The traffic was as thick as the sorrow that had wrapped itself tightly around her lungs, squeezing out the parched harmattan air she managed to take in. The sun had set and the orange glow left in the sky did nothing to soothe Damfo. Her feet were sore from all the walking she had done from dawn, and her back was tired. The baby had bee strapped there the same number of hours she had been walking. She held a black polythene bag that shook with notes and coins as she walked briskly to another car to restart her story; how her lips had tired of repeating those same words over and over, hundreds of people, some willing to hear her, some repulsed by her…the pity in some eyes, the disgust in others, the money thrown at her, planted safely in her hands, stuffed deeper into stingy pockets – it had been a long, too long day.
the slight turn so they see the baby’s face almost always did it. She had slept almost all day, perhaps too tired to cry anymore. The hunger had doubled as a cruel lullaby stuck in the poor child’s ears. Dry mucus in the corners of her eyes and nostrils gave her an even sorrier look. It was good for business.
Damfo opened her palm after the car moved off. She quickly held a fist again backed up to the sidewalk and sat on the curb, steeling her knees so they stop trembling. The tunes of Christmas carols reached her ears from the shopping mall behind her and she swayed gently to it. The baby roused and whimpered. opening her palm again, her face contorted with a thousand emotions and her shoulders shook. The tears were shameless and relentless. Her palm felt heavy holding the 50 cedi note that had been planted in it. she stood up, crossed the road to a stationary hawker and bought a box of milk and some bread. Her knees still felt like journey as she hailed the taxi, unwrapped the baby from her back, sat in and leaned back, the baby lying limp in her arms.
50cedis! the tears threatened to convulse her again. 50cedis!
She got off the taxi when they arrived at her destination, digged into the polythene bag, paid with the few notes in it and slowly walked up to the wooden stall. “Agoo” she barely shouted.
A woman as frail as the child she had in her arms stepped out and smiled faintly?
“Wonyaa dwa?” The woman asked, stretching her arms to take back her baby. Damfo had returned early that day so the woman looked a bit worried.
Standing silent for a while, Damfo sighed. placed the milk and bread on a stool next to them, took hold of the woman’s free hand, and planted the note in it. Without a word, she turned and walked on, not turning back even when the woman gasped, called out her name, and then God’s name, over and over. Damfo could swear she could hear the woman’s tears fall. She looked down and opened the polythene bag; a few coins. She would be lucky if it amounted to 5 cedis but she knew that was pushing her luck.
50cedis. The tears convulsed her again and she went down on her knees, in the mud, behind another shack, sobbing. She was not sure if she had done the right thing. 5 children, that woman had, a year apart, each one from the other. Whatever it was that pushed her to hire them out to women like Damfo to go beg with, must be stronger, than what Damfo faced, she could not imagine what will drive a mother there. She refused to judge.
She knew she had done a good thing for she could still swear she could hear the woman’s tears fall, and it was a Merry Christmas enough, that she had made someone happy.