flash back

It was the cold, and fear of cracked heels but mostly the cold that had me wearing those socks even though I knew they could get me in trouble. See, it was always either too hot or too cold in my school and this time we were in the harmattan, that mid harmattan period when you could literally hear the wind whispering “uuugguuluuuu”. My white socks had gotten stolen, then my brown socks went missing as well and now I was left with only this pair of multicoloured socks. I knew I shouldn’t have worn them, but I didn’t have many choices, it was either that or the cold and cracked heels. I tried to hide from them, those prefects and their hawk eyes that could spot a breach from a mile away.

I found a “hidden” spot on the assembly ground and stayed put there, making sure I never got too close to the front, the back or the spaces by the sides marking were one class ended and another started. I was starting to get comfortable, confident that I was well hidden when someone tapped my shoulder on the line, I turned and locked eyes with Mimi, Arghhhh! It had to be this one, this one that hated me with every fiber of her being. “How” I thought to myself, frustrated, “how had she found me? Why was she walking between lines for heaven’s sake? What or who is she looking for, in between JSS2 lines?”

“Take them off and give them to me, stupid girl” she hissed, stretching out her palm.

“Please, I was cold”, I pleaded weakly.

She just kept looking at me with what I can only describe as malice, her palm still stretched out for the socks. I took them off slowly, hoping that somehow in that one minute it took me to take off the pair, she’d suddenly stop hating me, at least long enough to let me off with a warning or maybe light a punishment.

No Luck.

When she left, I made to follow her, then remembered this would only worsen my current predicament, assembly was still in progress and everyone had to stand in the lines. I made sure to follow her every move though and made a beeline for her immediately the principal dismissed the assembly. I wasn’t known for begging these savage senior girls for anything, but for this pair of socks I was ready to be humble. She took full advantage of this and shared some of that advantage with her class mates when I begged her all the way to her class. I remember I tried once to touch her hand as I begged and had to dodge a slap as a result.

Have you ever seen alma-Jiri children or those ones from Niger begging? Toh. You get the picture.

She kept her books and left her class room, and I followed her, begging, not for once considering where she was headed, I just wanted my socks back. When she went around the back of class and started heading for the toilet there, I intensified my begging, I may have even shed a tear or two. Last, last, “madam” walked into the toilet and came out and my socks had disappeared from her hand. Pit toilet. Mimi threw my socks in the pit toilet. When she started walking back to her class, I just stood and stared at a her wondering why this girl hated me so much. Moments later, I went into the toilet to check, if maybe by some stroke of luck, she’d dropped it on the floor and not in the pit. For Wia.

I went to my class for first period, hoping that the harmattan would be kinder to me than Mimi.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

It was at the exact moment that I realized I was alone that the devil realized it too, but he didn’t say anything to me until the nicely displayed lace panties on Mimi’s panty line caught my eye through the open cubicle door as I sat up to look around.

Mimi had nice underwear, those lace and silk creations, the kind you see in magazines, nothing like the plain white cotton panties I had. She liked to show them off too. Whenever she could she’d strut around the hostel calling on her friends and looking for junior students to make miserable wearing only those bras and knickers, this was in addition to having a regular display of those things on her pant line that was strategically placed to catch every eye.

See, we were in boarding house and made to wear uniforms, we didn’t have any way to flaunt our fashion savvy save through underwear and everyone who had attractive underwear flaunted them with pride. This was; still is normal I tell you, not weird at all.  Me? I just wasn’t destined to be great in that school aswear, the only underwear I ever got was white cotton panties and vests, no lace, no frills, no flowered patterns, just plain white, very pathetic something. I didn’t grow boobs in time, but even if I did, I’m sure those people would have got me white cotton bras as well. #sigh#.

It was the slide show, a very impressive slide show of several ways those panties could pay for my socks, and then another slide show of all the times Mimi had maltreated me. It was those damned slide shows that made me forget everything about the book of life for a moment, damn the devil and his slide shows! I sat on my bed for 2 minutes that seemed like 30 staring at that pant line and contemplating, fighting the familiar battle, to love or to hate back, to exact revenge or to leave it to God; In the end, “Do me, I do you, God no go vex” won that round.

As room perfect, Mimi like all the others, had converted our box room to her personal cubicle, forcing us all to store our boxes in what was intended to be a laundry room. She’d transformed that little room into a haven, at least that’s what it would look like if you were spending 9 months of every year cooped up in a room with 30 other girls, every one of them with their own big or small wahala.

I looked around the room again, there was no one in sight still, through the windows, no one still. You may not understand how rare it was, a moment like this, when there was no one in the room, not because we were chased out but just because, at that precise moment, everyone had somewhere else they’d rather be. The novelty of this chance I had was in the fact that I didn’t have to look or wait for it, I didn’t bid my time, fate took it and dropped it in my lap, or more accurately shoved it in my face. I dog eared the page of my novel I was reading, put it in my backpack and made my move. My mother did not give birth to a smesme girl. Finally, 1 whole term, 3 months later, I was going to get revenge. What is it they say about revenge and cold dishes again? You know it.

I didn’t leave anything behind, every piece of underwear was taken including the dirty ones, the ones she’d soaked in a fancy little bucket with a lid hidden under her bed. I made sure to search everywhere, well, that was easy, it’s not exactly hard for a boarding student to figure out where another boarding student would store her underwear. Yep, I took all her socks too, and her scarves, I made to reach for her tooth brush and bath sponge but… I wasn’t that much of a terrible person, so I let those stay.

We rarely walked to anywhere in that school, we jogged or sprinted to class, hostel, dinning, assembly, chapel, everywhere, with power drunk prefects screaming at you and threatening to kill you if you stopped, almost every threat punctuated with “God save your soul”. Some junior girls always managed to get everywhere ahead of time, long before we needed to be there, I don’t know how they did it. Others like myself either jogged or came up with very innovative excuses why we couldn’t run, one time I had asthma, another time, my friend had Leukemia. What did we know? We were 11-13-year-olds.

With Mimi’s drawers and  all in my bag, I was grateful for those senior girls and their yelling that day, I ran till I got to the pit toilet, yes, the same pit toilet where my socks were put to rest. Looking back now, I wonder why I didn’t go to one of the several pits in the hostel, why did it I have to travel all the way to one at the back of the senior class rooms, risking getting caught with the loot in my backpack?

Walking out of that pit toilet with my mission accomplished gave me a high, like you can’t imagine. I walked back to class feeling so good, itching to tell someone, but that would have been suicide. That lady they call Karma, she’s balling o; the high that comes with dishing out payback, tramadol cannot give it to you. These days when I leave these things to karma to handle, it’s just because……. BOOK OF LIFE and maybe maturity.

As I made my way to my own class for the afternoon prep, carefully avoiding running into any of the senior girls I knew I’d bought trouble I just wasn’t sure how much. I offered up a silent prayer of hope that no had seen me enter that cubicle. I stepped into my class and let myself get caught up the noisy banter that was our daily ritual before the prep prefects came in to intimidate us into silence for 90minutes of scheduled study time.