Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (16)

Previously on Memories…

I stopped by at Oby’s classroom window and saw her consoling a child.

“Mother of many children,” I greeted her.

She turned and beamed at me. “I am their mother and you are their father.”

I nodded. “Don’t you think it’s high time we have our own biological children?”

“No.” She chuckled. “How are you?”

“I am fine but not so much. Have you guys been paid?”

She sighed and said no.

“I have a little something we can share it.”

She began to say no but I had already slipped a shiny 1000 naira note through the window and pushed it down. The money made a little dance in the air before falling down.

“That dance was romantic,” I said.

She blew me a small kiss. It was so small that if I wasn’t looking intently at her face, I might have missed it. “You’re a kind soul.”

“What’s your plan for this Sunday?” I said.

“You want us to go out?”

“Yes,” I said with unconcealed eagerness even though I didn’t have money. In fact, that 1000 naira lying on the floor of her classroom was my last card. One of my form students gave me the money as his Christmas party payment and I decided to borrow it. But I was always a believer. If she would go out with me on Sunday, money would come. Somehow.

“Ifeanyi Ubah FC is playing ball in the stadium on Sunday. We can go see it,” she suggested.

I nodded. “That would be fun.”

“I will come out at 3 o’clock. The match is by four but if we don’t go there early, we won’t get seats.”

I nodded, happy. A woman was talking about the need for punctuality on a date. I was a lucky man. I tightened the locks of my hands behind my back. This was the only way I could keep from grabbing the window, squeezing through it, and taking her into a warm embrace.

When I left Oby, I made deeper into the primary section for I wanted to go to Aunty Chika’s class and see my little friend and her classmates who were also my friends. You should remember my friend. She was the one they wanted me to force to take her medication but I wooed her into taking it instead.

I had to pass by the provision store. There was one teacher there eating buns and Fanta or whatever. Only God would know what would have been of teachers without buns and soda which they call soft drink or mineral. I said a “good morning” to the teacher.

“My in-law,” she replied as I hurried past.

I didn’t know why she said what she said? What is “in-law” by the way?

On the staircase to my little friends’ class, I saw the oldest teacher in the primary section, a woman of fifty or so. The only thing that joined me and this woman was good afternoon-afternoon. We were not yet in the “how are you?” stage so it came as a surprise, nay, a mild shock that she began to smile when she saw me.

“Good afternoon,” I said, refusing to smile nor stop walking.

“Hmmm, ogo, you came to see us?”

“No,” I said and walked past. Wait o, what did she mean by “ogo”? Ogo is the Igbo word for in-law, right? Yes, what the hell is an in-law?

I didn’t enter the classroom of my children-friends. I was so much in need of answers. So outside, I signaled Aunty Chika to come out and she did.

“The King,” she said. If she had called me ogo/in-law I might have jumped out from the balcony with frustration. “Why is everyone calling me in-law?”

She laughed, kikikiki. “Are you not our in-law again?” she asked.

“Who are “our”?” I said.

“Don’t pretend jor. We know your girlfriends na.”

“What do you mean by ‘girlfriends’?”

“You know them my friend, don’t pretend jor.”

They were talking about Joy and Obioma. The prickly gossips, I fumed. I was no longer in the mood to see the children. “I would see you around,” I said to Aunty Chika and turned towards the staircase. I need to see Joy.

On my way to see Joy, I met the daughter of the school proprietress, Neche.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hi. I was coming from the staff room and was told you stepped out.”

“I did.”

“I brought my novel manuscript,” she said. “I dropped it on your desk. Please read it and give me your honest feedback.”

“I am afraid that won’t happen,” I said.

Her face crowded a little. “Why?”

“It is October 8 and no one is talking about my September salary. I find that contemptible, obnoxious, and dispiriting.”

“You are speaking grammar,” she said. “In plain English, how can I help you?”

“You may have to pay for my beta-reading service,” I said.

“How much?”

“I will leave that to you.”

“Your account number, please.”

I collected her phone number instead and promised to text her my account number. I made for Joy’s computer room. Joy was typing when I came in. This is the closest we have been, physically, since she rejected me/sent me the “you are not a good person” text.

She was typing when I came in.

“You are not welcome here,” she said.

“People think we are dating,” I said. “Are you aware of that?”

She said nothing. No, she did with her fingers, hammering at her keyboard. How do I proceed? To buy time, I brought out my phone and texted Neche my account number. As I returned my phone to my pocket I said, “Talk.”

She typed on.

I decided to leave. I would return with a strategy and make her feel some heat since she wouldn’t see the light of my talking.

“You asked me out,” she said.

I stopped at the door. “And you said no.”

“So you went after my colleague.”

I turned and walked deeper into the room. “If you apply for Unizik and they refuse to give you admission, won’t you try UNN?”

And she began to laugh. I smiled in spite of my frustration. I believed I knew what she was doing and many girls are like this. They don’t really like you enough to date you but they want you around, as a toaster. They may never agree to date you but you have to remain as their toaster, how dare you “toast” another girl?

A keg of inspiration for how to punish Joy suddenly hit my ribcage. “What is the most expensive restaurant in Nnewi?” I asked. She mentioned the name of an eatery in Old Onitsha Road. “Good, let’s go eat there on Saturday.”

“Wow,” she rose to her feet with excitement. “For real?”

“I am a man of my words,” I said.

Now, this is my plan. I would take her to that eatery and make sure we buy the costliest meals then I would give them an ATM card where I had no money. I would say oops, I left my ATM where I have money at home. I knew Joy was not the kind of person to pay for food she and someone else ate so we would end up washing plates in the eatery. Considering how little Nnewi paid their menial staff, it seemed we would wash plates and pots for up to a week to pay for the meals. I would wash and she would rinse. Perfect punishment.

“Do you know how to wash plates?” I asked her.

“Yes. But why do you ask?”

“Nothing,” I said and held my laughter with both hands. I would laugh my belly out while we wash the plates. I was the kind of man to cut off my leg just so I would beat you up with my shine bone.

I am was a terrible person.

To be continued