The young boy saw me, or rather, he saw the car and quickly ran up to me, eager to sell his bunches (串) of bananas and bags of peanuts. Though he appeared to be about twelve, he seemed to have already known the bitterness of life. "Banana 300 naira. Peanuts 200 naira"
He said in a low voice. I bargained him down to 200 total for the fruit and nuts. When he agreed, I handed him a 500 naira bill He didn't have change, so I told him not to worry.
He .said thanks and smiled a row of perfect teeth.
When, two weeks later, I saw the boy again, I was more aware of my position in a society where it's not that uncommon to see a little boy who should be in school standing on the comer selling fruit in the burning sun. My parents had raised me to be aware of the advantage we had been afforded and the responsibility it brought to us.
I pulled over and rolled down my window. He had a bunch of bananas and a bag of peanuts ready. I waved them away. “What's up”. I asked him. “I...I don't have money to buy books for school.” I reached into my pocket and handed him two fresh 500 naira bills.
"Will this help?” I asked. He looked around nervously before taking the money. One thousand naira was a lot of money to someone whose family probably made about 5,000 naira or less each year. "Thank you, sir," he said. 'Thank you very much.”
When driving home, I wondered if my little friend actually used the money for school-books. What if he's a cheat (骗子)? And then I wondered why I did it Did I do it to make myself feel better? Was I using him? Later, I realized that I didn't know his name or the least bit about him, nor did I think to ask.
Over the next six months, I was busy working in a news agency in northern Nigeria. Sometime after I returned, I went out for a drive When I was about to pull over, the boy suddenly appeared by my window with a big smile ready on his face
"oh, gosh! Long time."
"Are you in school now?” I asked.
"That's good," I said. A silence fell as we looked at each other, and then I realized what he wanted. "Here," I held out a 500 naira bill. "Take this.” He shook his head and stepped back as if hurt. "What's wrong?” I asked. "It's a gift"
He shook his head again and brought his hand from behind his back. HIS face shone with sweat (汗水)。 He dropped a bunch of bananas and a bag of peanuts in the front seat before he said, "I've been waiting to give these to you."