She laughed and said to me, ‘I have had the most humbling experiences in life’, as she packed my puff-puff into the once-was JAMB past questions paper. She tied it neatly in a black nylon and handed to over to me.
I almost did not collect it. Her perfect English was still too suspicious. I had come to buy puff-puff and heard her fluent English. When I was hesitant to place my order, she had said, ‘You’re shocked that a person like you can be selling puff-puff by the side of the road?’
And then she had told me to ‘better order before people come and buy everything.’
No, she wasn’t just a girl on holiday coming to help her mom or Aunty sell puff puff. This was her own establishment
She said to me after I collected my package, ‘You know, too many people have come like you, shocked and begging for the story behind me sitting here when I can be at some office at least answering calls. I tell each and everyone of them my story; why wouldn’t I? I believe that our stories are not really ours, but are just kept in our custody for us to appropriately tell them to others. But whenever I tell them my story, they look disappointed as though my story is not story enough. And I don’t blame them. It’s not the typical story with the typical happy ending.’
I asked her what her story was and she said.
‘Well, obviously I had good education and whatnot. But then one of the boko haram saga things happened in Borno where me and my family lived and then bam, no parents or family or property. I used to own a bakery there, but everything was raided and bombed and I literally had nothing left. Funny, I had just withdrawn almost all my money in the bank to buy me new set of equipment for the expansion of my bakery store. So yeah, I was flat to zilch. I remember that I used to be really proud back in Borno; no one made bread as good as mine and I took that for granted and just assumed it would be like that all the way. So presently, I’m still trying to set myself up and so here I am making puff-puff at night and working an actually job in the day. Most people, when they hear that story, are a little disappointed because to them it’s an incomplete story. So they take my number and say they’ll call me in some years time to check on me; as though when I finally succeed in pulling this off, my story will be more valid. But you know what? This is my story right here and I’m living every bit of it. I am learning everyday. Becoming less proud; as you can see all the puff I can muster is going into making amazing golden puff-puff’ she laughed. I laughed.
That night, I dreamt of a girl standing in front of a blazing bakery; atop her head was a tray of delicious golden puff puff, and across her lips was the most beautiful smile ever.