Sometime in 2000
I am in primary 4.
I am pretty short. ‘Hopelessly short’ my uncle would say.
I like to think I am quiet because I have a quiet face. But, Odion, the Assistant Class Captain always writes my name in that nonsense ‘names of noisemakers’. She said I like talking. It’s not even enough that she writes my name in the list; she will now put ‘x2’ ‘x3’, one day she put ‘10’ in front of my name. That day Aunty Eunice flogged my bum bum ehn!! She flogged me till she was tired. Let me tell you; flogging me is like pouring salt on a worm. I will dance and twist and shout till my uniform gets soaked in sweat.
I will never forget that day.
I was the first person on the line. Aunty Eunice sent Odion to get the cane. As soon as Odion entered the class with the thinnest cane she could find, I quickly ran to the back of the line. Vera was behind me. I’ve always admired her ‘chesting’ skills. Her palm was soft and though she was way bigger than me, I have always wondered how she managed to ‘chest’ cane strokes. Every attempt at trying to be like her in that field has resulted in ’near fainting’ experiences.
So, that day, I had no worry whatsoever. If Vera cried, then, I would probably die. But, if she ‘chests’ this one, then, there will be little hope for me.
Aunty Eunice flogged everyone. Some cried, Vera didn’t. When she got to me, the cane was still in shape; meaning nobody had acted any drama-everyone had respected themselves. She stood in front of me and said “Esther Ordia x10! Ah!!!” My eyes were already filled with uncontrollable tears. I was crying because of the injustice in this world. Why is it that bad things always happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? Where is God in all these things now? I cried for injustice; I even cried for people(how compassionate of me). As soon as Aunty Eunice lifted the cane to flog me that day (1 stroke for every time your name appeared on the list. That is 10 for me), I danced and turned and shouted. It was war!! I cried throughout that day.
Today was one of those days when she stepped out to gossip with her friend Aunty Kemi. She asked Odion to write down the names of noise of makers. I wasn’t ready for any cane ‘wahala’ today; so, I slept-or pretended to. I was almost ‘really asleep’ when a warm breeze embraced my entire being. It was a nasty breeze. It smelt like rotten eggs and soared beans at once. See, I tried. I really tried. God knows I did. But, somehow, my emotion was faster than my brain. I heard myself saying “Jesus!!! Who messed that mess?” Immediately, I turned to look at Odion, covering her nose, she wrote something down on a piece of paper. I knew it was my name. So, I got up from my seat. It was as if the smell became worse. I was in great pain; physical pain and fear. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I headed straight to Posi’s seat and bent to perceive his bum bum. He shouted. I raised my head to look at Odion. Nose covered, she wrote something down; I knew it was too short to be my name so I figured it was Posi’s name. Posi is my neighbor. He has a very big navel. He gave me hope when it came to ‘collecting’ cane strokes. He is such a drama king. Yesterday he called me a fool, if his name appears on that list; it would (funny enough) make me the happiest person today.
His bum bum was innocent so, I moved on.
I went to the back of the class to…what did I even go there to do ‘sef’? To be honest, nothing in particular. I was standing close to my bag when this really powerful breeze covered my nose. It had this force that came with it. It was very powerful; powerful enough to make me bend to perceive Joseph’s bum bum. Oh my God!!! I found it!! I yelled “Jesus!!! Aunty!!! Its Joseph’s ‘yansh’ that is smelling!!” I paused; Then bent again to confirm (call me a pervert. But, I had to be sure). So, I looked at Joseph and said “How could you do this Joseph? My tummy is now paining me. Your yansh is just smelling. Everywhere is smelling.” I looked at Odion, she scribbled something and I knew it was probably a ‘x2; or more. I didn’t care. Joseph, had the face of ‘mess’. I don’t know how to describe it but I know that people who are trying to mess always have one particular face and Joseph had that face. He had the face of someone who had more mess to release but was trying so hard to choose between defending himself (and putting himself at risk of landing a massive spot on the names of noise makers list).
He looked at me, all I could see was mess in person. I covered my nose and patiently waited for an explanation. #sigh# He released another one. God!!!! I stepped away and literally yelled “Joseph. Joseph”. He finally said “what na? it’s not me.” Ahan. How can this boy lie like this? I tapped Moses and said “Are you not perceiving anything Moses?” Moses looked at me like I was the devil. But that look soon turned to a silent cry for help because he quickly covered his nose and said “God!! Joseph”. I looked at Odion; she covered her nose and scribbled something. I knew it was Joseph and Moses.
Next thing, the whole class was covering their noses. Some couldn’t hold it anymore. From different corners joseph’s name resounded. Akhere was asleep. She obviously didn’t know when she said “who polluted the air”. Ahn!! This one is still speaking English when Joseph is causing havoc without using any English word. Joseph had obviously released another one. I looked at him. He had that face. Let me try to describe it. His mouth was slightly open. His eyes looked dizzy and his neck was stiff. Joseph had obviously come to class prepared. And me, I had successfully gotten everyone’s name on that list. Everyone except Odion. She kept writing. Nose covered without uttering a word. So, I moved towards her seat and peeped at the list. I saw
Esther x2 x3x4x5x20
The list continued. But I refused to see anything o. I just kept wondering how someone could write x20 against someone’s name. This girl is wicked sha. I looked at her and I said ‘X20? Was I the one messing? Didn’t you see that I was looking for the person that was messing?” I had a plan..hehe!! This girl has not seen anything. She took a piece of paper and wrote “You were the one talking Esther. Joseph was polluting but you were talking” I took the piece of paper and said “ Odion, this thing is wickedness. You are very wicked.” Her cheeks were red. She looked at me, removed her palm from her nose (imagine this thing in slow motion because it was epic!) she covered her nose, removed her palm again and said “ I am not wicked”. I quickly said “Oya, write your name. You talked!!’ Everyone laughed.
My job was done. I would definitely cry but not alone.
That was the day I understood the power of One.
I was one and I didn’t have all the strings but I had a string and I pulled it tightly till we were all in one big trap. Aunty Eunice’s ‘cane trap’ of course.
Have an amazing week