In case you missed the last episode, read here.
First period, I taught SS3 English language.
Second period, SS2 English.
Third period, SS1 English.
Fourth period, SS2 Literature.
Then break time at 10.40am. I entered the staff room and saw my desk full. SS2 classwork and SS3 assignment to be marked. I recalled that I hadn’t marked the register for JS3.
I sat down
I was hungry. The hunger had always been there while I taught but I didn’t bother about it and it didn’t bother me so much. Now, it was serious: It wasn’t the usual hunger that bites; this was the kind of hunger that weaken the joints and lighten your head. I went to the window. I caught the eyes of one of the student’s playing outside and beckoned to him.
Mrs. Anozie opened her flask and the aroma of jollof filled the staff room with the promise of joy and satisfaction. If this wasn’t terrorism, I don’t know what else was. Racism even.
“Join me,” she said.
“Ride on,” I said.
The boy I sent for came in. “What is your name?”
“Michael,” he said.
“What class are you?”
He said JS2 and added that he lived near my house.
Whatever. Aloud I said, “I need you to go to JS3 and ask their captain to see me. Then go buy me Sprite and buns.” I gave him 200 naira note and he vamoosed.
“So Sprite and buns are the reason you rejected my jollof,” Mrs. Anozie said.
I sighed. “My dear, Sprite and buns are not as terrible as you make them sound.”
“They are even worse than I made them sound,” she said. “You need a woman in your life.”
“You mean I need a stove and utensils.”
She hissed jeeringly. “I know you can’t cook.”
“How can you tell?” I said.
At this moment, the captain of JS3 entered the staff room. “Uncle, good morning. Aunty, good morning.”
“Morning,” my neighbour replied. I didn’t have the energy for that. “Did everybody come to school today in your class?”
“No sir,” he said. “John is absent and we have two new students.”
“Ok. I will come and meet the new students. Why don’t you come and call me when you guys are free.”
“We are free immediately after break,” he said. “We are supposed to have CRK but we don’t have a CRK teacher yet.”
“Ok. I will come after the break. Go away.”
“You need to consider what I said,” Mrs. Anozie said after a long silence. At this time my Sprite had arrived and I was eating. There were two or three other teachers in the staff room but she didn’t care if they heard or not. I didn’t care so much, too. I grunted and resumed marking the classwork and continued eating. The thought of getting a girl that Mrs. Anozie planted on me didn’t leave me for the rest of the day.
And no, it wasn’t because of someone who would cook for me. The days are dry and long and, sometimes, a text message from the one you care about is all you need not to fall off the cliff. I decided to do something about it. I would ask someone out.
I had two candidates in mind. Joy the chocolate Yahoo beauty and Obioma the black worried beauty. Which one should I go for? The question should be which one was more likely to agree to date me. You know, when it comes to asking a girl out in your workplace, you only have one shot. If she says no, that is the end of your romance in this place. She would tell Uju, Uju would tell Ada, Ada would tell Jumoke, Jumoke would tell Maureen and that is how the whole ladies would hear about it. You may even be discussed in their WhatsApp group. Rejection comes with its special stigma and it would cost you the little points you have.
Maureen wouldn’t want to date a guy Uju rejected and bragged about. It is not as though the guy’s surname was Adeleke.
But I wasn’t thinking of the more likely person to accept me. I was thinking about the one that would most complement me. All my life, I was used to people calling me arrogant but this arrogance has been one of my most trusted allies. I never felt inferior. I was the kind of man to ask Linda Ikeji out while in her Banana Island home to fix the generator. I was the teacher who would dance where principals fear to tread.
I decided to settle for the best girl and damn the consequences. I brought out a piece of paper. And decided to compare and contrast. I began to grade them from A to F.
Beauty: Joy A; Obioma A
Vibes: Joy B+; Obioma C-
Intelligence: Joy C+; Obioma B-
Capacity for rich conversations: Joy C+; Obioma D
Ability to insult APC: Joy C; Obioma F
Ability to manage: Joy F; Obioma B.
The last one should carry more points since I was on a salary that was an Nnewi big boy’s Sunday beer and pepper soup money. But with inflation rising sky high and Buhari’s government clueless, the second to the last point was my most important decider. But nothing was assured yet. I didn’t really know the two girls I was spending precious time analyzing, I didn’t even have their phone numbers.
I rose to my feet.
I met Joy alone in the computer room typing with a bottle of malt on her elbow. “The August visitor in September,” she hailed.
I stopped before her desktop. “You are scarce,” I said.
“No, it was you who abandoned your girl,” she said.
I brought out my Tecno phone with its broken screen and place it before her. “Type your number so that whenever I miss you, I could send you a ‘hi’.”
“Or a recharge card,” she said. We laughed.
She gave me two phone numbers. The Etisalat was her main line for calls while the Glo was her WhatsApp number. She said she hated MTN. I said me too.
Obioma handled the play class which meant there was hardly a break for her. I stopped by her classroom window and saw her trying to mollify an unhappy child. Another was crying. She didn’t see me; I passed. I returned with a bottle of yoghurt in my hand.
“Hey,” I said.
“Uncle.” Her teeth shone as she smiled. She was happy to see me. Or happy to see the yoghurt or happy to see me and the yoghurt. I didn’t care. “I passed and saw you busy with your kids and I decided you could do with something cold.”
“Awww, thank you so much. God bless you.”
“Bless you too.” She was so happy that I thought asking for her phone number would spoil the moment. “See you later,” I said and left. Who said Igbo boys are not romantic?
I am a romantic. I was the romance itself.
To be continued…