Isoken dreaded holidays. They made her lonely. Her mother died two years before. Her twin brother was a policeman and lived in Abudu with his family. The last time she saw or talked to him was at their mother’s funeral. Their father had aways been absent from their lives. Isoken didn’t know the full story, neither did her brother. All she knew was that it had something to do with their mother and father being first cousins. No family. No friends. Indifferent neighbors. There didn’t seem much to do with a four-day weekend.
Early Friday morning, Isoken picked up her market bag and a few plastic bags she’d saved. Her plan was to avoid the holiday shopping rush. But as it turned out, Coca Cola was having some kind of Easter promo at Uselu Market. By the time she got there, there was already twice the number of people at the market. She shoved her way through the crowd of people selling, standing, hawking, gawking, yelling, laughing, singing, dancing, fighting, preaching, praying and doing all the other variety of things people do in a market. The smell of feet, skin, and hair mixed with the aroma of spices and the odor of fish made her stomach tighten. The heat wasn’t helping. She was in the open part of the market. If only she could make it to the shade where her favorite provision store was located. She slid through sweaty bodies and tried to avoid tipping the bowls of red oil and garri that stood dangerously close to her legs. When she arrived at Oga Sunday’s shop, she plopped herself on a bench with the last bit of strength she had left in her.
“Customer, you remember us today” Sunday’s wife greeted with a beaming smile. She was an Agbor woman with the loveliest gap-tooth. She had on a blue t-shirt with the words Disney World written on it and under that a faded ankara wrapper. Her weave-on was packed up in a bun under a hair net. Her dark skin was unevenly colored and leathery. Perhaps, a case of bleaching gone awry. It had been a few months since Isoken became a frequent visitor at Alpha and Omega Provision Store, a hole-in-the-wall stall at the eastern end of Uselu Market. But she had still not managed to warm up to Sunday’s wife, who had gone inside the inner storage room to get water. As Isoken settled down to the sachet of pure water, an odd picture crossed her mind. It was the picture of Sunday sleeping with his wife. Try as she may she just couldn’t make a clear picture of it. The reason is that even though the woman had a pretty face, she was frightfully thin and tall. Isoken couldn’t just imagine Sunday being satisfied by such a woman. Being with this kind of woman had to be like having sex with a miss-shapen slab of ply wood.
Sunday was no RMD, but he had the kind of body Isoken had always imagined Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart had. A body where everything was just pure masculine heftiness. One of her favorite parts of Sunday’s body were his feet. They were webbed and scaly, covered in dust and ugly. Yet they were so big. They were so big that they burst out of the seams of his worn leather slippers. She wondered what it would be like to have him right here in this shop, in the inner room where supplies were stored. He’d bend her over the cartons of Omo and Blue Band. The darkness of the room, the fan creaking out hot air, their moaning muffled by the buzzing confusion of the market outside. His wife could even be sitting outside while two of them got on inside…
Her thoughts were interrupted by his wife telling Isoken that Sunday had taken the day off. Hiding her disappointment, Isoken forced a nervous smile, thankful that the woman could not read her thoughts. But maybe the woman sensed Isoken’s disappointment because her next words was an attempt at explaining Sunday’s absence.
“We dey travel go village this evening, so…”
“Una get Tura?,” Isoken cut her off.
“Soap or cream?”
“See am.” Sunday’s wife pointed to the shelf. “Next to Delta soap.”
Isoken wanted to ask how long the visit to the village would be. Maybe she could return to the shop on some concocted pretext. Maybe she’d be lucky and his wife would not be there. Maybe she could find a way to tell him that they were both lonely, he with this stick of a wife, she in a loveless bed. Being with Sunday had begun to slip from idle fantasy into something more real, like desire. This thought scared her. She quickly grabbed two tablets of Tura soap. As she reached for a tube of Tura cream, she took a glance at Sunday’s wife. Her eyes were fixed on the market in front of her, but Isoken could tell that her mind was elsewhere. Her face now seemed more sad than pretty. Isoken wondered what she was thinking about. She couldn’t help feeling judged by the pain written on the woman’s face. She grabbed the Tura cream and hurriedly added sanitary pads, Ultra Sheen relaxer, Close up, Canoe Soap, Ariel detergent, Parazone, Blue Band, Peak Milk, Bournvita, and few other things from her list. She got all the provisions she needed except candles. Sunday’s candles were too fat. Fat candles burned faster. She would have to go somewhere else. Isoken paid up, gave Sunday’s wife a hasty goodbye and left the shop. Just then it occurred to her that she had forgotten to buy Joy soap for when she wanted something sweet-smelling. Tura didn’t have much of a fragrance. Oh well, she thought. No way she could bring herself to go back to the guilt and longing she had just put behind her.
As she turned the corner, she saw standing right before her the very person she truly hoped to avoid.
Previously on ISOKEN:
Feature image via Esty.com