For the fourteenth time I unzipped my hand bag and emptied its contents on the bed. Lipsticks, small perfume spray, foldable hair brush, crushed lottery tickets, mouth fresheners, scribble pad, ball pen; everything was there, except my wallet. My wallet had everything that was important to me on this holiday to Lagos, credit cards and cash, everything. Damn!
I wiped off the silly tears that found their way down my warm cheeks and bracing myself, I sat cross legged on my bed. I heard my cousin’s footsteps approaching my room. I quickly put back all the contents back into my handbag, dumped it into my suitcase and straighten up.
“Come, we are waiting for you, dinner is ready” she said
I followed her to the dining room to join the rest of the family. It was a great day of family reunion and everybody had a story to tell. My family and my cousins were all talking simultaneously, sharing jokes and anecdotes, and filling the room with their hearty laughter. There was great variety of food on the table, including my favorite kheema-Pav, which would have released squeals of joy on any other normal days. But, I was quiet and took small helpings. While I munched on food, my mind drifted back to my activities during last twenty four hours, trying to recollect and focus on events when I must have been too careless to keep my purse within the robber’s reach. Luckily for me, I had already given my share of expenses for transport, lodging and boarding to one of my cousins, who handled the accounts during our trip. If ever I would need money, it would be only if I wanted to shop. I had never ever begged, nor borrowed or nor stolen any money all my life, but I contemplated in trying at least one option. Was stealing easier than begging, or was begging easier than borrowing?
“Are you okay?” said my cousin, and suddenly there was silence in the room and everybody was staring at me.
“I am tired” I said
“Oh, it must be jet-lag” said my aunt as I excused myself and went back to my room.
Late that afternoon, my aunt entered my room and slipped fifty thousand notes in Naira into my palm, telling me to use the money till I get time to go to the bank to exchange my dollars. I wanted to tell her that I had no dollars in my hand bag, and that I had been ripped off all my cash and credit cards, but I was hesitant to tell her the truth and admit my carelessness.
Secretly, I called my bank to freeze my credit cards.
For next four days, we went to the city, exploring the places of interest, visiting malls and restaurants but I did not shop at all. Every time, my cousins suggested that I do some shopping, I complained of things being too over-priced, and told them I could get the same stuff in my own town at a better rate. There were many fashion stores, that displayed beautiful designs, seducing me, there were handicraft stores that mocked me with their beautiful souvenirs, but I curbed my desires to shop and would pretend that they were all too flashy and so un’fashionable’.
At the end of my trip, I handed fifty thousand notes in Naira back to my aunt, telling her that I didn’t need to change my dollars, because I could not find anything of interest to buy, explaining the futility of buying the unnecessary things and paying for over-weight luggage at the customs.
Two days after I reached back home, I wrote a thank you note to my Aunt.
Dear Aunty Sunita,
I am so glad to have visited you. I was impressed by your huge house and your hospitality. Twenty of us, squeezing into the best corner, all under one roof was sheer fun that still brings smile to my face! Really! Thank you so much for giving us such a good time and making it a memorable trip. It was very kind of you to offer me the money till I found time to go to bank. However, I have confession to make. I am sorry that I did not have courage to tell you the truth. I had no money in my handbag during my stay in your town as I had lost all my money due to my carelessness. I did not want to embarrass my cousins by voicing my suspect; I had decided to keep silent and not to shop instead.
But, nevertheless, I did have a very good time. Thank you so much for being such a good hostess.
Hope you will visit me soon.
I received an instant reply
Thank you so much for visiting me and I enjoyed as well! I am missing all of you now. I am pleased that you did’nt voice your suspicion and spoil the show. I have confession to make too. I did see one of your cousins remove the wallet from your handbag but I didn’t have much courage to confront her. Don’t ask me - who? Some things are best left unsaid. I am sure you did not miss the shopping much. There will always be a next time…..you can shop then……
Please visit me again…soon
I felt overwhelmed and tears welled up in my eyes, tears of love for my aunt who was equally a coward, just like me.