The Things That Didn't Become
All I can say of my life is that some things have not gone exactly as planned. Like in elementary 3 when I shared a bench with Torti Silvanus, a certain boy with infectious unquietness. We were caned so often that I had to think up a device to save my bum from further ruin. While we dressed for school one morning, I stole my mother’s girdle and wore it beneath my P.E shorts, holding the loose sides with a clothes peg.
In class, I and Torti talked and whistled and made faces at the busybody class captain as she wrote names of noisemakers. I would have been disappointed if my name was not on the list. We were called out in front of the class to take our whipping. Torti always gave a spectacle; he’d wind his pelvis and take his strokes with stylish grunts. His bum was made of dead cells, I bet you; that dude never cried. When my turn came, I thought, Bring it on Ma'am, bring it on! For I know my defense is sure! But when Madam Nwaubani grabbed my shorts across my bum, I guess she smelled foul play. She increased her horsepower and I cried and cried and cried, my defense failing me.
In my first year in boarding school, I couldn’t understand why the meals were so sparse and the tea too hot and transparent. So one night during prep, I wrote my mother a faux suicide note to be delivered by my guardian, a teacher who lived on the same street with us. All I can remember in the note is, “If I die… if I die…, HA HA HA HA!” The plan was that my mother would come the next morning, have a row with the teachers and beat up all the seniors that bullied me and then bundle her darling daughter home. Well, she did come but there was no row with no one. Neither was anyone beaten up. But at least she came with homemade food which I devoured at the gateman’s post and I went on to spend six more years in that school.
Was it the failed plans of becoming a nun (whoever put that idea in my head); a doctor, after I flunked the first aptitude test and suddenly realized I was a misfit and too restless for the medical world; when I thought I’d be the last born forever and my mother showed up from the hospital with a brand new baby? The list of dreams long perished goes on. At 14, I decided to write my life’s calendar. I asked my mother, “When did you get married?” and she said 22. I wanted same for me, so I marked it down, forgetting this is not 1980-something when men came easy. Or is it when I had to stay home one whole year as I waited admission to the university…? So many failed plans.
But none of these things move me. Rather I’m on my knees, rubbing my palms together, grateful to God for those things that could have been but did not become; the things I wanted to be but did not become. If that girdle prank had worked, I might have still been ridden with Torti’s rambunctiousness, for the next day, I pleaded with Madam Nwaubani to take my seat far, far away from his.
Had I left boarding school, I would have been sent to one of those bush schools nearer home and I would not have learned the grace to endure, how to abase and how to abound, to be content, whether hungry or full. Thank God for that denied admission, for that extra year at home that inflicted me with severe loneliness. Without it, I would never have put pen to paper and become the writer that I am. And thank God it didn’t happen at 22. For the way it is with me and how ambitious I can get, who knows, I could have had 7 children by now!
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