“Mama is dead” Beth said over the phone.
“Calm down, Beth” Chidera smoothed her skirt, nerve calming habit, “It’s okay, just… Come home.”
“Are you sure, Dera?” Beth said looking with eyebrows arched and lips pursed “You know I don’t want trouble with these drivers.”
“Madam Perfect, chill” Chidera said while stretching to turn on the rechargeable lamp hung on the wall.
The gradually dimming light struggled to fend off the oppressive darkness, casting oddish scary shadows on everything -much like the political climate.
“I’ve used the guy before. He’s the one who took us East for my cousin Amaka’s wedding -the one that married that fine Hausa guy.”
“Okay, I remember. Was his name not General T – abi – L”
“General K” said Chidera “C’mon as a reporter, you forget too easily.”
“Abeg no vex, we’ll use the man” said Beth as she avoid hitting a plastic stool ok her way out the door.
The bus drive was nostalgic for Beth . As Gen K sped along telling jokes of his journeying on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, she recalled her first journey to the big city. Her bus had had an accident just after the Sagamu flyover. As a thirteen year old who had never left her mother she sat by the road with hot streams of tears flowing down her cheeks.
“Ahan, big girls don’t cry na”, said the stranger, a fellow passenger who blocked out the scorching sun with his height and stature, “where are your parents?”
“I’m traveling alone to meet my aunty at Ojota Park”, Beth said, “With this accident and everyone going their way, I don’t know what to do and I have no money.” Her face bore the indelible mark of a frightened naif, her speech low.
She was more than surprised when he paid her fare and waited with her at the park.
A gallop on the ertswhile smooth road jeered Beth back to the present and to the conversation in the bus.
“I tell you, the woman live long but na normal thing for them”, said Gen K.
“It’s because she lived in the village now” said Chidera, as she admired her recently retouched hair in the mirror for the umpteenth time, “no Lagos hassle for them there.”
“Ehn, that one join but the way they respected culture must have been the thing. Look at it na, in Lagos we dey follow white man culture and the thing no blend with our body. I remember when I go Calabar for one wedding. Ehen, that one na culture.” He blasted the horn at some unfortunate Peugeot that had broken down in the middle of the road. “Oga Charles, you suppose no that one na?”
“Sure” said Charles, the sports editor from Beth’s place of work. “The wedding ceremony in our side is a bit ardous and lengthy o. But it’s very colorful and rich.” He used his already soaked handkerchief to clean his wet face, “the main thing is the Nkuoho really, translated roughly as Fattening room. That’s where the magic of the Calabar bride comes in. She is taken by her mother and other women and kept in a room where she is fed and groomed to give her a neck-turning waistline and fair skin, how to cook and to prepare for kids.” Charles cleans the dust accumulating on his horn rimmed glasses, “By the time she’s out ehn, all the men in town will notice her immediately.” Charles looked out as though for a lost star in the sky, with his voice reducing to a drone, “Chai, unfortunately, the tradition is dying. The fattening room that could be up to 6 months is now a paltry one night —before the wedding!”
Beth smiled as she zoned out on the conversation. There was a traffic build up ahead, the perfect opportunity to sleep before meeting everyone and everything at home.