By Amarachi Okpunobi
The polytene bag containing the food stuffs I had bought for dinner fell from my hands. The oil spilled on the ground as it was tied in a cellophane, and it was immediately mixed with the palm kernel shaft that was used to tar the ground in front of the traders shop. The pumpkin leaves were crushed to an ugly state and the garri immediately became a stepping stone for the market women. The beaf cried bitterly for help and gushed out blood from the eyes. The fishe that was wrapped in a carton paper regretted leaving the river to dry land. That wasn’t how they would have ended; they thought, at least in a human’s belly would have made them serve a purpose rather than the pathetic situation they found themselves.
The shouts of the market women and men raised the dust from the dead. I looked with dismay and wished I never had the appetite for a vegetable soup that evening nor come to the market to purchase food stuffs for it preparation. I would have rather quenched my hunger with the noodles I had in my cupboard. The sight I beheld made my heart faint.
The market women kept shouting. “Burn am! Burn am!!. Anyi ga-esu ya oku!
I had watched that young girl, tall, light skinned, wearing a brown hair and on a blue trouser with a polo ran pass me when I wanted to pay for the pumpkin leaves. That was the genesis.
She ran so fast that I wondered how fearless and strong she was to have pushed herself through the unruly crowd and made an escape. The old woman selling the pumpkin leaves immediately said to me, “nne pukwa n’ uzo, Ka ha ghara I zogbu gi, my dear please, come out from there so they don’t match you to death!”.
My mouth was still wide open like the grave ready to swallow even the smallest fly when the polytene bag fell from my hand.
Umu ogbara ohuru, unu adighi anu ihe chacha, new generation, you don’t listen at all”, the woman yield at me again.
Another woman who was adjacent to her joined the chorus to plead that I entered into their shop while the crowd made their way.
Curiosity wouldn’t have allowed me to stay either, so I left my bag which was already torn into shred and moved towards the crowd. I managed to ask a little girl who was hawking satchet water what the uproar was really about. But before then, I had bought a satchet of water from the same little soul to calm my nerves which was already over stimulated with the messages of fear and anxiety.
“Aunty I no know ooo, but e be like say that woman thief money in the market”, the little girl raised her eye brows as she pointed towards the direction of the said thief. I left her side and moved gently and carefully towards the crowd.
She was on the ground. The crowd shouted louder. People who alighted from the buses just near the market joined the crowd. The okada men and barrow pushers stood and made their own judgement on the girl.
Ahhh! That girl is too fine to be wasted like that oooo! A voice from the crowd pitied the alleged thief.
Hot tears began to drop from my eyes. I cried sorrowfully and wished I never saw that soul. I thought of the beautiful woman, the alleged thief would have made, the pretty and intelligent kids she would have had. The good man that would have walked her down the aisle. She may have been one of this influential ladies in the society. But this soul was about to be wasted in the hands of cruelty.
The alleged thief who was now beaten black and blue pleaded for mercy. She said it was hunger and then she blamed Satan. She wailed and wailed for mercy but it seemed the gate of mercy was shot on her. Blood was beginning to gush from her broken body. Stones, sticks and other things were thrown at her. I watched as human dignity was dragged to the mud. I wished the ground could open and swallow her, maybe she will leave the earth in peace. Her state of life wasn’t anything close to good condition of leaving this planet. At that point, I became saturated. My hungry soul became filled.
Then I thought I had seen it all, till the cruelty of man threw the other side of the coin. Some from the crowd began throwing tyres on her. Some hung theirs on her neck while some continued laying abuses on her. Some other women pleaded with the crowd to let her go but that was just too mere words to say. Maybe there was still people who love others regardless of where they are coming from and maybe there are mothers who still cared.
My bones became weakened. My heart began to beat faster, I prayed the most dreaded wasn’t about to happen. I prayed that a miracle somehow happened and the girl saved from the crowd. Whatever she did can still be forgiven. Whatever amount of money she had stolen could still be refunded. A miracle should happen I prayed.
Then, they brought a gallon of fuel. She laid lifeless on the ground. I wondered what her thoughts would be. I thought of her mother, her father. What if she had her children? What if she had psychological defect? Just what if?
Suddenly, the crowd began scattering in different directions. I hoped it was the miracle. Then the police men trouped into the crowd and withdrew people near the alleged thief who still laid lifeless on the ground. They hurriedly carried the girl to their ambulance. Once they left, they let out two bullets in the air. Some remained and continued making necessary investigations. I prayed again that the girl survives the trauma.