My mother lived in constant fear of her daughters “getting spoilt” and thus, ruled with an iron fist. We were not allowed outside my father’s compound unless on the rare occasion that we got sent on errands.
In fact, why am I saying “we”? I came first so I got the brunt of it. My sisters came after the boys so by the time they were growing up, my mum did not have all the energy she had in my time.
I was not allowed out of the house and if I got sent on an errand, my brothers had to go with me. My brothers were younger so you can imagine how humiliating this was but I had no choice.
The only times I went on errands alone were in my mother’s absence – my small moments of quiet rebellion.
By the time JAMB lessons rolled around, I had fully accepted my lot as the daughter of a prison warden and nothing anybody said fazed me.
I remember this particular guy at JAMB lesson, Jamil, who always wanted to hang out with some pals afterwards. My routine was the same: as soon as lessons were over, I went straight home. I usually went home with Christina who lived in my neighborhood, but Christina was a last born and her parents were no longer strict so sometimes she stayed back to hang out.
I never did.
Jamil had also tried asking for my phone number but I repeatedly refused to give it to him. He wasn’t trying to woo me, he just wanted to be able to call to say hi on weekends but my answer was an unwavering “no.” I was even kind enough to explain that my mother would kill me, but he just did not get it.
One day, Jamil got so annoyed at my refusal to give him my phone number that he said loud enough for everyone to hear. “What is it sef? Can a guy impregnate you over the phone?”
He expected shock, mortification, dismay, but he got nothing. I just looked him dead in the eyes and said “say what you want Jamil, but I am more scared of my mum than I am of you.” and walked away.
On my way to the bus stop, I smiled. If only Jamil knew…
If only he knew about Bode.
Bode Martins was a quiet boy that I went to primary school with who became enamored with me. See my life? When I did not want a toaster, one came; when I did, they were nowhere to be found.
He left me a love letter in my locker one day. I was in primary school, what did I know about love? All novels and TV had taught me at that age was that love was for adults, so I deemed him a “bad” boy and stayed away.
He managed to get my phone number somehow and called one Saturday. Luckily, I answered the phone.
This was the age of landlines so it was a matter of who got to the phone first.
I warned him severely never to call lest he get me in trouble, then proceeded to rush him off the phone when he suddenly said: “I love you”.
“Well?” he said
“Well what?” I replied, still in shock.
“You are supposed to say ‘I love you too’” he said matter-of-factly.
“No! Are you mad?” I asked horrified.
“If you don’t say it, I will keep calling back until you do.” And he meant it.
There it was. My first taste of blackmail.
My mother was already calling for me and asking who was on the phone.
I had two options: give him what he wanted then tell him how I really felt when I saw him at school, or hang up and risk getting a whipping from my mother.
I looked around me, shielded the receiver with my free hand, quickly uttered the words and hung up the phone. I absolutely hated saying it but I was not going to let him get me in trouble.
“Eeeeh, so you love him?” one of my younger brothers shrieked.
I had not even heard him enter the room and before I could stop him, he ran to my mum and told her I professed love to a boy.
You don’t need to hear the sordid details but let’s just say my back could be compared to that of Kunta Kinte’s in that monumental scene in Roots.
The following Monday, I arrived at school, went straight up to him, unzipped my gown and pulled off one arm so he could see my back.
“See what you caused?” I yelled. “If you ever call my house again, I will kill you.”
He had a look of absolute horror on his face. He tried to apologize but I stalked off.
He never bothered me again after that.
…and here Jamil thought a phone call was harmless.