Saturday, February 27, 2016

Boy Tobi

By Blessing Igwemadu

I got to the park at about 2:30 in the afternoon. "Why won't this little boy stop staring?" I wondered as I walked towards the bus to get hold of a comfortable seat.
"Sister, you go shift your nyansh small", A Lady in the bus complained looking all angered. "Or go sidon for another seat. You know sey you full."

I ignored.
"Na so dem go just dey do anyhow. Rubbish." She murmured. Another interjected asking her to stop complaining or get a taxi.
I smiled.
"Aunty, pure water. Buy pure water.", that same little boy called.
I looked into the big bowl, "But e no cold na."
He exhaled and walked away.
"Hey, come. I go buy am like that." I shouted. He kept walking.
"You no go go meet am? No dey shout give us, abeg." That same lady complained. Again.
This time, I asked her what her problem was. "Come, madam, wetin dey work you? Dem dey fry garri for your head? If you know sey you no dey well, follow me yarn rubbish. E be like sey you want make I correct something for your head. Better respect your age." I warned as I stepped down form the bus in search of the little boy.
Where could he be? My eyes searched all over. Oh! There he was, chasing after a moving vehicle in traffic. I stood as I watched him. No one bought his water probably because it's not cold. He walked away from the road, down to a tank and sat behind it. Why I picked interest in him was a mystery, a mystery I wasn't ready to let go because I feel as though I have lived many lives, experienced the heights and depths of each and like the waves of the ocean, never known rest. Through out the years, I looked always for the unusual(a hawker who doesn't try to smile at his customers in order to make sales. Not just a hawker, the little boy), for the wonderful, for the mysteries at the heart of life.
"Hello", I said to him, "may I sit with you, please?"
He looked at me, then where I pointed and back at me, "Sidan na. But if your nyansh dirty, I no go fit do anything."
As I was about sitting, he quickly spread a cloth on the block, "Oya, you fit use my 'osuka'.
I smiled. "Thank you, Mr...?"
"This Aunty sef, I am boy o. I am boy Tobi."
"Okay, boy Tobi. I am Blessing. You can call me Blessing. I like your sense of..."
"Abi Aunty Blessing." He sneered.
I laughed.
"Tobi, I was a bit reluctant buying your pure water because it's not cold, but you walked away sad and didn't answer when I asked you to come back. Why?"
"Wetin be reluctant, Aunty Blessing?" Curiosity written all over his face, I said answered, "reluctant mean sey I no ready to buy as at that time."
"My water no cold from house. Na hot water naim I carry enter road. And I know sey I no go fit sell am because e no cold I just sey make I try. Some people still dey buy like that."
"Your Mama nko? Wetin she dey do?"
"Mama ke? I no get o. Na everyday I dey pray make she wake up. Na my Aunty I dey stay with."
"Okay. Where your Aunty dey?"
"She don go work na. All of us don go work." He smiled showing his missing tooth.
"Your Aunty don marry? Her husband nko?"
"I no know o. But she get one pikin."
"Where the pikin dey and why you no go school?"
"The pikin don go school. Me I dey work. Na by 4 my own school dey start."
"4pm? That na school abi na lesson?"
"Ah! Aunty, this your question don too much. Wetin you want?"
"I wan help you in any way way I fit. Shey you know sey I like you, if not I for no come sidon for here." I replied with a wink.
"Aunty, you eh, I like you small sha. Naim make me dey look you since. You fine well well."
"Thank you, boy Tobi. Oya answer me. Tell me everything."
"Na lesson I dey go. My Aunty say she no go fit put me for school because no be she born me. So, one day, I kon see people like me wey carry book naim I kon enter where dem come out from. As I enter, I meet one thin man wey long, I tell am I wan join lesson but sey I no get money. Naim the man kon sey make I kukuma dey go school only. I tell the man that I am not going to school. That I have never gone to school. I tell am sey I wan just start lesson so that I go dey know small small things small small. He kon dey reluctant." He paused on using the newly learnt word, shined his teeth and continued, "After he kon tell me sey the amount na 1,000 Naira for one month. And Aunty, I look one book back one time, I kon see sey that na the biggest money for Nigeria. I kon beg am sey make he reduce am for me sey na me go pay am by myself and I no get the biggest money for Nigeria. I kon dey beg am naim he kon sey he go help me comot 400 Naira. Sey I go pay 600."
"Okay. So, you don start?"
"No, I still dey gather the money. I don get 205 Naira. This water naim I sell to gather am."
"I am proud of you, Tobi. I am so proud of you. So, how you take start to dey save am?"
"If my Aunty don go work, before I go my own work, I go help people fetch water and go any message."
"But you for try dey sell cold one na so that you for sell am finish quick quick."
"Aunty, that one na another money."
"This na wetin we go do, as your pure water remain 10pcs eh, me and you go follow go sell am. Make we see wether dem go buy. You gree?"
"Aunty Blessing. Ah, as you fine reach? Well, anything wey go make me sell finish, I am going to do am." He said with sparkles in this eyes.
"See your head. I no go fit go, but make you try go sell am again. I go dey here dey look you, this time around smile give dem well well, make you kon dey thank dem as dem dey buy am."
"Aunty, that one no go work."
"You know wetin you go dey talk? Dey tell them sey: 'Pure water wey no cold at all naim dey healthy for the body. Buy from me and stay healthy! Buy pure clean water!' and as you dey talk am, dey smile."
"Ahahahaha. You no go kill me. Okay. Make I try am." He continued laughing and he walked away.
My! I was beginning to enjoy his company. How old be this boy sef? He's smart! Very smart! He must be from Warri. Sharp-mouthed little rat! Kai. I looked at my wrist it's 3:02 pm already. I felt like being there with him all day. Why would his Aunt be so partial about this sharp mind's education? Why?
It's 3:15pm already...
Lost in thoughts, I managed to hear him shout, "Aunty! Aunty! I don sell am finish. All of dem sef dey laugh me. Na wa o. You get sense."
I smiled. I smiled my lips parted widely.
"My money now na, 305 Naira. Aunty, thank you o. I don happy now. But wait, who you be?"
"Tobi, how old are you?" I asked.
"Aunty wait, I dey come." He ran to a provision shop and bought tom tom. "Oya take, this na my gift to you."
"Aww. Tobi! Tobi!", I hugged him. "Oya, how old are you?"
"Today naim I complete 8yrs. Today na my birthday."
"What??? Hahaha. Oya, come. Make I give you gift, too." I dragged him along.
"My baf nko?" He grinned.
I took him to a mama put close by, bought him rice, plantain, moi moi, meat and fish. He prayed and ate. Thanked me and said, he would love to see me again. But I was leaving Delta State for good. I knew it may not be possible but I said, WE WILL SEE AGAIN.
"Oya, take this change. Go pay for your lesson. Use the remaining one take add to your business. You go prosper. Na me tell you. Make we snap picture?"
"No o! I no wear fine cloth na. I no fit. But ah, two biggest money for Nigeria naim you call change? Only me? You go marry person wey rich and you no go suffer. You must go all the school finish. And God go dey bless you dey go."
I hugged him one last time and left!
Tobi! Tobi! I love you already! I love you!

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