A Fifteen-Minute Walk

Written By Immaculata Abba

You think a fifteen-minute walk
(this fifteen-minute walk:
down the street to the estate gate
down the estate driveway to the main-road
across the round-about to the other road
down the road to the T-junction
left to the market)

is straightforward…

Until you have big breasts, big bumbum, big glasses and
Suddenly, no one on the road can see straight anymore

I. Market to the left

You can feel their eyes
People — sorry, men —
are calling out on the street
nwanyi n’ekpo glasses¹
eyysss orange top
pss pssst pssstttt”
bia², he’s calling you now!
baby how far?”

What do you do?
What if, by God, there really is something important?
Like your skirt is stained with blood?
Or your N100 fell?
You dare not turn or speak.

II. T- junction, down the road

You lock eyes with one of them. (“Such a beautiful face”, your heart smiles)
You keep looking at him for maybe 3 more seconds
But you walk a while past and when you look back you see him still staring at you with that look —

God, what is the point of me wearing clothes then
if I come to the market to be undressed every day?
Is there something wrong with my face?
Are my breasts plumping out of my bra?
Is my pant showing through my skirt?
What if there was actually something on the skirt?
Like a big blood stain?
Or, god forbid, my knees showing?
You remember the conductor that stopped the bus to shout at you because of the back of your knees…
You dare not turn.

III. road to round-about

Jesus, so many humans.
Sooo many youngins…
(i.e. humans still in secondary school)
but, younger does not make them easier.
…So many male humans
…coming your way

Cross the first group,
try to pass through the left edge? Car will jam you
try to pass through the right edge? Gutter will swallow you
pass through the middle then? God, the eyes. the stares. the eyes.

Meet the second group,
a pair
one is wearing glasses,
and both look really clean.
They look like boys you know you should have liked in school
They look like boys you know now are worth your liking
They smile, you smile.

Cross the third group,
much younger, more chatty
you know already to pass through the middle
eeeeeeeee yyyy eeeeeeeee sssss
Shit! Someone just shouted “Good afternoon”
This startles you and honestly pumps you a headache
Hesitate. You don’t know who.
“eh, Good afternoon”
two laughs scuffle rumble mumbles
away down the road.

What? Were my breasts plumping out of my bra?

IV. main-road down to estate driveway

you meet the security guards at the gate of the estate,
this time, for the first time,
you look at them,
their faces and eyes.
You greet them.
“Oga, Good afternoon. Oga Good afternoon”
“eh…good afternoon” they reply —
with the scorn of all the times before you walked past them
without dropping your greeting and collecting their gaze in return

As usual, back of your eyes sees the head rotations as you walk past.

V. estate gate, down the street

you meet your father’s driver
two sentences into the small talk,
“ahn ahn, why did you wear this shirt now, see how it is?”
“abeg Uncle, I’m tired — I don’t have energy.”

the shirt is how shirts are
such that you can see that the frilly orange lining of your black bra is orange, not black—

If you are looking.
If you are looking.

You think a fifteen-minute walk
(this fifteen minute walk:
market to the left of T-junction
T junction — up the road
road to round about
main road to estate driveway
estate gate — down the street)

is straightforward…

Until you have big breasts, big bumbum, big glasses and
suddenly, no one on the road can see straight anymore.

1 nwanyi n’ekpo glasses: girl wearing glasses

2 bia: come