If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. Now for Part 2.
Keeping a close watch on her tray of mangoes now resting on the floor outside the shop, she asked the woman who owned the shop, if she knew the places in that neighborhood where people would want to buy mangoes. The shop-owner, a kind woman who had a daughter of about Risikat’s age in school, gave her a list of places she recommended. One of them was a mechanic’s shop, which was on another street, a few minutes away.
Risikat thanked the woman profusely, who in turn gave her a free packet of biscuits and another sachet of pure water, and then she left for her next port of call – the mechanic’s shop. At this time, Risikat still had more than twenty mangoes to sell. Of that number, exactly three of them were yellow mangoes. And as she often did whenever this happened, she made a mental note to pay close attention to the person, or people who would buy the last three yellow mangoes.
The mechanic’s shop was not hard to find. A couple of rusted, lifeless, engine-less cars and buses from another decade were scattered over a plot of land overgrown with weeds. These were the irrefutable landmarks that signaled her destination. Several boys, mostly teenagers, and older men milled around the few cars that looked like they were still running. They all wore blue uniforms covered in several-months-old engine oil, and every other gunk that could conceivably come out of anything on four wheels.
As she approached the mechanic’s shop, she knew that even if she had not intended to stop there, they would have harassed her nonetheless. One of them spotted her, and just like that, the word spread quickly that a girl selling mangoes was nearby. Within seconds, several of them had left what they were doing and began to call her. Some of them even came towards her. It was like watching bees drawn to nectar.
“Eh, fine girl! Mango seller, come here! We want to buy mangoes! How much you dey sell your mangoes? Na dis one I want. I no want that one. Wetin be dis? Na mango be dis abi na paw-paw?”
They all spoke at once as if Risikat had more than two ears that they could see. This was not the first time Risikat had sold mangoes to a group of mechanics before, but something about the way they all came at once, made her very apprehensive. As a precaution, she made sure she did not go to close to the actual workshop, a wooden shed with a corrugated iron roof that was hidden among the cars on the lot.
She stood on the very outskirts of the lot, and set her tray down on an old, condemned car battery. While simultaneously keeping the greasy hands of the mechanics from handling her wares, and making sure no one was stealing from her, she sold a good number of the mangoes on her tray. Within minutes, they had bought a majority of the other two species of mangoes: the reddish ones, and the green ones.
As she collected the money from each buyer, she took the naira notes and tucked them away in her sweaty bra – this was the safest place possible, according to her mother. The sight of a well-endowed young girl at the peak of puberty, putting money into her bra, seemed to throw the men’s hormones into overdrive. Two of the younger men made passes at her, trying to lock her into an embrace, while calling her “My wife!” as if they had paid her bride price to Baba Risikat. Another one actually succeeded in grabbing her by the waist and was pulling her off to the side amidst her screams of protest.
The tray of mangoes lay defenseless while this scene unfolded.
All of a sudden, the owner of the mechanic workshop appeared from nowhere. He was a man in his fifties with three horizontal tribal marks seared into the skin on each side of his face. He barked at the men, ordering them to leave Risikat alone immediately and even slapped the idiot who was trying to kidnap her in broad daylight. Thankfully, they all obeyed instantly and slunk away into the workshop. Risikat stood there trembling at the thought of what almost happened to her.
The workshop owner apologized to her and warned her to be more careful around customers, ending his sentence with “You know say you be woman.” Finally, as if to make up for the damage his boys had done, he offered to buy some of her mangoes. She selected a few good ones and threw in one of the remaining three yellow ones for free. As he helped her put her tray back on her head, she thanked him again and walked away so fast that it was a wonder the tray did not fall off her head.
With the scene of what had transpired at the mechanic’s shop replaying in her mind, Risikat was sorely tempted to go back home immediately. However, she remembered that if she did not sell enough mangoes, she could not pay her exam fees. That Friday was the deadline to make that payment. That thought was all she needed to convince her to keep going until every single mango was sold. About ten minutes later, she walked into another street.
By now, it was 4 p.m. and the sun had begun its slow descent. However, it was still hot, and as Risikat contemplated finding another place to rest to drink the other sachet of pure water the shop owner had generously given her, she heard a woman’s voice calling her. She went towards the source of the voice and walked into a compound that housed a two-storey house building. Several tenants occupied the rooms in this house.
On the balcony of the house upstairs, sat a woman who was heavily pregnant. She looked like if she had a choice she would give birth to that child – or those children – right away. But, her due date was still months away, as she later told Risikat. In the meantime, she had a craving for mangoes and Risikat happened to walk by at the moment the craving began.
Due to the woman’s condition, she could not come downstairs to meet Risikat. It was the mango seller who mounted the single flight of stairs, which ran on one side of the building, to meet her customer on the balcony. The woman picked four mangoes: three green ones and one of the remaining two yellow ones.
After paying for the mangoes, the woman called one of the children of the other tenants to help her rinse them, and as Risikat left, she saw the woman munching the yellow mango, nodding her head in satisfaction. Risikat smiled and went on her way. There were now five mangoes remaining in the tray, and only one of them was yellow.
Risikat decided to complete her rounds on a connecting street before making the long journey home. As she walked to the end of the street, she made the same announcement she had repeated all day long, in a tired voice. No sooner had she said “Sweet, sweet mangoes” the second time, than she heard a man’s voice call her to come immediately.
Judging from her past encounter a few hours ago, and with the mechanic workshop owner’s warning still fresh on her mind, she hesitated a little bit. But, the man’s voice rang out urgently beckoning her to come and sell mangoes to him. She reluctantly obeyed and followed the direction of the voice.
– to be continued –