She liked pineapples.
I stood in front of a fruit seller’s display in the Ketu market, lost in thought. Thoughts of the nostalgic bitter-sweet kind. Thoughts that seemed to flow from somewhere just beyond my conscious thought process.
I came back to myself, registering the noise of buyers and sellers and the smell. It was actually a composition of smells; from the rotten banana to the sickly-sweet smell of rotting pineapples to the sharp bitter tang of spoilt oranges. Here now I smiled, remembering how she would cover her nose delicately every time we came down to the market together.
She liked pineapples. Especially those in between rotting and over ripening.
I drifted again.
I could see her as clearly as though she was standing there – right in front of me, a little to my left as she usually did. She would pick what she wanted to buy and then ask me; “what do you think? Should I buy this?”
I would just wave – because as far as I was concerned, the question was pointless. She was the one who was shopping; she was the one who had stuff to buy. Why ask for my opinion knowing fully well it did not matter?
But she loved doing it, and I loved to indulge her. So more often than not I would mumble what sounded like an approval and she would go ahead and purchase the stuff.
And then we would walk home, and she would wash the pineapples (another pointless exercise far as I’m concerned), peel and dice them into tiny slices. And then she would put them in a plastic bowl and place them in the freezer. And then she would cook a heavenly dish and we would eat together. And then she would run my bath water, and bath herself, and then we would make love.
Lying in the warm afterglow (not every guy falls asleep after sex), she would then serve the pineapples, picking the tiny slices and popping them in my mouth, smiling happily all the time.
No, we were not married. We never made it that far.
Someone bumped into me solidly, jerking me out of my mental traipsing and dumping me into reality hard. It was one of those wheel barrow pushers, carrying a load of yam. I ignored him and pointed to the pineapple I wanted, a large yellow-green orb. The woman smiled, putting her incomplete set of dentures on display.
“Two hundred naira sah,” she mouthed in a singsong accent. I nodded and opened my wallet, pulling out a five hundred naira note. She collected the money, handed me the fruit in a black nylon back and handed me my change. I thanked her and walked away, deciding to do all the reminiscing I wanted to in a safer place.
I crossed the expressway and hailed a bike. Giving the rider my house address, I jumped on when he agreed and continued to do my wool gathering.
I thought about the last time I saw her.
She had come over that Saturday looking like a million naira, or as my friend Gani would say; ‘looking like a meal of men’. Heh.
She came bearing the usual things, fruits and foodstuff. I always complained about how she spent money on me – about how it made me uncomfortable. But she only smiled and told me it made her happy to take care of me, because I was doing so poor a job of it. She was right, but I still did not like it. So we had an arrangement; I would give her a monthly allowance and she would spend it however she liked. We both had good jobs; she argued. Why should she not spend on her man? Grudgingly I accepted, knowing fully well the amount we agreed was nothing compared to what she spent.
So she came in that Saturday, packing stuff and looking like she was headed to a refugee camp with the Red Cross. I had missed her during the week – it had been a full one so we hardly had time for a movie or any of that. I had made some food; jollof rice, the only thing I knew how to cook apart from making eba and plain rice. She ate, making fun of my cooking but enjoying it all the same, and then she started making soup.
We’d talked and talked long into the night, catching up on each other and sharing experiences. We started to watch a movie on ONTV, but barely five minutes into it she was out like a light. Gently I carried her into bed and tucked her in, and then lay beside her watching the play of moonlight on the strong yet gentle planes of her picturesque face. It was Mother Nature giving me a picture to hold on to, a picture to keep me going after.
But of course, I did not know it at the time.
Thank you all so much!
Please indulge me – the story is too long is why I’m posting it in two parts. Part II comes up tomorrow – God willing!