I must say growing up was fun. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t entirely fun back then but now, when you sit back relaxed with a hot cup of molten choco milo and reflect on the past, you actually realise it was fun – sometimes, I’m even honest to myself to admit i miss it.
Whenever I’m struck with such memories, its the ones with me in nursery and primary school that get me laughing a lot. Come on, you can’t tell me you never covered your ass with ur hand, farted and used the same hand to cover ur classmates nose. Or stuck pencils on a friend’s chair and waited for ‘her’ to sit down. Or eaten your meal so early in the morning before your friends come, so you can lie to them that you forgot it at home so they can share theirs. Or…………. Should I go on?
Hey, don’t give me that look.
Other things I often remember are the things we were taught in nursery class. I’m talking about the rules we had to follow, etiquettes, we were taught to show courtesy at all times, to pray before eating, to sleep when told to, never to tell lies even if it meant us getting into trouble, to always trust our elders;
“Tobe, did you do your assignment today?”
“Come on tell me, you know I won’t beat you”
“I didn’t do it”
I still have the scars.
But come to think of it, these things they were actually trying to teach us back then, while we thought they were just being mean to us, were quite helpful. I remember specifically how we used to stand up and recite this ‘welcome greeting’ in nursery class every time a parent/teacher/headmistress came in.
“Goodmooooooooooorning Ma/Sir….. You are welcome to nursery 2A. God bless you Ma/Sir, Amen. Thank You.”
It was compulsory that any time someone much older than you walked in, you were to show your full respect by standing up and warming the person into the room, with your charm of course. Even if the person was so hideously looking and all you could think of was a crucifix and some garlic to chase the person away, you still had to pray for them. (That’s where the ‘God Bless You’ part comes in)
What our nursery school teachers failed to do, was to tell us this particular courtesy doesn’t apply in all cases – there are some instances you can’t just stand up and say hi… Fuck the rules!
What you are going to read happened in a small village called Nkwerre, in Nigeria of course…way back in the 1990s. 1994 to be precise.
On the fateful year, my parents decided that I should spend some time with my maternal uncle’s family back in the village who was a popular trader. My uncle and my aunt considered me as that ‘City Boy’ who needed a lot of help to adjust to life in Nkwerre and they tried their very best to make my 15day stay comfortable. Unfortunately, they couldn’t help me with one thing… Back then, houses in Nkwerre didn’t have toilets.
You read it right…
They didn’t have toilets. The folks in Nkwerre were so busy working that they found allocating space to toilets, an unnecessary wastage.
So as a result, my uncle’s house also didn’t have a toilet.
Within 30 minutes of landing in their house, I asked: “Uncle, toilet?”
“Number one or number two?” He enquired.
“Please Uncle, tell me,” I replied embarrassed.
“Son, it depends. Tell me…number one or number two?”
“Just head out to that little shed down there, wait for it to be empty. The best times for this is between 2pm to 4 pm”
“Whattttt?” I just couldn’t believe my ears, and eyes, at what he was pointing at.
My uncle smiled.
“Don’t worry, we have a better arrangement for number two.”
I could see that he was confident that his solution for number two was better than that for number one.
“And what if it were number two?”
“Hmm…in that case, here take this ₦5 note and head straight for the Anthony Road, the very next street…they have a public toilet there. Tell the guy sitting outside that its number two and give him this ₦5 and he will allow you inside.”
“Whattttt?” Again, I just couldn’t believe my ears.
Fate had struck twice within the span of 30 seconds. And struck at my genitals…it wasn’t going to be easy getting up.
With a heavy heart, I walked out of the house, onto the next shed and waited for it to be empty (it was a long wait)…and then emptied my bladder. The moment I was back, my uncle, aunt and their three children were waiting to ask me how it went. To add insult to injury, they were smiling.
That day, I didn’t drink too much water …but still had to rush out at 7pm. It was a little easier. At around 8pm, it struck me that I should also be worried about the next day morning. What about number two? So, I had a very light dinner…it surprised my aunt that a boy my age had such bad appetite. But I wasn’t willing to risk emptying my bowels in my trouser.
At 11 pm, I managed to sleep off the fear. But it was back again when I got up at 7am. I moved around the house slowly…lest I trigger some bowel movements. I refused the tea my aunt gave me saying I wasn’t into drinking tea. She couldn’t believe it…but I was adamant.
At 6.30 am, my uncle said I could accompany him to the public toilet. The whole distance I tried to maintain a balanced walk, lest I triggered any intestinal movements. I tried not to laugh at my uncle’s jokes, which tend to upset him a bit…but I didn’t care. Honour before anything else.
My first public toilet experience was a huge success. I was in and out in less than two minutes. The man who collected money smiled when he saw me return and asked me to come back the next day – and why not, after all it is the two-minute customers like me whom he would prefer for a bountiful business.
The next day my uncle didn’t accompany me. I would ask my uncle for ₦5 and walk out of the house on my daily chore….it was that simple. The next three days went well…in fact I had started to enjoy the new experience. It was all fine, I told myself. Or at least that is what I thought.
But on the fourth day tragedy struck…the moment I came out of the toilet after spending my ₦5, my stomach started mumbling again and I had this urge to go back immediately.
“Hi Sir, I just paid you ₦5 and came out early. Can I go again please?”
“No! For ₦5 there is only one entry. To enter again, you need to pay me another ₦5.”
I wouldn’t say I walked back with a heavy heart…it was in fact heavy bowels that I walked back home with, asked my uncle for another ₦5 and walked all the way back to the public toilet to relieve myself. I came back to my uncle’s house a dejected boy…and also, a boy who had understood the importance of ₦5.
This went on for a few days (I had started going there with ₦10, just in case). During a casual chat with my uncle, I asked him:
“Is this the only place one can go to?”
“No…there are couple of other options as well. But I thought you might not be so adventurous.”
This pricked my ego so I replied: “You haven’t tried me yet, uncle.”
He continued looking into his papers and said: “OK then, be ready at 6am. I would suggest you eat a light dinner.”
The next day we took off at about 6.15 am for an adventurous dump taking. Once I started asking questions, I came to know that we were going to a almost dried up lake in the outskirts of the village. We were to take a dump in the lake, wash up in the yet-to-dry parts of the lake and come back home.
As luck would have it, this lake was 3kms away and I was tired by the time we reached. But when we reached, it was heavenly….a wide expanse of dried up land with little bushes sprinkled all around. Once we were almost in the middle of the dried up lake, my uncle advised me to take a spot behind one of the bushes and relieve myself. The very next moment, he vanished…. probably behind some bushes.
I looked around, found a thickset bush, went behind it and squatted. The next two minutes were very peaceful…nobody in sight, just the chirruping of the birds. Just when I was about to get up I heard some women talking and the voices grew louder with time. I tried to place where they were coming from….and it was from right behind me.
I had two choices – stay put and pretend nothing happened or get up and stand right in the middle of nowhere, greet them while I pretend I was doing something else. I could have easily said I was Weeding the bushes. Or looking for my aunty’s lost earring. Or following the trails left by an animal, probably a mammoth.
Or just claim to be picking beans.
“Where’s is the beans?”
I planted them some days ago but not everyone can see them because they were magic beans an old woman gave me.
I chose the first option.
Now the voices were really close…and that’s when I heard: “Why won’t he get up? He is still sitting there. Has he no respect?”
They were talking about me!
But I stubbornly held my ground…now they were probably 15meters behind me.
Within seconds I could see them from the corner of my right eye. My nursery school teacher hadn’t advised me on the appropriate behaviour in such instances. The stench coming from beneath me was suicidal. But I held my ground…I continued to sit. For psychological comfort, I even closed my eyes.
I heard one woman ask the other: “Do you think he is blind?”
The other replied: “Even if he was blind, I am sure he can hear us. Or is he is both blind and deaf?”
Now I didn’t need to look through the corner of my eye – I could see them through the bushes. But I continued to hold my ground.
Before they disappeared, the first woman told the second: “Children of now a days have no respect…can’t they get up when they see women approaching? Nonsense! If he were my child I would have beaten his destiny out of him.”
Now I knew why the women were upset…but it was too late to get up.
I think it was a mini heart attack or a nervous breakdown, all I remember was gravity taking over and something warm and uncomfortable welcoming me.