Season of Crimson Blossoms

By Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

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A hyena cannot smell its own stench

After growing wings through indiscretion, Hajiya Binta, contrary to her expectation, did not transform into an eagle, but an owl that thrived in the darkness in which she and Reza communed.

Yet, during the day, she was caged by her fears, wrapped in the perceived miasma of her sin.

On the day she decided to venture to the market, she doused herself in perfume, took a deep breath and headed out of the gate. Each time she walked past anyone, she looked down and held her breath. She would look over her shoulder to see if they were looking at her. Relieved, she would walk on.

She ran into Mallama Umma returning from the market clutching a plastic bag to her bosom with some spinach peeking out the top. The older woman stopped right in front of her.

‘Hajiya Binta.’

‘Mallama Umma, kin wuni lafiya?

Lafiya lau. Where are you going?’

‘Oh, the market. I need to get some things.’

‘I thought Fa’iza did all your shopping.’

‘I don’t want her having trouble at the market. I need to get meat from the butcher and Fa’iza can’t stand that.’

‘Oh, too bad really. Perhaps you should take her to Ustaz Nura for prayers.’

‘You think that would help?’ Binta was mindful of Umma

standing inches away from her.

‘Well, you have to try. It seems she’s getting worse.’

‘I will do something about it. But I have to go now.’ She hurried past.

‘Hajiya Binta, hold on a bit.’

She stopped and held her breath.

‘When are we going to see you at the madrasa?’

‘Oh, certainly one of these days, insha Allah.’

‘I hope so.’

There was a stream of people coming from the direction of the market and Binta walked towards them feeling as if everything was coming her way. She skipped round the muddy middle of the
road where the barrage of motorcycles had trudged rainwater into the dirt, forming a slushy pool. She joined a crowd in front of the grocery shed run by the Igbo couple. The little bird-like woman was inside taking orders for ugwu, spinach and curry leaves. Her husband was outside, gutting fish and slicing them into plastic bags for customers. When the woman saw Binta she beamed. ‘Hajiya, long time O. What do you want?’

Binta bought fresh tomatoes and crayfish and moved on. At Balarabe’s shed, the glittering trinkets caught her eyes and Binta procured some cheap earrings for little Ummi. While she was buying beverages from Salisu’s shop, she realised how much she had missed the vibrancy and chattiness of the market. The colours; the green of the vegetables and the red of cayenne and tomatoes, the yellow and blue of plastic merchandise showcased outside shops, the smell of decaying vegetables cast into the middle of the dirt road, of smoked fish on wire mesh by the roadside, of drying ginger and tamarind at Mallam Audu’s spice shop where she bought garlic powder.

She thought of Fa’iza as she watched the butcher cut pieces of meat on his table with a scimitar-like knife. He packed the pieces into a transparent plastic bag, knotted it and handed it over to her. She put it in her bag and went to Nura Jangali’s grain shop for some measures of guinea corn.

When Jangali bent over and was measuring out the grains, Laure, the petite whore from Magajiya’s brothel on Bappa Avenue, stormed in and pounced on him. Binta was surprised by the abruptness of
the attack, and the ferocity of the little woman. Jangali overcame his initial shock and grappled with Laure’s hand. Binta stepped in and pulled the angry tart off the man.
‘Who is holding me like this? Allow me to deal with this man dan ubanshi!’ But when Laure turned and saw Binta’s matronly face, she allowed herself to be restrained. Laure went on to issue warnings to Jangali, whose daughter had apparently been in a fight with hers.

When she was done, Laure disengaged herself from Binta and breezed through the crowd that had gathered, blocking half the road.

Binta picked up her measures of grain and headed home, transformed by the thought that she had held one of the famed whores of Bappa Avenue in her arms and the only smell she could
perceive on her was that of cheap cocoa butter cream.

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