Aribido wondered what the thing was – that thing that got all the other children, male and female, wanting her.
She was just a regular girl who loved life. All she wanted was to enjoy the good in life. Life was already good for her and her family. They lived in a four bedroom apartment which also housed five other families of the same ethnic group, or so Aribido thought. She was the last born child of a family of three children, the only girl too. Her family was from Ilori West in Kwara state. Every Sunday afternoon, her mother would put big hot chunks of soft boiled yam into the wooden mortar pot while her Aunty Julie pounded the chunks into what would be fine balls of pounded yam in their plates for lunch. Ẹfọ riro with lots of irú really went down well with the pounded yam. Aribido was a chubby girl, with fine rosy cheeks. When she smiled, deep dimples on each cheek revealed how puffy her cheeks really were. Her hair was long and full in natural thick locks. It looked like a South African turban when she combed it all out. That was one of the reasons the other children loved her. They wanted to be close friends with her, too, for the beautiful charisma she wore around like colourful royal robes.
When the children played in the compound, the children of the other apartment too, they played games like ‘police and thief’, ‘mummy and daddy’, and ‘hide and seek’.
When they played ‘police and thief’, one person represented the police and the rest of the children played thieves. The police made a pistol with his first two fingers stretched out like the mouth of a pistol while the rest of the fingers were folded inward. The children would hide. The police had to search while being careful not to be heard as he or she approached, creeping in slowly as he or she held their backs against the wall as they went along. Even the thieve avoid being sighted, clinging their backs against the walls as they went along. Whomever the police sighted and shoot is out of the game. That was the rule of the game but most of the children end up upset and argued about not being out of the game. “Your pistol did not hit me”, they would say. However, whenever it was Aribido that was the thief, the police often pretended not to see her so she wouldn’t be out of the game, save for of course if it were one of her siblings who didn’t keep a bias about her. Nevertheless, when she was the police, whenever she declared someone out of the game, the person accepted gallantly. It was as though her opinion was a form of endorsement on certain things.
One of the more interesting games was ‘mummy and daddy’. It was a family play, acting regular everyday life. The mummies often feigned cooking for the family, or cooking in preparation for parties and get-togethers. It was interesting because they get to go to the market, which was not farther than the garden at the backyard in the compound, to pick colourful and exotic flowers like the red hibiscus; caladium leaves which has green hem across the blade with red central veins as it branches out across the rest of the white vascular tissue; and especially the sundown red leaf lettuce – it almost looks like the reddish-green spinach vegetables. These flowers resembled the ones the real mummies bought from the market. So the ‘mummies’ pick the leaves, flowers and any other interesting looking things they found in the garden, seeds and twigs that served as spoons or something like it. However, they deliberately avoid any leaves or flowers near the banana trees. There were bad rumours linked to the banana tree, no one went near. Although the banana tree was outside the compound, it was mysteriously looked upon from afar. Perhaps, the varieties and scent of the leafy flowers attracted the many snakes that were seen in the compound while serving as camouflage for them too.
So the mummies came together to prepare meals, adding all kinds of interesting make-believe spices. The daddies, on the other hand, loved their part of rubbing their bodies against the mummies, laying on them and the likes. They usually cast dies for whom would play Aribido’s husband. Sometimes, her husband even said he was sick and needed extra attention from her to get well.
Once, one of the girls caught one of the boys kissing Aribido behind the building. She too wanted to know what it felt like to hold her in her arms as the boys usually did. None of the boys were taken by any other girl but Aribido. So Eliza invited her home one afternoon when her mother and older siblings were out. Eliza was older than Aribido. They watched a movie together while sitting on the long cushion chair. Eliza began to move closer to Aribido. She realised Eliza was swiftly moving close but she wondered what it was all for. Then, when there was no space between them anymore, Aribido looked at her. Eliza smiled at her. Eliza kept her gaze till she began to move her head closer as well. She kissed Aribido. Aribido was confused. A few of the boys had kissed her and she had often seen that in the movies, boys kissing girls, men kissing women but she had never known a girl could kiss another girl. Eliza’s kiss didn’t feel forbidden however. It felt as though when Deinde has kissed her or when Daniel kissed her the other day only that Eliza’s lips felt softer.
Eliza pulled away giving Aribido a chance to savour the experience. When after she pulled away she found Aribido’s eyes shut and her lips pouted out as if for more, she kissed her again. This time she gently forced her lips apart with her tongue and fondled with hers. Aribido hardly participated in that tongue-tied situation. She just contemplated if she really liked it. Before she could decide, Eliza had pushed her on to the cushion while fondling with the rest of her body. At that time, she stiffened her body and began to wonder what it was between her thighs that suddenly felt slippery, her underwear felt wet. Before she could decide she didn’t like what she was feeling or what was happening to her or push Eliza off, they heard a knock on the door. Eliza quickly got up and pulled up her pant and rubbed the saliva off her lips. She asked Aribido to quickly do the same as she yelled, “I’m coming!”.
“What are you doing that you had to bolt the door and lock yourself in?”, her mother asked when she got in, looking around for suspicious acts.
“Nothing mummy”, Eliza was quick to respond. “I didn’t want anyone to disturb this movie I and Aribido are watching”, she quickly added before her mother walked into the living room to find her there.
“Good afternoon ma”, Aribido greeted in her usual self.
“How are you, my dear?” Eliza’s mother responded to her. “How are your mummy and brothers?”
“They are fine, ma. I should be going now”, she rose to her feet.
“Oh no, my dear, stay to finish your movie”, Eliza’s mother urged.
“Don’t worry ma. I can always come to finish it another day”, she said but almost in a requesting manner as she looked at Eliza.
Eliza was glad she wanted to come back to finish what they had started. “Yes, another day”, Eliza said happily.
That experience didn’t give her any favouritism in affection for certain gender relationship, looking back on it. As desired as she was as a child, as fortunate as her family was, as beautifully perfect her life seemed, it was nothing short of a platter of flowers. But old age told the reality of life. Over forty years later, she hears of homosexuals and other perverse immoralities, and she wonders how true the saying is. ‘Nothing under the sun is truly new’.
… More Platter of Flowers