My favourite butcher has his table at the far end of the meat-market. That means, I get to ignore and sometimes feel the wrath of several meat sellers beckoning me – while making my way to his shed.
In turn, my butcher rewards my unwavering loyalty with big pieces of ‘tozo‘ and generous freebies.
So just the other day I came to buy meat from my butcher.
From afar, as he usually does, the fortyish man with a patch of grey hair at the front of his head, flashed a smile at me and a big thumb up.
He gives me what’s more like a homecoming reception, that’s why I keep coming.
“My guy! Long time o! How life na?”
“I dey o.”
“But my broda you scarce these days…” He laughs.
Smiling, i took a cursory glance at the piles of meat stacked on the table before me, my eyes then drifted to his closest neighbour’s table. I noticed his eyes trailed mine as he gazed at me intently.
“How work and family?” He asked all of a sudden.
Now I wasn’t sure if he was just being nice, in his usual fashion or keen on making me unsnap my wallet.
Anyway, I’m still answering the barrage of friendly questions he’s posing at me without taking my eyes off his table. When I finally did raise my head, his eyes were shifty.
“How I go sell? Na the usual abi?”
Striking two razor-sharp knives against each other, he seemed ready to commence slicing my portion.
“Wetin do your meat?” I quizzed him.
His shoulders fell.
On the table were pale brown meats, dark around the edges and devoid of blood; the type of meat that’ll stink up an entire house when prepared.
“Na yesterday’s meat. Yesterday na bad market so na dis one remain. But nothing do am my broda.”
In a bid to convince me, he quickly cut open a piece of meat, revealing a red inner layer. I didn’t bulge.
“E no too fresh.” I said. I restrained myself from comparing with his neighbour’s even though the difference was clear.
“Follow me buy na my broda,” My butcher buddy passionately pleaded, he was on the verge of crying.
Hard as it was for me, I repeatedly shook my head in declination. Bad meat is bad meat.
“My broda, all this meat wey dey here so, I go throwey am?”
His voice was heavy with sadness and every step I took as i retreated from him worsened my guilt.
We had built a bond.
Finally I gathered enough confidence and walked away.
“Abeg na! Come!”
His one final attempt at stopping me but I’d moved on to his neighbour. This other man, apparently spiteful of his colleague, ushered me in as if he’d been warming up for me all his life.
Within the moment, i saw my butcher give me this sad look of brokenness and defeat that pierced my heart.
It had me thinking:
Maybe I should have managed his poor-quality beef like that…
Maybe I should have reasoned with the fact that he was stuck in a disadvantaged position in the marketplace, I mean being put in a spot far behind.
Maybe, just maybe a man had bills to pay and there I was being choosy and insensitive.
The curse of a pitiful buyer.