We paid our Okada men off and moved towards the lodge together in silence.
“That man is so gross.” Dami said, breaking the silence.
“Did you see the way he swallowed his eba? Disgusting.” Debbie replied in agreement and shuddered. “But he made sense sha.”
“Oho, I’m glad you noticed.” I said. “It’s not by table manners o. It’s what you put on that table that matters. The man is loaded and good.”
Dami scoffed. “Please. He’s not as good as my bae… even though my bae has not called me since yesterday.” She added sadly.
We ignored her.
Teaching was frustrating. And teaching in the village school was hell. I wasn’t even a good teacher. Writers talk about writer’s block. Me, I entered teacher’s block full time. I would enter a class, write notes on the board without bothering to explain them and the students would copy while I played Candy Crush with my phone. That was when I was in a generous mood. In my stingy mood, I would enter a class and dictate the notes.
On one of such days, I was dictating a note on Parts of Speech when a student interrupted me.
“Auntie, please spell ‘Plonoun’.”
“It’s ‘Pronoun’ not ‘Plonoun’.” I corrected harshly. “Everybody say, ‘Pronoun’.”
“Plonoun!” The students chorused.
I sighed. “Anyway, if you can spell ‘noun’, then you can spell ‘pronoun’.”
There was total silence. Students glanced shamefully at one another.
“Wait, you guys can spell ‘noun’, right?” I asked.
“This is SS2. As in you will write WAEC next year. And you can’t spell ‘noun’?” I asked incredulously.
“Auntie, is it with ‘u’ or ‘w’?”
I was tired.
Another day, I went to do a roll call.
“Kelechi Nwigwe!” I called.
Nobody answered. I called him again. Again, nobody answered.
“Where is he?” I asked the class.
“Mpa Kelechi anwugo.” A male student answered in Igbo.
“English.” I scolded him. “Say it in English.”
The boy gulped nervously. “Papa Kelechi has dieded.” He said in a very thick Igbo accent.
“Died.” I corrected. “I’m sorry. What happened?”
He began to dramatically demonstrate as he talked.
“Erm, he enter moto voom, voom, voom to town to buy market. When he buy market finish, he enter another moto. The moto Va va v ava gbaa!!! on the main road. He die”.
He sighed in relief, finished.
I continued my I-don’t-care attitude with impunity. If there was an award for the bad teacher of the year, I would have won. And I got away with it. The truth was I was one of those people that were easily liked despite their obvious faults. I was an extreme extrovert and very popular among the teachers and students. I could enter a sad room and lit it up with laughter in seconds. For that, everyone liked me and overlooked my transgressions.
Everyone except Auntie Obiakpor. She was my enemy of progress. She turned herself into a monitoring spirit for my matter. When I submitted my lesson note, she would call it nonsense. When I didn’t, she would shout for the whole world to hear that I was a lousy teacher. She frequented the Principal’s office like a dysentery patient to report me but it didn’t work. The Principal liked me too.
Our shouting match was a hit among the teachers, corpers and students. I heard some teachers started placing bets on who would win. One day, we had one of our famous quarrels. I submitted my lesson note. She called it nonsense as usual and the quarrel started. The Principal invited into her office. After another shouting match, she pointed a threatening finger at me and addressed the Principal harshly.
“Warn this girl o. Warn her to respect herself otherwise I’m going to deal with her one day and nothing will happen”.
She stormed out. The Principal hissed and looked at me, apologetically.
“Don’t mind her. She should first learn how to respect her elders. I’m seriously praying for her to be transferred to another school. I’m sure the teachers are praying for that too. But don’t tell anyone I said that.”
Later, I left the Principal’s office and Cordelia approached me.
“I heard you quarreled with Obiakpor again.”
“She started it.” I replied defensively.
“You said thunder fire her.”
“The way I remember it, she said it first. I only did back to sender.”
Cordelia laughed. “I know. It’s her way. Don’t mind her. Everybody knows she’s a troublemaker. Do you know that she’s not married at her age? She still lives with her mother in their old house. She’s nna ga-alu. I pity her mother. Who would marry and keep that onye nsogbu daughter into his house to give him high BP every day?”
“Thank you very much for that information.” Auntie Obiakpor’s sarcastic voice rang behind us.
We jumped and turned to face her. Cordelia tried to hide her embarrassment with a brave face. Auntie glared at her, ignoring me.
“You think you’re better than me because you’re married to that irritating illiterate and you have children?”
That made Cordelia glare proudly at her.
“Is it your illiterate? Leave him for me like that. At least I have a husband and children. What do you have?”
For a tiny second, I saw hurt pass over Auntie Obiakpor’s face and then it returned to the habitual stone face.
“Be deceiving yourself. As if marriage is an achievement. Biko, shift let me pass.”
Cordelia smugly turned to me. “Nne, I’m going. Let me drive the new car that my husband bought for me to the market and buy some foodstuff. So I can go home and cook a delicious Ora soup for him and our children.”
“Something,” she glanced a meaningful insult at Auntie Obiakpor, “that some people cannot understand because they don’t have their own husbands and children to cook for.”
She hissed and walked away. Nkechi gave a medusaic glare at her back and transferred it to me. Then she walked away in the opposite direction. I sighed. Now, that was interesting, I thought.
But something happened one day that changed everything.