My first phone was a Sagem; it was black, with a little antenna. My dad gave to me when I was in Junior Secondary School two. Before long, my phone status sky rocketed when he got me a Nokia phone; the first ever coloured screen Nokia phone then, and I was in high heavens. The phone was beautiful and I loved it. There was just one little problem – very little, which constantly pricked my bubble of happiness…
What caused me sleepless nights and great worry was that I didn’t have too many people calling me. Not too many of my school mates had phones. The few times my phone did ring, it was my Dad or mum calling to either check up on me or leave a message. This got me dissatisfied and I devised a means to get my phone to keep ringing. I wanted to be awoken by loud peels of my phone ringing, I wanted to spend hours talking on the phone and laughing with whoever called me.
What I did was to change the last digits of my dad’s number to another (from 73 to 74), then I kept flashing the number. I guess I got lucky one day, when my phone rang and I realized that it was ‘that’ number calling me back. It was a guy! Scared initially, I eventually decided to play along. This was my chance to make good use of my phone and I was not ready to lose it. So I pretended to be an adult, changed my intonation and we kept talking.
The guy was based in Calabar and he kept asking me when I would visit. He called everyday and he would call me sweet names immediately I picked his call.
“Baby, sweetheart, when are you visiting me in Calabar? I can’t wait to see you.” He would ask everytime he called and I would devise a lie to cover up my tracks.
I soon became an expert at talking on the phone. I would talk in a light-hearted manner, laughing and cracking jokes as I did. It even occurred to me that I deserved an award for the role I played so well.
He thought he had found his missing rib. After all, I was a grown-up single lady, wasn’t I?
It was all fun until I was caught.
It was my valedictory service in Junior class, the one that meant I was to become a ‘senior.’ My mother had taken me to the market and bought me some nice clothes, clothes which she imagined I would look beautiful in as I walked to the front of the hall to receive my prize for best student in whatever subject.
As we got to my school that day, my mum said “Ayo, give me your phone. Don’t take it to the hostel, let me hold it for you so that they don’t steal it.” I obeyed and handed my phone over. My school was a boarding school in Epe.
Valedictory day came and my name was never called once to receive any prize, not even C. R.K or Yoruba. I was still smiling because I didn’t see it as the end of life.
Getting back to the car after the ceremony ended, I noticed my mother was not smiling. A few minutes later, she sweetly asked me in a light voice “Who is Ifeanyi that calls you and says you are his baby?”
The fear of God came upon me. I had been found out. “What will I say?” I asked myself.
“The man is not serious. He called me mistakenly one day and since then he has been calling me. I told him that I’m a small girl, but he still keeps calling me.” I said in a rush trying to play smart . My mother nodded and kept quiet. I was elated that I had managed to outsmart my mother.
Some minutes later, my mum parked the car and looked for a place to get call card. She bought it, loaded it on my phone and placed a call, of course placing the phone on speaker.
“My love, baby, Who did you give your phone to? The person was acting uncivilized. She even refused to give the phone to you” I heard Ifeanyi say when he picked, and I knew I was dead!
“May I know why you are calling an underaged girl, calling her baby, saying sweet words, even asking her to visit you?” My mother began.
“Yes! Underage. Please stay away from my daughter. I don’t want you to ever call her again.” My mother yelled into the phone.
“Useless woman. When you won’t train your children well. Ask your daughter if she wasn’t the one that started calling me first. How was I know to know she was underage?” The guy responded immediately and I wondered why he was so quick to attack my mother, if he was so unsuspecting of me.
“So I have been fooling only myself!” I thought to myself.
‘My love’ promptly ended the call after he lambasted my mother more.
All through the journey home, my mother would laugh out a little, shake her head and say “Emi uncivilized! Emi useless!”
I was not bold enough to look at her face; my only prayer was that God should intervene, but I guess he was busy with more interesting matters, because he left me to face my problems alone!
The beating I got that day can only be imagined; it did not help matters that my mum felt I did not receive any prize at school, because I had been carried away by boys and had lost focus.
I mean, how was I to explain to her and my father that I was only looking for fun? That I wasn’t interested in men then, or that I did it just because my phone never rang enough times?
I did not see that phone for a very long time after that and neither did I partake in the bucket of ice cream pops had cooling in the freezer waiting to celebrate his baby’s graduation.
My brothers did not help matters, either. Everytime I passed by them, they would look at one another and then say in a chorus “Baby! Sweetheart!” And they would burst out laughing as I ran to my room, hot tears running down my face…
So what earned you the ‘beating of your life?’ You know that beating that made you think you would soon join the saints in heaven? What did you do?
Credit – Ayo Al