She sat on a chair in front of her shop listening to the sound of rats and roaches running through the crates of beer behind her. It was a sound she was used to; she had become used to over the past three years. She still couldn’t believe she lived in this slum now. Tears filled her eyes as they normally did when she thought about the day her son and her daughter-in-law died and her life changed forever. She had been left with her grandson, barely 12. Both of them lost in this huge world with no other relatives.
She did not try to stop the tears as she looked around her and took in what was her living and working environment. The front of her shop was flooded as usual and huge piles of waste littered the water. There were planks connecting the street to her shop for customers to walk on. It was a sight similar to the one at the back of her house where the window and door of their one room apartment faced. The stench and smell were slowly becoming normal to her 66-year-old nose.
After depending solely on her son and his wife since Grandpa died, being thrown into a life of struggling to survive had been harder than anything she had ever faced. Thank God for the gateman at their former house who had stuck with them when the creditors had come to claim the house, the cars, everything they had owned. She still couldn’t understand why Jude never told her how much debt he was in. Ahmed, the gateman, had moved them to his own house here in Ajegunle, and even though he was also out of work, had fed them and helped her sell what she could from all that was left. It was with that money that she had gotten the almost collapsing structure where she sold beer and peppered meat that served as her source of income for herself and Kolawole, her grandson. It wasn’t much and some days she went without eating but so far she had been able to provide a school and clothes for her grandson.
Across the street Iya Sodiq was breastfeeding her 8th child born about three weeks ago in front of her bukka. Her husband was running around in the mechanic shop next to hers that he owned working on someone’s car. She looked to her left where Rita the hairdresser was braiding her own hair in front of a mirror outside her saloon. Nobody could stand to sit inside their shops in this heat. There had been no light for almost three weeks straight now.
A bike sped past causing the children playing on the road to hurriedly jump out of the way. The children whose parents could not afford to send them to school but who were too young to hawk. They would wait for the lucky ones who could go to school to come back and then learn what they could from them. Her own grandson had come up with this idea earlier this year and helped in organizing the lessons. “Kolawole, Olowo ori mi,” she thought to herself. He was the sole reason for her existence now. She would never understand why God had caused all these misfortunes to happen but she had hope as long as she had Kola.
“Grandma, give me 33 abeg and 50 naira ponmo.” Baba Sodiq’s assistant called to her, crossing the plank to sit on one of the chairs she put out for customers. In her thinking she had not even noticed him cross the road.
Slowly she got up and walked into the shop wiping the tears from her eyes. She pulled a bottle of 33 beer from the hot fridge. Nobody minded these days. PHCN treated them all alike. As she set the beer and meet in front of him, she saw Kola walking to the shop. School was over.
He prostrated in front of her. “Good afternoon, grandma. Good afternoon, Brother Wasiu.”
She put her hand on his back “Omo mi, ka’abo. Bawo ni school?”
“Fine, grandma. I got something from a visitor in school today. She said it was for my excellent result last term.” He said standing up.
She sat down back and watched as he pulled a phone from his bag.
“It’s not new. It is fairly used.”
Grandma’s heart swelled with pride and joy. Not because of the phone but what warranted him getting the phone. She pulled him close to her as tears began falling again blessing him over and over in her mind.
Kola squirmed under his grandma’s embrace. He was no longer a child now. Why was she holding him like one? When she released him, he saw the tears on her face and understood. “Grandma, let me take your picture with the phone. It has camera. I think I will give my teacher to sell it tomorrow. We can use the money for something useful.”
Grandma smiled at him and thanked God for him once again. She wiped her face with the bottom of her wrapper. “Oya now, take my picture.”