Today is Ijeoma’s antenatal clinic appointment. She is registered at 82 Division Hospital, courtesy of her husband’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). We have made a habit of hanging out on her antenatal days, sometimes, in my house, sometimes, we go shopping. But no matter what we do, we always go first to Kumac for shawarma and ice cream (her pregnancy craving). I enjoy hanging out with Ijeoma because she has a really dry sense of humor, even though she can be caustic sometimes.
For today’s schedule, we agreed that I will come out and meet her at the hospital after her appointment, so that we will go to Kumac, and then, back to my house, where she will stay till close of work, when her husband will come around and pick her. Our earlier arrangement was baby shopping, but we won’t be going after all, as her eldest brother, who is based in the UK promised to send her baby stuff. We are waiting to see what he will send so that we will know the remaining things to buy.
I pick her up at the gate of 82 Division Complex, and we gist as I drive down towards Ogui Junction, on our way to College Road, where Kumac is located. My husband has often wondered out loud why we have to go all the way to Kumac, driving past bigger and better fast foods where shawarma is sold. But he will not understand the cravings of a pregnant woman, so, I don’t bother explaining. It’s not like he’s complaining.
“Munwa bu Ijeoma? Them no born am well!”
I laugh out loud, at Ijeoma’s theatrics, while she tells me stories of how her antenatal went today. Right now, she is telling me about the lady that wanted to chance her.
“What if she was actually in a hurry?” I ask.
“See wahala o! If you’re in a hurry, you try and come on time, so that you will take an earlier number now! So, me, I’ll wake up by 6am, and prepare to be at the hospital to get number, then, she’ll be having a nice time with her early morning beauty sleep, only for her to realize that ‘she’s in a hurry’ when it’s time to see the doctor? Mba nu! ‘My husband na officer’ no reach for this one o!”
“Oh! She’s an officer’s wife?”
“I know, right? She’s meant to be disciplined and all…”
“Well, you’re lucky she did not pull her ‘officer’s wife strings’,” I say. “I have heard stories of how officers and their family members are given preferential treatment in that hospital.”
“Ah… it is not Ijeoma Ada Adindu they will do that one for o!”
“Tah! You’re married joor!” I chide her playfully. Adindu is her maiden name.
“So, I should say ‘Ijeoma nwunye Geoffrey’, abi?” She laughs. “It is not sweet to the ears joor!”
We both laugh uproariously.
“That una antenatal is full of drama, I swear,” I chuckle.
“Eheehn! That’s why it’s interesting now. Unlike some people’s own.” She flashes her teeth.
“I don’t blame you,” I retort, rolling my eyes. “Drama queen! Na the kain thing wey you dey like.”
In some minutes, we get to college road, and then Kumac. We agree to eat there before going back to my house. I have come to like – almost crave – Kumac’s ukwa (bread fruit) with full dried fish. I order those, and we sit as we wait for Ijeoma’s shawarma to be ready.
“You know ukwa is a good source of protein, which is good for your baby, abi?” I ask around a spoonful of food in my mouth.
“Eh-eh-eh! Spare me those health lectures of yours, abeg! Everything is acceptable when one is pregnant biko.” She clicks her tongue.
“Well, I have said my own,” I say, smiling and spooning some more ukwa into my mouth.
“What about you that was eating all those diabetic sugary cakes as if there was no tomorrow, and drinking two 1-litre pack of Chi Exotic every day?” She glares at me. She appears to be getting pissed for no apparent reason.
“I’m the one that went from a size 8 to size 12. I’m sure you don’t want that,” I explain as gently as I can.
“Eehn… it is my body. Let me be, biko.” Just then, her shawarma is set on our table. She immediately unwraps it, and bites into it reverently, moaning as she does so.
I double over in serious laughter. She laughs too.
“Chai! This pikin like good thing o,” she gushes.
“Which pikin?” I ask absent-mindedly, as I dissect the fish in my meal.
“My pikin now! See as she dey dance.” She rubs her distended midriff.
“She? Did you do the scan today?” She has my attention now.
She just smiles and winks mischievously.
“Awwwh! Nwunye nwa m o!” I crow, my face lighting up. “My daughter-in-law!”
“Join the queue jaré!” Ijeoma laughs.
“You wouldn’t dare!” I say in mock anger. We both laugh again.
“Ehen… what’s up with that your Facebook post on Sunday?” she asks, changing the topic.
I know what she is referring to, because I hardly make posts on Facebook. “My dear, my uncle’s daughter came for a one-week stay in my house o! She came in on Saturday, and she gave Gabby cake to eat in the night. Guess which cake? The portion of my birthday cake I wrapped and kept for Mercy, which she hasn’t been able to come and collect–”
“Your birthday was like two months ago now!” Ijeoma interrupts my story to ask.
“No, it was three weeks ago,” I correct before continuing, “So, she – my uncle’s daughter – was hungry in the night–”
“Why was she hungry? Did you not give her dinner?” Ijeoma interrupts again.
“I gave her dinner!” I reply a bit forcefully. I am getting tired of her interruptions. “So now, she went to the fridge and took the cake–”
“But what was that cake still doing in your fridge after four weeks?” she cuts in, yet again.
“It is three weeks! And I told you I kept it for Mercy–”
“You were going to give Mercy spoilt cake?” she asks, wide eyed now.
“No! I kept it for her, and forgot all about it. You know she travelled for field work, and there is no network where she is–”
“So, you should have thrown it out now! Don’t you clean out your fridge every weekend?”
“No, I don’t. I clean it when it is dirty.” I am getting really pissed by now. “Do you want to hear this testimony, or should I shut up?”
“Oya talk. I am listening,” she says offhandedly, as she finishes off her shawarma and faces the ice cream squarely.
I have lost interest in my story already, but I continue grudgingly, “Anyway, she took the cake, ate out of it, and gave Gabby some. He woke up, purging. Thank God for his miraculous healing after we got to church,” I end the story summarily.
“Ok, so, can I say something now?” she asks after some moments.
“Yes.” Big mistake! I should have said ‘No.’
“Number one, you should have thrown out that cake. Number two, how on earth can you not clean out your fridge every weekend? Number three, for that girl to be hungry in the night, it means you did not feed her well. You should have at least asked her if she was okay before you congratulate yourself that you have fed somebody’s child. Number four, you are just a careless mother…”
I am super pissed right now. How dare she call me careless? See this woman that does not know the first thing about being a mother! I sit there woodenly, trying to decide if I should show my anger or excuse her based on pregnancy hormones. The little angel and the little devil came and perched on my shoulder.
Angel: Relax, she is your friend, and if you check what she said, she is right…
Devil: Right ke? There is no justification for that verbal attack! She called you careless!
Angel: But you know how pregnancy hormones can be, don’t you? You were pregnant once, you should understand…
Devil: She called you a careless mother! Meaning, you are not fit to be a mother…
Angel: What would Nkaiso do in this situation?
Devil: She called you incompetent!
I look at Ijeoma, eating her ice cream with alacrity, obviously not realizing the import of what she said to me. The little devil won this time.
“Look here, Mrs sabi-sabi, you had no right to call me incompetent! None at all!”
“Incompetent? When did I call you–”
“Shut up and listen to me!” I snap. “When we were roommates, how many times did you pick up a broom to sweep the room? You have the silly guts to ask me why I don’t clean my fridge every weekend. I hate to imagine the nyama-nyama I will find in your fridge if I were to go to your house right now. As for motherhood, why not talk to me when you are an actual mother, huh?”
I grab my phone and wallet as I say this last bit, abandoning my fish and her, and I storm out of the eatery.
Written by Adaku J.