by Idowu Oluwatoyin
Later that night, I thought about Linda as I laid my bed. … a young girl’s destiny destroyed.
Linda was young girl, no more than nine or ten years old. She worked in my neighbourhood at Ojuelegba, hawking bread to add to the puny income of her impoverished family. Acting as both father and mother was the skinny woman roasting fish at the end of the street. There was no husband or father to look up to; no partner to ease the burden of one little girl and her semi-literate mother.
I see them as I drive by on my way to work in the morning. As early as seven o’clock, Linda is on the move. Her small legs are very fast, as she is often able to keep pace with my car as I gently round the bend that forks unto the highway. I have never patronized either mother or child; because for one thing, I don’t fancy agege bread (which is what she sells); and for another, I wouldn’t be caught dead buying fish in such a hygienically” compromised environment (being a neat freak).
I grew used to spotting Linda with her burden in the mornings; so much so, that it became an assurance of sorts to me. It signified that the agberos at the notorious Ojuelegba garage had not fought a turf war overnight. Whenever that particular event occurred, the streets were usually deserted, warning those resident close by that an encore could ensue at any time.
A couple of weeks ago, I failed to see Linda as I drove by. Her mother was nowhere in sight. I drove cautiously out of my street, but immediately relaxed when I saw that the roads were just as populated as they normally were. I swiftly forgot about Linda and went about my daily activities.
Later that evening, I decided to take a stroll to the supermarket near my house. Halfway there, I noticed that a crowd was gathering around a very distraught woman. Curiously, I strayed closer to peep at the identity of the spectacle. Lo and behold, it was Linda’s mother, and she was weeping profusely.
“Won ti pami lomo o,” she cried in Yoruba, shouting and tearing at her hair as she tossed and turned in abject grief. Tears mixed with mucus coated her face as she bawled.
Perplexed, I moved closer to find out what was happening. Mama Linda continued to cry and shout hysterically. ” Mo gbe oooo! Aye mi ti pare. Temi ti tan leni,” (Which means,” I’m in trouble ooo! my life is over; my own has finished today).
“Kilode, kilosele?” I ask no one in particular, needing only to make sense of the unfolding drama.
“Omo won Linda ni, won gbe lo si hospitu lana; o de ti wa ku ba’i,” a lady by my side volunteered and explained further, “Moto gba lori express nibi to ti fe so da lo ta ‘ja“.
Waoh, I blinked in surprise! Linda the bread hawker? Hit by a car while attempting to cross the highway to sell? Apparently, the child had been rushed to the hospital when the accident occurred; unfortunately, she did not make it. She was dead.
I sighed. “O ma se o; what a pity!” Feeling dazed, but knowing there was nothing left to be done; I moved on with shaky legs.
Later that night, I thought about Linda as I laid my bed. A precious life had just been cut short, a young girl’s destiny destroyed. Who knows what she might have become had she lived?
Hawking is deadly. Some like Linda become casualties of hit and run accidents, while some are kidnapped by ritualists and human traffickers; others become victims of rape and sexual assault. Two weeks have gone by since Linda’s death, and the rest of the world has moved on none the wiser. Linda is gone, but there are very many Lindas on the streets. These kids need champions, people to take their part give them a glimmer of hope, an attempt at a future.
Twitter handle: @tee_hidee
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