I didn’t want to but Nifemi said no one would find out. So I did and we got caught. Nifemi started to cry but I didn’t. Papa would have killed me if I cried before a beating. I was a big boy. Big boys don’t cry before a beating. They hang in there till they feel the pain and then they scream for their money’s worth. That was what Papa always said.
Mr Amuche called an assembly, stripped us to our inner shorts and whipped us in front of everybody in school
At the second stroke of Mr Amuche’s cane, I laid eyes on her for the first time. She was standing at the far end of the field in a group of girls sneering except that she wasn’t joining them in their mockery. I wondered if that was her first time of seeing me also. In my inner shorts no less. They were the white ones that had turned brown and had holes in them that my mother had asked me to throw away but I had refused. I would never again disobey Mama.
While Amuche whipped I and Nifemi with all his fury, I forgot where I was, the pain, the jeers and everything else. I had eyes for only her. Her skin was the color of the anthills we played upon. She had a gap in her milky white teeth. Just like mine. Only mine was caused by the loss of my incisors. Hers was crafted by hands unseen. Later Nifemi asked me why i had not yelled out like he did.
‘Because Amuche flogs like a woman’ I answered and winked. Nifemi eyed me suspiciously and rubbed his bottom harder.
I was seven and in love but alas, Mr. Amuche had forever eroded all hope of my ever winning her heart.
Everyday at school, I searched for her with my eyes. I stopped looking forward to the holidays because it meant my eyes would be starved of her. Whenever my eyes found her, my heart did ‘ponponpon’ just like my father’s bicycle horn.
I finally told Nifemi and we made a plan.
One day, as she walked home from school, an ‘egwugwu’ attacked her. The ‘egwugwu’ mask looked similar to the one we used in school for the last play. She ran and squealed and i was there to save her. Less than 5-foot tall, with nothing but my books to protect her. Her knight in shining armor. She clung to me as i threw sand at my best friend. ‘Egwugwu’ took to his heels.
She became my girl friend after that and I saw less and less of Nifemi. Every time I did, she was always with me. He would smile at me and wink. I would smile back. I couldn’t bring myself to wink. Keeping secrets are what makes best friends out of us.
22 years later and Nifemi still has my gratitude. I named our first son after him.
Song of the day: White Houses- Vanessa Carlton