Rags to Riches (1)

by Chiemelie Onyeka Michael

They owned poverty.

My family “bought” it wholesale from God or maybe from our ancestors, I cannot say precisely, but we kept it in the safe like gifts from above.

The change in our status was glaring because other poorer people looked at the Emelies and say quick prayers to God. Some mutter silently in quick breath to themselves – in hushed whispers – “Not my portion”.

I grew up in one fell night to watch the toothpaste finished before we cut through it like a cadaver. Then it became so bad at some point we added salts to wash the tongue. Then bread gave way to biscuits, sugar gave way to more salt, then the table became bare. Everything was gone.

We washed the mouth with just water.

Patience, my mother, would stay at a corner singing with her sonorous voice telling God that he had personally wronged her. She died from the heartache. Her love for Job in the Bible seemed to stem from the peculiarity of his problems and how they mirror hers. She was the only surviving child of seven and had lost three children before she gave birth to me.

Ihemjika, my father, was a lazy man. He was not lazy in bed though. What he didn’t have in height and strength he made up for it below his belt. There was this small joke by my friend the other day about my father not being able to buy a television in his hey days… and took to firing mama in the adult dance for his relaxation. And when people looked at me and said “That’s his child”, I fall to pieces.

But poverty was also a motivation… that brought me to the shores of Lagos. As I stepped into the house of my old friend, Chidiadi, I watched him sit comfortably on his U-shaped sofas sipping that red label wine from Spain. He spoke slowly and his neck had grown fat.

He looked like a turkey.

See soft lifestyle.

I knew that would be me in few years. God punish poverty, I cursed. I must have said that aloud as he overheard me and was taken aback at the words. He covered his nose as he approached me from behind and said,

“Welcome to Lagos, I’ll teach you how we make money here. But first go and wash that body, it stinks.” He said as he slapped me playfully on my buttocks…

To be continued…

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