The sky was a brooding blue-grey up above as I navigated the human maze of the popular Marina market in Lagos with Chidi. It was well into the rainy season so the atmosphere was more humid than hot; yet there was a cloak of heat that hung in the air, from the many human bodies around. Now and again, I felt it fritter over my skin. And every time, an involuntary shudder swept through me.
Some moments ago back in the car, we were listening to the news updates on the Liberian who had been diagnosed and eventually died of Ebola in Obalende. The newscaster ended on a warning note, advising caution as there was a likelihood that the virus had broken in the city. Marina where we had just arrived is in the vicinity of Obalende. As we parked and joined the traffic of human bodies brushing, shoving, milling in and around it, I whispered to Chidi that if there was even one person in this market infected with the virus, we were all dead. He laughed. And I laughed.
He told me that we should avoid skin contact with other people as much as we could. I told him it was easy for him to say since he was wearing long sleeves and mine were short. The words were scarce out of my mouth when something brushed by me from behind. I stumbled forward a few paces struggling to regain balance even as the young man who had pushed me sped past with a shoebox in his hand.
I felt the chill of it even before I looked down at my fore-arm and saw a wet smear of perspiration that was not mine. Heart thudding, I pulled out my handkerchief and wiped it off as quickly as I could. Chidi had seen it too; he shrugged, smiled a half-smile at me, and barreled on through the crowd of people. I followed, cursing my racing heart to calm the frack down.
“Anyi erugo” Chidi said. We are here.
And he turned left into one of those many half-tracks that served as in-roads to stalls. I followed him, angling my body so that I could slip through the tight enclosure, my left hand in front and my right hand behind glued to my right hip. There were wares all around us, hanging, sitting, sampled in various displays and traders stood by them calling our attention.
“Bros, shebi na me dey call you?”
“Yellow, see am here! I get am”
We studiously ignored them, in the way that every Nigerian who is above market-travelling age learns. Just as I made a right turn still following Chidi, I felt a hand grab and hold on to my right hand. In the split second before I yanked my hand back, my skin registered the moist texture of the palms and fingers like hooks that dug into the flesh of my palm. Pointed hooks injecting Ebola into my blood stream!
I saw red as I turned on the guy who owned the hand.
“Guy, no dey touch me anyhow” I yelled. “You no know say Ebola don enter Lagos?”
I do not recall now much of his features but standing out on his face, were his mouth which stood agape and eyes which vacillated between startled and wary, gauging my sanity. A palpable tension enveloped us as his fellow customer-hunting traders stopped to stare at me; other passers-by also paused mid-stride for the tiniest of intervals to look me over before heading on.
I spun around and stalked off, brushing past Chidi who had also stopped at my outburst. Shame washed over me like cool water of ‘the living spring’; it took a better part of my confidence to walk away without cringing. My eyes stared up ahead, and my hands stayed down at my sides, clenched into fists – just in case anyone else got adventurous.
Chidi – heavens bless his soul – made no mention of the incident as we meandered through Marina buying items. Interestingly however, standing just as tall beside the shame I felt was an indignant conviction that my actions had been justified. I mean, how dare he grab my hand like that! Hadn’t he heard of Ebola?
We bought all we had come for and were on our way back to the car when I remembered a certain tray of roasted groundnuts I had spotted on one of the major in-roads. I had mentally booked it for later, marking the location of the woman seller with Sweet Sensation, an eatery just a few meters away. Chidi waited for me in the car with our purchases while I retraced my steps.
Just as I remembered, the woman sat there in front of the eatery with her tray of groundnuts. The groundnuts also looked just as I remembered – dry and golden-brown with dark brown lines through each nut that looked like frozen chocolate.
“Mama, one bottle how much?”
“Nnaa” she greeted me, “sooso three-fifty” People could always tell I am Igbo just by looking at my face, bearded or not. It was a cross I had resigned to carrying with pride, after getting over the disappointing restrictions it placed on my mischievous mind-adventures.
I scooped some of the nuts, threw them in my mouth and crunched down. They were just as I liked them – crunchy, sexy, smack in the perfect spot on that wide-lipped precipice between burnt and succulent. I knew I would buy them even if they were double the price she had said.
“Nyenum ya one-fifty” I haggled. Give it to me for one-fifty. God forbid that I buy something without haggling.
“Nwoke o-o-ocha!” Mama sexy-groundnuts cajoled. “Mba kwa, price ahu m gwara gi ka ono” She wasn’t budging.
As is common knowledge, being Igbo is no advantage in business with a fellow Igbo. Also my batteries must have died because my charms were clearly not working. So I gave up and asked her to fill up a bottle for me. While I waited, I scooped some more of the nuts from her tray into my mouth.
I was turning them into my palm from the bottle and munching as I joined Chidi in the car.
“You saw them ehn?” he asked needlessly.
I flashed a gloating grin at him with teeth that still busily chewed. I offered the bottle to him so he could share of my treasure but he declined with a shake of head.
“Ichoro ita?” I asked, puzzled. Chidi loved groundnuts.
“Ehn-ehn,” he shook his head again. “My hands are dirty”
Like of a horror movie in slow motion, my mind retraced my steps through the market – the hand that had grabbed mine earlier, and the ones that had followed suit afterwards; the items I had touched; the notes of currency I had counted, and received; the sellers whose hands I had shaken after a transaction. Then the tape slowly, very slowly rolled up to Mama sexy-groundnuts – the groundnuts which she peeled with her hands, winnowed with a flurry of breeze from her mouth and packed also with her hands; the man who had been leaving her stall as I arrived, and the hand he had dipped into the tray of groundnuts as jara; the same tray I had dipped my own hands and retrieved groundnuts; groundnuts which I had thrown in my mouth, savored and swallowed.
The formerly sexy groundnuts turned to ash in my mouth, as a funeral dirge began to play in my head.
STOP THE PANIC…ARM YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE INSTEAD AND APPLY WISDOM.
I found this on Facebook and thought to share…
US STATE DEPARTMENT EBOLA ALERT
In order to help our Embassy Community better understand some of the key points about the Ebola virus we have consulted with our medical specialists at the U S State Department and assembled this list of bullet points worded in plain language for easy comprehension.
Our medical specialists remind everyone that they should be following the guideline from the center for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation.
- The suspected reservoirsfor Ebola are fruit bats.
- Transmission to humans is thought to originate from infected bats or primates that have become infected by bats.
- Undercooked infected bat and primate (bush) meat transmits the virus to humans.
- Human to human transmission is only achieved by physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill from the Ebola virus or their body fluids.
- Transmission among humans is almost exclusively among caregiver family members or health care workers tending to the very ill.
- The virus is easily killed by contact with soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying. A washing machine will kill the virus in clothing saturated with infected body fluids.
- A person can incubate the virus without symptoms for 2-21 days, the average being 5-8 days before becoming ill. THEY ARE NOT CONTAGIOUS until they are acutely ill.
- Only when ill does the viral load express itself first in the blood and then in other bodily fluids (to include vomit, feces, urine, breast milk, semen and sweat).
- If you are walking around you are not infectious to others.
- There are documented cases from Kikwit, DRC of an Ebola outbreak in a village that had the custom of children never touching an ill adult. Children living for days in small one room huts with parents who died from Ebola did not become infected.
- You cannot contract Ebola by handling money, buying local bread or swimming in a pool.
Life is precious, and singular. Preserve yours.
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