In case you missed the previous episode
I entered the staff room after the assembly, today, and saw Aunty Peace with her hands supporting her head, crying at her desk with Aunty Oge, the two Mrs., and Uncle Mathew around her desk and looking sorry. My mouth jumped to my heart, someone has died.
“What happened?” I said with a small voice. This is the kind of question you can’t wait to ask but really don’t want the answer.
“It is your fault,” Matthew said.
“What did you do to her yesterday?” two or three voices demanded.
Yesterday was Monday… Wait, I hope this was not what I feared.
In Mount Sinai International School, we had a gateman whose name I can’t remember. He was from Akwa Ibom State and everyone referred to him as the gateman or the security man. I called him CSO. But security is not the only thing he did. After school hours, he would take his bike to the main road and do some Okada runs. A few weeks ago, he brought shoe making tools and began to repair shoes on his official desk (we would talk about this later).
Now this CSO and I were friends. This was me, always befriending the wretched of the earth in every environment I find them. I generally disliked crowds – mobs, actually – and there are no crowds around security men, gatemen, cleaners and lift guys in settings like this. (When I left Nnewi, I fell in love with our office cleaner and it set up a whirlpool of passion, drama, and all manner of aches. I may tell this story in my post-Nnewi workplace series, don’t hold your breath.)
So I got talking to the CSO one morning while on duty at the gate to stop latecomers and Aunty Peace passed and I caught him smile and asked him why he did that. He refused to talk and after a few prodding lines, I gave up. For that day.
The next day, I winked at him. The day after, I called him in-law. Another day, I asked him if he had anything for his Oriaku. Each time, he would just smile coyly. A week later, he opened up to me that he really liked Peace but that he knew it was impossible to have her. “I no get money,” he said.
“Forget that thing,” I said to him. “She too no get money na. If she look down on you because you de broke, she no get sense. Nobody know tomorrow. Gateman today fit be Dangote manager tomorrow.”
“You de correct,” he said.
“Tell her how you feel. She won’t beat you.”
He said no, he couldn’t talk to her.
“A closed mouth is a closed heart,” I said.
He shook his head. I shrugged and walked away.
One day, he approached me and told me he bought Peak and Bournvita tins for Aunty Peace and asked me to take the package to her. I said no. “Things don’t work like that. First, tell her about your feelings.”
“It won’t be like you are trying to buy her affection. No girl is that cheap anyway.”
My plan was simple. I wanted him to talk to Peace first; if she rejected his proposal, he would keep his Peak and Bournvita. From the look of him, he needed them more than Peace. Me too, I needed the Peak and Bournvita more than Peace.
The CSO didn’t have the liver so I coached him. I taught him how to stand before her, how to keep his face while talking to her, the tone of voice to use, and what to say (and a long list of what not to say). One Saturday, he came to my place and I prepped him for hours and encouraged him with war stories from past battles I and my guys fought and won (and lost) for love (and showed him trophies in the form of scars).
He was fired up.
So yesterday, Monday, he blocked Aunty Peace on her way home and told her he liked her and would like to date her. I knew something was wrong when I got home and saw two missed calls (my phone being on vibration alone); one from Aunty Peace and the other from the CSO.
Who would you call first between a toaster you are coaching and the precious toastee? I decided to call neither, dropped the phone on the mattress, and walked into the bathroom.
This morning, I hurried past the CSO in his full military regalia, so sharp I nearly saluted him. I winked instead. He only nodded. Another red flag.
Now, we have a whimpering Aunty Peace in
our their hands.
“Why the hell is she crying?”
“You are the cause, why did you ask the gateman to chyke her?” Oge asked me.
“This thing happened yesterday,” I said.
“What is your point?” Mrs. Nwokeji shot at me.
“Why is she crying this morning?”
A chorus of voices greeted me and I couldn’t make sense of them except that of Mrs. Anozie, I think, who said, “It really hurt her.”
“So she cried for 24 hours non-stop or resumed crying this morning? I don’t get this.”
“Nna mehn,” Uncle Matthew said, “you are just after the details of her crying. The issue—”
“Is that a common gateman asked her out,” I completed for him. “Because he’s a gateman, it’s a taboo to talk to Peace the Princess of Ozubulu and heir to Ikemba’s throne. Even you, Mrs. Anozie, I am surprised at you. Christians, church-going people, all of you, gathered around a lady who is mourning because a common gateman dare to ask her out…”
“Would you allow your sister date a gateman?” Mrs. Nwokeji fired.
“It’s my sister’s decision to make, not mine. But if I catch her crying because someone she thinks is beneath her asked her out, I’ll be mad at her.”
“Oga, leave that thing—”
I didn’t let Oge finish. “Apologize for championing love and connecting souls? You have to kill me first. Dead, my ghost won’t apologize; you have to kill my ghost then my ghost’s ghost…”
“Sharrap!” Aunty Peace screamed.
“Scream your lungs out if you like but you can never tell tomorrow.” I stamped out of the office, my heart burning. Looking back, it was a great thing that the school was far away from a petrol station otherwise it would have been another story.
I had SS3 at this period but I didn’t come out with my notebook. I breezed back to the staff room. I picked up my notebook. “I will never apologize for love,” I said and re-stamped out.