NP Story: The Passion by Olubunmi Familoni
Written by Olufunmi Familoni
‘She was a good woman. . .’
The pastor had not known her. But everyone knows that any dead rich person is a good person.
The coffin was gold. Inside it she was as drop-dead gorgeous as ever. Her demeanour was buried under layers of deep make-up, as usual. The small church was brimming with her friends — old parvenu women with thick carats dripping from their flabby bleached flesh unto heavy lace bubas.
Outside the church, they chewed gum and spat Yoruba at each other and shouted at short-distance callers as they rolled about with their barrel bottoms and hungry drummers following them.
‘She had a passion for helping the poor. . .’
We had been poor, my mother and I. My father had just died, leaving us nothing but a good name. We had been poor when he was alive, now we were poorer. . . You could smell that she was filthy rich — you didn’t need to be told. Her perfume filled our small one-room apartment, and her headgear took up what little space was left. My mother was reduced to a shred in the corner by the woman’s imposing size. She spoke to my mother in a small voice, as if coaxing a sick puppy to play. My mother was weeping, more than she had done when my father died. Then the woman pushed the ghana-must-go bag she had come with into her hands and the tears stopped abruptly. I had felt, at the time, that the gesture was an affront to our grief, to have stopped those tears like that. I had been angry. . . The big woman’s mouth had twitched slightly — there was a smile just around the corner of her lips. It broke out on her face as my mother fell to her knees and began showering a profusion of praise and gratitude on the woman’s fine red shoes that matched her fine red purse and gele.
After soaking her feet in the tears and prayers, she stood up and turned to me. She put a hand on my shoulder. I looked at it — I had never seen so many rings on one hand in my entire life, neither had I seen so much gold on one person before. Her fingers were podgy — there was at least a ring on every one of them; there were three on the ring finger. I wondered how many husbands she had, or had had. . . She looked me in the eyes maternally, ‘We’re going to Lagos, my child.’
In Lagos there were men. Many men. Big Men with big appetites; men with big stomachs filled with money. Big men in fat cars, who lived in large empty houses with vast cold beds that spread like deserts. . .
In Lagos there was money too; plenty money. It flowed in the streets and was sprayed copiously in nightclubs and weekend parties. It spilled from the pockets of these Big Men and flooded the city. . .
But you had to be a hard-working girl. . . We worked hard, the other girls and I; harder than the men. Hard work every night and day. We sweated — and dried ourselves with wads of naira.
We were no longer poor, my mother and I. We were not happy either. The last time I saw my mother she was decorated with gold jewellery, as I’d never seen her before. It was the last time I saw her. She was in a coffin. She was dead.
‘. . .She was a mother to many; a good mother,’ the pastor concluded.
I missed my mother. She was a good woman.