Mum cooks horrible foods, we tell ourselves we love the delicacies but every morning before 8am, sweet aromas waft their way into our quarters, all the way from the next street and we would look at one another and wonder, why can’t this be birthed in our kitchen? My best guess, nothing to guess.

Idaya used to be the most beautiful girl I ever knew. I would ogle her lustily anytime she hawks groundnut down our street. I had a dream I would grow up to marry her; she was so beautifully dark she looked like a burnt offering. All I wanted was her and I suspect she knew; she would smile at me whenever she sang her “Er’èpà epanu ò” down our street. But then I went to this supermarket to buy bread and I was splashed by a car that roughly pulled up, I was going to rain curses on the driver if not that she emerged to be a girl so moderately sized with nice bosom I couldn’t either utter a word or take my eyes off her. She apologized but I could only nod my head. Where was she from? They said the next street. Damn! How could I have known, imagine, that Idaya after all, was the ugliest girl in the world!

We enjoy stable power supply in our street; it’s two hours per day unless it rained and cables had to be dried for a week or two. Relatively though, the next street is always bright at night with its sky stroked with car beams. When Camila Cabello’s ‘Havana o na na’ echoes from the next street, mosquitoes sing ‘God rest ye merry gentlemen’ in ours as they feast on our blood.

The youths of the next street disrespect us. They splash us with puddles on the road. They oppress us with eloquence in English. They have the most beautiful girls. And it’s quite upsetting. So we teamed up and brainstormed; what could we do to stretch up to them? We were told only education could empower us. So we wrote JAMB and gained admission into universities, but after we paid the school fees, they closed down the schools, said they are going on strike for unpaid salaries. It’s eleven months now and we’re still at home. Meanwhile, we couldn’t fight it, youths from the next street, every year return from Cambridge as graduates.

A day came when I summoned the courage to enter the next street, see what it looks like and study its secrets. Nobody said anything about a gate, but not until I got to its door, I didn’t know it had a giant gate. I didn’t give up. I thought I could gain entrée from another direction, so I circled around, but little did I know that the next street is fenced on all sides. Then I called on my brothers, “Come, I’m tired of these limitations, let’s scale the fence and live in the next street”. They came and we climbed onto each other’s shoulders and indeed, my head rose above the fence, and then I saw the next street, it was nothing like our street, it was a world I never knew. There was food, water and opportunities to grow financially. I could’ve jumped into the street but they had dogs and they were not the kind of dogs I knew, they were dogs with big heads and were ready to kill anyone whose blood, I learnt, did not smell the same as the people living in the next street.

We returned home and consoled ourselves that the next street is not better than our street, at least, we sing the same National Anthem and share the same President. Someday, our school will resume and we’ll get our education. And then we’ll mould grammars into stones and haul them over their fence, that although we’re VERY separated by class and they do not see (or want to see) what we look like, they’ll know we exist, and we’re not born to serve them.

-Lord eBay (and his random ruminations, 2018)


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