This is Bose. She is nine years old. Bose is my neighbour's 'child'...after all, she calls her 'omo mi', although I can tell that they do not share the slightest consanguinity. Mama Ologi is a sixty -something year old woman (or 'timer' as Rex calls them aged people), she suffers arthritis and she lives on the second floor, so she is pretty useless...but Mama Ologi isn't useless or contented enough to just be idle and let her numerous children take care of her...she dabbles into different business but the main three are selling pap (as her name implies), distributing crates of eggs, and selling firewood.
Don't wonder how Mama Ologi manages. She has nine year old Bose.
Bose is Mama's eyes, ears, mouth, hands and most importantly, legs. Suffice it to say that, once in a while, Mama uses her own mouth and hands to rain curses on Bose and beat her mercilessly when Bose accidentally behaves like the child that she really is.
Bose gets up at 5:30am, she delivers crates and crates of eggs to the six corners of the estate and in between, she makes stops at the differnt blocks to the pap retailers. She comes back home around 7:30 am and gets ready for school, although she has been on an indefinite holiday for a while now following the on-going teachers' strike. Perhaps if the federal government knew how the strike is affecting Bose, they'd meet NUT's demand and call it off immediately. I won't go into the things that Bose does with the time she'ld rather spend at school. On a normal day, Bose closes around 10pm.
Bose is my estate's most prominent nomad. She covers distances in a day that I as an adult wouldn't dare to in a full week. Bose seldom walks alone, she usually has company, sometimes, it's about ten crates of eggs, at other times, it's a mighty bundle of firewood, or when it's a good time, it's a 50ltr bowl of corn balanced on her tiny head. Bose is never allowed to stop, just to catch her breath.
Still, Bose is the happiest child I've ever met. I cannot begin to explain the ways this little girl's life had touched mine. When I look at her, and the permanent smile that adorns her beautiful face, I see a child who, though still a child, has seen life. I wonder where Bose comes from, she is at peace with this excuse for a life that she lives, maybe she is from hell??? I think of the childhood I had and the things I took for granted.
Bose hasn't watched television since she came to Lagos about two years ago (the only things electically power-able in Mama's flat are light bulbs, ceiling fans and a boiling ring...ironically, her PHCN bill reads 123, 935.65 naira), and i can tell that there are no televisions where she comes from. When Bose gets a 5naira buscuit treat from Mama Ologi, she must have made a fortune that day.
Bose's smile is a facade...a big lie. Definitely, Bose is not happy, she might have been worse but she is well aware that she can be happier. Yet she smiles...I am not fooled, although there is a strong temptation here to not see the forest because of the trees.
I got talking with Bose yesterday evening, first I convinced her (as always) to cut out her crappy charm and really talk to me, this time, I succeded. Bose is a very depressed child. She says - put in my words - that she feels she is not living at all. Like she's standing still. Not a day goes by that she doesn't think about her family she left behind or rather, a family that sold her to her current life because the former was worse. She feels extremely inferior around the other middle-class kids. I know Bose doesn't want to be superior, she just wants to feel that she can be as good as and acomplish as much as anyone else. I think those are her major troubles...she has enough to last her a lifetime (i'd rather not go into some of them here).
Bose's life demonstrates the many pernicious effects of rejection upon a growing child. Maybe it isn't full-blown yet, but it is incipient. Basically, there are unsatisfied cravings for attention and affection. Unfortunately, these cravings are coupled with an inability to realte emotionally to any person who could be in a position to satisfy her. It is not only distrust and resentment that stand in her way, she simply hasn't learnt how. She has a constant fear of abandonment and rejection, 'what if Mama makes good her promise of sending me back to the gutter where she picked me from???'...although, it's not as if she is not in another gutter -maybe a better one- but a gutter all the same.
Bose was born with the capacity for relatedness, like any other normal child, but it never got any encouragement to grow. The picture is an outer expression of decietful happiness and an inner desolation that is appaling. She has the Mark Of Oppression.
For Bose, I have the gift-love, one that needs to give; therefore needs to be needed. But still, I know that the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where she no longer needs my gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them that they may soon not need out teaching. That's the problem: what can I do for Bose??? already, i try the things I can in my own power, not seeming like I'm seeking adoption or anything, my gift-love must work towards it's own abdication. I haven't found a way to make myself superfluous. I fear for her, that, love having become a god, becomes a demon.