and now, onto something on the hilarious side >>> and yes, this part’s true!
Now, they made us prep supervisors. (I can hear the gears in your minds grinding!) There were lots and lots of cute girls in our classes. Classic among them were Ema Oko. Omodele Makinde. Kimberly Obi. Moyo Osinkolu. Joy Majebi. Sade Ola. Janet Ethagbe. Rhema Ossai. Fola Fashawe. Olamide Makinde. Modupe Mustapha. Christie Nkwonta. How do I remember their names? Well…facebook…and a nice memory.
I never told you how I got to meet Ema, did I? well…it was at the Murtala Mohammed Int’l Airport. We were just returning from Port Harcourt for the new term. Everybody was absorbed in the horrors of spending three months apart from their families. Yes, we couldn’t get out of school, and Port Harcourt was very far by road. And visiting days always fell on the first Sundays of the month, and if your Dad did not have business in Lagos, then you wouldn’t get to see him till mid-term or even the Hols. Visiting days would be lonely for you except you had an aunty or an uncle or even just a family friend to come see you. That was a depressing thought, perhaps more depressing than the fact that you failed math the last term and probably would still fail again.
Distractedly I wandered over to the vending machines by the door of the arrival hall. Drat! This one wouldn’t give change! And I only wanted a coke…and while I was trying to figure out my strategy for buying just a coke without wasting 350 naira I noticed two white eyes staring at me. Not with contempt or hate or even fear, but just wide with…wonder.
Connected to those eyes was a head, a neck and a body. A distractingly cute face. My natural instincts kicked in and I looked away. In my rush I slipped in a 500 naira note and ordered two cokes. Drat, and double drat! Well, now I’d lost only 200 naira. Fair price to pay. I turned back and saw that she was still staring at me.
My God! What kind of thing is this? Those eyes kept haunting me whenever I turned away. What the heck! I’m a guy joh! Guys are bold! So I stared right back. And the weirdest thing happened. She stood up as if hypnotised and walked up to me. And we just stood there face to face, saying nothing. Just looking at each other. If it were an American movie (let’s say, High School Musical), a whole song would’ve played, with soulful, stirring strings, with angry violins jerking back and forth, with sorrowful flutes bringing the weird song to a warming crescendo, and a baby harp solo creating a false denouement, only to be concluded by cymbals and bongo drums. (if you want to extend the fantasy, we could’ve raced each other to the beach and raced out to sea on jet skis, all the while eyeing each other until she got distracted and fell off hers, while I, laughing smugly by this time, would pull her up, coughing water. NOTE: for this fantasy to work, we both have to be white kids with brown hair! lol)
Finally, I said, “Hi”
“hello” she said
“I’m not sure I’ve seen you before” I said
“uh…maybe. But I‘ve seen you in school” she answered
“really…how?” I asked
“you’re a prefect, and you’re in blue house, aren’t you?” “she quizzed back
“umm…yeah? But I really can’t recall seeing you. What class are you?” I asked
“Jss 2” she did reply
“yes!” she laughed. “you seem to like the word ‘really’ ” she said
“really?” I asked
We both laughed out loud at that one
“okay, if you’re in JS 2 that probably explains why I haven’t noticed your face” I offered
“Right. So you snob your juniors then. We’re all icky cry-babies aren’t we?” she teased
“hey! Nobody said that! It’s just that…” I trailed off, searching for a defence.
“it’s just that what? Go on! You can‘t be seen talking with your juniors” she pressed, clearly enjoying this.
“hey…take it easy joh! It‘s just that…there are so many new students that I can’t possibly know all of you immediately” I rushed out quickly
“relax…you’re not under interrogation”
I paused briefly to catch my breath. All these from a JS TWO student? This one’s smart! And bold! And…(you guessed right)…cute!. It was at that point I realised I didn’t know her name. so far she’d been in control of the flow of things. Which according to Professor Hecareth was a bad sign. I had to take control immediately.
“you know, we can’t argue very much if I don’t know your name” I teased. And of course, that’s a weird way to ask for someone’s name!
“you’re funny!” she said
“is that your name? you’re funny? What country are you from?”
She nearly doubled with laughter at that one.
“My name’s Ema” she giggled
“Right. Ema. Ema who?”
“why do you want my surname?”
“It’s just a habit. I like to know everybody’s surname”
“I’m Ema Oko.”
She pronounced it like she was saying “water”
“Oko? Where are you from? Calabar?” I asked
“I’m from Benue state”
“Oh really?…Benue…Idoma or Tiv?” I asked
“Is that how to pronounce your surname?”
If she were white she could’ve blushed
“I don’t know”
“what d’you mean you don’t know? don’t you understand your language?”
“no…” she replied shyly
“My goodness. I thought I was bad”
She looked up at that.
“How do you mean?” she asked me
“I can’t speak Idoma but at least I understand it to an extent”
“You’re Idoma?” she asked, surprised
“yes I am. FBI”
“FBI? What’s that?”
“Full Blooded Idoma!”
And so on and so on. Our fellow travellers must’ve had an eyeful watching the two of us alternating between laughter, frowns, quizzical looks to playful punches. Yes, playful punches. It was like I’d found a kindred spirit…someone who cared to know things outside their domain (although they cannot speak their own language). Someone who could laugh freely without fear. Someone who wasn’t afraid to be who they were. Someone who just knew how to complete my sentences before I finished thinking them out. Someone cute enough to make you distracted, but nice enough to make you calm. Someone to crush on.
There. I said it! Crush Crush Crush! Peter “Crushing” Pentecost (to borrow Glowri “crushing” clay’s expression). But what do you expect? Cute, friendly, articulate, smart…funny! Did I really have a choice. And admit it, you crushed on someone three years younger than you didn’t you?!
That day ended rather nicely for me…or for us. Mr Abah who was supposed to come pick us up didn’t come on time (he was stuck in traffic). And so we chattered away, oblivious to the Tricol faces watching us keenly. Some more had arrived from Abuja while we talked and the gears of their gossip machines began to grind. Let them burn!
Yes, we’d become all buddy-buddy. Yes, I bought her a magazine she asked for. Yes I now had a feeble crush on her. But that presented a peculiar problem. How would that sound? Peter likes a junior! Three years in class and in age?? Is he insane? Is he a pervert? Kellz!
Okay. In boys Hostel we had our personal language. Remember R. Kelly? (“I’ma show you what a kellz can do!”). Well, I can’t remember who it was now, but he got sued for allegedly raping a minor. Can one of you remind me who the girl was again? Ciara? Jojo? Whatever. But the thing was that his actions provoked a whole new vocabulary for Tricol Cell #005 boys. Anybody who dated, or even merely displayed the slightest interest in a junior student was a “Kellz”. And so I (okay, truthfully I‘m not totally THAT creative. I had help from Eseosa, Oggy, Lumi and Seun) began to invent more affixations to this root word. Kellzual. Homokellzual (having feelings for a younger boy. Eeewwww!). Polykellzous/Polykellzual (having multiple kellzual partners). Kellzomaniac (a kellzual disorder in which the kellz cannot just get enough). Kellzophobia (a kellzual disorder in which the Kellz experiences an inordinate fear of kellzing). Robokellzual…et cetera
Now, having set up this language, what would it sound like if I let anybody know what was in my mind? Certain death. Certain ridicule. They’d taunt me so much I would die with embarrassment if it were possible.
Even if I was crushing on a junior, I don’t think I was dumb enough to talk to her about it. I mean, she’d just go blab to her friends, who’d accidentally blab to teachers, who’d ruin my reputation. And if I told my friends, they’d mock me to death. Besides I wasn’t popular so there’d be no barriers to their onslaught. Understand?
So I swallowed it. I started becoming stiff towards her. I didn’t josh with her often enough, and I failed to ask questions even when a normal person should (although I was horrified when she cut off all her hair).
On the other hand, I didn’t quite have the heart to add to her sorrows by punishing her like the other prefects did. And her friends (Janet and the rest of them) were lucky enough to escape under her cover. We didn’t talk much in school, but the few stolen smiles and tingly handshakes did not go unnoticed. I started hearing my name in hushed whispers as I walked by the junior tables during my patrol in the dinning hall. Later they started becoming bolder with the buzz. “That’s Ema’s School father” they‘d say as soon as I‘d passed.
School Father? How very convenient! Hehehehehe.