Late one afternoon some weeks ago, going home from training at FAAN co-op house in Lagos, I met a delightful little girl. I’m not sure what I mean by ‘met’ since we only just shared a bus and there was even no confrontation between us whatsoever. Even technically, I shared the bus with her mother since this little girl was uneasily sitting and moving about on the mother’s laps. They were sat right beside me, the first row in the airport shuttle bus, so we were right behind the driver and the shotgun seat.
Inside this bus was rather rowdy. The little girl was chatting her mother up and the bus radio was tuned on a little loudly too. Maybe it was loud because I was sitting close, but it didn’t bother me like that since my brain wasn’t keen on listening. As usual, I was oblivious to where I was since I was “too into my phone”. It took only a moment to get interested in the little girl’s talk after I realized it wasn’t Helen Paul‘s chatter from the bus’ radio that I had been unconsciously listening to. It was that little girl!
She got my attention when she almost poked out my eyes while in the middle of her chatter with her mother. It seemed like she was trying to point out her supposedly French teacher to her mother in the middle of a crowd, through the bus’ window. And with all forms of gesticulations to her mum, rather forgetting she was in a regular 14-seater not-too-much-room-for-body-movement bus. She wanted her mother to place her teacher. The man in her direction was trying to board a bus. How she saw the teacher amidst the rush, only God knew.
I tried to follow her fingers to the spot she was frantically yelling at her mum to ‘lookie there’. Of course a person with 20/20 vision wouldn’t make out anything other than moving ants at that kind of distance, but this little girl knew it was her French teacher that she promised to give N3000 to, and she planned to collect that full amount from her mum, as I extrapolated from eavesdropping into their conversation. [It’s not like I (and the other passengers) could help not eavesdropping]. Her firm defense was ‘I promised and a promise is a sin and a sin is a debt’.
The mum tried to find out why she went ahead to promise if she didn’t have the money. According to her, ‘You don’t promise what you don’t have hunny. You’re just going to have to disappoint your teacher’.
And this is the part of the discussion that got me smiling and then writing this. The little girl wasn’t stupid. She saw mum ‘counting money that night before yesterday’. The mom tried to deny it by saying, ‘It wasn’t money you saw me counting hunny’.
Oh no she didn’t!
But the girl countered it saying she heard when she ‘told daddy you’ve gotten your money back’.
At this point, there were chuckles around the bus. The mother tried to help the issue but in a hush tone. She tried to explain that ‘the money isn’t for your teacher. It is for us to eat’.
At least she admitted it was money, but at the same time, she managed to confuse her little child that ‘thought that’s what daddy’s money is for.’ That’s when I think the mother got slightly uncomfortable with the daughter’s outbursts as she told her to ‘hush it. Let’s get home first’.
But the little girl still hadn’t gotten assurance for her teacher’s promised money. So she tried one more time. She thought ‘we can use your own money for food. And give daddy’s money to my teacher.’
Her mum, seeing her little awkwardly honest child wouldn’t let it go, felt ‘the other students would give your teacher theirs, won’t they? Then your teacher would be okay’.
And that’s when this child exclaimed too loudly that her mom had to put her hand over her mouth. After she dragged the mother’s hand away and adjusted her bum on the laps, she said that ‘the other students did not promise. I’m the only one!’ Before her mother could say anything again, she continued that ‘remember, a promise is a sin and a sin is a debt!’
So the mum decided to ask what I’d have thought should have been the first question being why the teacher would need the money and why she felt so badly to ‘promise when your mates did not. Do you feel your dad and I have too much money?’
I could hear some people laughing behind. The little girl gave all sorts of facial looks and heaves and sighs and when her temple creased like she was thinking about what mum said, priceless.
The girl started to answer but I didn’t hear anything again as I realized I was at my bus-stop already. The sides of my tummy were hurting since all the while I had tried to stifle my laughter. It would have been rude to have let out a chuckle since the mother wasn’t finding it funny at all.
Our Lagos children.