Fifi opened the door. “Akwaaba. Sister Ronke, you are welcome. Please enter.”
“Hey, Fifi.” Ronke pushed Boo through the open door.
“Hello, ma, you are welcome, ma. Please come and sit, ma.”
An hour later, Ronke was eating kelewele – soft plantains fried in palm oil with peppers, ginger and garlic, having her usual deep- conditioning hot-oil treatment. Her hair was covered in thick greasy moisturizer, piled up on her head and wrapped in a plastic cap. Rivulets of oil had escaped and dribbled down her face and neck. Ronke was supposed to stay under the steamer hood – the heat made the conditioner penetrate – but it got in the way of eating and talking.
Boo picked at a tub of jollof rice. She’d chosen it despite Ronke’s hushed warning (she didn’t want Fifi to hear) that Ghanaian jollof was not a patch on Nigerian jollof. Fifi had finished cornrowing Boo’s hair – step one in the weave process.
“Did I tell you what happened to Aunty K last weekend?” Ronke asked. She knew she hadn’t, but she wanted to start this story casually.
“No. What?” Boo turned to face Ronke.
“Keep your head straight, ma!” said Fifi. “I am holding big needle, ehn.”
“Please don’t call me ma,” said Boo for the fourth time.
“I’m sorry, ma,” said Fifi.
“It’s going to be one big ’fro,” said Ronke. Boo’s hair was now a spiral of cornrows snaking round her head. Fifi was stitching on hair extensions, wefts of frizzy brown and blond hair.
“I look like a mollusk,” said Boo.
“The braids should be tighter, ehn,” said Fifi. “This is not lasting a long time, ma.”
“It’s tight enough.” Boo peered in the mirror. “I look like I’ve had a facelift. I think it might be too long, I don’t want to be Chaka Khan.”
“I’m cutting it after, ma.” Fifi muted the sound on the TV. “Sister Ronke, you are telling us about your aunty.”
She pronounced it “anti.” It made Ronke feel homesick. In Nigeria everyone older than you was an anti or an uncoo.
“It was terrible. She’d only been home for two weeks when it happened,” said Ronke. She ate the last piece of kelewele and wiped her hands on a napkin.
She’d heard the story three times now, first from Uncle Joseph, then Aunty K herself and finally her cousin, Obi. And she’d told it three times. To Rafa, Kayode and Kayode’s sister, Yetty. It got more exaggerated with each retelling. She spun her chair round so she was more central, then decided standing would be more dramatic. This was proper Naija gist – it had to be told the right way. In a loud voice and with lavish gestures.
Read the full excerpt on Bustle Magazine