Songs of Solomon.
Isoken did not leave the staff room of Patricia Primary School when the closing bell rang. Everyone else did. It would appear that she was inspecting the attendance booklet on her desk. Actually, her mind had taken her elsewhere, perhaps, to the room she was renting at no. 15 Furniture Rd. The dread of loneliness, that was what glued her on to her seat and gave her this lost look that an onlooker could easily mistake for boredom or tiredness. She could leave the staff room and walk the 2 miles home, but what would be the point. There isn’t a pinch of voltage coursing through the old wires in the room. It’s been dark nights ever since the heavy rain– the first of the season–came and blew up the transformer. But the room was dismal in other ways. It tired her to live there alone, she and her Ghana-Must-Go bags still unpacked after two years of living there, she and the pots that have stayed on since her college of education days in Warri, she and the only thing hanging on the wall, a picture of Jesus holding a bleeding heart and Mary standing right next to him looking beatific as she always manages to do in the face of the most absurd suffering. It was also a calendar. And of course, she and her Gideon bible opened to Songs of Solomon–”Ah, my beloved, you are beautiful.” Chapter 4 of the Songs of Solomon. And of course, she and the leftover Egusi soup.
Leftover Egusi Soup.
Not a happy thought…this business of going home to no-one and some leftover Egusi soup. And maybe the last bit of Ijebu garri, which she’d use for eba. Tart eba. Eba that would set her teeth on edge. Not a bad idea. With the dullness and all of her life. A little electricity in the mouth is not entirely a bad deal. But she’d eat alone, perhaps, while sitting on her bed, on which no man had slept for a long worrying while. The last time…it…happened was when that Okada rider dropped her off at home and then said he was thirsty for water and followed her into her room. They first did it standing against the wall, right next to the Kero stove. Then the pot of Jollof rice fell from the stove–rice, pot, cover and all landing on the ground–because their feet kept hitting it. Then there was all this sound. They stopped for less than half a millisecond and then laughed. That instant of noise, passion and laughter was something Isoken could never name and so could never forget. A needling little instant during which noise arrested the force of passion and produced laughter. They did it a few more times in a few more places until they ended up in bed, reeking of love without ventilation. She woke up late at night to find he’d gone and left behind a 200 naira note smelling of sweat and pocket. She got up and ate cold Jollof rice, alone and in the dark.
The featured image is a painting by Renoir titled “Onions” and painted in 1881.