Scripted potpourri

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Something To Offer

on January 14, 2014

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Today, I passed by Schizza’s Won and there was no awe and longing oozing out of my eyes as I did so; as it used to be all those years ago when the image of those neoned calligraphic letters on the front of the store clung to my brain like my two times-table. “Skeezas,” I preferred to call it, even though my brother who was twelve at the time, said it was “Sheetzas, not Skeezas.”  The flamboyant boutique opened on the main road, the same road where my mother perched under a large Mirinda umbrella at the hem of a mechanic’s workshop to sell fruits everyday. I was ten, and pretty quixotic for a child from an economically underprivileged family as mine. Truly, nothing was more fascinating than a store that was air-conditioned and had glass sliding doors through which women, who drove their own cars, pranced in and out of. There was something fittingly out of place about Schizza’s that got the whole neighbourhood agog—my mother said the only other boutique she knew was at the city capital, Ikeja, “And those ones don’t even have shine-shine name like this one”, she noted.

One time, I was with my mother at the fruit stall when, along with an orange I was peeling, I sliced my palm without realizing it. “Oghene me!” my mother screamed for her God, before I saw the poor orange sheened with my blood. I was trying to understand how the blood got there when she landed an earsplitting smack on my back—what Yoruba people call abara. “You are looking at that shop again! You are looking at that shop again!” My mother rapped in Urhobo, almost wailing. “Let me tell you something: the people in that shop do not look at you, because you have nothing to offer. You only have something to offer by working hard at what God has given you to do. Alero, God has given us fruits. Concentrate!”

That was exactly what I did for the next four years—peeling and slicing fruits after school for my mother. She later got a small container and added soft drinks to her sales stock, but she didn’t get rid of the Mirinda umbrella that had seen better days. It was right in front of the container, and under it, she roasted ripe plantains, boli, every afternoon. By then, Schizza’s had become Schizza’s Won!, and they had opened a new nicer-looking store, Schizza’s Too, at the extreme end of the same long, now busy main road. Then Aunty Helen came to stay with us.

She was only four years older than I was and had just finished secondary school in Warri. My mother said she was very hardworking and wanted to pursue her university education in Lagos. A few weeks after she came, she told me she was tired of being sales girl at my mother’s fruit cum soft-drink cum boli store. “I get SSCE o.” She announced one day. “A-fit do sales geh for dat boutique wey dey there”. I didn’t bother reminding her that the only reason my mother allowed her to come was because she was perfect for selling fruits and soft drinks and boli. “Tell Mummy,” I said. Of course she didn’t, and the day she was going to apply at Schizza’s, she asked me to accompany her. It was a public holiday. My mother had gone to the market and expected us to open the shop. I was excited about breathing in the air of Schizza’s Too, and even though I was sure that Schizza’s, as sophisticated as it was, would never employ a Pidgin English-rapping person like Helen, I told her this might be her lucky day. Pleased, she bought orobo Coke for me before we went.

I wore my cutest top—my Betty Boop—and my faded but clean denim dungarees. Helen wore a form-fitting stretchy skirt with a scandalous side slit and topped it with an equally tight blouse that had a Rastafarian image on it. I believe it was for this reason that the security man, after questioning us senselessly, told us there was no vacancy. In other words, we were not allowed into Schizza’s. Helen thoroughly cussed the man in wafe. I was crest-fallen. It wasn’t until I watched Pretty Woman a year later that I realised that big boutiques had a policy for turning people back based on how they looked. But at least, Julia Roberts entered that store before they told her they had nothing to offer her.

Meanwhile, the worst thing was happening while we were begging to be let into Schiza’s. The Lagos State task force, who were really ruffians in tacky uniforms, was on their usual rampage looking for roadside traders to harangue and obtain bribes from. But because there was nobody at my mother’s container to give them what they wanted, they ransacked the stack of fruits my mother concealed with layers of sack cloth at the back of the container, made a dent in the container itself and in the process broke my mother’s beloved Mirinda umbrella, before they painted white X’s all around the container. I would never ever forget the spanking I received. Of course, Helen was sent back to Warri but I later learnt that she never went back and neither did she ever go to the university. After the whole episode faded away and my mother found a way to cart her container to the front of the face-me-I-face-you where we lived, I told all my friends at the public school I attended that I had gone shopping at Schizza’s on one public holiday. They believed me.

Today, my mother is not alive to know that I am a lawyer with the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning. Today, I did not just pass by Schizza’s Won!; my chauffeur drove me past it in my Toyota Camry 2013 model to Schizza’s Too where I have some important business to perform. I would be stepping inside that place for the first time. Today, I don’t have to look across the road from a fruits container or plead with a security man; neither do I have to fabricate my experience there as I did all those years ago. I could have, and should have delegated this assignment to a subordinate. But from the moment I started working on this case, I looked forward to today. Indeed, there was no way I would have passed up the offer to let the people at Schizza’s see me as someone with something very important to offer—court orders for demolition, and my money, with which I bought an Yves Saint Laurent scarf.

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7 responses to “Something To Offer

  1. jennifer says:

    Amazing!!

    • Kilson says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jennifer. For those of you asking if it’s a true life story? No. It’s purely fictional. Keep stopping by for more!

  2. Adegbenro Adebayo. says:

    This is great!!! I’m impressed!

  3. bito says:

    wonderful piece. look forward to reading more of that!

  4. adeleye says:

    The END always justifies the means….. Nice one Linda, big-ups.

  5. Eunice Babatunde says:

    beautiful

  6. nevara says:

    Great writeup, “scintillating”

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