Today, while attending to some issues on fashion, I was reminded of an episode that occurred a few months ago.
It was a Saturday afternoon with enough heat and sunlight to make a man lazy. I really wanted to stay indoors but I had to go see my tailor. Yours truly had just acquired a spanking new shirt that was somewhat flabby on the sides and needed to be cut to shape. So off to the tailor I went.
A few yards from the man’s shop, a little girl ran towards me and hugged me.
“Uncle has coooome,” she shrilled with her tiny voice.
That’s probably not a reason to worry, except, I didn’t know this girl. I did a quick scan of my recent memory and tried to locate even a fragment of recognition but nothing came up. Oh well, I shrugged it off. She was probably a kid that had seen me there before.
Her mother was sitting nearby, looking at me with disapproving eyes. So I did another quick scan, this time, of the surrounding shops and their customers. Nothing. No one was paying attention to this awkward situation of mine.
After nudging her off my slacks, I ducked into the tailor’s shop to go about my business. The next few minutes were spent cajoling the tailor to accept a fair price and with that done, I step out of the stifling shop into the warm sunlight.
“Uncle, my name is Nneka!”
This kid was determined. I could tell by the way she was yelling and of course, by her vice-like grip on my slacks…again. I frankly don’t remember exactly what her name was, but it was some Igbo name.
I chuckled silently and started a conversation with her, like every reasonable ‘Uncle’ would do. Maybe we could settle this like grownups.
“How are you, Nneka. That is such a nice name. What are you doing here?”
“We came to make our hair.”
She went ahead to introduce me to her younger sister who was crying under the torturous hands of the woman weaving her hair.
“Uncle, I am 5 years old and Chinwe is 2 years old.”
“She is still a baby that is why she is crying.”
I placated Chinwe and she stopped crying. She probably understood that the heat and her volume didn’t go well together. There is nothing like a reasonable 2-year-old.
“Uncle I am not a baby, I did not cry like Chinwe.”
In a couple of minutes, Nneka had told me of her address, her school’s name and her class. I replied with nods, oohs and aahs, and a rising laughter in my mind. This kid was really something.
“It was nice to meet you dear, but I really have to go now. Take care of Chinwe o, so that she won’t cry again, eh?”
“Daddy don’t gooooo!”
“What did you…call me,” I stuttered.
“Daddy please now, please don’t go. Daddy pleeeeease.”
Are you kidding me right now? Daddy ke? Who is your Daddy? See this girl o.
Needless to say, I frantically looked around. This was beginning to look like a setup. Who on earth was trying to pin this kid on me? Was this some kind of Candid Camera moment? I half expected Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell me I was getting punked.
By now, her pleas had risen by a few decibels and she was hugging my left leg. What had started as nervous chortles for me was now uncontrollable laughter.
Please Ashton Kutcher, come out and say something!
It took me a few minutes to convince her that Mommy was coming to pick them up later on. Mommy would come after Chinwe’s hair was done, but I had to go and do something else. She must have seen reason in what I said because she gently let go of me and waved a remorseful goodbye.
I was still laughing on my way home.
I haven’t seen her since then and I still don’t know her name but I’m glad I met that kid. These days, when I think of tailors and shirts, I remember that hot afternoon and the daughter that wasn’t mine.