The roof was brown and rusted; perforated from use and so, in the rains, all their property had to be moved to corners where it was certain that water couldn’t seep through. If the breeze came with the rains, then no one would sleep for the whistling of the wind and the struggle in vain for the wooden slats that were windows to keep the rain and cold out of the rooms.
The enclosed pit dug a few metres behind the house served as the latrine. You had to be careful to hold on to the zinc door while you took care of your business, as much for balance as for prevention against uninvited guests. The builders had only succeeded in plastering the insides and the front of the house; maybe they ran out of materials or maybe they decided that the front looked good enough, so the house was ready. The builders hadn’t bothered with a fence and a gate either.
But then, they would hold contests during the rains for who lasted longest while they were trying to hold down the windows against the howling wind. On cold nights, the girls would scramble into the boys’ rooms shivering and then all of them would huddle together to chase the cold away and of course the guys would spend the better part of the night trying to cop a feel of any female parts. Ah! Christmas had come early.
Temi had nearly fallen into the pit toilet when she went to do her business; that was how they found out that Emeka had been secretly admiring her because he just jumped up and ran to help her before she had even finished the scream. He didn’t seem to remember that she was half naked in there. It gave them a good laugh for quite a while.
Since the compound had no gates, they would come out in the afternoons after the day’s work was done, when everyone had returned from their various schools and sit under the huge mango tree in front of the house. They would watch the cars zoom past on their way to Lagos while they played games trying to guess the reason for the hurry depending on the speed of the passing car.
The ever busy market across the road always provided some entertainment too. Once, it was a little boy who caused a commotion because he wanted to buy a loaf of bread with akara – bean cake – in it. Loaves of bread generally do not come with akara; you bought the bread and then you bought the akara and put it in the bread. Of course the bread seller explained all this; only, he did it in English – the little boy only understood Nupe. He had stood staring at the seller with a frustrated look on his face before turning away with a shake of his head. The other time it was a man on a bike –or okada – with chickens tied to his waist and all over; some hanging upside down, others swinging about with only feet on the bike or on a fellow chicken. It was a funny sight.
The absence of gates too was the reason they met Sani, a young man at twenty-three with three wives already, who had come running into the compound seeking sanctuary to escape the wrath of Zanjabil, his third and newly married wife, when she caught him with Hauwa their neighbours’ daughter. Sani had become a regular visitor who regaled them with tales of how he had wrestled Abu for his first wife Fathia, endured a hundred strokes of the cane and had slept for almost a week after for Binu, the second, and then wooed Zanji as he fondly called her. He was already thinking of Hauwa for the fourth since Islam permitted four wives. When the boys expressed their surprise, he had laughed and called them “small boys.”
It wasn’t much, true, but it was their home – at least for a while. It was the Corpers’ Lodge.
By Lilian Izuorah (@HalfpintEl)