She, the girl, has lived in Lagos all her life, and hawked almost everything hawkable. At 16, she has seen much more than the average Lagos teenager. But unlike the average hawker, she speaks correct English and carries herself like the Queen of England in her raggedy clothes, because mother and father tell her she is so. She is that girl that comes first place in class every term against all odds. With some months in secondary school to go, her parents have to make a hard choice between sending their first daughter to the University and letting her work with her Senior school certificate for some more years and save up so that the strain will be a little more bearable. University training is a different ball game, you know.
They dabble in this trade, and then that trade, to make ends meet. Three meals a day are quite the luxury. Five mouths to feed don’t make it any easier. Clothes have to be mended regularly, shoes repaired, and hair cropped. Everything is stripped down to the barest basics. But one things is constant.: everyone must go to school. This, they all agree on. No one has the time for frivolities: even the 8 year old baby of the home knows how every kobo comes in. She, the girl, is constantly growing and filling her clothes too fast. One day, she puts her daily secret savings together and she discovers that she has 500 naira. She decides she might as well buy a blouse and a skirt from the used clothes market. Mother may be mad for a while but she would eventually get over it, after all, she tries to make good sales everyday and makes good grades at school too.
At the market, she picks up the clothes, pangs of guilt tearing at her insides. The money could have made a pot of soup for the family. But her clothes are now so tight and the stares from the boys are getting embarrassing. She tightens her resolve and pays the money to the seller whose cries of “okirika select and pay! Hundred hundred naira!” threaten to turn her deaf.
Home now, she is determined to keep the clothes a secret from mother for as long as possible. She folds them and puts them away, but in a moment of curiosity while memorizing some mathematical formula, goes back to look at her pretty but faded clothes and admire them a second time. Putting on the blouse, which seems newer, she detects a bulge in the pocket she didn’t know was there before. She hastily picks out the contents of the pockets to continue her game of dress up, but she looks at the papers she removed from the pockets again and discovers that it is some kind of foreign currency. She chuckles and turns it over. Dollars. The laughter stops. There is no way she can keep this from mother. Her stomach tightens in dread at having to confess to shopping by herself and having to explain the source of the notes.
Mother returns from the market. Slow day for sales, she says. The girl quietly tells mother everything and raises her head when she hears no response. Mother says, “bring the clothes and the money”. She does so with trepidation. Mother hastily unfolds the money, completely ignoring the clothes. Two hundred dollar bills , two twenties and a five stare at them. How it got there, no one may ever know. They stare at this foreign money in amazement. It is just three notes, but they are thinking the same thing: by this fortunate stroke of destiny, she, the girl, just got the chance to go to school.
What you take for granted is somebody’s greatest wish – Unknown.