Fall 2023 Issue

On 24 Semens Street

You want to move to 24 Semens Street? Abort mission. I repeat; abort mission.

The vociferous flies swarm in their hundreds, they would welcome you with a pinch on your feet or an unsolicited song to your ears. The sloppy muddy road eaten in large chunks would sway your gait then it would hit you hard in the nose, the strong stench of urine and semen. Houses on the streets faced each other, small old houses with patched zinc and washed-out paint.  Condoms were disposed of anyhow with the milky sour-looking content limping inside, cascading the stagnant drainage that erupted amoeba. 

On Semens Street, mating was cheap, you could have it for a stick of cigarettes, a bowl of soup and a transport fare to the next station. Most importantly, on Semens Street, individuals were the custodians of their open secrets which varied with unspoken rules.

Rule No. 1

Never ask a mother why the bald head of her baby boy is as big as that of the scrawny carpenter across the street or why her little girl looks and limps on the left leg like the next-door neighbor. As desperately as the words would want to waltz out of your mouth, vehemently let those words moonwalk into your throat and drown it with a glass of vodka.

Rule No. 2

Never ask the man who sits on the pavement and publicly washes his wife's dirty derriere or runs to the market to buy ingredients for soup to prepare lunch, why he is such a woman wrapper. It doesn't matter if she baths him with cold water at the center of the compound for burning the soup or locks him out in the cold for drinking beer with friends, and breaks his head with her Koi koi shoe for gazing lustfully at the big soft round buttocks of the overzealous lady that hawks akara and bread. Look the other way, pretentiously occupy yourself with surfing through your phone or lose your senses in the old worn-out newspaper even though it's turned upside down.

Rule No3

Pretend that the watery spicy soup your neighbor's wife served you is the best since God made man, much better than your mother's soup. Don't forget to solicit recipes to take home to your lazy wife, though the soup stings your tongue, burns your throat and might eventually dismantle your intestine, leaving you heaving, yelling and fighting back tears for hours in the toilet. 

Rule No 4

When you ask the little boy across the street his position in class and he tells you he took the last position, better not roll your eyes and don't you dare smirk, tell him that the richest man in the world doesn't even have a certificate. Enumerate how you also took the last position in your class during your days of learning but eventually turned out to be a successful sewage disposer. You can call him iti-boribo in the safety of your room and laugh till your stomach hurts. Not because the little lad took the last position in his class of 46 pupils but because he reminds you of your childhood days; stubborn, dirty, tattered, hungry and proud in dumbness. 

Every boy on 24 Semens Street either wants to be a medical doctor, lawyer or banker to the detriment of their mother who willed their sons to be a footballer. 

Every home on Semens Street has a Messi, a Bruno Fernandes, and a Cristiano Ronaldo. Don't fret when you hear a woman calling out her son early in the morning,

"Messi, go and collect my cloth from Mama Bomboy."

Or the woman that sells Boli and fish across the street attending to customers yet focused on the skills of her son dribbling ball with his friends on the street requesting of him,

"My Cristiano, score one goal for Mama."

And when her son eventually scores, she leaps for joy, singing his praises while untying and re-tying the edge of her wrapper. 

You would also hear a neighbour thinking aloud with lines burrowed on her forehead.

"I sent Bruno Fernandes to buy pepper thirty minutes ago, what in God's name is keeping that stupid boy."

It was the man of the house who forced the unyielding son to read his books while the mother would be indifferent, "of what use would books be to him while playing on the field?" she would whisper behind her husband's back.  Her innermost thoughts are thoughts of her dear son gracing her blurred black and white television and the covers of international sports magazines, bringing home to her his numerous trophies, exonerating her from penury and giving her things she never had, never dared dream to have. 

Rule No 5

Don't rage in annoyance when a worn-out ball hits the back of your head when the boys of Semens Street are practising to make up a future football team. Jejely go home and wash your head and leave them naughty boys to posterity, when their fathers would bundle them on the next available bus to Onitsha to serve as an apprentice to Omata trader.

The wicked sound of the preacher's megaphones would jerk you up from sleep early in the morning even though you hadn't slept a wink in the night because you were torn between slapping mosquitoes off your legs in the darkness of your room, drenched in your sweat and the loud moans of a neighbor who couldn't contain the pleasures of fucking her husband and the testament of their creaking bed. 

Mr Nduka, the old light-skinned retired police officer with a jowly face resembling a bulldog, was nicknamed Mr Finger, he is undeniably noticeable. His house sits at the heart of the street and he always sat on an armrest wooden chair with a wrapper tied to his waist and his upper body bare. His round pot belly is the most significant of his thin body, giving him the look of a malnourished tortoise. He lures girls into his old damp smelly house, makes them lay on their backs and fingers their vagina. The girls who experienced him say he didn’t penetrate. He just fingers, moans, wanks his penis and cums afterward, then he gives them a large sum of money. They kept going back. Some married women sneak in too, when they need urgent money to buy a new lace for a meeting or money to purchase a synthetic weave for a wedding because their husbands couldn't meet up. 

Ebuka, the son of the temperamental plumber, Oga Mike, whose shop is situated behind Mama Bomboy's shop, was a gang leader who terrorized the neighboring streets. Every now and then, the police fester in their house with a warrant for arrest. His parents were always ready with an alibi, Ebuka trooping in and out of cells.

Rule No 6

Never leave your phone outside for a minute to rush inside and get your purse, odiegwu you will never see it again.

Rule No 7

Don't leave your clothes out in the night maka-chi unless you want to kiss it goodbye.

Rule No 8

Don't step out of the public kitchen while your food is on fire, you will cry bitter tears when you come out to meet an empty pot. 

Rule No 9

If you see a chicken in your neighbor's tantalizing soup on fire, better go and count your fowls and fold your already jump-up faded pants for a fistfight. 

Rule No 10

You must learn to unbridle and sharpen your tongue like a two-edged sword, drop your posh mannerisms and roll in the mud. Like an amor etched to your clothes, it will defend you. 

Still want to move to 24 Semens Street?

Nneamaka Onochie

Nneamaka Onochie is a writer, playwright, poet, girl child, and gender-based violence activist. She is the founder of The Fragile Feet Initiative. A foundation that champions the course of the girl child through sexual abuse awareness and Pad a Girl campaign. Her works transcend different styles and genres, though most are based on social issues. She has a degree in English and Literary Studies and a second degree in Linguistics and Communication. Her works have appeared in newspapers and literary magazines like Kalahari Review, International Human Right Art Festival (IHRAF), Adanna, Literary Network (Litnet), Deep OverStock. She reads wide and extensively. When she is not writing or reading, she's advocating for the girl child, listening to Lucky Dube and watching people.

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