Views and thoughts from the Marina beach, Lome, Togo. Continued from last week.
Presently, a young woman who has in tow four kids aged between one and eight, is moving in my direction from the seaside. The oldest child is piggy-backing the youngest. The woman is slim and doesn’t look fresh, but it is not the drug kind of skinny. She joins the woman porter resting her head on her pan under the next tree to me, some 10 metres away.
Some three children from two other tree shades left their mothers to join her children to play. These are kindergarten age children, and school is in session, one mind says to me. You find such in Lagos too, the other mind replies. Then in one unhurried move, mother of the quartet removes her blouse. She is not wearing anything under. She rummages through a polythene bag and brings out another blouse which she unhurriedly puts on.
I didn’t throw away my face, nor did I close my eyes. (My pastor would not approve). She is aware I am looking at them from an angle of some 45 degrees and it means nothing to her. It is just a natural act – she wants to change her clothes and goes ahead to do so. Simple. This man sitting and observing could well have been a statue. Seduction is the farthest thing in her mind, and I know that an offer is not being made to me. She isn’t body-conscious that she is past her prime – those four children having fed on her. And it isn’t indecent exposure. Anybody thinking so is the one who is sick. This is Lome. Peace.
The rays of the sun sting my foot. It is time to shift around the same coconut tree, seeking out the most luxuriant branch shade not yet invaded by the sun. I move clockwise, about 30 degrees finding the next spot.
Right in front of me, some 20 metres away, a young woman with a little child of about a year is washing clothes. She looks about 25, and has a wrapper tied on her chest. Her legs are strong and good, but she doesn’t look fresh. Hard life, I presume. Then, she lowers the wrapper from her chest and ties it around her waist. She is wearing nothing up. Her breasts jingle as she washes. But she is oblivious. That’s how breasts jingle, naturally, she must have said to herself, if her mind ever went that way. She heads that way in my direction to spread the bedsheet she has just washed. Her son trots after her. I don’t exist in her universe.
Then, right behind the third row of coconuts, on the sterile sands, some 35 meters from me heading to the sea, a young man takes his bath. Now, something for gender balance!
He is crouching as he rubs himself with a sponge. Is he shy? Then he rises. Lean meat and six-pack; well hung to boot! He oozed confidence and I think he is even putting up a display! (From the old Cross River State of Nigeria where I did my higher school, all the way to Ghana, I had seen this so many times and know it). A young woman of about 21 selling satchet water approaches him from the western side. I think he silently bids her to feast her eyes on prime man. The young lady tilts her head to take an eyeful as she passes, announcing her ware.
I say to myself that these Togolese are so comfortable in their own skin and are still natural beings. In Nigeria, we have lost it, particularly our women.
Then, I think about the young men of this land. Most of them that I’ve seen, particularly at the beach, are fine specimens of manhood – lean meat and taut muscles; no pot-bellied couch potatoes. Happy are the young women of the land, I conclude.
I keep making notes with my phone. But is this hunger that I’m feeling again? Thought I had sufficient fuel to carry me till about 4pm? It is just past 2pm. Yes, it is hunger. Time to go.
I touch the ground with one hand to support my weight getting up. I don’t feel happy about that. A few years ago, I would have sat bolt-upright without support. Middle age or old age?
I turn left to go and use the steps that lead to the road. Some three coconuts on the same row with mine, I see this young woman, an amazon that would stand 5ft 8inches, and would weigh some 85kg. But these were not the first things I noticed about her.
I first noticed a singular big breast that she exposed. It apparently escaped from her low-cut blouse. It is facing the sky, like an anti-aircraft gun, with the turret in firing position. (Ah, many young men would brave dangers to fly sorties over this particular anti-aircraft gun!) I ended up taking more than a glance, as she sleeps peacefully. (Now, my pastor will be really upset). She is quintessential Togolese female the way I’ve known them since 1989 – buxom! But she is head and shoulders above the average in height.
My mind reviews this a bit. Of course, seduction isn’t in the books. But why expose it in that peculiar way? Then it clicks. Her son who looks a robust 14 months old had joined the children of the woman that came from the seaside. He was probably sucking when these other children came by and he left the mother’s asset out in the open to go and play. This is nothing to bat the eyelids about here. It reminds me of the days of innocence before the bra overran Togo – matter for another day.
•First published in www.afrika247.com