It’s no longer weird to hear the excited yelps of “lafiya” and the echoing response from the other side of the street in a strange language you’ve never heard.
It’s no longer weird to see them on the sides of the street, bent in prayer.
In the one you call Mallam, for the extra pieces of suya. The Aboki, for the cheapest vegetables – all you have to mumble is zo ma na or something that sounds like an attempt to speak their language, they like that alot.
In the bike man, the one that charges the cheapest rates. It’s not even surprising, and they’re hard to miss – what with their glistening black skins and yesterday’s clothes.
In your compound, mending your shoes and selling all sorts of leather – bags and shoes.
In the teen girl watching you from behind her veil, a bucket of whatever, balanced on her head, and as you march to school in your ironed uniform, her eyes seem to say, it should have been me.
In the lanky young man, with the curls that are not from Jerry’s. His distinct features give him away – you see, once again, they’re hard to miss.
You wonder till you find out, that you both share a faith, but then you know, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Your people have been taught to hate his, and rightly so. His people have been known to hate yours, you don’t know why.
You can watch from a distance – Oh, you can even get close but can never bring home.
So you see, it’s forbidden, even before it starts.
The nights are relatively quiet, the mornings too – it really is a quiet village. They seem to have an affinity for same and tend to run away from the metropolis.
You pass them on the street and they pass by you too, a silent nod of acknowledgement and even if you’re terrified when you hear them speak their language in the bus, you pretend to not be, but you say the Lord’s prayer just in case, and hope he’s not busy with people he had told on whatsapp to forward to 15 contacts or die.
As the chickens come to roost, you wonder how long the peace would last. How long it would take till they missed a cow or a little boy went missing in the bushes searching for odds and ends.
How long it would take till they come looking for the cows, or the herder boy in your lodgings.
Then the long knife will be used to tear open your stomach, incase you had swallowed them.
By Doris Okoronkwo