Women! Without them, men would only remain as latent seeds locked in our fathers’ loins without hope of being occupants of the earth. They are the only ones that learn ‘how to push’ without a helper. They feel the pain alone but are quick to forget the pain of labour. They are always the first to hold a newborn baby and dislodge them from the slimy coat that covers a child’s body at birth. After cleaning you up, they wrap you round some warm swaddling clothing they call a shawl. As you utter that first cry of desperation, they offer you a liquid salve called, colostrums! That freshly expressed warm rivulet of milk that flows freely from two hilly springs on their chest, and whose fountains burst forth with love. Moreover, as the days go, your nourishment and life depends on the magnanimity of their bosom. Your taste buds are splashed with this purely white non-alcoholic but addictive and intoxicating liquor; the freshly brewed breast milk!
Women, a species that make men do what they would never imagine they could do. It starts with mama who wakes you up, bathes you, cuddles and strokes you gently, as she pets you. To her, you are the most wonderful of all living creatures, and while you’re still a tiny speck of the human species, her eyes pierce your fears and offer you warmth, security and comfort. She is the first to love you truly and believe in you. She is your confidante having swan naked in the warm pool she provided in her womb free of charge for nine months. She will forgo a lot to keep you happy. She is the first to believe in you, and the last to doubt you. While she is your chief cheerleader, your sisters and aunties and other female relatives will always complement her duties. They join the team of encouragers who will sharpen your malleable head into an aesthetic delight.
Thus did my world begin with women! The men were there too, but! Nevertheless, it was the women that knew when I sat up, crawled, stood and took those first few steps that took me into a world of women, and dare I add, the men’s world actually. I was not sure it was the women’s world anyway for we, the men always called the shots; while the women subtly but ostensibly gave out the orders that men inadvertently carried out. And with those first steps, I stepped into the true world of women, where I erroneously thought they were the pawns and we the men, the knights with the shinning amour!
I was the least prepared when I entered their world as a primary one pupil. I sat with them on the floor in my village school were nobles were nurtured. Many of them had no diapers then, and often times left the spots were they sat soiled with some kind of water that no one could drink. I wondered why little boys like us were different from them, and we always liked to play with them. We would often pinch them and feign ignorance, or when gripped by the rage of mischief pull up their dresses out of curiosity. We saw what we should not have bothered to see. Sometimes they cried out of shame, but there were times they only chuckled and we giggled back in amusement. Little pranks that teased our innocent minds!
Jovee was the first woman outside my immediate and extended family that invaded my consciousness as a little lad. Something happened each time we met; my stomach churned with delight, and I avoided her eyes as the rays pierced through me yet lived in denial. My mom, sister and close relatives knew I saw her as special but didn’t know why. And to get a bite of my flesh, they would jocularly call me, ” Jovee’s husband” and I will fly out in rage, with my eyes awash with tears of denial tinged with embarrassment. Yet my heart still skipped and attempted to flee out of its cage whenever Jovee’s eyes met mine!
Then came Chichi in my primary two, who sat next to me on the same shared desk as we no longer sprawled on the bare flour. Chichi had this dimple that set shivers down my spine. While Jovee evoked some bit of embarrassment in me, Chichi opened the rivulets of joy and delight in me. We smiled at each other while the class mistress taught us how to spell words and count figures and would look into shinny mirror of my tin-made school box like two lovebirds. I still wonder why I groped to have her lovely dimples drilled into my rounded cheeks. Chi was a pleasant distraction as I still came out tops in the class that session. As a passing gift, our beloved class mistress rewarded us with a bowl of jollof rice, each pupil got a spoonful, and our tiny palms doubled as the mobile plate and cutlery.
Charity was different. She not only had a dimple like Chichi, her teeth were firmly planted in gums were darkly tinted with lovely dark hues. Her school clothes sparkled while ours were rumpled. Like an enigma, she had an umbrella, which she wore over her head like a skullcap to shield her from the sun. Her new school bag had a zipper unlike the cheap bags some of us had .Not yet done with mischief, I fiddled with her bag someday and the zipper scattered and this little prank landed me in trouble. Outright denial did not save me from the thrashing whip of our headmaster.
As I look back, I wonder why I had only female teachers in my respective classes in my primary school days who so much believed in me. At every point, they made me stretch my mind to learn tricky arithmetic, and helped me combine and convert alphabets into words that were stringed together to form sentences. Something interesting about them made one achieve so much. Because they cared always even when they seemed to be mean to some of us. They had a perennial smile to encourage us when we fail. Little wonder, in primary five, my class mistress recommended me to the headmaster that I eventually doubled as the “Bell Ringer” and ‘Mail Runner’. Thence was I initiated into the art of writing and reading letters to and from another friend. A habit that has lingered and I never would loathe this addiction of painting life with words and sentences!
As I exited primary school, the trajectory of secondary education I followed landed me in an all-boys school, and away from the intriguing world of women. Jovee, my childhood ‘wife’ was posted to an all-girls school making our paths only cross at random. No sooner, a senior student and mentor spotted her, and went for the kill and snatched her heart away from me. I mourned the loss but could not protest with a shout. By then I had become a servant of the priests and pursued the way of piety. My pen came handy and I couched an epistle to not just appeal to her heart alone, as was scared she would the innocence that bound us together. However, the sermon and the enclosed ‘holy pictures’ rather irked her and I was the loser. She was gone and my loss was my senior’s gain!
Female teachers seem like uncanny foreseers of the future. For how could you explain why my history and literature teacher insisted that I that I take her classes in my senior class in secondary school, as I was her best student then? We had a big scuffle when I refused vehemently because I saw science as the turf of smart boys and arts the domain of girls and dull boys. Maybe she saw what I could not see then as I am now so engrossed in literature and history like one who is doing reparation and restitution for his past sins. As boys, we talked so much about girls in class and they brought excitement whenever we meet at quiz competitions, extramural classes and other events like inter-house sports competitions when they were released from their school dorms and cages to freely roam among us, the boys. They could be an inevitable distraction our male teachers had warned those who cared to heed.
The university was a unique world were women called the shots. They made a class exciting or boring, and determined the direction of things a lot. But the fellowships sisters were not as adventurous as the ‘worldly girls’ who attended parties and had fun in campus. They were the good girls because they had no boyfriends. But how could they when the brothers kept them at an arm’s length for the ‘fear of fornication is the beginning of wisdom?” The fair-complexioned and beautiful ones were seen as ‘leakers of anointing’, and possessed with a seductive spirit that led “holy men’ astray. So many of them were all covered up, looked drab at times, and scarcely received love notes and cards. No one sent them bars of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. But some got wooed away by the sweet talking and sleek playboys that saw the fellowship as a reservoir of naïve and churchy girls to poach from. Just make them ‘feel loved’ and they would be game and this stratagem had a high success rate.
My first true ‘love affair’ did not happen too early. But before I left university, I met her during a normal campus fellowship meeting. She was a church girl, but not from the ‘funky fellowships’ and something moved within when our eyes first met. We exchanged messages with our hearts and eyes as no words were uttered. No sooner, my hostel room became a regular ‘stop over’ for her. The news spread like wild fire. Boy, I was in love or so I had thought. She was beautiful and her ebony skin sent reflections into my being. She was only 20 years and I was her first love. She was mine and thoughts of her filled my waking moments. I talked about her so much even when my heart denied there was anything between us. A big brother of mine, out of experience calmed me down when he counseled, ‘Felix, don’t go crazy yet. Just allow time to weather the relationship. Work at being her friend, and if the feelings endure over time, it might be for real.” Little did I know that we would in due course, cause each other inevitable heartache and part ways for good. Painfully, I broke her heart when it became obvious we would not walk the aisle at last!
Emem was obviously one of the most beautiful girls at the orientation camp, and she was born again and evidently innocent. Almost every guy on camp positioned himself for the kill. At the corpers’ CD events, most guys would want to touch or hug her, but I tried my best to not hug or touch her like other guys throughout our NYSC days, and she observed that. A Muslim guy who had his own girlfriend came to her rescue and shielded her from the marauding company like a bodyguard until we passed out. How thoughtful of him! Years after, when we met and hugged for the first time, she intoned that I had changed. However, I explained that I had refrained from hugging her then because everybody else wanted to, and that was why I decided to be a different kind of friend to her. What could be so touching like a thoughtful and considerate act? Her eyes glistened with tears when saw the honesty. How little things make women weep!
Wonder how it feels to be voted the ‘most popular and liked brother’ by the sisters in the Christian Corpers Fellowship at a house party where you were the DJ and opened the dance floor? I felt the taste of what it means to be a celebrity, that is. An NCCF sister bought me a shirt as birthday present, and another wrote the first poem for me titled, “Mon Ami’ after I paid a visit to check her in the village where she served. I became a counselor to one when she had too many suitors and suffered from insomnia for weeks when one of them vowed not to marry if she refused his ring. We prayed together for divine intervention, God heard., and I got gifts in return. When NYSC ended and we are to part ways, she held me as though I would vanish into oblivion and in between sobs she muttered, “Will I ever meet another friend like you again?” and I proved her right cause years after, she met her true beau, and headed for the altar!
A woman spurned can rage more fiercely than a lioness and I’ve had a taste of it. She was my neighbor and part of a click of friends. She zeroed in on me for the cupid dance, and soon I was in her 18-yard box like a hapless victim. I discovered too late and had to beat a retreat. I knew there would be repercussions but why should I become another’s pawn when I should be the kingly hunter, I had reasoned. The friendship built over the months died a quick death, and I felt the emotion of losing a friend who wanted more than I could give at that time. She was deeply hurt and her painful cries reached heaven ASAP. Then I prayed, “Lord forgive me for hurting her and restore the friendship’ and the reconciliation meeting was sprinkled with tears and sobs. Moreover, I learnt a valuable lesson in return. Please learn to treat women that love and admire you with utmost respect and be sensitive to their emotions; else they’d hate you for life!
Women have an uncanny ability of revealing what we truly are. If you think you are a self-disciplined saint and stoically strong in spiritual parlance, wait until you fall in love or meet a woman who loves you deeply. I had gone to visit her and while escorting me back one night, we sat on a stone to chitchat. And when I least expected it, she planted the first kiss on my lips and my hands tried to move and rove around her. I was ashamed and shocked at the thoughts that fleeted through my mind for I realized I wanted more than a kiss. I lost my innocence for I realized for the first time that a kiss was different from a peck as I was fond of kissing my mother and sisters. I lost my peace and couldn’t sleep that night, asking God for mercy and forgiveness. She was to visit me in a couple of weeks and I was afraid that the next kiss would fan the embers of passion and I prayed, ‘ Lord, please I can’t handle her kiss again, please don’t let her visit as I love her so much and sex would be inevitable.” Days after, she called to announce that she would not visit again. We lost touch, and the next time we saw was a few days to her wedding. We barely muttered a hushed ‘hi’ to each other for she saw me as a distraction and ignored me. I mourned and nursed my sense of loss alone!
Two years after we met again, and her words were, “How could you disappear only to reappear before my wedding?” In protest, I said that she was the one who had left me and married another man. But she retorted that the fault was mine since I didn’t look for her after the last meeting. the night of that last kiss! Though she is happily married, she knew she could have been happy somewhere else, too. interpreters said the ‘somewhere else’ could be replaced with ‘me’. The lesson I learnt was: Don’t ever leave a woman and expect her to stay put with the status quo. for life doesn’t pause for too long!