We have a little sister, and she has no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?
Song of Solomon 8:8
My name is Ekaete Hunter and I hate love stories. That does not obviously make sense seeing that this is my love story. Hmmph! I will leave you to decide if it is by the time you get to the last line (not that I didn’t say the end).
In case you were wondering, I am twenty years old. I write in my diary every day and I am a hopeless romantic. I can’t cook. I am not into Beyonce and I think Kim Kardashian is prettier than her. I don’t have a best friend – yup, in the real world, life still goes on even if you don’t have one. I don’t have a boyfriend. In fact, I have never had one. I have never been kissed before. Wait, you don’t think I already know that I am an alien?
I worry about a lot of things – everything. I worry about my education – this is my fourth year of writing JAMB and POSTUTME. I worry that I may be an underachiever. I worry that I may end up like my single mom. I worry that I will not be a good example to my little twin sisters and my baby brother. I worry that I am missing out on life. I worry that I have bad luck and lots of it at that. I worry about my spiritual life. Most of all, I worry about my body. I feel inadequate when I think about it. I am neither pear –shaped nor hour glass. My body shape has to be between spring onions and tooth pick. Except that spring onions still have some length, which leaves me with toothpick. Tooth pick it is. I am really short, thin and flat – no ass or boobs. The Angel passed me by, which brings me to the bad luck thing. Plus, I am soft-spoken. I often get comments on how I am very cute and sweet. I. Hate. It. Whatever happened to sexy or hot or beautiful or sultry?
So you understand my fixation with this verse in the bible. What can I do? What are my options? Hormonal implants? Plastic surgery? Or maybe I am just a late bloomer. Yeah, that’s possible. Except for that tiny fact that I am a splitting image of my mother and pregnancy didn’t even give my mum any curves. The bottom line is I have to do something about it.
At this point, you know already that I am not an undergraduate. My mom has a shop where she sells hair and hair products. I make hair, and I may add that I am very good at it. We do hair maintenance, too. My dad walked out of the house, after my mom announced she was pregnant for my baby brother. The last I saw of him were his heels. He never looked back. That was when I was sixteen. The twins are sixteen now, Joe is four and I am glad that they are all getting the kind of education I couldn’t get. I was lucky enough to start at a Unity college. Things took a turn for the worse and I had to finish in a public school, the state paid for my WAEC. My life is actually not sad. On the contrary, I love my life. It practically revolves around hair. I love making it, treating it, styling it. I see myself eventually having my own line of hair extensions and hair care products. I am so addicted, that I even do home service. I am a born hustler. I go round every Tuesdays and Thursdays. If the Mountain doesn’t go to Mohammed, Mohammed will go the Mountain…
This Thursday is no different. Except that I saw an open pack of condoms in Taiwo’s bag. So my sixteen year old sisters are sexually active. Great! My mum will lose her mind if she hears this. I cried and cried and cried. Being in the boarding house was supposed to be safer. And then I go round, and nobody wants to make their hair and no one wants to try my home made glycerine moisturiser, talk about bad luck. My mum is all ecstatic – one word i learnt recently – when I get back to the shop. I hope it is infectious, am badly in need of some happiness right now. I get to go make Alhaja’s hair – Alhaja is the wife of the LG chairman and her son just came back from wherever. Mummy says I should be friendly to her. Well, I take one of my shea butter mixtures as a sample/ gift. Alhaja, like most middle aged women in this part of the world, is ‘maintaining her colour’. Her skin has this reddish tinge to it, and apart from that, you couldn’t tell she is bleaching. She has no rainbow, no dark spots and her knuckles are not even dark.
When I get there, she insists that I have lunch with them. Who am I to resist? They have two houses on our street – one is a storey building, the other is a mansion. Funny thing is all the roads leading to the houses are bad. At least, we know where some of the money is going into, her bleaching creams, their houses, and their son’s education in an Ivy league school – it is a school abroad sha. Whatever. I try to put any kind of bitterness aside. I don’t really blame her husband. Grab your own share of the national cake when you get close to it. I sigh as I begin to massage her scalp. I do this before I make anybody’s hair. It is therapeutic – I love this word. The mansion is overwhelming, everything about it screams, ‘notice me!’ She has her own combs. I give her the shea butter mixture. It is basically for healthy hair. I mixed some Indian hemp and coconut oil with it.
Her son saunters in as I begin to make the hair. He reminds me of Prince Aderopo in October 1st – charisma and all. I mumble words of greetings and continue to mind my business. I purpose tune out their conversation. I really don’t care about Manchester or wherever. I have not even left Lagos Mainland before, not to talk of Lagos state or even Nigeria. Okay, I am jealous and angry. Some stupid politician hoards money that would have made my life easier. His family gets to visit all the cosy places, meet fancy people, do fancy stuff, and I am stuck here making hair, too afraid to dream, worrying about everything. I choke back my tears and pull hard at Alhaja’s hair in the process. The conversation stops abruptly. I blink rapidly to prevent the tears from falling. God! Her son and I are age mates. Look at me and look at him. He has a bachelor degree and is working towards a Masters. Why can’t I get into the university? God knows I am not dumb. The tears come down like a water fall. I prick my hand with the needle on purpose, and let out a yelp. God knows I want to howl. Alhaja asks me to take a break. Her son is not buying the act. I hear him say, ‘Who cries over being pricked by a needle?’ In the bathroom, I pat my cheeks and give myself a pep talk. I try to imitate the characters in some of my cheesy romance novels. I square my shoulders and take a deep breath. When I return, Alhaja is not there. Her son, Siji, is. I sink into Alhaja’s chair and occupy myself with examining my nails. They don’t exist. I have finished eating them. I have ugly hands. I sneak a peek at Siji’s hands. They look like he hasn’t done any hard labour with them – fresh, neat and clean. I pick up the nearest City People and pretend that I am interested in celebrity gossip. The truth is I don’t even know these people.
After about fifteen minutes, Siji leaves and comes back to tell me that Alhaja is receiving the Iyaloja and the market women association officials. The meeting would take hours. It would be better for me to go and come back. I bring out my phone to call my mum. She says I should wait there; she would close the shop herself and meet me at home. I continue with the City People. Siji clears his throat. I pull out my ear piece and put it in my ears. I really don’t want to make small talk. I don’t play any music. He clears his throat and I look at him. He laughs, and it is even fancy. I sigh as I remove the ear piece and put it back in my bag.
‘I knew you were not listening to anything. If you were, you wouldn’t have been distracted when I cleared my throat.’
I ignore him as I flip the pages of the City People. I am thinking of slipping out to see Martins. He is an upcoming artiste and a student at Yabatech. We are childhood friends. My phone rings. It is Martins. ‘Hello Bae’, he says. I laugh. The usual stuff – he would invite me for a show where he is to perform, I would say no, he would beg me, I would still say no, he would become angry, and I would apologise. Then, I would say he shouldn’t forget me when his kingdom comes, he would laugh and hang up.
I glare at Siji. ‘Why are you eavesdropping?’ He continues typing away at his I-pad. I fling the City People at him. He hits him in his chest. He drops his I-pad in shock and the screen cracks. We look at the I-pad and at each other and at the I-pad again. I get to my knees and pick it up. I am crying again. Oh God! It is a mess, looks like a map. I should have just gone and come back. I am begging him on my knees. I am begging like my life depends on it. I am holding his legs, and begging and crying, grovelling more like it. He doesn’t tell me to stand up, he walks away leaving me in my ocean of tears.
He comes back with some fancy tissue paper. He pulls me up and gives them to me to clean my face. I am in shock. He looks like he is trying not to laugh. I clean my face and blow my nose. My chest is still heaving from the crying. I try to summon my dignity. ‘I am so sorry. What are we going to do about it?’ He laughs.
‘We? You will stop apologising, and I will have it fixed. Just take your mind off the whole thing.’ I heave a sigh of relief. ‘Thank you so much. I don’t… I couldn’t…’ He is smiling again. ‘You are welcome’. He lifts my hands off his laps. How did they get there? Wait a minute. I am kneeling at his feet. I have been crying on his laps? Jesus! I am exhausted. He helps me into a seat, and hands me more tissue. ‘You may want to blow your nose again.’ His hands are soft and his grip is strong.
‘My name is Siji, what’s yours?’ ‘Ekaete’. He is silent first, then he nods. ‘Like that Maya’s song about Ekaete getting pregnant?’ ‘Yes’. He smiles at me. I smile back. ‘Nice to meet you’, I say. He nods again. Then we shake hands. His hands are really soft. I pull back and I begin to get ready to continue with Alhaja’s hair. Alhaja comes back inside. If she noticed anything, she didn’t say. I continue making the hair. But I feel different. I know it. Something has changed and I can’t say what it is.
As I sew on the last line of the weave, and try to close it up, it hits me. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I think I am in love.