My room didn’t have a chair. And no, this wasn’t strategic in the way young men meant it to be. But it was strategic in that a chair would have made me get a table and then do a lot of work at home. I still did work at home, write lesson plans, made notes, and mark tests and work, but only when I had to. I wanted my room to be a resting place, somewhere I retired to and breathe fresh air, far from the madness of working at Mount Sinai International School, Nnewi.
Today, I regretted not having a chair because I loathed to have Adaora sit on my mattress. Her sitting on my bed would be the right step in the wrong direction. So as she entered the restroom, I began to walk small circles in the centre of the room. My plan was simple, I wanted to use my body and standing position to block her from reaching my mattress. If she wanted to talk, we would talk standing; too much standing would tire her and she would go away sooner.
I heard flushing and braced myself. She would come out now. I took out my phone and began to press it with feigned concentration. The door opened and my student came out of the bathroom/toilet. She had tiny beads of sweat on her forehead. On another person’s face, it somehow irritated me. On Adaora’s face, it was kind of appealing. I don’t like this.
“You don’t have fan,” she said.
I made for one of the two windows in the room and drew the curtain this way and the glass the other way. By the time I was done, Adaora was seated on my bed. Adaora 1, me 0. She had won the opening gambit but the game was on.
“You did a good job with the flowers,” I said. I refused to sit down.
“Where did you learn to water flowers?”
“In my uncle’s house in Lagos.”
“I see.” From where I stood, I could see the small cleavage of her young breasts. I didn’t like this at all, at all. But if I refused to meet her eyes, it would give the impression that I was coy and open a big room for her to explore, exploit even, if this was her intention, even only subconsciously. But by being bold and looking at her, I would see lower then her face and I didn’t like this.
“What may I offer you?” I asked.
“Not now,” she said. “Maybe when we go out. I just want to rest a little.”
I shrugged. I sat down. Adaora 2, me 0.
Adaora removed her monkey-jacket revealing the blue vestshe wore and handed the jacket to me. I collected it, stood up, and hung it on the window. I turned around, she was fanning herself with her hand. I picked up an old newspaper from the top of the stabilizer that powered the water sumo and gave it to her.
“Maybe, we should go outside.”
She didn’t reply. She vigorously fanned herself. Then she lay down on the bed with her legs still on the floor. She shut her eyes. She looked really tired and I felt sorry for her and felt the need to make her situation better. Poor girl, she only wanted to help her teacher.
I reached for the only pillow on the bed and dragged it towards her head.
She opened her eyes as she raised her head to the pillow. But she only succeeded in putting her head on the tail of the pillow. I bent lower to push the pillow deeper and she rose higher and for half a second, her face and mine were tiny fractions of an inch away. Her lips parted slightly, or so I thought but I didn’t stay to find out. I was at the door that very moment. I opened the door.
“More fresh air for you,” I said and stepped out.
The expression that came out of my mouth as I headed to the verandah of the big house was in Ibibio: “Tang akpan ikoh.”
To be continued…
I know you are mad at me for this short piece but the prospect of leaving for my trip without writing anything this week was something I hated so much, hence dropping this shorty. I promise to make up for this in the next episode. I promise to write a far longer piece in the next episode and I promise never to do this short gun again. Ever.
Seven years ago today, in a wet September night in Ahmadu Bello University Main Campus, I started this blog. Hundreds of posts later, nearly 200 thousand words published and read more than a million times, this is not a bad venture. I am grateful to God for the enablement and to you the reader for keeping me in business.
For my date with Joy, I wore a pair of sneakers (which Nigerians call canvas, sigh). I wore sneakers because of what Nigerians would call in case of incasity. Neche sent me 10 thousand naira for the betareading of her book. That would be enough to eat in Nnewi’s most expensive restaurant but God forbid I spend all that on Joy.
The money hit my First Bank account; I transferred nine thousand naira to my Diamond Account where I didn’t have ATM card. Remember, this was 2015 and USSD wasn’t a thing. I took my First Bank ATM, withdraw the one thousand, added it to the small change in my battered wallet then gave Joy a phone call.
She picked instantly. “Where are you?” I asked.
“Are you ready?” she asked me.
“How many times?”
“Where are now?” she asked.
“Why are you asking where I am when you are not done?”
“Did I tell you I wasn’t done?” she said.
“Did you come to the front of Saint Martins de Porress and didn’t see me?”
She murmured something.
“Have you eaten anything?” I asked.
“Didn’t I ask you not to eat anything? We are going to gwogwo.” When an Igbo person tells you there is food to be eaten gwogwo, there is food to be eaten gwogwo (I can’t find an English equivalence for this).
“I ate just two slices of bread and tea.”
It was now past twelve. She should be hungry. Me, I was starving. The last time I ate was yesterday, around 6.30pm. Now, it felt like 1983.
“Have you washed plates for today?” I asked Joy.
“No, why? What is this your obsession with plate washing?”
“I can see the future,” I said.
“Whatever, I don’t wash plates. I have younger ones.”
“Well, you could help them today and bring the plates along.”
“Bring the plates where? What are you saying?”
“You go wash plate tire,” I mumbled.
“I will be there in a jiffy.” She ended the call.
As I opened my gate and stepped out, I saw three of my students coming standing, rather hesitant, in front of the building. There was Adaora (the really beautiful one) and two other girls.
“Uncle,” they greeted.
“What’s up with you guys in my door mounth?”
“We came to visit Njideka who is not feeling fine. After it, we decided to come greet you.”
“Ok. Good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon,” they said.
“Greeting done, oya, bye-bye.”
“Ahh,” they protested.
“Ahh what? Can’t you guys see that I am going out?”
“We can stay in your sitting room and watch film na,” Adaora said.
I smiled. “I live in the boys’ quarter,” I said. “The big house is off limit for me. And you.”
“We would come back next time then,” one of them said.
“Or we can help you with chores,” Adaora offered.
“That’s not bad. Can you girls water flowers?”
“Flowers are not watered in the afternoon.”
“It doesn’t matter this once.”
The other girls weren’t so keen but Adaora said yes and they joined in.
“Come in let me show you girls how to get about it.”
They followed me inside the compound.
I showed them how to go about watering the flowers inside and outside then I rushed out.
I didn’t wait long in a shop opposite Saint Martins de Porres nursing a bottle of Sprite when Joy showed up. She was b-beautiful. She was dressed in a cropped black top over a short floral skirt with gathers. Butterflies fluttered in my belly. I got up to meet her.
“You are beautiful,” I said.
We took a bus that stopped us at Okigwe Road Junction. We crossed the road to Old Onitsha Road. And I must say, we made a beautiful couple and I was tempted to ditch my plan to strand us. But I didn’t. There was no time for sentiments. The elders’ council had determined that she must be punished and punished she would be; it was nothing personal.
There were few diners in the spacious and lavishly decorated restaurant. We sat down. “You are beautiful,” I said.
She blushed and small dimples punctuated her face.
This girl is beautiful, I said to myself. I didn’t even know who was more beautiful between her and Obioma but I knew the one who should be punished and it was not the sweetheart named after mobile tailors.
There was one menu on the table we sat. I picked it up and opened it. Rice (jollof/fried/coconut), 800 naira; chicken, 1,200 naira; liver sauce, 300 naira; salad, 400. Their malt drinks were 300 each. This would make it 3000 per meal. Juice was 900 here so that would serve. Over 7000 naira. One week plate washing. We would do this.
I passed the menu to Joy. Then it happened. Someone came to our table and it was one of the parents from Mount Sinai International School. She was the woman with the stubborn son and who asked me to deal with him. What the hell was she doing here?
“I work here,” she answered my unspoken question. Well, it was not spoken out but it was evident in my face. “Not that I work here all full-time. We come here to make abacha for them from time to time.”
“Oh,” I said and willed my tongue to say more but poor tongue was boxed to a corner as my brain raced. Abort, abort, abort plan ASAP.
“My son now behaves better,” the woman said, “thank you so much.”
“Let’s order,” Joy said.
“See you around,” I said politely to the woman who nodded and left us.
I rose to my feet. “We need to leave now.”
I grabbed her handbag and began to make for the door. She followed.
“What the hell is going on?” she shot at me when we were outside the eatery.
“We can’t eat in there,” I said.
Because if we ate there, we would not be washing plates. My stubborn student’s mother would bail me out then I would carry the debt. I was here to punish Joy not to feed her and then take a backhand slap on my bank account – which bank account? (empty bank account).
“The woman… I will explain later, we can’t just eat here.” I was tempted to say that i heard the woman had HIV or that she had whitlow in each of her armpits but that would be character assassination even if the woman would never know (will never know?). I would never weave an explanation. This unexplained curiosity was part of her punishment.
We ended up at a zink-house roadside food joint. The kind of eatery where they cook in the back of the zink. You could feel the heat of the cooking as you sit down on the bench i.e if you sit like I did. Joy didn’t sit; she sort of perched on the chair like a bird watching you and ready to fly away if you make to pick a stone.
I had really “fall her hand” by bringing her here. Her “rep” was in tatters on the floor. This was a good pound of flesh but I wasn’t satisfied. I need more blood.
A sales boy came to us and an idea hit me.
“What do you have?” I asked him.
“White rice with ofe-akwu and stew.”
“Good. How much is a plate?”
“200 naira without meat.”
“Put two meat each. My girlfriend likes meat.”
“I am not his girlfriend,” Joy fired.
“You are my girlfriend,” I said.
“I am not!”
“Oga,” the boy said, “is like you don’t have money this one that she is rejecting you.”
I looked at the boy with a red eye. “Your father… No, your village Igwe is not as rich as I am. Go get the food!”
As he made to leave, I called him back. Time to execute my idea. “See guy,” I whispered into his ear. “I need you to help me cause smoke into this place. I want us to cough out smoke and smell smoke. 500 naira for you if you can do this.”
He smiled like Lady Macbeth must have done in ancient Scotland I believe.
Two minutes later, the whole bukka was full of smoke. I smiled.
When I got home, I saw my gate opened and my heart missed a beat. Burglars? I rushed in and saw Adaora. She was sitting at the veranda of the mansion and looking tired, totally spent. Then I remembered. She watered the flowers. She? Actually they.
“Where are your friends?” I asked.
“They left me.” She rose to her feet.
“You must be thirsty,” I said. “I will buy you malt on our way out.”
“Ok, sir. I need to ease myself first.”
Oh no, I don’t need a girl in my room. But I didn’t want to appear ungrateful to a girl who gave nearly two hours to working in the mansion. How do I prevent her from coming inside my living room without sounding like a bad person?
Adaora was looking at me intently. I looked at her. She should be sixteen but she was a grown woman anatomically. She was just a little shorter than me which meant she was taller than most of my female friends over the years. I was going far: she was taller than Joy and Obioma. Her breasts and hipline spoke of a mature woman.
But she was my student and she was just a girl. She should be like my daughter. She should be in JS2 when I collected my project topic. She should be in primary 2 when I wrote WAEC. She should be a toddler when I wrote Common Entrance. This last point annoyed and gave me confidence.
I turned and made towards my room and she followed me. I stopped at the door, unlocked and pushed it open. And Adaora walked in.