Relief Market is madness on all sides. The traffic thickens once I drive into the untarred road leading into it. I switch off my ignition, but not the radio. I’d have to find comfort in Celine Dion’s jaunty Christmas Eve, I tell myself, because all around me is a frightful enormous blob of beings and vehicles. Who knows how long I’m going to be stuck in here? I’m feeling sweaty already. Kai, I should have parked somewhere and walk down to the market.
Dust swamps the air, rickshaws rattle no end, clogging up narrow roads, cars honk wild and loose, drivers fume and curse, pedestrians elbow each other, roadside traders yell out their wares, some people slurp water from sachet under the simmering ten o’clock sun, others wipe sweat off their long faces with handkerchiefs. I keep sneezing, like I’ve just become asthmatic.
A squat man in tatters hums a song, only a lunatic can make out, while nearby a well-dressed woman screams out for the world to rescue her. She looks so shocked her feet can barely support her; she stumbles and begins to pound the red earth with her fists. I thought she’s been hit by a car, but then I see her pointing to the empty space between a Volvo and a batter Audi.
‘My husband will kill me! Better I kill myself now!’ she bawls like a beaten child, slapping her head. A Bagco bag crammed full with foodstuff lies close to her feet. She’s just returned from her shopping, to find her car missing. A beige Toyota Camry. Damn!
‘My husband will kill me! Better I kill myself now!’ she cries hard.
I try to picture her husband as a gentleman, but her broken voice makes me think of a bearish-looking boxer.
The traffic eases up a bit. I start the engine, and meander along with other cars and humans, then the traffic sets again, and I wish my car were air-conditioned. Celine Dion is still soothing me, though.
A mountain of feathers sprawls on one side of the road. Flies dance merrily around, while water melons rot and bleed a garish red on a bed of mouldering pumpkin leaves. Here, the air stinks, much worse than a carton of rotting fish.
All of a sudden, a keke appears and gets trapped between two cars in front. This is the bane of motorists, I think with a sneer, recalling the number of times the rickshaws have banged into my bumpers and headlights.
A driver in the second car steps out immediately, with his fists balled up for a fight. He is tall and fierce. “Get back!’ he snarls at the rickshaw-driver, who merely stares silently at him. ‘You’re deaf?!’
‘It’s you who are deaf!’ the rickshaw driver suddenly snarls back.
The driver towers over him and thumps his chest. “Do you know who I am?”
“Are you Obasanjo?” the rickshaw driver snorts.
“When I smash your face you’ll know if I am Obasanjo.”
The other driver finally alights from his rickshaw and gulps some breaths. “A nujuola m onwu na-agugim! I’m ready to die now,” he declares. “If you don’t want us both to see the New Year, then raise your hand against me.”
An imp in me makes me grin. A few passersby gather, and I foresee a fight, faces swollen and splattered with blood. The two bellicose drivers continue to exchange words, insults, but none is keen enough to strike the other.
The passersby intervene and urge each to go his way. I glance away, and start to pray the traffic let up quickly so I can finish the errand for my wife and dash back to the office, to close up finally for the week. I sigh, scratch my brow. This is madness, market is.
Meanwhile, Celine Dion has just finished singing. Now, Boney M is on, reassuring me about joy and laughter…
But all I can think of at the moment is: Chicken blood, the millions of chicken that have to die so we can revel during this season.
Merry Christmas to you all, anyhow! And see you in 2012!
photos are not actual representation, but sourced from the Internet. Credit therefore goes to the copyright owners