Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (28)

In case you missed the last episode

I finally went with Hosea and Ikenna to the lunch at the proprietress’. I called Ikenna on Saturday and he said he was game. Then on Sunday morning, the VP called me and said he could join me if my babe wouldn’t make it. I said he could come.

We agreed to meet at Lassel Junction by 2pm. I was there by 2.15 and sat in a restaurant/bar where I sometimes ate. Hosea came there at 2.35 or so and we had to wait for Ikenna till 3.20, I believe. He said something about something coming up. We headed to the school owners’ house which we arrived at just a little under 4pm.

Neche opened the door for us.

“Mummy,” she exclaimed as she led us into a large sitting room, the size of half a tennis court. “Your star teachers are here!”

The mother came out. “Look at them!” Then she lost her smile and asked us to look at the watch. “The director had to leave for a meeting.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “The VP was doing makeup.”

They laughed.

“Ma,” I said, “I am sorry I came with two people instead of one but it’s no problem. You can give me my plate of food and drink and then give these two people the other plate of food and one bottle of drink to share.”

Everyone laughed.

“This is my house,” Hosea said. “It is you two who should share a plate.”

“Well since it is your house, you will eat yours on the kitchen floor.”

Another round of laughter. The woman of the house said: “I was really looking forward to this but it is now a shame I will miss it as I have a meeting by four. And did you all see the white mansion as you turned into this street?”

I kept quiet knowing this was an opening gambit to a sucker punch. The two idiots said yes, they saw the mansion.

The proprietress made her point: “Well, that mansion belongs to our kinsman. Peradventure what to provide for your guys’ flats stomach becomes too burdensome for me, I will call on him for help.”

They laughed. I shrugged. “You know, well she asked if you saw the mansion I refused to answer because I know a backhand slap was coming.”

“You know my mother too well,” Neche said.

“Yes but it wasn’t easy learning, I bled a lot in her hands.”

They laughed.

“And I have to confess, that was why I delayed the guys just to get rid of her and save my skin.”

Neche giggled but the guys didn’t know whether to laugh or be shocked. The proprietress shrugged. “You won today but we would fight some other day. In the meantime, my daughter and son – he is around – will keep you guys’ company.”

“When did you become close with the proprietress?” Ikenna asked me as we settled down in the dining.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but those days I climbed upstairs to cry over my September salary helped.”

Neche served us white rice in a big bowl capable of feeding five hungry farmers with steaming stew crowded with chicken wings and laps.

When Hosea opened the stew flask, I said, “You guys cannot say I have never done anything for you all.”

“My brother you have o,” Ikenna said. “But wait o, why did they invite you for lunch?”

I touched my collar neck. “They know I’m starving.”

Neche came with the salad when we were laughing and a fake epiphany suddenly hit Ikenna’s coconut head and he closed one eye.

“My brother, perish that thought,” I said.

“VP, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” He nodded slightly towards Neche.

“They assume we’re in love or something,” I said to Neche and she laughed. “You,” she pointed with a dismissive left finger. “You would wash plate tire o.”

And the boys laughed their heads off, so loud and so long that Neche left before I could come up with a comeback. I shrugged as I took a liberal bite at a chicken wing. This is my revenge. One thing I came to learn about having a bad mouth was having ears receptive of insults. And your comebacks mustn’t be that day. It may tarry up to one year even but it could still be served, the colder the sweeter.

When we were finishing our food, the proprietress’ son joined us. He was a tall and very fair chap.

“That’s Emenike,” the VP said. “This is Ikenna.” They shook hands.

“This is K.” We shook hands.

“My mom told me about all you’re doing in the school.”

“Your mother is very kind,” I said. “And I thought you weren’t happy with our presence here.”

He smiled. “Na, I didn’t want to look at your mouths while you eat. Now that you guys are done, we can go sit at the garden outside and drink something stronger than Pepsi.”

“This guy is a guyman,” Ikenna said. When an Igbo guy calls you a guyman then you are truly a guyman.

We sat round a table in their garden with a bottle of dry gin and glasses on the table.

“My mom told us you are coming with your girl,” Emenike said as he poured the drinks. “What happened?”

I shrugged, “She couldn’t make it.”

Emenike nodded. “Scheduling conflict.”

“Is that your way of saying she had an appointment with another man?”

He smiled without mirth. “That… or she doesn’t see you guys like that.”

“It is also possible,” the VP began, “that she is shy. You know, coming to your employers’ house with a man who also works in the same organization. It’s somehow… for some girls.”

Ikenna agreed. “I’m a guy but it kinda feels somehow to me.”

Emenike took a sip and shut his eyes as the liquor burned his throat, chest, and elsewhere. We waited for him to recover. He did (thank God). “See eh,” he said, “it is possible that she is shy or actually busy, but she is a Nigerian girl, right?”

“Yes.”

“Not just a Nigerian girl, an Nnewi girl. My brother, you should always assume the worst about them.”

“Let me see. She has many men and K is number four?’

“That should make sense,” I said. “I’m an Arsenal fan.”

They laughed. Arsenal was known for finishing fourth.

“You are not entirely wrong,” Emenike said of Ikenna’s point. “An average fine girl usually has two men that truly counts: One in Nigeria and one abroad.”

“There are so many Nnewi/Ozubulu men abroad,” he continued. “One guy can be controlling ten girls in Nigeria with the promise of ‘I will come back, marry you and take you abroad’, and each girl would believe she is the true love. But it is just a game to him.”

“But why refuse to come here with K?”

For inspiration, Emenike took a draw from his glass then it burned him. After he survived, he said: “Now, this brings me to the point Hosea made earlier. This is her employers’ house. More than that, the director and the proprietress are important people that your babe would like to invite to her wedding. When it’s the time, she would feel terrible bringing an IV to my parents that doesn’t carry the name of the man she once came here with for a lunch date.”

There was a moment silent as we mulled Emenike’s words. He poured his fourth shot. Ikenna was on his second, the VP on his first and mine just stood there. Our host looked at my glass. “You haven’t touched your drink.”

“I’m thinking,” I said; “this one that you are just drinking and dropping rhema, I am strongly considering going home with the whole bottle.”

One or two laughed.

 “What’s the way forward for our guy?” Ikenna asked.

“Nothing. He would continue to love her and be with her. He would just tamper his expectation. She may be his, she may not.”

“And no too much investment of energy, emotions, and the likes,” Ikenna said.

“It is the hope that kills.”

At this moment my phone began to ring. It was Obioma.

“Talk of the devil.”

“Put it on speak out,” someone said.

I wasn’t comfortable with this but following their concerns and counsels, I felt they had gained the right to officially eavesdrop.

“Hello,” I said.”

“Hello, are you done with the lunch?”

“Rounding up?”

“Eiyeah. So sorry I couldn’t make it.”

“It’s okay.”

“I will make it up to you,” she said.

“I will be waiting.”

“Er… Who did you go with?”

“You don’t know her so should I just describe her for you?”

“No need,” she said curtly. “I am a little free now so I will be coming to your place so we could spend a little time together. Please start coming out.”

“Tell her to go hell,” Ikenna said without saying it out.

I looked at the VP who shrugged with a lack of opinion. I looked at Emenike and his face was covered with his glass. “I will be there in a moment,” I said. The time was quarter past five.

I ended the call and pocketed my phone. I owed no one any explanation.

“Something must kill a man,” Emenike said.

I agreed. “Let’s toast.”

We all lifted our glasses. “To something that must kill a man,” I said.

“To something that must kill a man,” they chorused.

To be continued…

Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (27)

In case you missed the previous episode

Adaora advanced towards me as though to hug me.

“Shut the gate behind you,” I said. She braked and released what looked like a sigh. I didn’t wait to find out. I headed towards the overhead tanks. I slapped the vertical pipes and listened. There wasn’t so much water in the tanks but there was enough to water the flowers.

Adaora came and stood at my shoulder.

“Your flowers are not overgrown.”

“Yes, but they need watering,” I said.

She didn’t look enthusiastic.

“I thought you came for the flowers,” I said.

“Yes but to cut them.”

“When did you learn to trim flowers?”

“I have been reading about it?”

“And you want to experiment with my flowers.”

“I think I am good.”

“Dear Good Gardener, where is thy tools?”

“Ahh… I thought…”

I turned to go.

“We can water it together,” she said.

“I didn’t plan for this. I have exams to set.”

I went into the house. I sat on my desk and considered my situation. I would call Oby later and pile in the pressure with a dose of emotional blackmail, but we would no longer be getting the ring. I called Hosea.

“We ain’t getting that ring, mehn,” I said.

“What happened?”

“Er… The babe is not sure to be there.”

“You can buy the ring and keep it for another occasion.”

“Na,” I said, “I have to build the momentum afresh. For now, I am not feeling it. We would talk when we see face to face.”

“So who are you taking to the lunch?”

I sighed. “Maybe you.”

The VP laughed. “Two lefts cannot make a right.”

“Well, there is food for two and it must be eaten irrespective of the gender. Food doesn’t discriminate.”

He just laughed.

I dropped the phone on the desk and looked out of the window. Adaora was walking, slowly if not gracefully, at the edge of the flower beds admiring them and whispering to herself or to the flower.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” the devil asked me.

“The flowers are beautiful,” I said.

“Not those flowers. I mean the flower standing near the flowers.”

“Maybe,” I said.

“She is beautiful, sexy, and as matured and even taller than Obioma,” the devil said,

I disagreed. “She is 16.”

“Look at her breasts…”

“Taaa!” I spoke out loud. It got Adaora’s attention. She looked at the direction of the window, hesitated for a minute or two, and began to approach. I could hear the devil giggling.

“What happened?” she asked when she opened the door.

“Something fell on my foot.”

She looked at my legs. “What fell on your leg? I can see nothing.”

“Sorry, I didn’t leave it glued on my leg. And sorry, no photographer to capture it. Now, go water the flowers. Tell me when you are tired.”

She looked at me with pretty, searching eyes. As she turned to go, I asked her if she had earphones on her. She said no, why?

“I want to block out the devil with music.”

For lunch, we ate beans and plantain that I sent Adaora to buy. She had watered the whole flower alone and was tired, hungry. I have her 500 naira to buy beans and plantain for me (250 naira) and whatever she needed for herself with the balance. Instead, she bought beans and plantain for 300 and two plastic bottles of sprite.

As there was no plate in my room, we had to eat it right from the takeaway plate, together. “I don’t like this,” I murmured.

“Me too.”

“Then why didn’t you buy your own differently?”

“Because no money.”

“Are you calling me broke?” I demanded and she just smiled.

“You have never been this romantic with Obioma,” the devil whispered.

“Whatever.”

After the lunch, Adaora lay down on my bed to sleep.

“This is not appropriate,” I said to myself. I was just opening myself to temptations and moreover, it didn’t look well that a female student had the liberty to eat with me and sleep on my bed (more than once). I had to stop her. How do I do it without breaking the poor girl’s little heart?

Maybe I would ask Chisom to do it. Adaora was her best friend or something and she would do a good job of telling her to respect boundaries, Uncle K is your teacher; you can’t be sleeping in his house. People won’t understand.

But Adaora may not understand. She might see it as a confrontation coming from Chisom whom, in all intend and misjudgment, was her rival: Chisom was my favourite student, the one I usually turned to for help in class, the one that I complained to when student(s) misbehaved, and the one that answered most of my difficult questions.

But outside of the classroom, Adaora was the one who had more access to me (due to her persistence), so she was within her fallacy to see Chisom as a rival and not listen to her.

So should I tell a female teacher to caution Ada? Woman to woman. Or, woman to girl, actually. Who should I talk to?

Aunty Peace? She didn’t look like she had the will to do this?

Aunty Oge? She was a loquacious one and may make a scandal out of this by gossiping about it?

Mrs. Anozie? She would mock me for throwing my “babe” under the bus and she would do the mocking without opening her mouth which was the most painful one.

Mrs. Nwokeji? She might escalate the situation. She might badger Adaora and make her cry or even punish her or take the matter to the assembly ground or to the proprietress. With that cunning woman, you never know.

I sighed, then suppressed a yawn.

“You are sleepy, man, go to your bed,” someone said to me. I wasn’t sure it was the devil because I really needed the sleep and if Adaora was my sister I wouldn’t hesitate to on and lie on the same bed with her. If I was hesitating then I saw her as a woman who wasn’t a relation and who could be in relationship with me, which was to say I was taking her on an elevation she didn’t belong. She was just a girl, she was my student which meant he was my daughter-figure.

I rose to my feet and began to gather my dirty clothes to go and wash. I would decide how to deal with Adaora later but for now, I would have to stay far away from my bed. I would sleep later.

So I washed my clothes. After this, I washed and cleaned and polished my shoes accordingly. When I finished this, I went to the bathroom/toilet to wash it. It was at this moment that Adaora woke up. She sat up. “Let me help you,” she offered.

“No. You have helped me enough for the year. Why don’t you ever help your parents? Today is Saturday and you’re here hiding from your home chores.”

“I have finished my chores. I woke up very early to do my chores. I…”

“Let me do my own, I’m not crippled!”

She was taken aback by my harsh words. Of course, she knew I was harsh and she had been in the receiving end of my sharp tongue in the past. But she didn’t know this part of me existed outside the four walls of Mount Sinai International, for her.

“If you don’t want me to come here and help you from time to time, tell me.”

“Yes,” I bellowed, “don’t come here again. A lot of people will not understand that it is just normal help you’re rendering me. People like stories and most of the time, they paint imaginative pictures and tell fake stories.”

She said nothing. Quietly, she got down from the mattress and began to make the bed. When she finished, she made for the door.

“Hey, I am sorry if I am sounding harsh but it’s for our own good.”

She left with her shoulder flaccid with pain. When I heard the gate opened and closed, I heaved a sigh of relief and a little sadness. I loved the result but I hated the approach. Suddenly the muscles of my stomach tightened with annoyance for the womenfolk in their entirety. They knew what was right and they chose not to do it. You dropped hints, they ignored them; your body language showed that you didn’t like what they were doing and they looked away. When you pushed and get the right thing to be done, they take it badly and make you look like an inconsiderate, aggressive fellow.

Adaora was just 16 but she was learning the evil ways.

Obioma was 21 and she was a master in the art.

Vanity, declared the sad philosopher. All is vanity.

I brought out my phone. Since Hosea wasn’t sure, I would call Ikenna and take him with me to the lunch. And while there for lunch, if I see any young woman within hearing distance of the proprietress house, they would see my red eyes.

To be continued…