True to her words, she walked the 2 mile distance and arrived at the Lamashiegu market 45 minutes later. I offered to give her a ride but she vehemently refused. She told me she had walked that path for over a year now and was not willing to risk her life by getting in a stranger’s car. Such a stubborn girl, I quipped, I’m only trying to help you get to your destination; I’m headed in that direction anyway, and I’m not going to ask you for any favors in return, in case you are wondering. Without uttering another word, she picked up her walking pace and continued in the distance.
Angrily, I sped past her and before long, she was adorned in red sand from the dusty road. Her image quickly disappeared from my rear view mirror and I heaved a sigh of relief. Phewwww, what a strange encounter, I guess now I can get past this memory and begin to focus on the leadership summit happening in 2 hours. I happily drove past the Lamashiegu market but before long, I made a U-turn and was headed back that way. You can say I was spell bound, you can call it African electronics, compassion syndrome, or outright stupidity; all I know is I was at the market watching from a distance and waiting for the girl from Bagabaga.
Upon arrival, she sought help from one of the market folks to unload the basket of goods from her head. It was at that moment that I had a glimpse of how weighted that load might have been. Mine O Mine, that basket twice her size contained oranges, plantain, cassava, some tubers of yam, tomatoes, cocoyam, spicy peppers, and green leaves. She set up shop on a small table and immediately got into the hustling and bustling of the trade. Takara knew everyone and everyone knew Takara. I admired how she relentlessly interacted and negotiated with all her customers; every one she encountered left her table stand with a smile. One thing was certain, Takara was poor financially but she was wealthy in grace, poise, understanding, love and contentment.
After 3 hours of hustling, Takara’s goods were sold out and she was ready to make the trek back home. Seizing one last opportunity to speak with her, I made a mad dash towards her and asked “Takara, can you please answer this one question? Where is your family, why are you all alone”? With a smile as big as the sun she retorted, my only family is my mom and she is back home; not to far from where we first met. I am the only child and I’ve never known my father. A year ago, mom fell ill and I promised to take care of her until she gets better. We live off the earnings of my trade, mom is my family, she is all I have. Can I go now? I need to be home by a certain time else mom will be worried about me.
I’m not one who stutters or ever gets speechless but following her response, I became both. After an awkward moment of silence, all I could muster courage to ask was “but but but errrrm, I mean, errrmmm, u mean, pardon me, errmmm, what did you just say? How can you be experiencing such trouble and still be content and hopeful at this young age? As I struggled to regain my speech and whatever form of consciousness I had left in me, I continued scratching my head as if a truck load of lice had suddenly been dumped upon it”.
“Well, that’s a story for another day, she said. I could tell you more but I need to be going now”.
Here I was, in a strange place and suddenly realizing that I hadn’t spoken to my parents in 5 years because I was too busy, neither had I taken the time to check on any of my 3 siblings. I thought the girl from bagabaga needed saving but after careful introspection, I’m having second thoughts. Are my priorities misplaced, why am I not content?
Oh no, I am 2 hours late for the leadership summit where I am supposed to be giving the keynote address. I have to go now Takara, but I promise to find you before my time here is up. I have to meet your mom, I just have to. I really need to.
(to be continued)