As the Yuletide festivities draw near, there is a cool means to win #5000 without much stress. This is my way of appreciating readers of this blog and every other person for making my 2014 a huge success. All you need to do is read the short story below and perform a little exercise. Everyone is eligible.
The little exercise includes:
*Reading the story and identifying its theme(s)
*Writing an essay of 400 words or less that discusses the theme(s) and relates the theme(s) with the challenges of a youth.
*Submitting your written essays to email@example.com. The subject of your mail should be “Getting This Thing Right”. The submission should also bear your name, gender and age.
It’s as simple as that. The aim is to create awareness on the pent-up feelings of youths and also help in expressing their dissatisfaction against the indifference of parents and society to issues that really bother them.
N.B: Deadline for submission is 11.59pm on the 24th of December. The winner will be announced 3 days after submission closes. The winner gets #5000 either as deposit into his/her bank account or as airtime, whichever suits the winner. There will also be consolation prizes for the two runner-ups. The winning essay would be published on this blog
Kindly share this post and give your friends opportunity to partake in this.
Enjoy the story!
COME, LET’S GET THIS THING RIGHT
Whenever my father says education is good, I smile and quickly nod my head in agreement. He encourages me to garner as much of the white man’s knowledge as possible. Each time he wants to drive home his point, he makes an hackneyed analogy that always manages to get me reeling with laughter, no matter how hard I try not to.
“Akanji,” my father would begin, “the white man’s knowledge is like a sizzling isapa soup, prepared with the spiciest of condiments and graced with generous pieces of bokotoo. The white man prepares it himself and brings it to you in your house. He says he is your friend and so wants you to be equal with him. So, he serves you the delectable isapa soup himself and even provides you with pounded yam and palm wine to take it down. My son, when you are offered such, do you take two morsels and say your stomach is full?”
“No, Baami,” I would reply succinctly.
“May Orunmila bless you, my son,” he would continue, “of course, you devour the sumptuous meal totally and lick the plates so well that you see the tribal marks on your face in them.”
At this, we would both laugh out loud until our sides ache. Then he would go further to remind me that knowledge is power, and that if the white man is foolish enough to share his power with us, then there is no crime if one decides to milk him of all he knows.
My father is an exciting man to be with. He enlivens anywhere he is, and his sense of humour is unparalleled in the whole of our village. In fact, some of his friends do taunt him that when they were all winning over the hearts of their women with yams and cowries and titles, my father effortlessly used his witticism and humour to bring the ladies to himself in tens. And because my father has an answer for everything, he usually replies them that he who brings happiness owns all, ladies inclusive. Therefore, if I call my father an irrepressible interlocutor and an uncommon raconteur, I am only calling a spade a spade.
I am the first son, and my father has deemed it fit that I must go to school. He really wants me to become knowledgeable. I like that too. What my father does not know, however, is that, when one goes to school, it is not only books that one studies. One learns other things besides books as well, good and bad.
I am sixteen years old now, and I have since begun to experience some changes in my body. I now feel a bump in my nipple, and if I recall well, it is what my Biology teacher calls “pubertal gynecomastia”. Many years ago, we were also taught the topic “puberty” in Integrated Science, so I’m not that alarmed about the hair that has grown in my pubic parts or my cracking voice. Above all, I’m even beginning to feel some hormonal changes and an avalanche of emotions, the type that now makes my eyes linger on a girl more than before, surreptitiously concentrating on her swaying hips and the two round mounds stuck to her chest like the big size of amala sitting dignifiedly on Baami’s stainless plate. But it grieves me each time I realize that this sensitive thing I presently have propensity towards is always ignored. No one discusses it, not even my loquacious father.
I have heard the word “love” a zillion times. Apart from getting to know that word better by eavesdropping when my friends discuss it, my father also makes mention of it vaguely whenever he shares with us the customary ewi atenudenu of our ancestral lineage, usually recited to usher in every new moon. A part of the ewi atenudenu is directed specifically to the male son. Having listened to my father recite it to me when I was the only son for many years, I have inadvertently memorized it. Is it not the saying of the elders that when the leaf is stuck with the soap long enough, the leaf also becomes soap itself?
A part of the ewi atenudenu reads thus:
“I have pointed to you the coats of success
And the rags of failure
I have revealed to you all
And witheld from you none
My son, it is yours
To seek for the Garden of Love
Wherein lie all fruits
Of diverse colours and shapes
Choose from the assortment
Whichever best suits you
Unripe fruits can be sour
And not all yellow fruits
Are sweet and refreshing
Still, find the Garden of Love
Wherein abide all flowers
Of alluring scents and stunning patterns
Select any from the variety
But remember, my son
Roses can also have thorns
Son, this was what my father told me
That his father told him
That I should tell you
That you should tell your son
That your son should tell your son’s son”
After reciting it and performing other rites necessary to usher in the new moon, my father would then talk about this part of the ewi atenudenu very briefly, as if he is forbidden to discuss it, as if it doesn’t worth his time. During this period, he doesn’t entertain any question and resents any interruption. He would say the fruits and flowers in the “Garden of Love” personify the ladies, and would then advise us to adhere to the stern warnings doled out in the ewi atenudenu. And that would be all. It pisses me off how I can’t tell my father the words that are always perched on the precipice of my tongue. I have never gotten enough courage to say to my father, “Come, let’s get this thing right,” and inform him I am yet to understand why a topic so consequential to my psychological and emotional well-being should be treated like leprosy.
“One thing about a child,” my school principal often says, “is that, if the family, which is the basic unit of a society, fails to inculcate the right values into him, then the morally depraved society picks up the duty and makes a potpourri of deceits, mitigated concepts and crippled values for the child, which he swallows hook, line and sinker.” I testify to the truthfulness of my principal’s words. Since my father and the entire family are already shirking in their responsibility of educating me on this crucial matter, it is not a surprise that, somehow, I have amassed enough harmful knowledge from other sources.
I am a Christian, at least that is what I was told to say whenever I am asked my religion. I don’t miss any Sunday worship service. Baami sees to it that all his children follow him to church every Sunday. In the Sunday school lessons, one should think that the teachers would be able to make up for the shortcoming of my family, regarding these overwhelming emotions. Well, that has never been the case. Rather than enlighten me, the teachers seem to confuse me the more with their superficial and shallow teachings. They rant about how it is a sin to fornicate and go ahead to condemn having a girlfriend. They even say whoever has a lover is “of the world, and the love of the father is not in him”. When they are done with their sermons, they make me feel like a child of the devil, as if it is my fault when my eyes, without my consent, choose to dwell on that stunning face, or that seducing hourglass-shaped physique, outlined by tight-fitted dress, that turns my head and melts my heart like a bar of candy under the scorching intensity of the tropical African sun. “Lust” is the word they have chosen to aptly describe my innocent feelings.
“Okay, how do I go about this? What shouId I do?”I keep asking. “Give your life to Christ,” they keep saying. Over and over again, I have given my life to Christ so much that I fear Christ may someday scream on me: “How many times, Akanji? How many times will you give your life to me? Haba!”
Nevertheless, these awkward feelings remain like an immovable mountain, sticking out like a sore thumb. The other day, when I had some Dutch courage after secretly taking some gulps of Baami’s strong palm wine before going to church, I stood up during the Sunday school lesson and asked the teacher a question that actually got me into trouble, just as he was about going on another shallow sermon of “Thou shall not commit fornication”.
“Excuse me, sir,” I began, “with all sincerity, can you tell us that you do not presently have any emotional attachment to any other lady besides your wife?” And like an afterthought, I added, “With all due respect, sir”.
An unnerving silence swept through the room in which we teenagers were holding our Sunday school service. Within that split of a second, I saw that flash of surprise and guilt written on the man’s face.
“No, I do not,” the man managed to stutter.
I remained standing, and my mouth began to move again, pouring out words I would later get to realise were my pent-up feelings and resentment.
“Sir, even though I do not believe your answer by any bit, I’ve deduced, from your response, that you understand what I mean by “emotional attachment”. For the benefit of some, can you explain briefly what “emotional attachment” means?” I pressed further.
“Akanji, see me after church service in the prayer room. You need deliverance.”
“Sir, when did asking simple questions translate to being possessed, and thus needing deliverance? I am willing to submit myself, anyway, after needed answers have been proffered to my questions.”
My friends looked at me in awe, their countenance depicting bewilderment. They didn’t know what little palm wine could do.
“Sit down, Akanji. The Sunday school lesson is over. Bow down your heads for prayers,” he said evasively.
Instead of sitting down, I walked out of the church and went back home. If Sunday school could not clarify simple matters as such, other than heaping guilt on the heads of naive teens, then what good was it? So, I picked my things and left.
Now that I reminisce over it, I am glad that I actually took some gulps of Baami’s strong palm wine. I doubt if there was any other way I could have used to make the Sunday school teacher realise there were deeper things to be clarified than the shallow “Thou shall not commit fornication. Thou shall not commit adultery.”
Over the years, with the aid of books and the internet, I have come to realise that some things are inherent in man, and no degree of holiness can diminish this fact. It is a natural phenomenon that attraction would spring up more forcefully between teenagers of opposite sexes. Since Baami and the church, supposed strong pillars in instilling the right values in me, have chosen to evade this duty by gallivanting about the surface, instead of digging to the root of it, I have found solace in other means. A day is coming that I shall walk lazily into Baami’s room, and tell him to his face: “Baami, internet has taken your place”. I do not care if it will take another keg of palm wine to trigger that courage.
Meanwhile, in the school where Baami has sent me “to garner as much of the white man’s knowledge as possible”, I have found again another fair and beautiful girl, in whom I am well pleased. I shall follow her. Wouldn’t someone inform my father now that I have learnt beyond books in school, before I impregnate yet another girl? Because by then, when he finally says, “Come let’s get this thing right”, there wouldn’t really be anything to get right again.
PS: This short story is not just for entertainment and literary appreciation. The writer hopes to start off serious conversation on a subject everyone would rather ignore. Ignoring a crucial subject like this neither helps the teenager nor the parents. A teenager goes through a lot of emotional issues, and the society is not helping with its evasive response.
I am @omoyayinka on Twitter