I resolved that I would do whatever I wanted.
It’s enough, I said to myself.
I was going to study “Public Health Technology”; I desired “English Language”. So, from the day that my brother and I stepped onto the university campus of one of Nigeria’s eastern states, I knew I had made a mistake in agreeing to take a pre-science course in the university. Big mistake.
After checking in, my mum took me to every bed in Rm 303 Hall C – where I would be living – to introduce me as the new room-mate. She asked that they keep an eye on me and before she left, she had added 12 new phone numbers to her diary. My belief that my days there, would be short and full of troubles – as the Biblical Job spoke about – was confirmed.
Yet, Joy – my bunkmate – didn’t refuse when I asked her for a pair of trousers to try on, the following morning.
“Your mama too harsh sef, she even collect Mama Rita number,” she said. Her pity for me, was written clearly across her face.
“My dear, I don’t know what to do to spoil their connection.” I could just imagine her and my mum, on the phone for hours, discussing me and my ‘transgressions’.
“She no want make una spoil like us, though I wonder how long she can keep up,” Joy assured me. I marvelled at how quickly she was able to switch between English and pidgin.
I vividly remember the bright pink top, that I paired with the perfect trousers, that day. Those trousers were the first piece of clothing I’d ever worn, that divided my legs – apart from my panties, that is. And with every step I took to my lectures, I felt defiled. I pictured the look of horror on my mother’s face, if she ever heard about it – she might kick a bucket at the sight.
That the daughter of a Deeperly Ministry was caught with trousers on, on one of the Nigerian university campuses, would be classified as a really big sin. Yes, it was that big a deal because if you Googled my father’s name, more than 10 search results would crop up – with content that had nothing to do with social media.
I realized I wanted to thrive in this world; if I played my cards well I would have the best of both worlds. The perfect hypocrite, if you like. As I did, the relationships between room-mates and I started to fizzle out. I was no longer a pushover I’d been in the name of being humble.
I learnt to put myself first; so,I stopped being the watchman of the room when the others where away. I made new friends and started going out way more than I used to; I turned into to that girl in Drake’s Hotline Bling.
Then, people started to talk.
She is promiscuous.
She sleeps around.
She’s a pastor child, that want to embarrass her father.
Then my brother began checking on me in the hostel. He would come at odd hours, asking where, who and what questions. He was suddenly interested in my affairs, dressing, friends etc.
“Ada, k’ebe i noo?” my mum would ask, over the phone.
“On my way back from church, mummy.”
“But your room-mate said that church closed an hour ago,” she would counter.
“I had to help my friend shop for stuff in the market, on my way,” I’d reply.
Lying wasn’t enough. So, I would turn off my phones, then beg friends to stop my parents from discovering my “heathen” lifestyle.
Then, one fateful morning, my mother called. She asked that I hurry over to my brother’s hostel. She said that she wanted to speak with him, but that she couldn’t reach him. So, I put on a tank-top and my knee-length shorts, before walking to his hostel. He wasn’t in his room, so I returned to my hostel. As I stepped into my room to call my mum and give her the feedback, she walked in, with my brother in tow.
She had caught me red-handed! she exclaimed. She had also been hearing from the loud-mouthed mama Rita and my brother, about my promiscuous lifestyle. Two slaps followed in quick succession, and my room filled in from every side as the ruckus became louder. She went through my wardrobe and picked out every piece of ‘ungodly’ clothing. Crying and cursing the devil for bewitching me, she dragged me to the front of the hostel, where she asked for kerosene. Then, she set the clothes ablaze, in the presence of every one who cared to stop by and enquire about the morning drama in the most popular hostel in school. As I stood staring at the fire lick and burn, I felt my social life and credibility razed to the ground with it. I spent weeks in bed, fetched water only at nights, talked to no-one even on the phone. I wished I could hibernate till people’s brains were too aged to recognize me, eyes wouldn’t remember to stare as I passed by and mouths wouldn’t cease speaking whenever I stepped into a room.
When exam time came, I managed to show up and write what I knew – it was like depression had built a fort in me. But all the drama had been mere rehearsals for the real punishment, which showed up when I got home. I was treated like an outcast, quarantined like a leper so as not to infect my siblings with the ‘spirit of bewitchment and immorality’. After seven days spent lying on the altar in the church, I was certified clean to mingle again.
But nothing really changed.
I still paid installments in malls for the trousers and sneakers I admired.
My brother and I stayed home, awaiting our admission status. I started panicking. My parents kept taunting me that God was punishing me by denying me admission as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd lists of admitted students were out already. My parents decided to assist the ‘good sheep’ (my snitch of a brother) by paying for him to obtain university admission.
Imagine my surprise when I was called two weeks later, with a message that the final admission list was out and my name, not my brother’s, was on it …
A. Rebelle is a 20-something year-old African lady and these are her adventures.