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Observations of a Young Nigerian Female . Powered by Blogger.

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I am young, "normal" and I like to write. People say I eat too much, people don't know what they are saying.

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Douglas Road (Series): Nnamdi .G. Nwaigwe - Part 4

One humid Saturday afternoon, Uzoma and I sat on his mattress, watching an old episode of The Johnsons and laughing our hearts out when a light knock came on the door. We both heard it, but acted like we didn’t. None of us wanted to get the door. We waited for whoever it was to mention a name or just go away. The knock came again, harder and louder, coinciding with a commercial break on TV. I rose to get the door.
I was surprised to find Nenye standing outside, her face failing to break into that beautiful smile that betrayed her dimples; her arms hanging loosely by her sides instead of reaching out to pull me into that brief, warm hug. She just drifted past me and dropped onto the mattress. Uzoma pressed the mute button and turned to her.
“Is everything OK?” he asked, his face showed genuine concern.Nenye said nothing. Uzoma asked again. “Sweetheart, what’s the problem?”
Even in that moment of suspense and uncertainty, I managed to wonder how easily Uzoma spread endearments – evenly, like butter on slices of bread –  across his many girlfriends with an equal level of false commitment.
“I lost my phone,” Nenye said.
“Are you serious?” Uzoma asked, more shocked than doubtful.
“How did it happen?” I asked, dropping onto the mattress beside her.
“I’m not sure. But I suspect it was when I stopped to buy bananas at Douglas road. I had it with me up till that time, I’m sure.”
“So where is the banana?” Uzoma asked in a miscalculated attempt to lighten up her mood.
“What do you mean?” she fired back, her voice coming out a little stronger, a little harsher. “I lost my phone and you’re asking about bananas!”
Uzoma’s mistimed joke hadn’t come out well. Nenye knew it was a joke, but was still too bitter about her lost phone to let him off easily. A tensed silence hung over the room.
“Was it in your handbag or in your pocket?” I tried to get her talking again, because talking about it could be therapeutic, and the air in the room was turning thicker.
Uzoma, disappointed that his joke had come off badly – or perhaps deciding to allow her privatize her grief – unmuted the TV but turned down the volume considerably – a gesture of goodwill, to show he was still interested in her story.
After a while, the story came out.
She couldn’t really tell the exact time the phone went missing. She had made a call with it before she got off from a keke to buy banana at the busy Douglas by Mbaise Road junction. After buying the banana, she had entered a bus to Uzoma’s place. It was while on the bus that she noticed her phone was missing. In the sweaty tightness of the bus, she had managed to feel her handbag for the phone. She hadn’t felt the phone, but she felt the beginning of that emptiness that came with being robbed, an emptiness that was further deepened by the confusion of not knowing how and when it happened.
She told herself the phone was in her bag but she probably hadn’t felt it because the bus was packed with people so she couldn’t really search her bag thoroughly. She tucked this feeble consolation away at a corner of her mind and waited for when she would reach her bus-stop and search her bag thoroughly. But from another corner of her mind, reality birthed and spread across her entire being. The weight of her loss became so real that it slackened her shoulders.
From her story, it became clear she had lost her phone to pickpockets. I tried to imagine how people lose valuables to pickpockets. How do people get so carried away that they don’t notice a strange hand dipping into their pockets? In Nenye’s case, it was her handbag. I threw a quick look at the bag. It was the I-no-go-return-today type, big enough to hold a change of clothes she would need for a week-long stay inUzoma’s house. How had she not noticed, right from the unzipping and the brief, hurried wiggling of the thief’s fingers to the actual removal of the phone? Was she charmed?
Pickpockets notoriously operate with different types of charms, but there have been proven ways to avoid being caught by some of these charms.One of their charms become potent upontalking with them. They could walk up to you and ask for directions to a place, the moment you start talking to them, you come under the influence of their charms.
Sometimes they would take a taxi or bus, pick up unsuspecting passengers and one of them would begin a conversation about a certain lucrative business. The others would join in the conversation in an attempt to rope in innocent passengers. Once they join the conversation, they would be held by their charms. By the time they would regain their senses, they might be in another part of the town or even in another state, dispossessed of their valuables.
In Aba, pickpockets are an endangered species. Once they are caught, they are beaten to the point of severe injuries, unconsciousness or death. Aba was one big extended family where people looked out for one another.
But Owerri, as I would later understand, was a more insular city. People minded their businesses. Someone could be robbed on a busy road, under the burning glare of the sun and the hurried glances of passers-by. Even when the victim called for help, it was unlikely to come by. Sometimes, these crimes happen within shouting distance of a police patrol team, whose resolve on bullying motorists into grudgingly parting with their hard-earned money would not be shaken by the cries of a helpless man. 
Douglas Road was a sanctuary for petty and not-so-petty thievery. Thriving roadside markets drew all sorts of people together and forced a lull in human and vehicular movements, creating a perfect cesspool for sustained criminality. A thief could do his thing and easily dissolve into the surging human tide.

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