The thrown away child

I watch her approach.
She carries the tray and limps towards where
she knows I am waiting. I pat my pockets for
my money. It’s there.
My stomach growls.
I ignore hunger’s familiar pangs. I ignore the
voice in my head telling me the help I am
thinking of giving is wrong. I ignore the
thump-thump of my heart pounding against
my rib-cage like an enraged captive.
Her name’s Mara, she’s twelve.
Everyday, she passes my house with the tray
of peeled oranges on her head.
Everyday I buy fifty naira worth of oranges
with money stolen from mama, because she
told me if she sells less than an hundred
naira worth, her step-mother will beat her.
She sees me and waves, I wave back. Even
before she reaches me, I know what I’ll see.
A dirty dress with loose threads flapping in
the wind like miniature wings, healing welt
marks on her arms crisscrossed by fresh
She comes to me, talkative and bright-eyed,I
give her fifty naira and I break the news that
I am going back to school tomorrow.
She laughs. She doesn’t understand the
concept of university. She says I am too big
to be wearing a uniform like her
I smile, but my smile is sad, I give her
bananas from the bunch mama sells, I tell
her to eat it here, she does. She says they
taste funny.
I watch her limp away and I almost cry. They
tasted funny because they’re poisoned. It’s
the only way I can save her.
I go to bed that night and I dream harsh
dreams. Of a little girl with a limp, cane welts,
hot water burn marks like artificial vitiligo,
and eyes so bright and alive even in the face
of such suffering. ~E.Idibie


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