Ola Daniel: Nkechi The Pepper Seller

November 16, 2003, I was posted for my NYSC and Adetoun, my ‘angel-turned-sister’ as I fondly call her, wasn’t too happy it was to one of the States in the East. But I had no choice than to serve my father land. After 3 weeks, I was officially posted to a clinic at the outskirt of one of the remote villages in the State. Bachelor’s life wasn’t easy though, but I had to cope. I had to struggle between work, washing, sleeping, seeing friends, and annoyingly; cooking. ‘Cooking’- actually the times I didn’t eat at the canteen, I cooked Indomie. I really wished I had a lady that was helping out with the cooking. May be that was what brought me to my fate.

It was a sunny Saturday and I had nothing doing. I was chronically bored. It was in this loomy mood that I heard a lady hawked pepper. The catalyst that moved me off my bed is still to this moment a mystery. I swiftly dashed out and saw the lady; may be in her twenties. I was totally in awe of her beauty and the melodies in her specially trained hawking tones. I beckoned at her and then…..actually, I ignored the sprinkles of beards that were pointing at me, even though they were somewhat competitions with my ‘a-year-yet-not-grown’ beards and in my tribe, only a witch has beards. I muttered quietly “that’s my future wife, and that’s what matters to me”. I steered into her eyes for minutes and then still in the euphoria of my ‘wonderland’, ‘ignoringly’ she said “brother, why you dey look my eyes sote you con open your mouth yagada? You wan make fly enter am”

That broke the silence and startled my confidence for a while. I was left in a persistent vegetative state. Just lifeless! I had to change the ‘topic-to-be-discussed’ and sheepishly eulogised the redness of her pepper, as much as the tenacity she displayed while hawking it. She practically watched me displayed my unpremeditated ‘madness’, then she said “Oga, you wan buy pepper?!” I wittily said yes without thinking and I dipped my hand into my pockets and found nothing but a squeezed paper which I felt its hardness while my hand was still wandering about. I knew I had ridiculed myself in front of a village pepper seller.

She steered at me like a hunting ghost in search of its murderer and I had to cover up my stupidity by feigning complete ignorance of the disappearance of the money. I took the giant of faith and removed my hand with the hard paper but what I saw indeed saved my ass. It was a ₦500 note I had mistakenly washed with the trouser. It was nothing but a miracle. I confidently bought all the pepper on her tray and demanded to know where she resides to contact her whenever I need to get some pepper. She obligedly took me to her place and gave me her Econet number. My unnecessary constant visits at her place spoke loud my real intention and we could discuss any issue- and I mean any issue. It was always fun being around her and couple of times, her uncle who lived a distance away visited her. Guessed she must have explained to him how much I loved her and my marriage proposal. He suddenly became friendly and accommodating. They were fond of calling me “Docki” and she was given open permission to visit me at my rented apartment.

Oh, I forgot to tell you she didn’t complete her studies at the Technical School, but I loved her the way she was.

On one of the visits, she was engrossed with my mouth-watering-tongue-licking stories of the life I live in Lagos and my utmost intention “to marry a respectful Ibo girl”. Something led to something, we smooched and smooched and then……..and then nothing happened.

A month after our divinely orchestrated meeting, I completed my Youth Service program, then myself and Nkechi moved to Lagos, where I immediately got attached to a well-paying Hospital. Two months later, we walked down the aisle not minding the ‘beard’ and her being an orphan who incidentally was a dropped-out due to her paralysed perpetual fixation on the financial wheelchair.

The wedding was “not-too-elaborate-but-spicy” as one of my colleague once opined. Nkechi’s uncle was unable to come down to Lagos for the wedding on the basis that he was sick and “bla bla bla bla bla”. Anyways, that’s by-gone now.

Six months later, Nkechi was delivered of a baby girl. I thought the baby came to life earlier than expected but with no complications. Nkechi’s uncle sent a congratulatory letter and included the baby’s proposed name Nkem, “just to honour Nkechi’s deceased parents’ wish”; and we actually did respected their wish.

It’s been a decade now but we’ve been struggling with the persistent decay of Nkem’s health. August 14, 2010, she was officially diagnosed a Sickle-Cell Anaemia patient. I thought through the Report and couldn’t logically reconcile how the combination of ‘AS’ and an ‘AA’ could possibly result into a ‘SS’. I was an ‘AA’ until I read Nkem’s series of medical test results. “Was?”-no, I’m still.

That was our fate stormy fate until Nkem was at it again and the medical personnel requested a blood transfusion and a DNA test. Nkechi had to stay back at the Hospital and then I came home for some running-rounds. I took the test result home that night, shovelled in into our family medical file in my wife’s wardrobe and then the next thing I saw was…………………………….

Nkechi’s uncle’s medical test report during his ailment 10 years ago was part of the documents in the file. Never knew her uncle was a Rheumatic, and he didn’t look like one. I had to return the things I moved out of the wardrobe and then a paper flipped off.

It was a letter for Nkechi from her uncle congratulating her for the safe delivery of “our daughter”, how it wasn’t easy for him to let go of “my belle for that Docki boy” and how “he believe am say I be your uncle true true”.

I was stunned but I needed more confirmation. “Wait, what more confirmation?”, I inquired but since there was no one to answer my question, I rechecked the medical report belonging to her uncle, and then he was an ‘AA’. That explained Nkem’s mysterious genotype.

I felt like strangling myself and was unbecoming for some minutes. At least I felt like injecting Nkechi with a Mitochondrial toxin.

Don’t bother about the name, it’s a poison.

In the midst of the horrible ‘feelings’, Kelvin coughed in his room from his sleep, I rushed down there and then the thought streamed quietly in, “whose is Kelvin? Mine or Uncle’s?


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