The emptied bottles of this drink are labelled by the use of strips of white exercise-book paper cellotaped to used eva water bottles. Handwritten with a fading Bic in overt cursive is “Busola Orange Juice”. Those who have bought and tasted of this juice say the girl who sold it to them was a slim thing of about twelve. She is blacker than wet roads and too quiet for their liking. The men who tried to touch her inappropriately as she bent down to pick up the juice, say their hands had barely come close to her waist or yansh when they felt a sense of doom lift their stomachs. It was, they say, as if their entire beings were warning them that they were about to put their hand inside a pit of snakes. One woman who thought Busola beautiful enough to be her housegirl had put her palm on her shoulder and experienced the feeling of leaning too far into an empty well. Busola sold her curious drink to exactly a score of Lagosians.
The contents of the bottles were a furious shade of orange and this was exactly what called the eye of the customer to it as she walked rather slowly under those peculiar heatwaves in Lagos that blurred the vision, toasted the flesh and dried the soul. Packed in the danfoes, sweating and stinking like old sardines, some called to the gentle girl who wasn’t even advertising what she hawked with loud calls. She seemed to simply be walking down the road like she knew it would never end. On collecting the bottle of reddish orange liquid, they saw the handmade label and instantly deemed it too dangerous to ingest. They looked at Busola waiting under the sun for them to make their decisions. Her eyes gazing far off into something. She looked like a statue that had no need to work, who would profit more from simply standing still in an unseen corner forever frozen, diving fathoms into her own soul without any urge to surface. As they were looking at her, they realized just how cold what they were holding was and without thinking — they all admitted to this — drinking it like their lives depended on it. It was that cold. They said it spoke to their throats, calling them to unscrew and drink.
Busola Orange Juice is refreshing and cool to the sun-parched dungeon of the belly. When it touches your tongue, its razor sharp tang make spit explode across the entire digestive tract, then, the delicious juice follows and nourishes with its rich heft, bringing to mind an avalanche of oranges crashing onto a sharply-sunlit tundra. After the first three gulps, you know who she is. Busola Aro, ex-wife of Commisioner Aro, that giant of Nigerian Agriculture. She, his wife since thirteen, locked inside a three-tiered palace of marble, alone with the chef and the dog and a grove of fat blood oranges. Aro had loved her and kept her safe from harm and the public eye. He had three other wives to bear him children but she was his Bus-Bus, his very own innocent beauty. A statue to grace his tenth house with life. Busola had lived there till she turned twenty, tending to the grove of blood oranges when she wasn’t dreaming or crying. Once, while Aro hadn’t visited in over two years, she made love to one of the gardeners under the night sky. When Aro returned, he found her heavily pregnant.
“Why did you do it?” He had asked, furious and twisting around the room in his black lace agbada. Busola had no answer. She only knew she wanted to keep the child. She rose from the bed to beg. The room was lit by one red bulb. Aro shot her ten times. In the head, the throat, the heart and the child. He buried her corpse beneath a baby orange blossom and vanished into the night.
When Busola rose out of the moist earth three months later, she was twelve again and her unborn son was unable to come along with her. The palace was empty and in ruin and the orange groves overgrown. She found that she was unable to leave the palace. At sunset she found herself back beneath the grove every time she tried to run away. She began to make orange juice to sell from the fruit of the tree under which she had been entombed, walking only as far as her buried bones would let her hawk.
After they took the final strong gulp which made the empty bottle dent, the consumers found their cheeks streaked with tears and the centers of their hearts terrified by her sour, bottled dream. They made to say something, to pay her somehow…but she no longer stood there.