It was not this darkness that overwhelmed me; it was because beneath this deep gloom, beneath this dark abyss, you could visibly see the light boring holes out of the thick darkness. And then I saw her. The damp air clouded my nose like mucus, and almost made me throw up. The idea that I was in this place unsettled me, and I was deeply imagining how much of a torture I would bestow on Tunde who thought it was a good idea to come here to see another side of life that I was not used to, a life that was the opposite of mine.
Maybe I could pretend as if I was dreaming or imagining this scene. I would have to prove myself against the hallucinations I have been having; for instance, seeing a girl in that rubble. I could not have been dreaming. It couldn’t be. I started to calculate if, I stayed longer, I might choke to death. My condition was worsening and that may explain the hallucinations.
“Aunte!” A tiny, calm voice rang into my ears. It could have been a subtle call but my concentration closed in on me too much. I turned to where the voice had come from and saw her. I had to be sure. There was a sparkle in her eyes that I had not seen elsewhere and it shone beyond her light brown hair and puffy cheeks. I was moving towards her, when the high heels that Tunde warned me about got stuck into the waste-littered ground.
“Aunte… you dhon fall dan…” she said softly almost in a whispery voice as if speaking loudly would hurt her and make her throat ache. I stood up carefully from where I had fallen and held her left tiny hand. She stretched out her right hand. It had in it one Tom-Tom which she offered me while she stared steadily at me with her sad large bright eyes.
“What is your name?” I asked
Her childlike lisps created an ambience of subtleness and innocence… Funmilayo, she had thought she had said. Her rotund belly protruding from her little dress. She was still staring at me as she held on to me with her tightest of grips, or I had felt that was it. As if in a flash, she had quickly gotten a dirty stool which had almost started to break on its hinges and I stared at what she had as her home: a water logged bamboo shed. She brought me water in a faded green cup.
“Aunte, sorry…” she said.
I stared at her big round eyes with embarrassment, and her family welcomed me with such warmness. She entered the room and came out with a tattered book and insisted that I read it for her. It was a Bible for children and her father still maintaining the warm smile had said that she had always done it to everyone who came visiting. They all liked the idea that I was from a university. Funmilayo said to me constantly that she would like to be a doctor even though I did not bother to ask her. She had said with her lisps that she wanted to cure the sick. It was the moment her baby brother had died from typhoid that she realized it; her mother had said she kept asking for ‘baby’ and when they told her baby had gone to heaven, she told everyone who cared that she wanted to be a doctor, to cure. This was reality and her young eyes told a tale of experience and the wish to explore. She was teary as I was leaving but she had showed me something to hold on to: peace. I saw content in her eyes and she had everything. Beauty in a dirty world.
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