Spring 2021 Issue

Come in if You Are Beautiful

Upon asking the administrative officer of the school I was serving in for book donations for a refugee library I was planning to establish as part of my personal community development program during my National Youth Service
year in Donga, Taraba State.

You want to start a book club? In this library? There was one that came before you last year; he wasn’t even working in this school O! He came and borrowed a textbook to teach in another school and refused to give me back. I didn’t worry myself. I just sat in my office and called the NYSC headquarters in Jalingo, I told them, I said, ‘this boy you have sent us won’t return our books o,’ and they didn’t give him his certificate; they told him to come back here and give me my textbook. And before he got back eh! I know how to deal with corpers. I don’t know why some of you are like that. And your girls! They will promise man at home and come here and be opening leg for fellow corpers, even men in town sef. Haba! If you know you cannot keep yourself why can’t you redeploy and go back to your husband-to-be? This NYSC has ended people’s marriage before it started, walahi. I don’t know why you people are like this. The other one, a C.L.O fa, he came and was collecting money and spending on one girl like that in town; when we queried him he said he wanted to marry her, don’t laugh I am telling you the truth, serious case fa! His roommate will come, Isaiah borrow me ten thousand, Isaiah borrow me twenty thousand, and that is how people’s money was going like that. Before we resolved his issue eh!

There were three of them that year– sit down let me tell you a story, the last one, play music loud in the quarters anyhow, everybody complaining, begging him to stop, he won’t listen. Some of his colleagues reported to me and they wanted to report to the principal, but I say stop, I will handle it myself. And that is how I carry my two legs to his house after school– music very loud, and I knock, I say kpam-kpam here because the door was open small but the curtain cover it small like this, and I say kpam-kpam and do you know what he say? ‘Come in if you are beautiful’

Don’t laugh, before God and man that is what he told me. I am telling you. It is not joke I am joking o. But I wasn’t angry o, ehn-ehn, I say ‘Do you know who is knocking? It is your administrative officer o’ and his friend rushed outside and apologized and greeted me good evening ma and asked ma how is work and I told him to tell his friend to reduce music small because people in the quarters are complaining, but do you know what this boy did? He came outside with his boxer and singlet and said, ‘if I am playing music and so?’ He said I am a stupid woman and that I cannot do anything. Kai, the thing entered my head, God! I jack him with his boxer and dragged him. Maybe he think I am a woman and I am fat that is why he behave like that. I showed him pepper that day, I use my hands, serious injuries on his face I am telling you, maybe nobody told him about Jukun women.

Some of his colleagues reported to me and they wanted to report to the principal but I say stop, I will handle it myself. And that is how I carry my two legs to his house after school- music very loud, and I knock, I say kpam-kpam here because the door was open small

I didn’t tell principal; he was a peaceful man and I didn’t want to disturb him. I just called Jalingo that day and reported the case to headquarters. They said I should not worry, that someone will come on Monday because that day was Friday. Do you know this person they sent to come, he just sneak inside school and was asking other corpers about the boy to know the kind of person he is and if what I said is true, and none of them had anything good to say about him. The inspector now came to the principal office and you know I have told you the principal doesn’t know what is happening, and they sent for the boy. Principal saw the marks on his face and asked what happened. The boy said me, I wanted to friend him but he refused that is why I came and was scratching his face that Friday. My elder sister was there if you think it was a lie. The principal went mad, you see we have been working for 12 years together and he knows me very well, he knows all the rich men that have come for me and I refuse. So he sent for me and the boy said it again to my face. I couldn’t listen to him, it was too much, I remove one leg of my cover shoe to hit him but the inspector brought out a letter straight from above, that he should serve NYSC extra two months in Bachama as punishment before he will come back here and ask for my forgiveness.

Do you know Bachama?  You will pass Wukari, Jalingo and Rafi. Maybe you will then trek from the junction motor will drop you for some kilometers before you will see bike to take you to one river. When you cross the river you will continue trekking till you reach Bachama. Cars don’t reach that place.

After one week he came back looking like a mad person, he came back here and prostrated on the ground and was begging for my forgiveness so that they will cancel his punishment. I pity him but I refuse to intercede for him, do you know why? What he said when his friends were begging him to beg me that day he insulted me in front of his house, I cannot forget it. He said he cannot beg a woman. I was shocked. That means he cannot beg his mother. He needed to learn that lesson. What did I do to him that made him insult me like that? I cooked for him and I had to even give him transport to go back to Bachama. When he finished his two months he was really sorry. A small boy fa. If it is smoking, I have people that smoke, the night he insulted me the youth of this town wanted to visit his room and I had to send students to warn him to go and sleep in another place. If it is age am I not old enough to be his mother? But because he see me I am fat and I am a woman. I don’t blame him. It was his first time in the north. And he have not seen a Jukun woman before.

After her narration I explained again that I wasn’t starting a book club but a Library. She apologized for getting me wrong and informed me the school didn’t have spare books and wished me a good day.

T J Benson

Writer/Visual Artist, IWP fall 2021 fellow. The Madhouse from Masobe Books & Penguin Random House SA 2021

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