that you want to come and disgrace me? I had the money all this while-o, I just wanted to test you. But look, look how you have fumbled.” The administrators grasped the money, their mouths opened in shock. They stuttered apologies to Ponle. “Sorry, it is the work of the devil,” they said and knelt down, but she sat on her stool and turned up her nose in the air like a person sniffing God. They soon left, shameful, and Ponle laughed in glee and danced palongo.
Again and again, Ponle filled her shop with stock, and different strangers came to empty it and overpay her. Soon, she became rich enough to live a luxurious, recession-be-damned life, even in the recession. First, she bought a house, a two-storey building in Bovina Crescent, a quiet area known for its expensive houses and high cost of living. Then she brought in contractors who refurbished it with fancy, imported items: For the staircase, silver banisters that curved elegantly like a snake. For entrances, glass-paneled doors with handles shaped like an eyebrow. For the bathroom, porcelain bathtubs, long and narrow, like coffins without a lid. Horticulturists came in and planted rows of fragrant pink and red roses. Interior decorators hauled in antique vases, paintings, and swathes of velvet curtains. People stopped to gape, to say, “Is this not the same Ponle who came to beg us for money months ago? Where in this recession did she come about money?”
Ponle employed a dozen maids skilled in massage and preparation of smooth, lump-free amala. She had uniforms sewn for them out of one fabric, and when they wore it, they looked as identical as houseflies. The maids called her Madam, and pampered her. They bathed her, rinsed her skin with scented water. When she slept, they fanned her with an ostrich feather fan, and warred with intruding mosquitoes. At mealtimes, one maid fed her morsels of amala and ewedu, another slipped chunks of beef or ṣaki or fresh fish into her mouth, and another raised a glass of sweet wine to her lips. And after eating, one would rub her tummy in slow circles, another would gently crack her knuckles, and another would trace her scalp with a feather and tell her a story, so she could relax.
Her chin went from single to double, and her bank account became obese. The Association of Nigerian Market Women made her chief, and to befit her new status, she customised her plate numbers: IYALOJA 1. Everyone smiled at her and said, “May God do for us as He has done for you-o.” But in private, they said, “Something is not quite right about her wealth in this recession. Is she the only one selling fabric? We should invite the EFCC to probe her.”
At the university, too, Feyisara’s social status received an upgrade. Every girl on campus wanted to be her friend, and every guy said she was the girl of their dreams. Those she allowed into her circle called her the daughter of the woman who defeated recession, and those she did not, called her a runs girl. “Is it not fabric her mother is selling at Oshodi?” they said. “Abegi, she has sugar daddy that is servicing her, jàre! Your mummy will be selling fabric and you the daughter will be bringing a car to school. In this same Nigeria that we are in? You better don’t let anyone deceive you.”
The months passed, together with Alimi’s image in Ponle’s wealth-beclouded mind. And then, one Saturday morning, he came to remind her. When she saw him, she felt guilty, and she apologized for her forgetfulness. He told her it was okay, that it was an expected thing.
“Please have a seat,” she said to him. Would he like some fruit juice? He shook his head no. Okay then, she said. The money. How much would he like? She could do a bank transfer now-now. Or would he like cash? Did he come with his car? One of her girls could carry a Ghana-Must-Go bag of money with him to the boot.
“Erm, where is this girl, Fl-”
“You cannot pay me back with the same money I gave to you. Didn’t you know that?”
“I want something else, Ponle. Something of value.”
“You find out.”
“OK…but how will I give it to you?”
He smiled. “Alimi knows how to take what belongs to him.”
And again, he was gone.
Ponle got goats, tethered them and waited for Alimi to come for it, but when he came, he shook his head and said, “A goat is the least of what I deserve, Ponle. I have done for you, you too must do for me.” She bought hefty cows with horns the size of a baby’s arm, same story. Prado Jeeps with tinted windows, same story. Gold, same. And then she became frustrated. In her bedroom, she shouted, “Kinni gan na? What has he done that no one has done? So he helped me pay my debts, ehen? Will I give him my life? I have bought goats, cows, cars and even gold, but no. What else does he want? He should say it-o, he should say it and let us hear. Maybe it is Ojukwu’s dead body. Or even Awolowo’s manhood in a glass case. Rubbish.”
Just then, Alimi appeared in her room. Gently, he tapped her shoulder, and she whipped around, as though they were a couple in a dance. When she saw his face, she screamed. Before her scream would fly out of her bedroom and alert her maids, he seized it in his hands and held it. Then he said to her: “If you must know then, Ponle, it is your daughter I want.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but nothing came out.
He smiled. “You won’t give her to me? Fine. I won’t argue. But know that Alimi knows how to take what he wants.” Then he put her voice back in her mouth and was seen no more.
She screamed when her voice came back to her. And as though summoned, all her maids filed in. Was Madam hungry? Would Madam like to be tickled? Would Madam like to have her armpits shaved? She looked at them, annoyingly identical in their uniforms and foolish in their respective duties, and she hissed.
In forms different from the one she recognized, Alimi appeared often. In her dreams, faceless hands snatched from her, something wrapped in shiny gold foil, and only when she confirmed that Feyisara was okay, would she relax. When her maids massaged cold cream into her face, she saw him, but none of them did. And when she shouted, “Leave me alone!”, they paused in their massaging, cream-coated hands suspended in mid-air, expressions bewildered. On radio and TV stations, presenters paused their programs to quip: “I know how to take what belongs to me,” and the footfalls of her maids said only one thing: “Alimi-Alimi-Alimi.”
Ponle sent her maids away. She dismantled the radio and broke the TV with an omorogùn. Still, she heard it the more: in the chime of the clock, the rustle of the curtains, the cry of the muezzin at dawn.
Entombed by fear, she drove to Akoka and brought Feyisara home from uni. When Feyisara demanded a reason, she shut her up.
“You don’t even want to have sense. We’re delivering the chick from the jaws of death, it’s crying of being deprived a trip to the rubbish heap to feed. Is this recession not scary for you?”
Ponle re-dedicated her life to Christ. The Prophet whose prayers she paid for sprinkled all over her door, a bottle of red wine labelled “Blood of Jesus.” He gave her anointing oil to rub on her body, and then said, “It is finished.” But in his halleluyah of victory, she heard Alimi’s voice, so she sent him away.
She invited an Imam with streaks of grey in his beard. He killed a ram, buried its blood in the ground, and asked her to section the meat and give it to beggars. All night, he burned incense and chanted la-illah, illah-la. But in her dream, Ponle saw another faceless hand, and by daybreak, she threw the Imam out of her house.
Next she went to an herbalist, a man wizened by juju and recession. Her problem was nothing to the gods, he said to her. All she needed was an ọmọ langidi, and seven hardboiled duck eggs. If she could provide fifty thousand naira, he would get it for her. Quickly, Ponle reached into her handbag for the money. But when she handed it to him, he laughed like Alimi, and so she took back her money and went home.
While Ponle went about in search of a solution to Alimi’s disturbance, Feyisara FaceTimed with friends from school, read celebrity gossip on Linda Ikeji’s Blog, and binge watched episodes of Game of Thrones. On her Facebook, she updated her status, wrote:
Nigerian mums can so worry. See all the trouble my mother is putting herself through so the recession will remain defeated. ❤ you mum.
Her friends Like-d, Haha-ed and Wow-ed the post. They commented:
Jeremiah Okigwe: ??? The daughter of the woman who defeated recession. Leave Mama abeg.
Ezeoke Blessing: Blame Hezekiah Ewenla, biko.
Caroline Abasi: Your mum knows what is at stake.
While Ponle heard Alimi in the ker-choon-choon sound of her car ignition, and the buzz of generators, Feyisara took Snapchat selfies in front of her bedroom mirror, right leg in front of left, hip pushed out, so her figure could pop. On Twitter, she started a thread:
@TheFeyisara: Issa thread. #NigerianMothers.
@TheFeyisara: #NigerianMothers are chronic worriers. I’m not even kidding.
@BoodaAk: ==> replying to @TheFeyisara: #NigerianMothers can price goods in a way that will make you ashamed.
@TheFeyisara: ==> replying to @BoodaAk ??
@TheFeyisara: This! ? RT ‘@SisiEko: #NigerianMothers to you: If you’re not a virgin, no man will marry you.’
@Sir_Ife: #NigerianMothers & abara, 5&6 pic.twitter.com/rY3hgDtS
By nightfall, #NigerianMothers was a top trend.
Two weeks after Ponle’s visit to the herbalist, Feyisara requested permission to go visit her friend Julie, in town.
Ponle refused. “That your friend, Julie-abi-what-did-you-call-her-name, when has she come to visit you?”
“Mummy now. How will she come if I don’t go visiting her?”
“Must you go before she comes? If you have to go first, then God has not destined her to be your friend. Stay in your house. Press your phone. You will not die.”
Feyisara grumbled, but Ponle maintained her stance. Finally, Feyisara mellowed. Hours later, a knock sounded at the gate. Before Ponle could rise, Feyisara was already up.
“Mummy, calm down. It’s Julie. I called her.”
“I’m not calming down. Let us go and open that gate together.”
They went hand in hand, like a father leading his daughter up the aisle. Indeed, it was Julie.
“See?” Feyisara said. Ponle relaxed.
Ponle sat in the living room, watching them keenly as they laughed, took selfies and gisted. After a while, Feyisara spoke: “Mummy, you’re intruding on our privacy.”
“What privacy? I gave birth to you. Nothing is private about you again. Continue your gist.”
In the evening, Julie stood up to leave.
She knelt down. “Okay, bye ma.”
Ponle replied, “O-my dear. Bye-bye. Greet your people.”
“Mummy I want to see her off to the gate,” Feyisara said.
Ponle nodded and said, “Oya, let me also see you off.”
Feyisara roles her eyes and Julie suppressed a giggle.
At the gate, Feyisara hugged Julie and said, “I’ll call you, okay?”
The wind came just then, while Ponle was still watching them hug. A vicious, dusty wind that blew dust into Ponle’s eyes and temporarily stole her vision. In seconds, the wind cleared, and when Ponle opened her eyes, Feyisara was gone. On the floor was Julie’s clothing items; a purple peplum dress, and stylish roped sandals.
Ponle ran inside, saying “No. No. My father in heaven, no.” On the living room couch was Feyisara’s iPhone, just where she left it before accompanying Julie to the gate. It began to ring. Julie, the caller ID said. Ponle picked up. A too-girly voice poured out words:
“Feyi durrrling, I’m sorry! I’ve been trying to reach you since morning to tell you that I can’t make it to your place today, but GLO network has been sooo terrible! I couldn’t even check Whatsapp. I’m sorry. How about… “
The phone felt heavy in Ponle’s hands, and so she let it drop.
“Feyi na. Talk jor. Hello? Hello?”
Somewhere around the house was the rumble of Alimi’s laughter, spreading slowly, like water.
Olakunle Ologunro is a student of English at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He won the 2017 Kreative Diadem prize for short fiction, and his short story “A Nonrequired Guide to Writing Love Stories” is published in Brittle Paper.