“I was thirty-three when I had my first intercourse. And it was with your mother,” my dad would say when he wanted to begin a monologue akin to sex education. The tea on the table was growing cold and so were my feelings. But if he says he is only forty-two and I am eleven, I don’t see the correlation. Since I won’t be offering Maths that day, I preferred not to think about it.
My old man went on about the multiple complications associated with teenage pregnancies. This story was very much graphic and horrifying than what Mrs Eze managed to communicate in Social Studies. In a moment, I felt like the school principal should have hired my father solely for teaching this topic. Girls bleeding to death in a pool of their own blood, babies unable to complete full term in the womb and delivered with abnormalities. And death. Painful, bloody death.
I changed the channel to Channel, thankful that my father immediately became attentive to the exaggerated tales of oil bunkering in the Niger Delta. Then, grabbing my bag and pocket money in a flash, I dashed out to school. It would be another tiring day to wade past eight lessons and enjoy only one period of it: recess, of course. Recess. The only time we exchanged gossips about girls in classes and letters from boys trying their lucks at ‘love’. And regaled ourselves with tales of the latest Bollywood dramas we were watching.
Often, I try to imagine how the world became extremely filled with humans; most especially my country. Sometimes I worry about whether the landscape would be able to accommodate the next generation: my father says that I’m going to be a mother soon but I must wait for my time. I don’t really know what my time connotes, but I think it’s when you get married. Even when my time comes, will I find space?
My everyday experiences point to the fact that no one has actually considered my father’s advice. The bus I ride to school was always so tight. Five children with ladder-like height differences, struggle to occupy only two seats; their mother pleading profusely with the driver that she does not have money for an extra seat. They squeeze me to the end of the vehicle, until I am compelled to let one of them settle on my laps. I pray that the journey is quicker, but that doesn’t happen because there are many more cars before our bus.
The cars? Innumerable. Long before I had adult sense, I always prayed for my dad to have at least three cars. So he, my mum and I can ride separately everyday. And if there are more babies on the way, that God should add more cars to the list. But now, I know that the landlord won’t just complain if we parked four cars in his small compound, he’ll pick a fight with my dad.
So did everyone in town have a car? Maybe not because clearly more people used public transport. But from the ones who did own cars, all the exhaust fumes generated might kill us before our time. And the traffic jam? Even traffic officials have given up hope.
As I hurry towards my school gate, I recount the number of children in plain clothes whom I passed by. Did they ever go to school? Why do they appear so black, tired and hungry so early in the morning? Where are their mothers? Maybe like my mum, theirs were in a hospital preparing to welcome a newborn into the world.