By Frances Uku.
The Kombi bus came to a stop by the side of the motorway, and its passengers disembarked. Titi pried her raffia bag from the cubby where it had been cramped under the seat, and dusted off her dress. “CMS Lagos Island CMS Lagos Island last chance last chance!” The conductor banged the top of the bus, and it sped off in search of its next crop of passengers. It was almost seven in the evening, yet the sun hovered over the city like a school child, cross-armed and unwilling to go to bed. The man who had been sitting next to Titi on the bus cleared his throat, spat, and set off in the direction indicated by the signs directly across from her. She watched his spit bubbles drain off in the shallow gutter by her feet, as a hawker peeled off green plantains and threw them on to roast, discarding their skins on the ground. It was Titi’s first time at the camp.
She followed the throng that was already making its way along the path parallel to the motorway. On either side of her, women her mother’s age walked on, humming familiar tunes as they kicked up surrounding clouds of harmattan dust. ‘Ah ah! See as you march my leg this girl, you no dey look as you dey waka?’ Titi pleaded forgiveness, but was interrupted by an American-accented voice over a loudspeaker. ‘If you’ve come to receive yar miracle tonight let me hear ya shout HALLELUYAH!’ Hands and small babies were raised high as the crowd quickened on. They had covered what felt to Titi like a long distance, but as she looked past the sweaty shoulders and stained armpits to her left, she could now see a different entrance to the camp. Four well-turned-out children tumbled out of a Mercedes-Benz with their mother – who locked it, handed the keys to a waiting guard, and guided them towards the area marked DEACONS, DEACONESSES, AND STAFF.
‘Anointed, ah say what problem is too big for God?! Tonight all spiritual cankerworms in your life are cast into the PIT OF FIRE!’ Titi broke away from the crowd, and inched in the direction of the V-Boot family. She lost sight of them briefly as they entered a white tent but she pressed on anyway, pulled back the tarpaulin flap, and stepped in. Two large men in sunglasses and suits grabbed for her, but she pointed towards the rich woman, who had now reached the front of the aisle. ‘Abeg sah, that’s my madam! I am their housegirl!’ She raced down the thin red carpet and grabbed the lady by the ankles. ‘Please ma, I take God beg you – I go give the baby to my mama in the village. No throw-way me, abeg.’ Without looking down, the woman freed herself of Titi’s grip and occupied the seat next to the microphone-wielding Deacon on the stage. He made no note of Titi, who was swiftly ejected through a side door.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frances Uku holds a computer science degree from Berkeley, and an MFA in Acting from Harvard University’s ART Institute, a joint program with the Moscow Art Theatre School. She also trained as a writer-performer at The Second City. She is at work on her first screenplay, Patches, a thriller she is adapting from her mental institution memoir of the same name.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, December 7th, 2012.