Read the previous episode here.
I had a nightmare that night. I was lying in bed in the dream and scores of members of the Nigeria Association of Widows, Nnewi Branch, were banging at the gate of the mansion. You know how dreams happen, I could see them even though I was in my room inside a walled compound. They were dressed in their undergarments with placards some of which read:
Widow not Whitlow, why run?
Service is service.
Satisfaction to one is a satisfaction to all.
Your penis is our right.
I reached out for my boxers to see if their right was intact . It was there, bless God.
The banging at the gate persisted and woke me up.
I looked at my phone. Thirteen past 10pm. I went out and opened the gate. It was Pa Mansion’s kinsman who usually parked his bus in the compound at nights and drove it out in the mornings since his own house wasn’t fenced.
After parking the vehicle, he said kachifo and left. I locked the gate and went to sit on the shiny doorsteps of the mansion, sleep now completely out of my eyes.
A strong blanket of loneliness enveloped me and I buried my head in sad hands. What was I doing in a land no one knew me, with little in friendship and companionship. To make matters worse, widows were harassing physically and in my sleep.
A small headache was gathering momentum in the back of my head. It would be a long night.
I began to hear faint voices of two or three women gossiping. I didn’t know where the voice was coming from but it sounded more like from inside the main building than the neighbouring compound. I tried not to panic but the words of Bismarck about this place being haunted by ghost rang anew in my head. I tried to shake this thought from my head but the voices continued to increase in decibels.
It really didn’t feel like normal women gossip as their voices were to high for secrecy. They were too bold. And what manner of women would be awake by to 11pm and gossip loudly?
Maybe they were widows, the like who would protest because service is service and your penis is their right.
One of the women began to laugh and slap her lap with uncontrolled hilarity. It sounded like they were in this compound with me. I rose to my feet, trying not to give room to the fear. The women began to quarrel and one of them just continued laugh. Her voice was sharp and robotic as though someone recorded the laughter on tape and played it on repeat.
This is not ordinary.
I went into my room, shut the door and began to pray.
I woke up 7.30am on the dot. Teachers were expected to be in school 7.15 latest as the assembly took place from 7.30 and the first lesson started by 8 o’clock. And I was waking up by this time.
I gathered my books and rushed out. I saw a boy wearing Mount Sinai uniform dragging his small brother, also in uniform, to school.
“Wait.” I gave the boy my books and asked him to deliver them to my desk. “Stop dragging your brother and stop rushing. Take your time. If they stop you for being late tell them I delayed you and that no one should touch you.” He nodded, his small handsome face lit up with relief.
I rushed home to take my bath. The idea is for me not to be late and carrying books in my hands. It won’t speak well of me. If I walked to school without books it would look like I have previously come and only stepped out to pick up something.
I brushed my teeth, took my bath, dressed up, and was out on the main road by 7.52. I boarded a bus, 50 naira, to the school junction. By 8 o’clock, I was at the school gate which was packed full of latecomers about forty of them. Sometimes, they stopped these latecomers at the school gate; sometimes, they allowed them and kneel down just after the small gate of the secondary school. It depended on the person on duty.
Actually, I was the one on duty and Ikenna was standing in for me. “Over to you,” he said when he saw me and withdrew saying he had a class.
I looked at the latecomers with a tired face. I also have a class. English and Maths were usually fixed for the first period. I must have a class somewhere. Dear God, please let it not be SS3.
“Why are you late?” I asked the students. “Save it,” I snapped as they began to chorus their excuses. “Whatever your excuse, let it perish today. If you come to school late tomorrow, you would pay the price, trust me. Now, to your classes.”
They chorused “Uncle, thank you, sir” as they made into the gate. One of the students said, “Uncle, I will buy you buns.”
“Buy for your father,” I wanted to say this out but I didn’t, how can I? But my face tightened and they all hurried past. With me, you are never sure when the thunderbolt would strike.
After all of them were in, I closed the gate and made for my class. Up, I found out that I would be teaching SS1. Not the best, not the worst. I rushed to the classroom and entered. Everyone stood up except one boy.
I stood still and looked at him like the ripe plantain whose complexion he carried on his face. The whole class followed my sight to the boy.
“Stand up, jor,” one of the students said to him. The boy didn’t budge.
I took a step forward, then dropped my notebook on a front bencher’s desk.
“Stand up na,” another said.
The sitting boy just moved his hands and folded them on his chest.
“Colonel,” I said slowly to the boy without opening my mouth. “I am here.”
He didn’t reply. He didn’t move. He didn’t even blink.
“I am standing and you are sitting, remove your f—, your yansh from that chair, now.”
He didn’t move and murmured something instead.
“What the hell did the goat say?”
Someone answered: “He said he can only stand up for Jesus and the Governor.”
It took me a full second for the statement to sink. When it hit my head, I began to laugh.