By Mustapha Enesi
Joy seeps through the layers of pain in our lives: massaging the tired muscles that rush through our days, unfurling the sun that lights our paths, letting us flourish. Joy is in the days I chase after Danfo buses with a tray of Agege bread balanced on my head.
Today, I am not chasing after Danfo buses like I normally would: running through the streets carrying Mama’s business on my head, and pitying the strange-looking Danfo bus passengers I sell to. Some of them bury their bodies beneath muted colors of aso’eke, tie heavy geles around their heads, with different colors of beads snaked around their necks. Others appear in bright-colored buba and over-starched T-shirts tucked into fading khaki trousers. I look at them and pity their bodies for the burdens they bear, and they look at me with hungry eyes, wanting my bread.
Today, the street bustles with people. I trail behind Mama’s feet as they find their way through the sidewalks that lead to the clinic at the end of our street. I try not to look back at the street kids that stare and point at me. But the lump on the middle of my forehead points to everyone. It started as a little pimple, this lump, now the size of a baby’s clenched fist. And I would push it inside my forehead with my index finger, but it kept increasing in size like bread dough left to rise. The street smells like yesterday’s bread, an accumulation of kitchen waste effusing from the gutters lining the street.
As soon as Mama takes a turn to the street’s clinic, the smell of days-old antiseptic hits my nose. I spit. But here we are, Mama and I, in an office with a woman doctor. How we got to the office, I do not remember. The antiseptic smell must have wafted through my head, fogging my memory. Blurry images of people, in blue and white uniforms the color of clouds in a clear sky, dance in my head. I don’t exactly remember. Maybe it wasn’t the smell; maybe it was the pain from the lump on my forehead.
I tell Mama that the woman doctor is not a doctor. I tell her that doctors are men.
“Shut up! Okey,” Mama shushes me. The doctor’s patience is like that of the dead; it stares at us silently, too quiet. She smiles and tells us she is a doctor. She shows us her stethoscope, and her teeth are as white as her coat. What happens after, I do not remember.
It is night, and I find Mama’s teary eyes holding mine. She presses the lump on my forehead with a warm damp napkin, and I am seated on a chair, facing her. Images of poorly formed handwriting, something about surgery and expensive medicine Mama can never afford, dance in my head. I don’t exactly remember. When Mama is done, the lump on my forehead twitches, as though it is going to fall off with the whole of my head. I hold on to my head and ask if Mama will let me sell Agege bread when morning comes. To chase after Danfo buses and have joy seep through the layers of pain in my head.