Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (27)

In case you missed the previous episode

Adaora advanced towards me as though to hug me.

“Shut the gate behind you,” I said. She braked and released what looked like a sigh. I didn’t wait to find out. I headed towards the overhead tanks. I slapped the vertical pipes and listened. There wasn’t so much water in the tanks but there was enough to water the flowers.

Adaora came and stood at my shoulder.

“Your flowers are not overgrown.”

“Yes, but they need watering,” I said.

She didn’t look enthusiastic.

“I thought you came for the flowers,” I said.

“Yes but to cut them.”

“When did you learn to trim flowers?”

“I have been reading about it?”

“And you want to experiment with my flowers.”

“I think I am good.”

“Dear Good Gardener, where is thy tools?”

“Ahh… I thought…”

I turned to go.

“We can water it together,” she said.

“I didn’t plan for this. I have exams to set.”

I went into the house. I sat on my desk and considered my situation. I would call Oby later and pile in the pressure with a dose of emotional blackmail, but we would no longer be getting the ring. I called Hosea.

“We ain’t getting that ring, mehn,” I said.

“What happened?”

“Er… The babe is not sure to be there.”

“You can buy the ring and keep it for another occasion.”

“Na,” I said, “I have to build the momentum afresh. For now, I am not feeling it. We would talk when we see face to face.”

“So who are you taking to the lunch?”

I sighed. “Maybe you.”

The VP laughed. “Two lefts cannot make a right.”

“Well, there is food for two and it must be eaten irrespective of the gender. Food doesn’t discriminate.”

He just laughed.

I dropped the phone on the desk and looked out of the window. Adaora was walking, slowly if not gracefully, at the edge of the flower beds admiring them and whispering to herself or to the flower.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” the devil asked me.

“The flowers are beautiful,” I said.

“Not those flowers. I mean the flower standing near the flowers.”

“Maybe,” I said.

“She is beautiful, sexy, and as matured and even taller than Obioma,” the devil said,

I disagreed. “She is 16.”

“Look at her breasts…”

“Taaa!” I spoke out loud. It got Adaora’s attention. She looked at the direction of the window, hesitated for a minute or two, and began to approach. I could hear the devil giggling.

“What happened?” she asked when she opened the door.

“Something fell on my foot.”

She looked at my legs. “What fell on your leg? I can see nothing.”

“Sorry, I didn’t leave it glued on my leg. And sorry, no photographer to capture it. Now, go water the flowers. Tell me when you are tired.”

She looked at me with pretty, searching eyes. As she turned to go, I asked her if she had earphones on her. She said no, why?

“I want to block out the devil with music.”

For lunch, we ate beans and plantain that I sent Adaora to buy. She had watered the whole flower alone and was tired, hungry. I have her 500 naira to buy beans and plantain for me (250 naira) and whatever she needed for herself with the balance. Instead, she bought beans and plantain for 300 and two plastic bottles of sprite.

As there was no plate in my room, we had to eat it right from the takeaway plate, together. “I don’t like this,” I murmured.

“Me too.”

“Then why didn’t you buy your own differently?”

“Because no money.”

“Are you calling me broke?” I demanded and she just smiled.

“You have never been this romantic with Obioma,” the devil whispered.

“Whatever.”

After the lunch, Adaora lay down on my bed to sleep.

“This is not appropriate,” I said to myself. I was just opening myself to temptations and moreover, it didn’t look well that a female student had the liberty to eat with me and sleep on my bed (more than once). I had to stop her. How do I do it without breaking the poor girl’s little heart?

Maybe I would ask Chisom to do it. Adaora was her best friend or something and she would do a good job of telling her to respect boundaries, Uncle K is your teacher; you can’t be sleeping in his house. People won’t understand.

But Adaora may not understand. She might see it as a confrontation coming from Chisom whom, in all intend and misjudgment, was her rival: Chisom was my favourite student, the one I usually turned to for help in class, the one that I complained to when student(s) misbehaved, and the one that answered most of my difficult questions.

But outside of the classroom, Adaora was the one who had more access to me (due to her persistence), so she was within her fallacy to see Chisom as a rival and not listen to her.

So should I tell a female teacher to caution Ada? Woman to woman. Or, woman to girl, actually. Who should I talk to?

Aunty Peace? She didn’t look like she had the will to do this?

Aunty Oge? She was a loquacious one and may make a scandal out of this by gossiping about it?

Mrs. Anozie? She would mock me for throwing my “babe” under the bus and she would do the mocking without opening her mouth which was the most painful one.

Mrs. Nwokeji? She might escalate the situation. She might badger Adaora and make her cry or even punish her or take the matter to the assembly ground or to the proprietress. With that cunning woman, you never know.

I sighed, then suppressed a yawn.

“You are sleepy, man, go to your bed,” someone said to me. I wasn’t sure it was the devil because I really needed the sleep and if Adaora was my sister I wouldn’t hesitate to on and lie on the same bed with her. If I was hesitating then I saw her as a woman who wasn’t a relation and who could be in relationship with me, which was to say I was taking her on an elevation she didn’t belong. She was just a girl, she was my student which meant he was my daughter-figure.

I rose to my feet and began to gather my dirty clothes to go and wash. I would decide how to deal with Adaora later but for now, I would have to stay far away from my bed. I would sleep later.

So I washed my clothes. After this, I washed and cleaned and polished my shoes accordingly. When I finished this, I went to the bathroom/toilet to wash it. It was at this moment that Adaora woke up. She sat up. “Let me help you,” she offered.

“No. You have helped me enough for the year. Why don’t you ever help your parents? Today is Saturday and you’re here hiding from your home chores.”

“I have finished my chores. I woke up very early to do my chores. I…”

“Let me do my own, I’m not crippled!”

She was taken aback by my harsh words. Of course, she knew I was harsh and she had been in the receiving end of my sharp tongue in the past. But she didn’t know this part of me existed outside the four walls of Mount Sinai International, for her.

“If you don’t want me to come here and help you from time to time, tell me.”

“Yes,” I bellowed, “don’t come here again. A lot of people will not understand that it is just normal help you’re rendering me. People like stories and most of the time, they paint imaginative pictures and tell fake stories.”

She said nothing. Quietly, she got down from the mattress and began to make the bed. When she finished, she made for the door.

“Hey, I am sorry if I am sounding harsh but it’s for our own good.”

She left with her shoulder flaccid with pain. When I heard the gate opened and closed, I heaved a sigh of relief and a little sadness. I loved the result but I hated the approach. Suddenly the muscles of my stomach tightened with annoyance for the womenfolk in their entirety. They knew what was right and they chose not to do it. You dropped hints, they ignored them; your body language showed that you didn’t like what they were doing and they looked away. When you pushed and get the right thing to be done, they take it badly and make you look like an inconsiderate, aggressive fellow.

Adaora was just 16 but she was learning the evil ways.

Obioma was 21 and she was a master in the art.

Vanity, declared the sad philosopher. All is vanity.

I brought out my phone. Since Hosea wasn’t sure, I would call Ikenna and take him with me to the lunch. And while there for lunch, if I see any young woman within hearing distance of the proprietress house, they would see my red eyes.

To be continued…

Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (26)

Previously on Memories

Today, I decided to ask Obioma to marry me. She was a beautiful woman, she was kind, considerate, and God-fearing. What else do you want in a future wife? Once she agreed to marry me, I would resign from here, leave for Lagos, get a better job, save enough money, come back, do the marriage rites, and take her away.

Sounds rather farfetched but this was doable. I needed to be sharp. Earlier this year, while serving, I fell in love with a corps member but I wasn’t sharp enough and I lost her.

I was in the staff room marking some assignments or classwork when this epiphany hit me. It was so clear that I saw both of us walking down the aisle of Saint Paul Anglican Church, Umudim, Nnewi. She was so beautiful, queenly, celestial. Obi-King 2020. The Heart of the King 2020. I can’t wait. I would propose to her on Sunday during the lunch at the director’s.

It would be beautiful. The director would be there, the proprietress, their daughter, Neche, their domestic staff, all; they would watch as I go on one knee and ask Oby to marry me. Today was Thursday, I would need to buy a ring as soon as possible.

I brought out my phone and Googled “How much is a good engagement ring in Nigeria?” I followed a link to Jumia where I saw rings priced at as low as 1,500 and as high as 100 thousand.

I settled for one for 15 thousand. I didn’t have the money yet but that was not a problem. First, I needed to inform Oby about our lunch with the school owners.

I rose to my feet.

Chisom and Adaora entered the room.  “You have us,” Chisom said.

I handed them the notebook. “I need to pass a piece information downstairs,” I told them. “I would be upstairs in no time.”

“You can send me,” Adaora offered.

“No, thanks. I got this.”

Chisom hurried away but Adaora maintained a slower pace so that both of us walked out of the staff room together.

“Is your flower bed outgrown?”

“I am not sure,” I said.

“Ok,” she said.

Downstairs, at the primary section, I stood at Obioma’s classroom window watching as she talked on the phone. She was consumed by the discussion that she only waved at me. She waved me on rather than waved me to stay and wait. I tried to blow her a kiss but she’d already looked away.

I went upstairs, less happy than when I came down. After my class, I went downstairs to meet Obioma. Informing her of the lunch was the first step to proposing to her. I met her still talking on the phone but this time around she had earphones on and feeding a child.

She smiled beautifully and I began to return the smile when I discovered she wasn’t smiling at me; she was smiling at the person (he must be a man) whom she was talking to.

I waited to have her look my way so I could mouth “We need to talk” to her but she didn’t look my way. She was consumed with the phone call, animated. I knocked at the window frame to get her attention and she signaled me “later” with her fingers. She didn’t even look at me. I left.

I wasn’t able to see Obioma until the end of the school hours. I had a class to handle at the extra mural lessons and there was no energy running downstairs to see her and then coming up again. If you ever taught, you would appreciate the special hunger that rules the middle belt from 2pm upwards. So I sent Obioma a text message. “I was invited for lunch at the proprietress on Sunday and I need you to come with me. Talk later.”

Her reply was instantaneous. “Ok.”

I sent the VP a text message, “We need to talk.”

The VP was the person to whom we gave all the monies we collected for the Christmas party and he should have a carton full of loot. I would ask him to lend me 15 thousand naira so I could buy a ring for my baby. He may not agree if I ask for the money to buy a gadget but he would when he heard engagement ring; he was that kind of a guy, a romantic.

After the mural lesson and everyone had gone home, I and the VP sat talking in his office while nursing bottles of soda.

“Is 15K ring not expensive?” he asked me.

“My brother, I know you are looking at 15K side by side my salary, but that is the wrong way to look at it. Look at it side by side the girl and you would see that 200K ring may not do justice to her,” I said.

“That is the point. No amount of money spent on an engagement ring would do justice to what you feel for her. It is your heart that counts.”

“So, I should buy two thousand naira ring?”

He smiled. “Five to seven thousand would be good. I would take you this my guy I know in Nkwo.”

“Let’s go right away.”

“No, it’s 4pm already. Let’s make it Saturday morning.”

I agreed but I also asked him to bring as much as 15K with him in case I didn’t like the 5-7K version. He said no yawa.

I brought out my phone and dialed Obioma’s number just to hear her voice and confirm our date for Sunday but she didn’t pick up.

The next day was Friday. I went to Obioma’s classroom three times but I didn’t get to talk to her. The first time, I saw the headteacher in the classroom with her and I just greeted them and passed. The second time, she wasn’t even in the classroom which was rare. I saw her hurrying into the gate carrying a package wrapped in a big brown envelope and I just nodded at her and entered the provision store.

The last time I passed by her window, there was a parent in the classroom and they were fusing over some child. Upset, I gave up talking to her today. At least, not in the school.

After school dismissal, I was walking home when I got her call.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“On my way home.”

“I am home already,” she said. “I know you have been trying to talk to me. I am sorry today was unusually busy for me.”

“It’s ok. We would talk when I get home.”

She said no problem.

But we didn’t talk again that Friday because my phone was dead and the chemist shop I usually charged it was fully booked with chargers. I gave it to my neighbours whose father parked the bus in the mansion’s compound every night.

It was my last resort and I asked the boy to bring the phone for me the next morning when they come to pick up their bus.

It was to 9am that I finally reached Obioma.

“Your phone was off last night,” she complained.

“I am sorry, it died.”

She made sympathetic noises about Nnewi and Nepa. I grunted. “Hope you still remember our date tomorrow.”

“What date?” she asked.

“At the proprietress house by 2. I texted you and you said ok.”

“You are not serious,” she said, “how can you give me that kind of information over the phone?”

“I tried to speak to you face to face since Thursday and failed each time.”

“Well, I am not prepared for any lunch or dinner.”

“What do you need to be prepared?”

“Nothing really but Sunday is so soon and I didn’t make any plans for it.”

Frustration and anger mixed in equal proportions rose up from my chess and filled my nasal cavity with gaseous fury and my vocal tract with too much words that any words that struggled out would come out in a babble.  

Two things happened almost simultaneously. Someone began knocking at my gate and a peep on my phone announced the vice principal’s call waiting. I swallowed more than three times then managed to say, “Lemme call you back,” to Obioma.

I didn’t answer Hosea’s call. I would call him back when I find the words to explain why we may not be going to buy a wedding ring or engagement ring or whatever today. I reached the gate, unbolted it and opened it. Adaora stood at the gate, standing in her full height and chocolate elegance.

The devil said, “Go buy the ring and give it to this one.” I told the devil to go behind me. Then the devil said, “At least you can take her with you for the lunch date tomorrow.”

I asked Adaora to come inside.

To be continued