As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been a shy guy. Well, not anymore sha. But back in the days, it was such a persisting pr0blem. I see older people, I got shy. I see pastors, I got shy. I see very beautiful ladies, I got shy. I see pet animals, I got shy. Shy, Shy, Shy, Shy, Shy, Shy….my God, what the phuck! I was even scared of my own shadows back then. And anytime shit happened, I wished the ground beneath my feet would just burst open and swallow me up. It was that bad!
Well, that’s by the way. I am not a fan of Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. But in all honesty, my face got burned on my sixteenth birthday and that was the dearth of my shyness.
I was born on a special day, in a dilapidated hospital situated within a ghost town. Now don’t ask me how I managed to survive; in all honesty, it was a miracle. I never had an English name; instead, my parents gave me three kpako Igbo names and one nickname – not very long ones though. As a kid, every time the attendance was being taken in class, I always felt ashamed to answer my names. One could hear the French teacher call out names of the pupils in the class:
Amanda Covenant Chinenye PRESENT…
Tochukwu Bryan Michael PRESENT…
Helen Pauline Ujunwa PRESENT…
Ikenna Baruu Nnaemeka Obioha SILENT…
And she would repeat my names three more times before I would shamefully raise my hands up and murmur PRESENT, with my head bowed down. Tragic!
The disrespectful girls always had a field day tormenting me and my fellow kpako friends, that couldn’t speak English effectively. I didn’t blame them; they had the luxury of watching such TV programs as Sesame Street and other educational programs, while me and my kpako friends always played War and threw cashew nuts till dusk.
Already, the French teacher had set some rules pertaining to how the pupils would communicate in class – the punishment for speaking Igbo or any other indigenous languages was to pay one naira and spend overtime during prep while the other pupils went home. I remember on one occasion when a chubby girl wanted to pass by my locker on her way to her own locker and mistakenly hit my hand. I waited patiently for her to apologize only to get the shocker of my life;
“Idiot, you didn’t know I was passing and kept your hand on my way”, she said rudely, with an accent that showed she had spent her formative years in England.
I wanted to say something to her but I couldn’t. The French teacher was on her desk, watching the two of us with keen interest. I remembered the rule – I could only make sentences in English and since I couldn’t, I just stared at the rude girl and said, “OK, OK, You, You, Beat You, Beat You, Watch, Just Watch”. The other disrespectful kids laughed at me. Only my kpako friends sympathized with me and told me to chill and wait till school was over so we would deal with the rude girl. Lord knows the beating we gave her and two of her friends and the disrespect ended.
Fast forward to my teenage years and the shyness persisted. Already, my phugly face had started growing bumps on it; what every teenager detested – pimples. I did what I could to get rid of it – prayers, fasting, creams, traditional medicine. But all my efforts didn’t provide any lasting solution; it was like fetching running water with a basket. I steadily wished the ground would open up and gulp me up or better, an asteroid would just hit my big head and knock me the phuck out.
My elder brother had already gotten rid of his pimples so I diligently came to him one early morning with my complaints. He was sprawling on the floor when I entered the room and he looked up; he was the babalawo and I was the humble client with the problem. After my epistle and lamentation, he laughed in his sly manner and asked whether I really wanted to get rid of the pimples. I said YES without hesitation. So he proceeded to bring out a tiny book and another substance wrapped in a red cloth from his locally made bag. Na wa o, where did this guy get all these stuffs, I wondered. This guy na real babalawo o.
“This is a special book and I got it from Popsie’s study last time we went to the village. It is the 7 books of Moses. Make sure you recite the verses and then rub this substance on your face every morning and in the evening for seven days”, he said while handing over the materials to me.
“Is that all?” I asked.
“Yeah, but make sure you bring back the book when you are done”, he replied.
I gladly thanked him and promised him 50% of my pocket money for the next month if the whole thing worked out perfectly. He nodded in agreement and wrote something down in his diary. I knew it was the 50% stuff that he wrote down so as to remind me at a later date. Greedy babalawo!
I woke up the next morning a happy man. First of all, it was my birthday – the sixteenth one. Secondly, I would be writing my first paper for the WAEC examinations. Thirdly, these ungodly bumps on my face would varnish for good. Gracious Lord, show me a miracle today, I prayed. I said my morning prayers and recited some verses from the book. I then proceeded to the bathroom and carefully washed my face and other body parts. Afterwards, I applied a generous amount of the substance on my face.
Time passed and I left for school. On the way, I started having some burning sensations on my face. Maybe that’s how the substance works, I thought. In a bid to kill of the nodules and papules, it would give a burning sensation. I continued walking to the school. A few meters to the school gate, I couldn’t bear the pains anymore. Gracious Lord, this couldn’t be the miracle I asked for.
I quickly dashed to the gateman’s room and begged him for some water to pour on my burning face. The look on his face when I entered the room indicated that I was really messed up – he thought he had seen a ghost. I applied the liquid many times before the pains subsided. I then requested for a mirror and I miraculously got one from the gateman. Beng Beng Beng! Holy Crap! This couldn’t be me, I wasn’t this ugly na. I couldn’t recognize the person I saw in the mirror. It was the face of an unfortunate man eaten up by some alien species. God, why me! This wasn’t the miracle I asked for na.
I contemplated on what to do. Should I walk back home? Hell No, there is no way I would miss my exams just because of my freaking face. But what would the other students think about me? They would call me Ojuju Calabar or Harvey Dent, the two-faced monster. They would talk about this incident endlessly. These thoughts raced on my mind, clashing without providing a final answer.
I finally decided not to give a phuck. And what if I looked like Anakin Skywalker or a guy that escaped from a ritual den? Ogbeni, calm down jor. No dey form James Bond. I walked through the administrative building and then to the examination hall. All eyes were on me. There were giggles here and there. Laughter and screams filled the air. I kept my head down and walked to my seat. At that moment, I wished I had the key to a villain’s store house of weapons and bombs which I would use to destroy these spiteful individuals. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “O boi, no mind these people o. Just focus and write your exams because na that one wey matter right now”. I found an inexplicable comfort in those words and quickly settled on my seat and wrote the exams without thinking about my new face.
Back home in the evening, my parents demanded to know what happened to my face. I stared at my elder brother for a long while and after he gave me a stern look, I decided not to snitch. So I made up a story about bees stinging me on my way back. They gave me some medications which relieved the symptoms. Even the birthday celebration wasn’t eventful as everyone felt pity on me.
The next day, the babalawo woke me up to remind me of my 50% pledge while laughing in his sly manner. I felt like knocking him the phuck out but decided otherwise. The coming days were hell for me. Overtime, I got used to my new face. I stopped worrying about flimsy stuffs that didn’t matter much in life. Alas, the shyness ended. I walked around the neighborhood with a swagger, not giving a phuck about my new face. I also learnt an invaluable lesson – never trust an amateur babalawo!