Despite being 2 years older than me, David has always been there. When we played house as children, I was always his wife and assumed this role by making him and our only child, Jojo the dog mud Funkaso cakes, with a sprinkle of sand for sugar. Jojo had been our son until Sagi, my baby brother was old enough to replace him. David had always enjoyed my muddy Funkaso. He would often show his appreciation by rubbing his belly the same way father did when mother made him Suya spicy kebabs with rice.
As we grew older, David assumed the role of a big brother. He walked me to and from school everyday, protecting me from other older boys, mainly Balarabe. I remember one time, Balarabe went through a phase of flipping girls’ dresses and actually managed to pursue his mischievous aims for quite some time. This was until the fateful day he had tried to flip my dress. David beat him up so thoroughly that he never tried it again!
However since I turned 16 last year, my relationship with David has changed into something I can’t quite understand. He avoids eye contact, hardly speaks to me and yet, he is still always there. For example, our families often attend each other’s celebrations and funerals. As my mother’s only daughter such gatherings are always a very stressful time for me. There is flour to be kneaded, vegetables to be chopped and Daddawa to be stewed. But, by far the most difficult task is the killing of the chicken. I am terrified at the thought of taking life, even that of a fairly insignificant and rather tasty chicken. My mother always insists, “Hauwa, you need to stop this silliness. You must learn to kill a chicken or else you’ll end up marrying a poor man and eat vegetables for the rest of your life! Your father and I are not paying 50,000 naira per term for you to marry a pauper”.
I’m tempted to take my chances. My stomach starts churning at the sound of Sagi my baby brother chasing his dinner, the chicken. The pursuit is often a dramatic one, which lifts the dust around the compound and has Sagi shrieking somewhat maniacally at the terrified chicken. Eventually, the bird succumbs to fatigue and Sagi pounces. With a huge triumphant grin on his face, Sagi presents the bird to me.
I feel its little heart beating fast in my hands. My own heart is often thumping pretty quickly too. I’ve come to believe that all living creatures have a 6th sense for death or impending doom. I can taste the bile rising up my throat as I pick up the blunt knife. It’s important that I place my foot firmly over its flapping panicked wings. If my foot shifts slightly, the wing often snaps during its struggle and rips through the chicken’s white fIesh, causing it to squawk in pain. Even worse, sometimes the chicken comes free and starts running around the compound headless, its broken wing hanging off awkwardly. At this point, I am heaving into the dish of hot water I had prepared for softening the bird’s quills, ready for plucking.
It is always in that moment before I have to make the cut that David turns up, as if from nowhere. He takes the bird and knife from my hands and swiftly kills the chicken. Despite the fact that David hardly speaks to me (in fact, he speaks to my friend Maryama much more than he does me), he’s always on time to rescue and protect me.
Two more days to go until David comes for me. I wonder what he’ll say. Perhaps he’ll ask me to be his girlfriend. It’s good that absence makes the heart grow fonder, lol!
Can you imagine it? David and Hauwa both studying at the American University of Nigeria. One doctor and one judge – what a match! I’m bubbling over with excitement. Just 2 more sleeps to go…
My stomach flipped with excitement as I read the letter for the 3rd, maybe 8th time that week.
How are you? How are the preparations for your final exams going? I am doing well. I’m now in the 2nd year of my course at the American University of Nigeria. I’m finding Medicine very demanding but God willing, I qualify in 3 years. I’m working really hard in the hope of getting a job in Maiduguri. Maybe even a job in Abuja, who knows. In an ideal world I’d want to settle back home but with all trouble in Borno, perhaps the city would give a better life. I know all these things are a long way away but all the trouble in Borno brings them to the forefront of my mind. It consumes me and robs me of sleep at night. I pray for you everyday.
I’ll be coming home for Easter in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing you and the old gang from the village. It seems like yesterday when we were all in detention after the “incident” with Mrs. Joseph’s English breakfast tea! I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve missed you, and the rest of the gang of course.
Balarabe told me he saw you at the village when he visited a few weeks ago. He mentioned that your auntie Saraya was visiting from Lagos and he had had “the honour of rescuing the beautiful Hauwa Yahona from the manly duty of killing a chicken”. He is still a clown, even in med school! I would not recommend you spend too much time with him. I still suspect he was responsible for that actually quite cruel incident with Mrs. Joseph’s English breakfast tea. Only Balarabe would have used double the dose of those laxatives. That boy is bad juju I tell you!
I was thinking that on your last day, I could come for you at the boarding school. Perhaps I can help you to carry your suitcase home. It will give us a chance to talk alone. I hope that’s ok with you.
I’m counting the days.
I smiled to myself remembering how Joy had cackled with glee, her eyes twinkling with excitement as she had read the “scandal” that was David’s letter. “Eeeeeeee! Is this our David? Big ears David? David who was still wetting his bed up to Grade 4! Eeeeeeee, the Lord is mer-ci-ful!” she exclaimed erupting in laughter, this time with the girls in tow.
“Oh my yellow bone! Girls, the boy has been studying to be a Dr for 2 YEARS and now he has already married our Hauwa and they are living in Abuja”. She wiped the laughter tears from the corners of her eyes and linked her arm through mine. She pulled me in gently.
“Hauwa, David wants to carry your suitcase for you. You must be very careful he doesn’t break his arm with all those romance novels you carry around!” Joy looked up at me with a playful grin, her eyes twinkling warmly.
“Hey girls”, Naomi called out. “Maybe she can take some of the books out and read to him during their talk alone. That will lighten the load!” There was another burst of laughter. This time the rest of the dorm who were pretending to mind their own business joined in.
I kissed my teeth doing my best to look offended although secretly enjoying girls’ playful ribbing. I was pleased that Joy had also translated David’s somewhat cryptic and unexpected letter to be one of love interest.
Joy is my best friend. She is loud, caring, funny and has a good heart. She can always be relied upon to blurt out that inappropriate thought everyone is thinking but is too shy to say. If there was something salacious to be said, Joy would almost certainly spout it out (often unintentionally) and have everyone trapped in a complex mix of shock and the pure unadulterated laughter. Joy is also the smartest of my friends and has gotten straight A’s for the last 3 years.
She also knows the word like no other and can often be heard flicking the pages of her well-worn Bible during the early hours of the morning while the rest of the dorm gently snores.
I hope you enjoyed that :). Follow the blog to receive
an email notification when part 2 is available!