Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (9)

Previously on Memories of a Young Man bla bla

Because of the volume of work in the school, I usually carried books home every day. Home works to mark, class works to mark, lesson plans to write, lesson notes to write, etc. To carry these books effectively, I would have needed a briefcase. So I told Michael, the JS2 student who said he lived near my house to check with me after school hours and carry my books home. I walk home hands-free everyone.

Today, I was walking home happy. I was armed with Obioma’s number, Joy’s assurance of a date, and the perfect plan for my salary collection—because in this school they don’t pay your salaries, you collect them.

I usually pass by the home of the father of the owner of the mansion I stay in. His house is a storey building in the junction that leads to the mansion. Sometimes, he would sit at the balcony and I would howl “Good afternoon, sir” at him. Sometimes, I just mouth it and nod. Nnewi sunshine can be merciless and shouting greetings to the sky can be tiring especially with just Sprite and buns/biscuits in your belly.

Today, he called me before I could greet me. “Climb up,” he said in Igbo.

There were more than a dozen ladders in the compound as the father of the owner of the mansion rented them (let’s call him Pa Mansion; I can’t continually refer to him as the father of the owner of the mansion where I live in the boys quarters: it is tiring—it’s not even good literature). I was always careful about the ladders; I kept thinking that one of them, strong iron all of them, could slip and fall on my head. Bloggers would have a field trying to choose between: “Teacher’s Head Smashed in Nnewi” and “Coconut Head Smashed in Nnewi”. I didn’t want to know.

The smell of ora soup hit my nose when I finished eating the stairs. As I passed the kitchen, I looked through the half-opened do and say “Good afternoon, ma” even though I didn’t see anyone. “Afternoon,” someone said even though they didn’t see anyone.

I passed through the sitting room to the balcony. Pa Mansion was eating ora soup still wearing his spectacles. Ora soup is that one meal I would never eat with goggles. It is one of the two or three meals I would rather attack with my naked eyes.

“The King,” he hailed.

I squat down and put my hand on the floor. “I am on the floor.”

He beamed with joy. He half raised and touched my shoulder with a fist clenching eba. “Kunite.”

I rose up and sat on one of the plastic chairs.

“Chinenye,” he howled at the cook.

“Sir,” she howled back.

“Bring food for the King.”

I crossed my leg.

The Chinenye woman came into the balcony. She should be in her late thirties or early forties. “Good afternoon,” I said knowing I had greeted her before.

“Afternoon, my dear. Which do you want? We have jollof rice and ora.”

This wasn’t fair: It was like asking you to choose between Omotola and Genevieve. “Let me eat what papa is eating.”

The ora soup was crowded with pieces of okporoko, stockfish, ponmo, and larger pieces of goat meat. I have always attacked Esau for selling his birthright for porridge. But for this ora, I would sell my birthright, my teacher’s right, and my bachelor’s right, etc. I eased back in the chair and loosed my belt head.

As we eat, we gisted. When I was done, I drank half of the bottled water before me. I didn’t finish it because I wanted to carry the half-drunk bottle on my way home. Let me do guy small.

When I rose to go, Pa Mansion asked me to pump the water as the water in the mansion is connected to this one. I said yes sir. The cook blocked me as I made for the staircase. She had a food flask on her hand. It must be the jollof rice I declined, now to be eaten as takeaway.

“Imela,” I said.

She winked at me.

I walked home, food flask in my right hand, bottled water in my left. If this is not the Nigerian dream, I don’t know what is. When I approached the block industry area, Bismarck hailed me. “Professor Wole Soyinka.”

“Otto Von Bismarck,” I hailed back.

“Nobel prize winner.”

“The unifier and founder of modern Germany.”

“Grandmaster of letters.”

“Convener of the European scramble and partition of Africa.”

We shook hands.

“Your hand is beautiful,” he said.

“It’s for you,” I said, “Just that, no spoons.”

“Don’t you know that fingers were made before spoons?” He snatched the cooler from me.

“I didn’t know that. I must have missed school on that day.”

“Me, I didn’t miss school that day.” He called his guys. In the end, four hungry workmen attacked the food. I excused myself and walked home. At the gate, I saw Michael carrying my books and looking hungry and tired.

“What? You are still here? I am sorry.”

We usually walk home together or me in a seeable distance behind. “You know what, next time, don’t wait for me. Go to this block industry and keep the books with them. Tell them it belongs to me.”

“Ok sir.”

I reached out for my wallet and gave him one two hundred naira note. His eyes doubled in size. “Should I bring change for you?”

I smiled. 200 naira was a big deal in 2015. “No,” I said in my Dangote voice, “keep the change.”

He left, bouncing with happiness, like a young goat up the hills. I watched him, happy to see me making others happy.

I may be an ordinary teacher but I am a big boy. I opened the bottle of water and took a rich sip.

To be continued

The next episode is the tenth episode. It is a small milestone but I intend to celebrate it big by publishing a blockbusting episode. But I am not going to share the link on Social Media. You just have to come here on your own and read it. You could bookmark the site. Lazy bone.