“Fola, let me tell you. For me, it is in the sway of a woman’s hips, the slow, conscious rhythm that rouses her breasts from their slumber…”
He always used his ‘old man’ voice to talk about women. I was sure Uncle Patrick was no more than 25 years old but when it came to the subject of women, he suddenly grew a long beard and wore the tattered shoes of an aged beggar.
He has been in our house for over a month now and when my parents go to work, he stays back sometimes to keep us company… and by ‘us’, I mean the maid and I.
He has been teaching me what he calls the ‘Art of Philandering’ and when I asked him what ‘feelandiring’ meant, his gaze traveled down my chest and he waved his finger around it, almost as if he was trying to touch it but some invisible force was stopping him. He suddenly looked remorseful, smiled wryly and said, “Fola, when your breasts stop looking like buttons, you will understand.”
I turned red, slightly embarrassed that Uncle Patrick did not still see me as a woman, and angry at myself for forgetting to stuff my singlet with cotton wool before he came. I had even gone as far as fishing out my old clothes that Mumsy kept in a bag for the less privileged. These days, you can wear a torn shirt with ripped jeans and canvas and look ‘lit as fuck’. I’m pretty sure I can slip into my now short skirts and shorts without looking out of place in the world.
But he did not notice; or he pretends not to.
I followed all the steps religiously: ‘walk tall, chest out, try to imagine you’re in a slow motion scene in an Indian movie, show a little leg, smile a lot’ CHECK.CHECK. CHECK.DOUBLE CHECK. He just laughed when he saw me and called that stupid maid, Imole to come and see his student.
I am starting to think that it is just me. I do not look good enough, I’m sure of it. Hell, I don’t resemble my parents and I can see the tinge of disappointment that masks the faces of their friends when they introduce me; the pretense in their voices as they try to laugh it off. “Mama Fola, is this Mayowa, she is so round and dark.” The polite ones use words like round, dark, solid and ‘big eyes’, and I interpret them for what they are in one sentence: “The dark, fat, ugly okpolo eyed girl.” The rude ones can hardly suppress their disappointment. If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear, “after how many years of barrenness, God just flung this wash belle pikin at them.”
Maybe that’s why they are never around and they never take me along with them for their social functions. They would rather leave me with the maid. I didn’t always hate her much. In the first few months of her arrival, she lingered around like a faded grey cloud in the midst of blue sky. It is not a threat until it starts to spread across the blue to tell you it is raining. When Uncle Patrick came, she became more noticeable, laughing too hard at his jokes and interrupting our conversations to ask him if he wanted more food to which he never declined. Once I tried to cook something. I downloaded an app from play store for African recipes. ‘Jollof rice’ looked easy enough. Imole cooks it every Sunday and I have seen Uncle Patrick devour mountains of it without losing his breath. He calls it the real ‘National Anthem of Nigeria’.
It probably would have turned out well if I hadn’t gone inside to lie down for a bit. I was too busy looking at instagram pictures of ‘Jollof rice’ and I slept off thinking of the smile on Uncle Patrick’s face and how he will finally take me to the room to do that thing he does with Imole that makes her extra nice for the entire day. I woke up to the smell of smoke and if the entire neighborhood did not know of my existence before, they certainly did after that, and worse: for such a grievous sin as burning Jollof rice beyond recognition.
Imole barked and barked the entire day: “Fola, Girls like you should not be found in the kitchen!” “Leave this place. If you so much as want to drink water, you must ask me first.” I overhead her telling Uncle Patrick that she did not spend five years of her life getting a degree to come and manage some rich brat. I don’t know if he mumbled in agreement because Imole overshadowed his reply with angry scraping.
“Just look at all this food, and the fat thing does not care if it enters the trash! All these ungrateful rich people that aren’t even feeling the economy’s hot breath. I’d leave but…”
“You feel responsible for her?”
“Don’t be stupid, there are no jobs out there so I’ll stay because the pay is fair.”
“Imole just give me time, once I make it I will take us out of here. I will marry you. I have big dreams.”
She laughed sardonically and I was sure Uncle Patrick felt bad because he hated it when a person did not agree with his ideals.
“You! What are you doing hiding behind that door? Go to your room before I make you eat this black Jollof. Stupid girl.”
I didn’t sleep that night. I was filled to the brim with want and just as much as Uncle Patrick wanted wealth and Imole hated me, I wanted to be noticed. Unfortunately, plans on how to do that were so rudely interrupted by my rumbling tummy, so I stole ice cream instead. ♦
Author: >> RaydonBlackstone
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