When you were six, a few days before the great eid, you dreamt. Your mother laid out a dress on the hole-riddled mattress you both shared, spoke some gibberish you didn't hear. Seconds later, you were prancing about an odd world—tree roots were branches; roofs were floors—in the dress.
You woke from that dream with the thought, this means I'll get a new dress for Eid this year. It didn't matter that the dress in your dream was one you used to own. And hate. It didn't matter that you, and your mother barely had enough for food. If it looked in your dream like you'd have a new dress, you would.
A friend of your mother's appeared in your dreams one day, four years after the Eid affair. She sat with some unfamiliar people, conversing. Every now and then, they would burst out laughing, pointing at a figure that wore your mother's worn headscarf.
You woke from that dream with the thought, this means this woman speaks ill about my mother with her friends, and they laugh at her behind her back. It didn't matter that you didn't hear what they said, and that the figure wearing your mother's headscarf also tied a wrapper too expensive for your mother to own. And the figure was fat. If it seemed in your dream like her friend gossiped about her, then her friend did.
You didn't wait to find out which, before concocting stories about this friend to your mother, making sure the lies you whipped up were sharp enough to rip their friendship apart. This friend may have been a benefactor to you and your mother in real life, but your dreams always comes true. So you knew, sooner or later, she'd betray.
This morning, you wouldn't have risen if your mother didn't tap you awake. You were that reluctant to let go of the beautiful scenes playing behind your eyes. And, though, on a normal day, your mother's intrusion would have annoyed you, today's dream was so lovely, it scraped away at your annoyance.
You greeted your mother with a warm smile. It took her aback. You haven't been that happy in a long time.
Yes, you haven't. But you will be, you knew. If it looked in your dream like you will be, then you will be.
The chores you usually trudge through were done with a special kind of vigour this morning. God, how you hate to spread your bamboo mat on the line in the compound, where most neighbours could see, and perceive the lethal tang of your urine. This morning, you didn't mind. Let them see, you thought, it's not like they don't have older kids who wet their beds.
Besides, it would be the last time you'd sleep on a mat, much less have to dry one. It would, in fact, be the last day you'd sleep in that ramshackle house.
The skinny old landlord your mother always instructs you to kneel and greet, you sashayed past him with your head high and your nose in the air, and said, good morning, without adding 'sir'. You were on your way, for the last time, to your mother's grocery stall, and wanted to get there as fast as you could. So when the skinny old landlord called you back to kneel like a properly home-trained Yoruba girl, you wanted to flip him your middle finger, like you've seen kids do at school. You thought better of it.
The shock could kill your mother, and the skinny old landlord.
You aren't a beautiful girl, at least, that's what you think. Your large nose sits chiefly in the middle of your long, thin face. Above small perky lips that housed the most caustic tongue. Below deep-set beady eyes, fur-like brows, and a forehead that looks like a ball would burst out of it any second.
In school, you were taught humans evolved from apes. You know you evolved from ogres. Or Rhinoceroses. And you know the boys know that too. It's why they never spare you a glance. This would have bothered you as you sprang down the path that led to the stall today. It didn't. Things will change today, you knew.
If your mother had a choice, she would never bring you with her to the market. You chase customers away with your tongue and glares. The ones who are brave enough to patronise you never get a thank you. Once, you told a customer you dreamt his wife had a concubine. You'd never met this man before, how you could dream about him was beyond your mother.
She doesn't believe in your dreams. She thinks you make them up to give yourself a sense of importance. Funmi Alala, Funmi, The dreamer girl, she'd say, did you see if this is day I'll sell all my wares? Funmi Alala, a thief stole my money, you must have seen that in your dreams, why didn't you warn me?
Today, she said, as you arranged fresh vegetables on her battered stall, Funmi, please keep your dreams to yourself today. If you've dreamt that a customer's wife is sleeping with his dog, keep it to yourself. Today is market day, don't spoil it for me.
You scowled. Just because that man with the cheating wife had sent his wife packing, and the wife had come to the market to beat you and your mother up, doesn't mean you shouldn't tell the truth when you know it.
After all, one woman thanked you with second hand clothes, when you told her her husband had a mistress. And it wasn't your fault that since you came to know about sex, boys, and relationships, most of your dreams featured cheating wives and husbands.
Today's vision, though, you smiled when you're reminded, has nothing to do with a cheating wife or a husband. Your dream will save a man's life, and this time around, you won't get second hand clothes as a gift. You'll get money. Loads of it. And marriage.
It didn't matter that your mother would never give your hand in marriage at fourteen, and your chest is as flat as a plane shape, and your menses has refused to come. If it looked in your dream like the handsome rich man would marry you today, he would.
You waited with bated breath for the handsome rich man, as you went about your routine of packing vegetables for buyers, and shooing away window-shoppers with what your mother refers to as ẹnu pẹlẹbẹ. Flat mouth.
The handsome rich man came when there were only a few withered vegetables gracing your mother's stall. Your eyes popped. Then shrunk.
The man was handsome, alright. As handsome as a stocky dwarf could be. He could have worn one of your mother's withered vegetables, and it would have looked better on him than the rag he wore.
You were flung off kilter.
This stocky poor dwarf can't be my handsome rich man, you thought. But he was, and you knew it. The face was exactly the same. And, you had that feeling in your gut. The one that stabs you when you meet a character from your dreams in reality.
Okay, maybe the stocky poor dwarf wasn't really a dwarf, but he was only mere inches from being one.
Poof went your marriage fantasies, and the lovely thought that you'd be moving from here to an handsome rich man's house, that somehow, sleeping in a king-sized bed in an air-conditioned room would stop you from bedwetting.
You watched the stocky poor almost-a-dwarf man as he haggled over the price of one bundle of vegetable with your mother. He couldn't even pay ₦50 over a vegetable without complaining.
When your mother told you to pack his good, you didn't flinch. Instead, you stared at the man who was supposed to be the love of your life in disgust. The man turned to leave, still you didn't flinch.
The throngs of people in the market had swallowed him when your mother said, Funmi, didn't you see this man's wife in your dream today?
Her question jolted you. Yes, you saw him. And you were supposed to warn him. But you weren't sure anymore. It was the first time you weren't certain about what you saw in your sleep. If it looked in your dream like he was handsome, and rich, and he wasn't, then maybe his life wasn't in danger.
But you couldn't shake the feeling his life was, and you'd be responsible if he died. You turned to your mother. Maami, I'll be back, you said and ran off after the stocky poor almost-a-dwarf man.
You caught up with him at the end of the market. He was about to cross the street. You touched him to stop him. I dreamt about you, you said. Your life is in danger and your roommates are plotting to kill you. I didn't see how, but I know it'll happen today. So it'll be best if you stay away from them.
As an afterthought, and also because the man was gaping, you added, eyeballing the man like he was your feaces personified, Though, I don't see what your roommates would gain by your death, seeing as you can't afford a nice shirt or a haircut.
You walked away.
You were back to your normal lazy, self-conscious, sad self when you got to the stall. Customers got a double dose of your flat mouth all through the rest of the day. You wore a scowl on your face like a mask. It was terrifying enough to keep even your mother away.
You bothered about the boys on your way home. You knelt for the skinny old landlord, and said, Ẹkalẹ sa. Good evening, sir.
You minded the nosy neighbours as you shook your mat free of insects.
When you laid on your mat, your mind wandered back to the stocky poor almost-a-dwarf man. Your stomach roiled in disgust. You would have regretted ever going to the stall and have drowned in dejection if a thought didn't jump into your mind. A person is a person, no matter how ugly. It was a tweaked version of a quote you'd heard somewhere, but thinking it made you feel like a wise beautiful girl.
Knowing you still warned the stocky poor almost-a-dwarf man even though he wasn't handsome and rich made you feel like a philanthropist.
You were about to close your eyes, eager to know the next revelation, when someone knocked. Your mother got the door. She asked the visitor in.
You knew the man. He was that man whose wife had a concubine. He never came to thank you and didn't know his former wife had beaten you and your mother up until this morning. You didn't know it when you warned him, but he was a handsome rich philanthropist.
As a reward for exposing his wife, he would set you and your mother up, he promised. He gave your mother his phone number, and asked her to call on him the next day. Before leaving, he gifted you with a thick wad of money, more money than you've ever held. And he said, maybe when you grow older, if you like, you will marry my son. He is an handsome rich man.
Your goofy grin reached your ears.
It didn't matter that you saved a stocky poor almost-a-dwarf man's life, if it looked in your dream like an handsome rich man would gift you money, loads of it, he would. If it looked in your dream like you'd marry an handsome rich man, you may marry his handsome rich son when you got older.