“Where are they?” Mama Rita grumbled, casting a suspicious glance at her husband. For all she knew, he could be sitting on them. He sat in an easy chair, reading a newspaper, ignoring her completely. He did not look up from his reading for one second.
“Did you know that certain foods can improve your memory? Literally, brain foods,” Papa Rita said, examining a particular page with intense concentration.
“Let me guess: Eba and Banga soup did not make the list, abi? Oh-oh! Where are they now?” Mama Rita said sarcastically and resumed her vigorous search.
“No, they didn’t. But Coffee, Chocolate and some other foods did. What are you looking for anyway?” Papa Rita said in an absent-minded voice.
“My glasses. You know, the yellow pair I just started wearing yesterday,” Mama Rita replied, pausing briefly. Her husband did not answer and continued reading. Why was she not surprised? If he was the one looking for something now, he would make her drop everything she was doing to look for it. But there was no reciprocity.
Wait a minute. Reciprocity. That’s the word her neighbor, Florence, had used on her last visit. Florence, her nosy, over-zealous, meddling neighbor had come over to borrow some sugar to bake a cake that very afternoon. With her mother’s approval. Florence had not only launched into a very detailed account of how she planned to bake the cake, but she had also explained to Mama Rita exactly how each slice would be distributed. All 36 slices.
How big was this cake anyway? And how thin would each slice be? Were these really slices of cake or plantain chips? Besides, who would want to eat a cake baked by a teenager? Mama Rita wondered. She was just about to cook up a story about how she had run out of sugar, when Florence mentioned the principle of reciprocity. She did not use the word ‘principle,’ but that was the gist of her I-will-make-you-feel-guilty speech, which ended with “Aunty, remember we borrowed you salt last week.” That was it.
Mama Rita had run into the kitchen to grab some sugar for her uninvited guest. Papa Rita was still playing chess at a friend’s house. That left Florence alone in the sitting room for five whole minutes. When she returned with the sugar, just before she left, Florence had uttered the famous words, “Yellow is my color,” before skipping happily to her house.
“Children of nowadays! Why else would she say ‘Yellow is my color’ if she had not taken my glasses? I left them on this coffee table, I’m very very sure. I am going to confront her right now. Nobody steals from me and gets away with it,” she said aloud.
“Maybe she was wearing a yellow dress,” Papa Rita said to his wife, eyes still glued to the paper.
“What makes you say that?” she demanded angrily. Yes, Florence had worn a yellow dress, but that had nothing to do with anything.
“Because, my dear,” Papa Rita said, looking up from his paper for the first time since Mama Rita’s search began, “your glasses are sitting right on your face!”
And they were! Her hands confirmed that the lost glasses were now found. She just stood there opening and closing her mouth like a fish.
“Hmm … These are the symptoms o,” Papa Rita said as he got up from his chair and made his way to the bedroom.
“Symptoms of what, ehn, Papa Rita?” she queried, bristling with anger.
“Symptoms of old age …. or serious chocolate deficiency,” he replied pausing at the bedroom door, eyes twinkling with mischief. Mama Rita did not say another word. She knew he was right.