‘No Woman, No Cry’
-Late Bob Nesta Marley
Why are you so bookish, Ben? Don’t you see that all work and no play makes Jack a really dull boy? Your friends…Uche, Sam and Peter all have girlfriends. You know that don’t you?. And here you are, only married to your books. Man, learn to wise up! The words echo in my ears spoken by one of my classmates, Prince, during my second level of Senior Secondary School Year.
After three months I decided to look into what had Prince advised me about. I have always had a soft spot for Miriam and she was the girl I had emotional connections with. Although she usually approached me for solving problems in Mathematics, I looked forward to a time I would ask her for a relationship since I always deeply fantasized about being in a long-term relationship: a relationship that materialized in marriage.
Unfortunately, owing to my consolation in avid book reading and being facially deformed, I apparently did not see the need of being in any serious relationship. Nevertheless, I summoned the courage to approach Miriam. I wanted to talk her into being in a relationship with me. Not surprised at all, she declined my rather informal proposal.
Going back memory lane, I used to know of a certain Elsey Farrington, a classmate of mine in my elementary school years. While I was being ‘rejected’ by fellow black male and female pupils, she stood by me through it all. Elsey was not perturbed by my deformed face; she carried me along in all that she engaged in---Getting to have me play with her friends as to introduce them to me, sharing with me what she brought from home---some edibles like the U Cookies. She really made my day remarkable when I celebrated my 6th birthday in school. Being the class captain (Primary 1A, as it was assigned), she helped me readily distribute foods and drinks to appropriate quarters---teachers at their Staff Room Office, the office of the Headmaster and his team, then the class in general. It was a day I will always cherish.
However, not all was roses and honey! I had no idea that she will abruptly leave school and and return to the United States. When this disheartening event occurred, the year 1990, to be precise, I had no means of contacting her. No phones, emails, access of fax machines and other message-friendly communicating devices. She was gone forever. Even to this day, I try searching for her everywhere, to the best of my ability. All efforts in attempting to reach her have been abortive. But life must go on, sadly.
Throughout my final year at secondary school, I chose not to have a girlfriend. This was because I really wanted to concentrate on my academics in order to come out in flying colors at the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination---a prerequisite for anyone seeking to gain admission into any recognized Nigerian university---and the subsequent Leaving School Certificate---an equivalent of Grade 2, a starting work-force identity.
Eventually, my hard work and focus paid off and I succeeded in the examination. It was a joyous moment for me! Knowing well how I painstakingly took my time in burning the midnight candle just for me to concentrate on my studies, I needed one to tell me, ‘it was worth the sacrifice’. I had 4As, 4Bs, and a C. There was a hitch… getting through with my Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board result---the pathway to gain admission into university (then). As a result of the anomaly, I had to stay at home for the next two years. My quest to have a girlfriend started…
I still have the record of girls that I attempted to approach for a relationship. which I am now documenting in this book. It is comical how all the women that I met of various shapes and sizes, behaviors, convictions and tastes – some even hostile towards me - ended up in sorry outcomes.
Amaka was my junior back in my elementary school years. Plump in size but a tall, beautiful-looking ebony young woman, she was the cynosure of all eyes on her street, a few streets away from mine. Each time I got to behold her radiant face, I honestly felt the need to know her more. The difficult part, however, was to get to her in person. She was always an indoor-type of girl. A rich home she came from, all she ever wanted in this world were within her grasp.
So, it would be uneasy seeing her outside the spacious and well-ventilated edifice she lived in. The only way I could reach her was through the transparent window blind shielding her room, the upper part of the building. When I walk through her street, most often, she opens the window blind on several occasions (the curtain being obviously suspended) to have a look at people moving to and fro the street. I have on one occasion spoken in such situation. And her responses were quite inviting. That apparently showed the coast was clear for further communication.
When I get to meet her in person, I talk in platonic terms---plans on how to get admission into the university, the life lived while in secondary school and so on. But when I write her letters, I would express how I am falling in love with her. That gesture continued for several months. It got to a point where in a day, I would visit her twice!
Every resident of the street had taken notice of me when I set foot at her House 46 address. Amaka never replied to a single letter but liked my company. Her not replying any of my letters didn’t disturb me.
I was always glad to see her in person. My incessant visits to her place didn’t help matters. Yet, she was faced with the difficulty of saying to me, ‘back off!’ I, for one, didn’t read the handwriting on the wall. There are times when I would visit her but the security guard, after way-laying me, would say, ‘Amaka is not in the house’ whereas I know she rarely goes out.
The occurrence would repeat itself and throwing caution to the wind became my second nature. Amaka took laws into her hands to teach me the lesson of my life. I had no idea that the thugs on her street paid allegiance to her father (a politician, then) and knew her very well. She arranged with them to make an open disgrace whenever I come to visit her. On a bright Friday morning, I was getting towards the entrance gate of House 46 when I was accosted by four hefty black men. Shocked I was, I looked at them panicking.
‘What are you doing here?’ one of them asked, holding me firmly around my belt area.
‘I came to see her’. My heart was seen beating faster than it ought to. ‘Who?’ Another interrogated. He looked the fiercest.
‘Amaka’ ‘You have the gut to visit her without her consent?’ the third thug interfered, looking furious.
Before I could bleak my eyes, I saw my feet lifted off the ground to the gallery to the eyes of the witnessing all and sundry on that street.
‘So, you’re the intruder of this place’ the fourth thug put it to me, smashing the backside of my head with his harsh palm.
‘No! She’s my friend and I’ve always longed to see her!’ I was alarmed, almost peeing down my pants as I covered my face in shame.
What baffled me was Amaka watched the whole scene, laughing at me to scorn. It was done on me that she knew about the setup. After ten minutes, they decided to land my feet back to Mother Earth.
I was so ashamed of myself that people around me started looking at me with various body languages---scorn and disappointment.
‘Will you leave this place at once?!’ One of the thugs thundered. Others were yelling indistinct voices of derogatory remarks at me. I courageously left the place for home---a sorry young man. This event took place in the year 2002.
Joke was a girl everyone would like to be with. Very charismatic and intelligent, the petite-sized, dark-skinned woman had all it took to be steps ahead in life. She happened to be just a year my junior in secondary school.
During the last phase of my secondary school, she drew my attention.
This time, I was at the laboratory when she engaged me in a discussion.
Joke: Ben, I’ve been looking forward to talk to you Me (surprised): On What?
Me (Ears ready to listen. Eyes gazed directly at hers): What about me?
Joke: I’ve known you---your face, I mean since elementary school days. Me: How?
Joke: Your school and mine were separated by a fence. Yours was Yewande Memorial School and mine was Treasureland Nursery and Primary School.
Me: I see. Why didn’t you call my attention then? (Laughs) Joke: You’re funny, Ben.
Me: Good to know that you now know, even better
Joke: Same here (smiles) I have to leave for class, I’ll be having Physics in the next couple of minutes
Joke: Bye for now (leaves for her class)
This was in the month of May (I would not know the day precisely) of 2001.
Two years and six months before I enrolled into my first university--- The Federal University of Technology, FUTO, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria, I was able to trace the residence of Joke. So, I decided to, as we would say in Nigeria, ‘take our friendship to the next level’. First, I asked her if she could be a friend. Joke kept mute. I followed her up with regular letters. Sadly, like the previous, she didn’t reply any of them. When I gained admission into the Federal University of Technology, I could not afford to get her image off my mind. For six months, I kept writing a series of letters to send to her in Lagos through a go-between who stayed in her area and was my colleague. It ended up in a wild goose chase!
When I came back to Lagos for a semester-long holiday, I decided to pay her a visit. There, I met the greatest shocker of my life! I saw her younger sister take a stern look at me.
‘Who are you looking forward’, she asked. ‘Your sister’ I answered, grinning.
She called her mother instead.
‘Mom, please come out from the Living Room and see the MONSTER looking for Joke’. It didn’t take two minutes the chip off the old block---her mother.
‘Yes, who are you looking for?’ she asked. Her voice appeared intimidating.
I comforted myself. ‘I’m looking for your daughter, Joke’ ‘Who are you to her?’
‘A friend’ ‘Joke never told me about you. Are you an intruder?’ ‘No, madam’ I was stunned.
She sent me my marching orders. ‘Get the hell out of here or you’ll have me call the entire neighborhood to drive you out! At the count of three…One…Two…’
I didn’t want to turn deaf ears to what she just said. I made a U-turn:
paced towards the exit of the building and take my leave.
That was how it all ended.
I met Princess when I sat for the first time the Standard Associated Examination Board (SAEB), Advanced Level. She was a beauty to behold. It was in the early part of 2004. Very straightforward and apparently nice, I thought I could have my way around her. Hours before the examination, I made advances towards her. Though she mildly refused, I was assuring myself I would get her attention. This continued to the end of my final paper (Princess was sitting for the Ordinary Level equivalent of the same examination). We got to exchange contacts. That permitted me to call her from time to time. We had a landline, then. Howbeit, when I get to call her, she either suddenly hangs up the phone during the course of the conversation or returned it but just keeps mute. My calling her persisted to a point she abruptly yelled at me: ‘You guy with the big cheek, stop calling me!!! She hung up the phone. That was game over…I never saw her again.
In 2005, I re-enrolled in the pre-degree program of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. There I met a certain Titi, typical ebony, petite-sized young woman. I was twenty-one at the time; she was eighteen. I liked her but the news making the rounds in school was that she was a jump around; someone who was always of being bedded by several lecturers and students. I chose to like her, all the same. Abeokuta, Ogun State saw Titi come to my room (I stayed outside the campus) to get pregnant for me! I avoided her at all costs. A few weeks later, Titi was not to be seen in school and everywhere around Abeokuta. It was said a lecturer impregnated her.
She was my colleague back in school (fellow pre-degree and under-graduate student of the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007session). Grace was a reserved person. A mature lady she was, about three years my senior in age, Grace was a no-nonsense person. I was afraid to even talk to her. How I got to later talk her into having a relationship with me is still, till this day, what I can’t explain.
After successful completion of our pre-degree programs, we were admitted to study Microbiology and Mechanical Engineering respectively (Grace and I). We got talking proper, throughout our first year. It wasn’t so in our pre-degree days as she wasn’t my interest then. One thing led to the other. That led to decide---to let her know my mind towards her.
‘Grace, I’ve been desiring to be with you’
‘Ben, if you’re playing with me, better stop!’ Grace warned, sternly looking at me.
‘You know I’ve been observing you since our pre-degree days and realized you’re the very one for me’
Grace laughed. ‘You never cease to amaze me. Like I said, if you’re playing with me, please stop’
‘Grace, I’m not playing. I’m dead serious’
‘Okay. Since you claim to be serious’ she responded, staring at me intently, ‘you’ll have to meet with our pastor. Interesting we attend the same fellowship. You know the rule’
‘Which rule?’ I inquired, etching to know She was mum on the issue.
‘Okay. It takes two to tango. There has to be a YES from you before I meet our pastor. What do you think, Grace?
‘The ball is in your court, Ben. I have to go for lectures.’
Grace left me at the Waiting Hall---a strategic place where students waited before lectures commence.
It wasn’t long before the nationwide strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) held a six-month strike. That meant I had to be at home for that period of time. But it didn’t deter me from communicating with Grace. Unknown to me, all of my regular calls were being recorded and forwarded to the pastor for his perusal. Grace had been living in the Pastor’s spacious quarters, all through the period. I never knew my downfall was being plotted.
After the long strike was suspended, I was back in school. This time, the evidence leveled against me by the pastorate was conspicuous.
Technically, I was ex-communicated from the fellowship on grounds of sending carnal messages that are not righteous to the tenets of the Christian faith and bible to a fellow member. That was how I lost Grace…forever.
Looking North and South, East and West, I pondered through and through as regards what was wrong with me in getting along with women. It was then I remembered what a friend, Antonia, told me,: Your facial look wouldn’t ordinarily invite women. Sorry, I sound harsh but let’s call a spade a spade. I’m your good friend and I have to tell you the truth. Were it not for your deformed face, you’d have been married in your second or third year’ I look forward to engaging in a healthy relationship with my eventual partner but for now, I’m living with the moment as I press on…
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