Hello….gosh! Feels like ages I’ve been here. Anyway, I’m out, just briefly from my hibernating shell of real Life and all its demands and obligations 🙂 to come share with you an excerpt from my upcoming work. I hope you like. Happy reading.
As there is guilt in innocence, there is innocence in guilt~ African Proverb
Kofo Oyetunde, OAU, Ile-Ife, 1995
My joy is short lived. Trouble is already brewing.
“Jambites. They get worse every year.”
These are the first words I hear when I enter my room. Two women, they look to be in their mid-twenties in spite of their very petite stature, sit on one bunk. They stare disapprovingly at me. Their condemnation is so blatant that I mentally shrink back
“This one, she just arrived today and she’s already out with boys,” one of them says. She has a black silk scarf wound rather too tightly on her head; it’s a miracle the fabric hasn’t cut off the blood circulation to her brain. Her face is devoid of makeup and she is wearing a flowery print blouse, which is several sizes bigger than her. Her long and billowy black skirt reminds me of catholic nuns.
“My dear sister,” the second woman says to me. Her tone drips with ingenious sweetness so that I know that I’m anything but a dear or a sister to her. “You need to give your life to Jesus before your life becomes destroyed by boys in Ife.”
“Leave her alone jor,” Another voice suddenly speaks up. “ You people have come again with your wahala.”
All three of us turn at the same time to view the woman lying on a bunk across from us. At first sight, she looks matronly, but when she jumps out of her bed, I can only gape. She is barely five feet tall. It seems to me that she compensated her lack of height for a strong assertive temperament – like the one she is displaying now.
“Don’t mind them jor,” my savior says to me.
The two girls hiss in response.
She ignores them. “They say they want you to give your life to their Jesus and they think the way to go about it is by starting a fight. Abeg jor.”
“Anire, she will go to hell if she continues like that,” one of my judges replies.
Anire, I think to myself, liking the uniqueness of my rescuer’s name.
“Like how?” Anire replies. I can tell that she is getting quite irritated. “You guys are an embarrassment for preaching the gospel with your judgmental attitude. Where do you know that the girl has been? How do you know she’s not coming from a church service or something?”
“Dressed like that?” My first judge replies with a scoff. “In jeans and that ko-lapa?”
“It’s called halter top,” Anire rolls her eyes. “And you say you’re in English department and you don’t even know the proper name of what she’s wearing. Shame, shame.”
My judge’s lips set in a straight thin line. She looks determined to ignore the jab Anire has just thrown at her. She fails though. “People that wear that kind of clothing, on top of men’s clothing like that jeans she’s wearing are all going to hell fire.”
“You know what your problem is?” Anire replies after a moment’s pause of studying both women with a bemused stare. “Poverty is a real disease. If you weren’t poor, you’d be able to afford good clothes like this girl here. You wouldn’t be spouting all this nonsense you are saying.”
My two judges look angry enough to commit murder now, but to my surprise, they don’t say a word. They begin conversing with each other in hushed tones. From where I stand, I can very well imagine that they are hoping that Anire will burn just as hot in hell for taking my side – a young woman dressed in a halter-top aka ko-lapa – another Yoruba vocabulary I’ve just learned.
Still taken aback with the girls’ hostility towards me, I proceed to take off my clothes and change into my t-shirt. The one that says princess. I am just about to get into bed when Anire walks up to me.
“But you have to be careful o,” she starts. Concern fills her voice. “You just came to this school today and already you’re seeing men that are much older than you. What would your parents say if they found out?
“Those Virgin Marys over there,” she continues, nodding her head in the direction of my critics who are occasionally sending murderous looks at Anire, “they say that they saw you on their way from their prayer meeting. They are not too sure, but they are ready to believe that you were the one they saw. They’ve been talking about you since they got to the room. In fact, it was their chatter that woke me up.”
It’s not like it’s any one’s business where I’ve been, but even then, I can’t stop myself from feeling acute mortification. I place my hand on my mouth.
“But you’re a fast girl for a Jambito,” Anire continues. Her eyes fill up with mischievous humor and intuitively, I know I’ve found myself a friend. “Have you always known your kisser or did you meet him here?”
I shake my head. “We’re old family friends,” I explain.
She scoffs, but her eyes are still laughing. “He must be a very good family friend o, because from the way I hear you guys were kissing….”
I cover my face again in embarrassment.
“It’s okay babe,” Anire continues, guffawing loudly. “So long as you say you know him from home, that’s what counts. Ife boys, hmmm, they are very fast o with all their big grammar. They can turn innocent girls like you to butter, so you have to be very careful.”
I clamber into bed and promptly turn on my side to go to sleep. I’m hoping my new friend will take the hint that I’m done with this conversation and that she will leave me alone to sleep. Unfortunately, Anire isn’t finished talking.
“What’s his name?”
I hesitate briefly. “Rotimi Wright.”
“Oh, now I see,” she says. “I saw him kissing a girl earlier. Tonight. Was that you?”
I’m surprised she knows him. “You know him?”
“Of course I know him,” She sighs dreamily. “Rotimi is a popular guy here on Campus. He’s handsome and he’s going to be a Doctor someday; so yes, every girl who has eyes including me, knows him. How long has he been your boyfriend?”
Her question has me suspended in thought for moment. It occurs to me that I am yet to define my relationship with Rotimi. True, we shared a soul-shattering kiss, but does that make him my boyfriend? I stare at Anire’s expectant face. She wants me to say yes. Well, she’s in luck because I’m too eager not to disappoint.
“Today,” I reply. “He just became my boyfriend today.”
“Fast girl,” she smiles. Her eyes show her approval. “It’s your first day in school and already you have the most eligible bachelor as your boyfriend.”
She laughs as she speaks and I feel suddenly very proud of myself that I’d confided in her. Anire is definitely going to be a girl to keep, I think to myself. .
“Goodnight dear. Sweet dreams,” she says, walking away.
I smile, knowing I am definitely going to have some very pleasant dreams about my handsome Rotimi Wright and of that sweet, passionate kiss we shared at the Faculty of Health Sciences.