Universities for Humanity Pic-Fic Series: Some Superheroes Don’t Need to Wear a Cape By Nanya Kooper

She wakes up at 5am again. There’s no use for the alarm, which she can’t afford. It’s already a part of her, a constant reminder of the day ahead.

It rained the previous night. The roof was leaking, droplets of water soaked the bed where she slept next to her kids. And the smell of mud and wet filth filled the night air as sleep enveloped Dustbin Estate.

This morning, it is the sound of noisy drunk men that wakes her up. The men are discussing hood politics and how the government’s priorities are messed up. The beer makes their voice to be as loud as a pastor preaching on the altar. She couldn’t blame them, the estate has made them what they are now: idle drunkards, who attempt to forget their miseries in alcoholic euphoria.

Her man used to be a part of these drunk now. Now, she has three children, but no husband. Her man died some years ago from an unknown illness, possibly contacted from the unhealthy state of living plus extreme alcohol consumption. It was these conditions that rendered her a widow.

Every morning she wakes to body aches because the bed is so hard, too cold and infested with bugs. She hates the lack of warm nights, hating the cold that often makes her bones to shiver.

Today, she decides to say a prayer to God. It’s been long she prayed last. Her predicament has made her forget a few things. She commits the day to Him and hopes He listens to her humble petitions.

Then she begins to prepare herself for the day. First, she wakes the children and gives them the little food she had kept in the small storage under the bed. It is stale bread as usual. That is the little she can afford; hence, the kids cannot do much except show gratitude because there is something for them to eat and they won’t be starving as they do once in a while.

The early stench of careless urination by people around greets them good morning as they feed. Once they are done feeding, her little ones wear their tattered uniforms to school, a shed under a tree, which doesn’t deserve to be called a school.

By 8am, she’s at the shop – just a little kiosk made out of wood. She sells the little things that people need – a box of matches, sachet water, chewing gum, sweets, biscuits, chewing sticks and so on.

Sometimes, a few folks from the neighbourhood come keep her company with their arguments, laughs and little talks here and there. This act provides a comic relief to their tragic existence on Dustbin estate. All day she remains in her shop, never tiring so as to make a living, hoping one day, she and her children won’t see Dustbin estate anymore. However, the little she makes, the little ones take from it. It is what they survive on – the little little things of life.

Her future is laid out on the floor for her children to benefit from it. Her life is all laid out on the floor. Her children are all she cares about.

The night comes and she takes them home. She’s worried, tired, nevertheless she’s strong. Her heart is full of pain, but she thrives on in a community filled with nothing but broken dreams, tainted realities and the hard life bestowed on them.

And the next morning, it all begins again. Our superhero continues in her attempt to save the day. Always unrelenting.

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