When you meet Nneobi you will see she always has little ones on her.
They add a certain charm to her rather mismatched, curvy, dusty brown appearance. From the beginning of her narrow metal gates that look like stretching feet you see small brown-dark , scrawny, dirty or even semi-naked boys and girls running around gleefully. Often times these little ones silently stoop low under firm hands of their mothers pouring water and rubbing soap lather. If you drive further down some bubbles from the scentless gutter side bath might float to your car window. Don’t resist the urge to continue driving slowly and stretching your hand out to pop a few bubbles close by. But do not stop there, that is just my Buka customer’s morning routine. You will drive on her dusty, bumpy, pure water littered, uneven street down towards crater-like port holes. I know you’ll say it looked like Eru tried pulling out corruption from Nigeria through the gully like portholes. Don’t say it.
You’ll drive further down Nneobi, skirting around her two murky, chocolate river portholes. They look like breast but the children with shaven heads that wear faded denim skirts and trousers avoid them. You’ll see Nneobi has a green compound painted with ‘artistic’ Mickey Mouse, fruits, Alp-Ha-Be-Ts and numb3r5 to school little ones. You’ll wonder with all the children spilling out, preteens playing in the small shops and stalls paving both sides of the street there could be more children. I’m sure you’ll shake your head when you see the blackboard on the wall calling for volunteers to teach crucial subjects. While lost looking skinny and fat women in ill-fitting skirt suits that resemble those at Staff School decades ago–welcome more rowdy uniformed ‘shouldrens’ into that compound. Drive on without turning to the left street beside the green primary school.
In this stark communal landscape where men can be seen sparsely but always sitting staring probably into futures they missed. You will find new red, tattered green, stained yellow network providers’ umbrellas brightly dotting Nneobi adding a mismatched pointillism effect to the scenery. Don’t bother stopping to buy my airtime at any of those umbrellas. Park at the wooden shop with steps sited on by unclear plastics of sweets, chewing gums, etc. Buy my airtime there. You remember how much right? Right. One you drive a bit forward you’ll see black iron gate with Feni’s sculptures (from her Water Bodies Exhibition we went for) leaning against their stems. Peep the pink duplex inside? That’s my house. To be sure it isn’t Lady Pero’s pink house. There are no bare chest, shrieking children with white 5 ltrs kegs or small buckets milling around the water pump beside its gate. If you are at the water pump still drive further down.
You’ll pass the white bungalow with a placard ‘buy chilled zobo here’. Last time, yesterday evening after work, that I drove pass there I saw two small boys probably packing in clothes.Probably brother because they had matching buba and sokoto, native top and trousers. The taller and older one carried a bench to step on. He still had to stand on his tip toe to reach the wire. It was such a comic sight! I had been parked waiting for change while a burgundy filled Miranda bottle numbed my palm. Laughter almost choked me as the zobo ran down my plumb throat with what the boy was doing. He would remove the pegs, throw them behind him to the floor for the smaller boy and sling the clothes over his skinny shoulder. All with precise seriousness while the younger boy would pick up the pegs from the sand and clip them to his buba’s edge.
Anyway, opposite the white house is a left street, a street on the left. Do you see the artsy black iron gate and Feni’s sculptures? That’s my place. I didn’t ask what you’ll like to eat for breakfast. Or why you are visiting my no-longer-a-site for the first time this early in the day. I know you’ll say I still don’t know how to give directions but whatever. Welcome to Nneobi! Do you know my house has a name? You guessed right!