“Hey! you in that yellow dress…come here. Don’t make me chase you!”
Somewhere in my peripheral vision, I could see someone pointing at me and gesturing wildly. These were the times I wished I could be a ghost, a phantom, a whisper or any kind of unseen being in boarding school. My yellow-checked day dress embraced my dread and trailed behind my bony ankles as I trudged across the lush field to attend to the senior student’s needs.
Her dagger-like fingernails pegged my ear lobes, a painful reminder that my name would be Hey, till years gave me power and senior status. The summons would be followed by commands, I would be dismissed with grunts, only to be hunted – another day like prey across the green fields between yellow house and Class 1Z .
In Nigerian culture, you don’t wake up in the morning and toss a greeting to your parents like it’s a frisbee. Respect and reverence was the norm. Our elders and these seniors students took their sense of entitlement to rocket-propelled heights. Our junior years in a girls’ boarding school were grueling – we did their laundry, fetched endless buckets of water, scrubbed floors and cleaned the dormitories. Sometimes we just provided entertainment like breakdancing or singing when the senior students got bored.
I got a lucky break when a senior prefect came to my rescue and assigned me to classroom and notice board duties. So instead of the back-breaking hard labor required in the dorms, I made banners, arranged articles and learnt cursive and incredible ways to make the letter y and g become even more awesome, with feathered or sprouting curves and bold swirls on those huge banners.
Friends and kindness made years go by as we crept under the windows of these upper class seniors to get to class or the school tuck-shop. The highlight of each month was visiting Sunday, when our families came to spend the day. We smuggled banned delicacies and specialties. My mother (the beauty in the middle) cooked stewed jellof rice, fried beef & chicken, corn on the cob and african pears and replenished our school supplies and groceries.
We took pictures, posing with our chicken wings – like we had something to prove. For those who think I made this picture thing up, that’s us sucking on chicken wings. (My sister and I are the skinnies’ on the front row, our then baby sister in a striped top between us, flanked by our brother and friends) There’s an unidentified peeping-betsy on the side.
I spent all my allowance on Bartho’s whatyoumaycallit rolls and ice-cream Saturdays and escaped into Mills & Boons and Harlequin idiotic fantasies of deft brassière snapping bad boys. Somehow it never occurred to me that these were not African guys. Well, now I’ve seen the light (inside joke).
It has been over thirty years but our experience, like a stiff, strong drink, remains intoxicating and is yet to wear off. I created my FB page yesterday and again my Feddy sisters showed up to support me. Thanks for remaining dear friends, and forever sisters!