“What is it?” a distant part of my brain heard my mum scream, her strong arms enveloping me. “WHAT IS IT?!”
Oh crap, I thought, feeling helpless and unable to control the horrific thing I knew was about to happen. And that’s how I fainted in the market on Friday…
* * *
“Let’s buy the chiffon first,” my mum said as we got to the entrance of the market. It was a sunny day but the weather wasn’t too overbearing.
I agreed to her suggestion and we made our way to the section of the market that sold fabrics. In no time, we found the seller she knew. The next thirty-something minutes were spent selecting fabrics, haggling over the prices, interacting with other customers and finally, paying. It was time for us to get the other things we came for—beef, egusi, okazi, Cameroon pepper, smoked fish, okporoko, crayfish…
“We need to buy garri,” she said, looking at the piece of paper which contained our shopping list. “But let’s buy cow leg first.”
She, as well as every other Nigerian, referred to a cow’s foot as ‘cow leg’. We got to the seller’s stall, his table filled with various cuts of cow feet and hide and we had to wait our turn, as there were two customers already there. I don’t know how long we stood before I started to feel funny. Out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever—first, my right shoulder started aching, my neck felt stiff, then I became dizzy, my vision blurred, everything around me becoming pixelated; my head, my whole body, in fact, started to feel heavy, my limbs turning to jelly. The smell of the meats before me were much sharper, more pungent and I became nauseous. I have felt this way twice in my whole life. Once in primary school, during one morning assembly; and the second time in my final year of secondary school, while preparing for my WAEC exams. Both times, I passed out. I started to panic.
Oh no…no, no, no, no…God please don’t let me disgrace my forefathers in this market. I can’t faint here!
I had so many thoughts.
What’s going on?
Heyyyy! See how I was bragging the other day that I haven’t had malaria in years!
OK. Let me just close my eyes. Maybe it’ll stop and I can get myself a bit.
I hung my head low and pressed both my eyes with my thumb and index finger. The next thing I heard was my mum screaming my name.
Oh dear Lord. You actually let me faint…!
Later, my mum would tell me she noticed I began to slump, (she actually demonstrated my movement) exclaiming “Mummy!” as I fell. I don’t remember that. She said if she hadn’t been beside me, my face would have romanced the heck out of the cow feet before me. Picture that.
Even though I couldn’t move or speak, I was aware of everything going on around me.
“She no well?” I heard someone ask.
“She get malaria?” another inquired.
“No,” my mum said. From her tone, I could tell she was trying not to panic. “She was very OK when we left the house this morning. Ehn!”
“Bring am here…bring am here.” This was said by the cow foot seller himself, in a surprisingly soft tone. “Make she siddon.”
“She don chop?”
I was led to a bench in his stall, while my mum stood in front of me, my head on her chest, her arms around me. I heard someone call for a sachet of ‘pure water’ and then water was being poured down my blouse. My mum rinsed my face a few times, held it in her hands and said “Look at me! Open your eyes nah.” But I was looking at her! I could see her! She would later tell me my eyes were rolling back (she demonstrated this action too). I felt some more water trickle down my back, my face, my hair, my neck and she drew me, again, to her bosom. Slowly, I began to feel better and was slightly more aware. Some water went down my blouse…again…
“Mummy it’s enough,” I protested weakly.
“Eh ehn?” my mum asked. Really? “OK.”
“Make she drink water,” someone said. “She don drink water before?”
I had actually not had water all day. I didn’t want to need the loo while at the market. I have nightmares about public toilets. I’m not even sure if the market has any toilets, to be honest. My mum gave me some water to drink. The cow foot seller’s neighbour came to stand beside us, watching.
“I been just dey look am,” she said to my mum. “E be like say something fly enter e eye, e just dey scratch am. Small time e begin dey shake.”
She emphasised the word, ‘fly’. Someone suggested taking me to the hospital.
“Madam,” another market woman, standing beside the cow foot seller’s neighbour, whispered to my mum. “This thing no be hospital matter. Carry am go pastor!”
Different people had different thoughts as to what may have caused it—I hadn’t eaten, it was the sun, I needed water, I needed sugar, “Go buy malt!”, it was a spiritual attack…All this time, I was quiet, still in my mum’s embrace. She, too, was quiet at first. Then, I heard her whispering words over me—she was praying for me. At first it was soft and gentle. But in the blink of an eye, it became something else. My mum started binding. And casting. In. The. Market.
“No weapon fashioned against you shall prosper!” she shouted. “Every tongue that rises up against you shall fail…”
And she went on praying and praying, one hand on my back, the other waving in the air, fingers snapping. Everyone around kept chorusing “Amennnnn!!” I too, kept whispering “Amen” to her prayers. That was the most I could do. When she was done, she sprinkled some water on me, took my face in her hands again and asked if I was OK.
“Mmm,” I replied.
“Let me take you to the car so the driver will take you home.”
The two market women beside us kept insisting I be taken to a church.
“One Apostolic Church no dey too far,” one said. “They get prayer every Friday.”
My mum laughed in a slightly patronising way and said, “No need. My God has taken care of it!”
“Can you walk?” she asked me.
I don’t remember if or what I replied before she said, “Or do you want me to ‘back you’?” I thought she was joking until she actually turned her back to me, insisting I climb on. I weakly told her I could walk.
“OK, just rest on me.”
I did. And that’s how we walked to the car—me leaning heavily on her, looking like the top half of me played in the rain. On our way to the car, people who had seen us earlier expressed their shock when they saw my mum and me looking the way we did. The fainting spell really came out of nowhere and everyone was confused and surprised. Once outside, a lady—I think my mum is one of her customers and she followed us to our car—kept going on and on about how the glucose level of women drops drastically from 12 noon and if a lady hasn’t had breakfast and didn’t eat a proper dinner, she may start to feel dizzy or get cranky. Especially if it’s a hot day. First time I was hearing of such, but as I already said, it wasn’t that hot.
“Ha na-eri kwanu nri?” a seller standing beside Glucose Woman said to her. The seller’s mouth formed an upside down ‘U’, showing her disapproval of something she knew nothing about. “Ha na-acho nu shape.”
Glucose Woman concurred. I guess they thought I couldn’t understand Igbo so they continued talking about how young girls don’t eat because we are all watching our figures. We are all looking for ‘shape’. I watched them blankly until the driver pulled out of his parking spot. Later that night, as we were discussing the incident, calling it a dramatic Nollywood movie, my mum recalled the woman (the cow foot seller’s neighbour) who described every single thing I did before fainting. She thought it strange that the woman was watching me that closely. She went quiet for a bit and assumed what I like to call ‘The Musing Pose’—her right elbow on her thigh, her right palm cradling her face, her left hand on her waist.
“Are you not sure that woman was a monitoring spirit?” she said, eventually, eyes sharp with suspicion. My siblings burst out laughing.
“Ha!” my brother said in between laughs. “Mummy what if the woman was just on her own o?!”
I found it funny as heck but was too weak to laugh with them. If the woman actually was a monitoring spirit, I feel sorry for her because the kind of thunder my mum would’ve sent her way by now, ehn! She stands no chance. None! I know this occurrence really shook my mum because the way she’s been looking at me since Friday? I truly believe my life and hers flashed before her eyes for those few minutes at the cow foot seller’s stall. Don’t even get me started on how she’s been stuffing me with every kind of leafy green vegetable she can get her hands on!
I have too many stories to tell about the kind of woman my mum is. This particular one I’ve shared is the most recent (the gist is only two days old!), it’s the most powerful so far and it has also made me realise my siblings and I will probably never be too old for my mum to remind us that we will always be her babies.
Happy Mothers’ Day to my shero.