A DAY IN THE LIFE OF H2-5.370.182
Ijeoma walks to the stand where shopping baskets are lined up neatly, picks one and wishes she had done this yesterday. Today, the mall is full; with nannies and housekeepers, single moms and single men, and love-struck teens who have no business being here but come anyway because it is a Saturday.
Ijeoma searches for her list in her handbag. First she retrieves the receipt of the ATM transaction conducted earlier in the parking lot. Then she finds the elusive piece of paper containing her shopping list. Her mom had been the one that taught her to always draw up shopping lists.
‘Only rich people and aliens go to the mall without lists,’ her mom had said once. Ijeoma had winced when she heard the A-word, having learned in school that it was a slur. Of course they had been in the kitchen and her mom had used the word in the safety of their home. But Ijeoma’s mom was old school like that, had lived well into her twenties before the first Mornan ship landed in Jos, and could never find it in her heart to consider them equals. Whenever Ijeoma’s dad had tried to correct her mom, she reminded him that Mornanians were refugees.
Ijeoma reads her list to herself now, in the quiet of her mind.
Liquid soap (bathing)
Liquid soap (washing)
Ijeoma remembers something else. She finds a pen in her handbag and scribbles it in: Toothpaste. She used the last of it this morning; how could she be so forgetful? Of course she could always use Onyedika’s own if she needed to, but she loved her own brand and Onyedika had no brand. He was fond of buying stuff from his office, from vendors who offered ridiculous discounts on products of unverifiable quality. Once, he had bought a perfume which lingered on their bedsheet long after he had worn it. It wasn’t a particularly bad smell, but Ijeoma had been irked by its superfluous longevity. She had binned both bottle of perfume and the bedsheet. Onyedika had looked for his perfume for weeks before giving up – he never noticed the missing bedsheet.
Ijeoma makes her way to the toiletries section. She scans the shelves to her left and right for hand sanitisers. Ijeoma is a creature of habit. When at twelve she fell to the ground while playing soccer in junior secondary and Doctor Ebinum recommended rubbing hand sanitiser on the grazed skin of her palms routinely, Ijeoma had picked up the habit and never let go. These days she sanitises as often as a chain smoker lights a stick.
Ijeoma finds her brand of hand sanitiser, picks a bottle and drops it into her basket. Jars of liquid soap stare at her to the left. Her eyes search for Dettol Bathing Gel. She oscillates between lemon and lavender. She has never been faithful to any brand of soap. Her mom had said that she was lucky to have clear, caramel skin that stayed radiant regardless of what she used on it. Today, Ijeoma goes for lavender.
Tissue papers sit above her reach and she wonders why they are always placed on the topmost racks. She looks around and signals to an idle shop attendant standing over at the end of the aisle.
‘Good afternoon. Please can you help me with that?’ she says, pointing.
‘Afternoon, ma. Sure.’
The young man stretches to full length, his right hand grabbing a roll. Ijeoma notices his Identification Tattoo as the sleeve of his shirt pulls back. She suddenly feels awkward. Of course he’s an H3. What else did she expect a sales attendant to be?
‘Here you go, ma.’ He smiles.
‘Daalu,’ Ijeoma says, taking the tissue paper with her left hand – a deliberate act to hide her own IT. The burden of privilege is mostly guilt, she thinks. She wonders how H1s live with themselves if she, an H2, hides her IT from H3s.
Ijeoma walks further and finds toothpastes. She picks a Longrich tube and turns into the second aisle for toiletries, seeking tampons. When she finds them, she puts three packs into her basket.
Ijeoma shifts to a side to allow an annoyance of teens bustle past. She counts three Mornanians and two humans. One Mornanian girl. One Mornanian boy. Another Mornanian girl. One human boy. One human girl. Given their exuberant disposition, Ijeoma considers them a coterie. She places a pack of baby wipes into her basket and thinks about how far the country has come.
The first arrival of the Mornanians had terrified Nigerians, according to her mom; and not just because they were intelligent, humanoid, extraterrestrial life. That they were also shape-shifters boggled everyone’s mind. It was unfathomable. There were meetings between emissaries and military briefings and international conferences and UN seminars and in the end, governments issued press releases. These aliens had sought refuge on earth after their home planet, Morna, imploded. Nigerians and other West African countries were to accommodate them. The Mornanians had chosen the region because its climate was similar to that of their lost home.
The first problem that arose was the issue of identity – because Mornanians could shape-shift, concerns were raised about security. Most Mornanians loved to shape-shift into light-skinned-looking West Africans. Given, they had purple eyes, but once shielded with sunglasses, one was none the wiser. The Identification Tattoos Act came into the discourse as the solution. Mornanians were to be numbered with M. Humans with H.
The cadre thing came much later. Ijeoma was a teen then. Mornanians had far superior technology than the West and the Orient. Western Africa had become the new frontier. Foreign exchange was pouring in. Nigerians closest to the extraterrestrial-generated wealth sought to distinguish themselves. They became H1s. The politicians and elites moved into bed with them. The middle class wanted peculiarity also; H2s. Low income earners had no choice; H3s.
Over time, people have become comfortable in their designated cadres and although hypergamy is prevalent amongst humans, a cross between both species is biologically impossible, so the M stands exclusive to Mornanians.
Ijeoma wonders if those teens consider politics before making friends. She isn’t sure they do, she isn’t sure they should.
Ijeoma walks into the alcohol section, a tad relieved she’s gotten everything on her list, save a bottle of wine. Here, bottles are shelved according to type and prescription. There are human drinks Mornanians are discouraged from purchasing, to avoid allergic reactions. There are chemical mixtures Mornanians take, like ethanol cum lime juice, which are lethal to humans and as such cannot be sold to them.
At the counter, these products require IT checks before they are sold.
Ijeoma wavers between buying white wine and champagne. She pictures Onyedika complaining about how expensive a Moet is, and grabs a Fontera instead. To her right, a middle-aged male gently collects bottles of gin into his cart. He looks up, ogles her for a few seconds, then winks. His characteristic light skin and purple eyes give him away as Mornanian. Ijeoma frowns and turns away. Everyone knows Mornanian males fetishise Nigerian women. She feels insulted by what some might consider harmless flirtation.
Ijeoma doesn’t move a step to close the gap in the queue before the counter.
The woman in front has a loud voice and keeps arguing with the cashier as she removes items from her cart. Apparently, she cannot afford some of the things she had picked.
Ijeoma wonders what her mom would have said about this woman. She surely would have finished her. This thought amuses Ijeoma, and she stifles a snigger.
She approaches the counter when the woman is done and gone.
‘Good afternoon,’ she says.
‘Good afternoon, ma,’ the cashier greets, smiling and showing a gap-tooth.
Ijeoma drops her basket on the clearing table and the gap-tooth girl begins to retrieve her purchases, scanning and bagging them.
Ijeoma finds herself humming a tune.
‘Madam, you can’t buy this item,’ the girl says.
The tune dies in her throat and she looks at the girl who is raising the sunscreen lotion she picked.
‘Why not?’ Ijeoma frowns.
The girl stutters. ‘Sorry, ma. Can I see your IT?’
Ijeoma isn’t sure what the kid is playing at. She stretches forth her right arm. Along the line of her wrist, her Identification Tattoo reads: H2-5.370.182.
‘I’m correct, ma. You can’t buy this item. It is only for Ms and H1s.
Ijeoma feels bile rise up in her belly. The urge to slap the insolence out of the little maggot’s mouth envelopes her.
‘Are you a mad person? Sunscreen? I buy this thing every time!’
‘I’m sorry, ma. It’s a new policy. Their prescription tags will be added to them on the shelves soon.’
Ijeoma can understand prescription tags in the alcohol section. She even accepts the fact that civilians are not allowed to buy extraterrestrial tech. But sunscreen?
‘What’s going on? It’s sunscreen!’
The girl leans forward. ‘I’m sorry, ma. Management says H2s and H3s do not need it.’
Ijeoma can see the girl is genuinely apologetic.
The feeling of frustration in her gut is foreign to her. She wonders what the world is coming to. In this moment, she is almost thankful her mom isn’t alive to see this nonsense.
‘Fucking aliens and rich people!’ she hisses.