Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (10)

This is the tenth episode, a milestone. I wish to thank everyone who ever shared or commented since April 27th. I wish to thank Moses Austin, Daddy’m, Chika, Kelvin, Mee, Saint Gab, UK Don, Aita, Esson, Naza, James, Moses Abu, Vincent, Jerry, Hacolyte, Dan, Pastor Timi, Jeffrey, Phait, Choice, and Queen. See you all at the 66th episode.

Read the previous episode here. Let’s do this.

*

I entered JS3 classroom and all the students stood up. I stood near the door and regarded them with impersonal eyes. I took three steps forward then stood in the centre of their front. “If you have your 1000 naira for the Christmas party payment sit down.”

One boy sat down.

“Tire a piece of paper and bring it and your money here,” I said. The boy came with just a piece of paper. “So where is the money?”

“I have paid to the principal.”

It was the 29th of September and I was broke. Yesterday, the principal announced in the assembly ground that the form teachers should start collecting 1000 each from the students for their Christmas/end of the year party. As the form teacher, I decided these monies would be my upkeep until I was paid. Now, this goat was telling me he had given his money to the principal.

“Is the principal your form teacher?” I asked him. He said no. “Go and collect the money.”

I decided that was taking it too far so I called him back. “I believe,” I said. But you and I know it was not about belief, I needed the money. “Go and sit down.”

I looked around to the other students and raised your hand. “Please pay up your money. I don’t want the proprietress bugging me for the payment. You guys should just respect yourselves and pay up.” I began to leave.

“Uncle,” a student said.

Yes?

“I have my money.”

“Then why didn’t you say it before?”

“It is the money my mother asked me to pay for my sister in primary section. She said she would pay for my own next week.”

He must have seen the hunger in my eyes. “Give the money to the class captain, ” I said. “I will collect the money at the end of the week.” I left. I had to protect my ego. At the bottom of the staircase, the principal called my name. I turned and he beckoned on me.

“One of your students paid his money with me,” he said and handed it to me. “I don’t want money that doesn’t belong to me in my pocket.”

Me, I want o, biko. I didn’t say this aloud, of course. I collected the money with feigned reluctance and left. I believed I had a class at this moment and I increased the quickness of my strides. A teacher was in SS1 classroom, another in SS2, and another in SS3. Thank God, I had no class. There was only Ikenna in the staff room, the new biology and chemistry teacher. His eyes looked tired, evidence of hours of ransacking job sites on his phone at night while normal people slept.

“Guy, serious hunger hold me here o,” he said. “When these people go pay salary?”

I sighed. “My brother.”

“I fit get 500 naira from you?”

“I have 1K,” I said. “We can share it.”

His face beamed. “Mehn, you don save me o.”

Chisom entered the staff room as Ikenna stepped out, probably to get buns and coke.

“Uncle, we have you,” Chisom said.

“There is a teacher in your class,” I said.

“Yes sir, but her period is over.”

“Well,” I eased back on my chair, “if she is still there, then it must be serious. I am not gonna interrupt that serious class.”

“It doesn’t sound serious to me,” she murmured.

“I beg your pardon,” I said.

“English is more important than Economics.”

“So you are saying that the colonial language is more important than how we can put bread on our common table?”

“Well, if I fail your colonial language, no university for me.”

“My colonial language?” I didn’t know if she was mocking me or trying to mock me, an oracle like me.

She spouted her mouth. “Bia, I think you should go back to your class.”

“Okay,” she came forward. “What books should I take with me?”

“When did you start sharing my desk with me?”

“I mean your books,” Chisom said. “For your class sir.” She made a last born face.

“I am not going to interrupt Mrs. Anozie. Go away, creature.”

“Sir, I am not a creature o.”

“So, basically, you are saying that God didn’t create you?”

She said he did but that she was made in the likeness of God and not a creature. Ikenna entered the staff with buns and a soft drink. “Guy, gist dey o.”

“Chisom,” I sat up, “get lost.”

“I am not going without you,” she said.

Ikenna looked at me. I looked at Ikenna. Chisom stood her ground. I sighed and rose to my feet. “Guy, let me go and teach English. We talk when I return.”

Chisom smiled as she hugged in my notebook and stamped out. I stopped at a window of SS2 classroom frowning. Most of the students looked bored but not everyone was happy to see me. Mrs. Anozie’s present lesson might be boring but they knew what to expect from her. My classes were usually explosive and you never knew who would be burned.

But today my class was uneventful. It wasn’t because of the news from Ikenna, it was just what it was: an uneventful class. Biology was the next class in SS2 and Ikenna was standing at the door even before the bell was rung. He must be charged, the power of buns and Fanta.

“What’s the good news?” I asked as soon as I came out unable to contain the tension.

“Is like that computer girl is in love with you o,” he said. I didn’t understand, Joy in love with me? The last time we spoke was on Sunday. I called her around 4pm while at the park in my village. “I am sorry I would return to Nnewi late,” I said. “But we can have our date by 7pm, biko.”

She said she couldn’t leave home after 7. I said I would try to come back earlier. I called her around quarter to eight and she didn’t even bother picking the call. Today was Tuesday and what the hell was Ikenna saying about her loving me?

Ikenna explained: “I saw her at the provision store and she blew me a kiss that I should give her boyfriend.”

“Then go and blow it to her boyfriend na.”

“It is you jor,” Ikenna said. “Go and claim her.” And he left me more confused than I was before the blown kiss.

I went into the staff room and sat at the desk. My timetable told me I didn’t have a class in this period. I decided to go claim my love Joy. She was sitting on her desk eating rice with malt by her elbow, as usual. I marveled at how someone could have so much appetite and never grow fat.

“What do you want?” she said rather hotly.

I smiled. “My head kept thinking of you so much that my legs brought me here.”

“Ok o.”

I decided not to waste time. “See, Joy, I think about you every day and I think we should be friends.”

“We are friends already,” she said.

“I want us to be more than just friends.” So help me God.

“You want me to be your girlfriend?”

In my experience, women are more likely to reject your proposal if you come out clearly to ask them to be your girlfriend. There was something jinxing about the term “girlfriend”. But Ikenna said she was my girlfriend already so I didn’t beat around the bush. I was here to possess my possession. “Yes, be my woman.”

And Joy began to laugh. Serious laughter as though I had just been taken by a power whirlwind and replaced by Basketmouth who just cracked a powerful joke. My heart began to sink but I held on. Perhaps this was the laugh before the “I love you too”. But when Joy opened her mouth, she cleared every doubt I might have nursed: “I am sorry, you are not my type. We can be just friends. But anything more than that is not for me and you.”

The weakness started from my ankles, rose through my calf to my knees and I had to part my legs a little to maintain my stance. When I opened my mouth to thought the weakness grab hold of my throat and no words would come out. Four years in the University, one year in serving, plus a period of strikes and holidays that saw me in Lagos and Abuja and no one had ever rejected me at all. It wasn’t that I was Ramsey Nouah but I was smart and always weighed my chances before I made a move.

Not today and I have hit a wall of rejection. This was no rejection; this was violence.

“Will talk later,” I managed to say and walked out. I didn’t think this through, otherwise, I could have prepared a comeback for a time like this. I entered the staff room and sat down, wet. What has Ikenna gotten me up to? I stamped to my feet. Joy had rejected me and soon the news would begin to make the rounds in the primary school section and their Whatsapp. I decided to go to Obioma, my true love. I would ask her out so that when the news break, it would no longer affect my chances. I was a rejectee but the window was still open for me now that no one else besides Joy knew about my rejected status.

I rushed to the primary section.

I was breathing high when I stopped at the Window of Hope (which was the name I gave the window after today). Oby smiled when she saw me.

I took a deep breath. “Hey,” I said.

“Hi. What’s up?”

“Do you know I like you?” I asked.

“Yes and I like you too.”

My hope rose. “See, I think you are the kind of woman that I need now. I think you would make me happy. And I believe I can make you happy as well. We can be together and make a powerful couple.” I closed my eyes. If she said no, I would just collapse. One rejection can be managed. Not two. Twice humiliated, one heart attack. And I would be setting a Guinness Record: the first man to be rejected two times in ten minutes. If I survived this, I would resign.

“I think you are a good guy,” Oby said.

I opened one eye.

“You are so kind,” I opened the other eye.

“Please don’t say ‘but’,” I pleaded.

She smiled. “My last boyfriend didn’t treat me well. He…”

“Not Uncle K. And he must be a fool to let a gem slip through his fingers. Would you say I am a fool?”

She said no.

“Don’t take my word for it. Let me prove that I am no fool, let me be your man. You are a queen, give me the opportunity to be your king.”

Her smiled broadened. “Let me think about it,” she said.

I put one hand out and she held it affectionately in both hands, super soft hands. If not for this window and wall, I could have reached out and hugged her and she would no longer have to think about it. But this one would do.

“You have made my day,” I said.

“I haven’t said yes,” she pointed out with a teasing eye.

“As if I would take no from you,” I said and we chuckled. “Get back to work, I would try not to think about you too much.”

I left happy. I was a survivor, what a narrow escape. If you fall down, get up immediately and try again. If A rejects you, try B; there are 26 alphabets. If Joy rejects you, try Oby; there were 11 single ladies in the whole school. I should become a motivational speaker.

While on the staircase, two things happened. The bell for breaktime began to ring and my phone announced the coming in of a text message. I checked the message; it was from Joy and read: “You are not a good person.”

To be continued…