Somewhere in Lagos, Nigeria, a girl walked into a pharmacy and slide a prescription note across the counter, into the waiting hand of a pharmacist. Feigned blunt belligerence spread across her face as she turned sideways; away from the probing gaze of the older woman across the counter. She gave the store a sweep with her eyes.
“May I also have one of those?” she pointed to a shelf of sanitary pads.
“And one of that?” she pointed to a rack of flavoured chewing gum.
Packets of condom fell into her line of vision. A particular yellow one blinked at her. She ignored it and focused on the pharmacist instead.
“What’s my bill?” she asked.
“Give me a minute”, the older woman replied and her eyes roamed to the price tag on a packet of antibiotics. Horror and anguish coursed through her. A muffled profanity escaped her mouth. She did a quick mental calculation and knew she did not have enough cash to pay for all the medicines on the table. Digging into her bag for her debit card, she uttered another profanity under her breath. And yellow condom said, “You should buy me to prevent a repeat of…”
“Don’t talk to me” girl cut in.
“I don’t cost as much as…”
“Don’t talk to me.” girl insisted.
“Tell who you contracted that from…”
“Don’t talk to me!!!” girl grinded through her teeth.
“Good. Go and tell him”, yellow condom replied and others roared in laughter.
Pink on her cheeks, girl turned to the Pharmacist, “How much is my bill?”
“Seventeen thousand, nine hundred and ninety Naira. Dosages are written on each pack.”
Girl handed over her card to the pharmacist, who was obviously still amused.
“You’re really going to walk out of here without buying me?” Yellow condom sounded, insistently.
“Yes.” Girl answered.
“Gender roles. Cultural expectations. Self-preservation…”
“Wait! Self-preservation should make you buy me”
“No, it doesn’t. Branding oneself as indecent is not self-preservation”
“And not preventing STDs and unplanned pregnancy is?”
“Look, the human world doesn’t operate that way. If you were a man, you would have insisted on no condoms. You’d tell her she’s the only one and there’s a future. So, no need. If she insisted, you’d call her names. If you managed to agree, and she dared to buy some for your mutual use, you’d call her more names.”
“If I was a man, I won’t infect you with STDs…”
Girl rolled her eyes.
“If I was a man,” yellow condom continued, “I’d stick to a partner I have deep feelings for and know I can have children with. If I didn’t, I’ll appreciate and hold in high esteem a girl who protects herself and me, because you can never tell where anyone has been…And if I was a girl, I’d insist on my protection, no matter what, except I have a test result which supports the trust I have for you…. Come on, buy me and protect yourself.”
“You don’t understand…G-i-r-l-s D-o-n-’t B-u-y C-o-n-d-o-m-s. A girl can’t say, “here’s a condom for us”. Now, say, I walk into a store and pick up one. What will I get called? Wanton! Say, I take it to boyfriend or hubby, what will he say? Wanton!…”
“This kind of prescription can also earn you the name.” the Pharmacist interfered, “Why don’t you abstain till after the vows have been said?”
“Marriage doesn’t stop a philanderer.” Yellow condom replied.
“Leaving him might be the perfect solution” Pharmacist offered.
“Leaving him is not an option; we love each other. I can’t just throw our love away.” Girl said and yellow condom yawned,
“Abstain, you refuse. Buy condom, you will not. Leave him, you say no. Would you move a bit? My favourite soap is about to begin.”
Featured Photo: Black Girl Magic/Etsy