My feet found themselves in Yaba last Saturday.
I had to braid my hair; the girl who usually comes to my house has become too slow and I am very impatient, plus it’s been very long since I went anywhere that wasn’t office or church. My hair was in chunky twists, wrapped in a blue Ankara scarf.
The last time I went to Yaba with my fro blown out I learnt an eternal lesson; hands dug into my hair, ‘you want braid,’ come make I braid am, I sabi do natural hair!’
I didn’t want to braid.
Now, I wanted to braid so I looked at faces, someone with a smiling easy face, someone I could tell not to comb my hair and it won’t turn to quarrel.
As I looked on, Yaba boys pushed clothes at me, touched my hands,
‘you want jeans?
I get your size, lekpa your size dey.’
I walked on, moving out of reach of out-stretched hands and one of them said ‘who wan touch you sef? Ashawo.’ I paused, looked at him; he wasn’t worth it.
I continued searching for someone with an easy face to braid my hair. When another jeans seller walked up to me, and said ‘sister follow me buy jeans na.’
I thought he was polite so I smiled and said ‘no, I no wan buy jeans I wan braid my hair.’
He stepped back as if stung, ‘go do your hair’ then added Ashawo with a smirk.
Yaba boys, you ignore them Ashawo
You smile at them, Ashawo.
Just then I saw someone smiling, she walked to me, ‘you want do your hair?’ I nodded, ‘come I go do am fine.’ My spirit liked her, so I followed her.
We walked past the train tracks and settled under an ebelebo tree where about 100 other women were braiding hair. I picked a style, then we started haggling and finally settled on a price but I was still seething.
What is wrong with Yaba boys? There’s no day I go to the market that somebody doesn’t harass me, from random touching to calling names. Whose sons are they? Who told them it was okay to call girls Ashawo because they refuse to buy jeans? Has anyone ever slapped them? When I complain to people, the answer is always something like ‘na so Yaba boys dey do’ When did we accept that nonsense? I need answers people!
I was still seething. A woman in iro and buba was hawking coke. I bought a bottle, to soothe my anger. I opened the bottle and began to take slow sips from it when a toddler, the son one of the hair braiders dressed in a beautiful pink ankara upandan walked to me.
He seemed to sense that I was angry so he stood at a distance and looked at me. He held my gaze and after some seconds I was forced to smile. How do you look into beautiful black eyes and stay angry? He smiled too, revealing tiny white teeth. Then he moved closer, reached for my coke and began to drink too.
Some Yaba boys are just too lovely to resist.
(Watch out for the real story about the hair braiding next week.)