“Aunty, aunty, aunty!”
I turned round to see if I was the one being addressed. An unfamiliar young man was hurrying in my direction but I couldn’t place his face. I increased my pace. I had just gotten off a bus in front of my school and was heading towards the gate when I heard the call.
“Aunty, it’s you I’m calling, aunty…” he caught up with and double crossed me, panting.
His face became familiar, I tried hard to place it.
“Good afternoon, how are you? How is school? We didn’t even know you’d moved, eh? Thank you for the other time” He said all at once.
I remembered him and smiled. We’d lived in the same area while I stayed at an off campus residence a session earlier. The man whose name I didn’t even know lived in an uncompleted room and parlour apartment on the way to the well on the street behind mine, with his beautiful wife and three kids. She was a slender, curvy, fair complexioned lady of average height who could easily pass for a spinster in her early twenties. Always well dressed with her bold red lipstick, she was some sort of ‘area belle’. We had met at the well by the marsh down their house a number of times but had only spoken once when she’d smiled sweetly and complemented my strength in fetching and carrying a twenty five litre keg of water all by myself.
She’d wore the same smile, several months later when I entered their apartment on an unexpected invitation by her little boy, a cute little version of his mother, as I returned from the well that evening, on his mother’s orders.
“Good evening aunty,” she greeted, bright and gay with a superfluous rub of facial powder and bold red lipstick.
“Good evening ma,” I did a quick survey of the apartment, the walls and floor was unplastered, and the windows covered with expired advert banners. I could see through the tattered curtain dividing the bedroom from sitting room, a threadbare mattress on a ramshackle bed with clothes scattered on it.
“Aunty thank you for obliging me o,” she’d smiled on. Please don’t be angry ma, the truth is we have nothing to eat and my husband is not around. Please anything you can do to help us, anything you have please…”
“Really?” I thought as I left for my place that day. “Who begs with a made up face and a wide smile on? What does she take me for? Some dumb father Christmas who can’t see through the pretense?” I hissed.
“But what if she’s actually telling the truth?” Another line of thought.
“What if she was covering up her embarrassment with a smile? What if her asking me was a last resort? What if I’d been held back from travelling home for holidays earlier for this very reason? What if I was their only hope of eating that day?” I drooled over these conflicting thoughts.
“Here’s what I have, I eventually returned, goodwill prevailing over reason. I gave her a nylon bag containing three cups of rice, a sachet of tomato and pepper puree, half bottle of groundnut oil, a sachet each of curry and time and a clove of onion; mostly what was left of my first semester foodstuff.
She let out torrents of unsolicited prayers gratefully.
“…Aunty God will help you too, God will bless you, you will pass in your studies, you will marry your own husband by God’s grace…” The husband took off where his wife had stopped.
P. S It was first published here, https://www.storried.com/goodwill-over-reason/