Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Once upon a time..

Last week I bumped into Bunmi.

I hadn’t seen Bunmi since primary school
( A lovely place called Dalfred. It's right next to Sesame Street!)

The last time we met was during the send off ceremony the school had thrown in our honor.We were leaving the school into the big world. The world of secondary schools; Dating, Biros, Increased pocket money and a whole new set of teachers to learn about.
What was there not to like?
The last image I remembered of her had her weeping terribly as the choir sang “Roses in the valley.”
It was almost as if after the 3hr sendoff ceremony was done she would be sent off too war.
Hell. Come to think about it most of my class cried that day.
Everyone had tears in their eyes because they knew, they just knew, that leaving primary school was the end of the world. The absolute worst thing that could happen to them.
This was it. Their lives were over.

I wanted to yell out at my Class.
“Come-on. Why the tears? There was nothing for us here anyway. We’re going into the world man. Suck it up. You’re leaving primary school for crissakes. Look around you. Except for the slides and swings…Nothing happens here!!”
I didn’t.
I just joined them and cried.

So here we were a decade and then some years later and I see her smiling happily at me.
“Carlang Xertnghotli!” She screamed with delight displaying that most annoying of infant traits. Somehow everyone you went to primary school with remembered your surname. They flaunted this by yelling it out loud whenever they meet you.
Not to be outdone I replied.
“Hey! Bunmi Thiguyeser!”I looked at her “Wow…”
I was right on both counts. Her surname and she looking wow.

Last time I saw her she was some 9 year old girl with a head to large for her body and braids riddled with ribbons. Now she was a gorgeous 5 ft 7.Her, lips shining from gloss, was the beckoning center piece of a perfectly made face. Beneath her face she carried a figure that begged to be hugged. Her dress clung to her skin highlighting the gentle curve from her flat stomach to the soft swell of her breast. Long legs, toned a lovely brown, shot out from her plaid skirt ending in delightful sandals. Her Toenails were colored the same lovely shade of pink as her fingers.
I swallowed hard.
This was skinny Bunmi?
If i had any doubts about evolution they were gone now!

She gave a chuckle and gave me a hug.
“I can’t believe it’s you. Is it really?” She said with a warm smile.
The real Carlang died after the send off ceremony. He got run over by a herd of cows that were trying to escape from their herdsman. Distraught by the disaster the local school PTA donated money and cloned the cells of the dead boy, recreating another kid in his likeness. Carlang's parents wept with joy as they unwrapped their kid when the gift was delivered.
“He looks so much like the old Carlang.” His mum wept as she cut of the cello tape from his right nipple. “I think we’ll call him Carlang as well.”
“Yes! Lets.” His father agreed.

Naturally I didn’t disclose this closely guarded family secret. I just nodded my head and smiled.
It’s is me.

We chatted about a couple of nothings for a bit. I focused completely on her face. My pose all degage. Inwardly my nerves were shot.

It just didn’t seem right that she had grown a fantastic pair of jugs with age. It didn’t seem fair either. If I had known she would have turned out this way I would have been much nicer to her when we were in primary school.
I wouldn’t have laughed at her when she said the capital of Egypt was China
She stopped smiling at me and ran her hand across her hair. It was a habit she had had since primary school. This really was Bunmi!
“You know I thought about you just last week.” She said.
“You did? That’s nice. What about?” I asked with a wary smile.
I shouldn’t have worried needlessly.
“The books” she said. “Do you remember? I was talking with my sister Lamide about primary school episodes and then I remembered it.”
I didn’t remember Lamide. But I remembered the books.

She was talking about an incident that happened in primary four.
I’m not sure how old I was then.7 maybe or 8? I was definitely young though. It was about noon and we were in class having a lesson.
The lecture (Did we call it lecture back then) was about some boring science topic.
About how you could mix two atoms of Hydrogen with one of oxygen and get this mix called water.
Big deal. I had my head bent over my desk in a seemingly exhausted pose. I was anything but. What I really was doing was reading a novel that I had placed on my lap.
Bunmi was seating beside me so she could see what I was doing. Ignoring the droning voice behind the lecture I dived into a world of magic. A world of flying chairs and distant worlds made out of chocolate. I was so engrossed in the tales of the Wishing chair that I didn’t notice the silence in the class until it was too late. As it was my first warning of the danger I was in was Bunmi’s quiet cough.
I looked up into the eyes of our lecturer. Wait a sec… I think I remember. We used to call them Class teacher…
Right. So I looked into the eyes of our…class teacher and I knew I was in trouble.
He had stopped giving the lesson and had the look in his eyes. The “Who the hell do you think you are you little punk” look. I suddenly wished my chair was a wishing chair.
“What are you doing Carlang?” He asked sternly.

I looked at him with my innocent doe eyed bambi look. I had been practicing it for weeks. Everyone was supposed to fall sway beneath its spell.
“Nothing!” I replied. My Bambi look on full beam.
Everyone in class laughed. In the world of kids and babies there is no such as thing as doing nothing. When we say nothing we mean something and occasionally everything. But never ever do we really mean nothing.
The class teacher had hung around long enough to understand the lingo of infants.
He walked over to me and looked beneath the desk.

Page 59. The Adventures of the Wishing chair. Author Enid Blyton.
The bench would like to present this as evidence against the accused.

It was an open and shut case against me.

My school was preppy. But they had nothing against the occasional use of the rod. The teacher brought out his cane with masochistic swiftness and asked me to stretch out my hand.
Whack .Whack.
Two strokes were quickly delivered across my palm for doing nothing.
I didn’t cry.
Girls did that sought of thing. Girls actually started crying before they were caned so most of the time they never really got around to actually being caned.
Smart Tactic.
I couldn’t cry. If I broke down and cried in front of the class I would loose my position amongst the top 20 coolest boys in the class.
There were 22 boys in the class as it were.
That would be terrible.

After my punishment I was asked to seat down.
The class teacher (May the pox of a thousand camels infest his nose) returned to the front of the class with a satisfied gleam in his eyes. After a quick look around the class he continued the lecture in his boring drone.
The class, as it is want to be after such executions against its members, was decidedly quieter.
“I’m really sorry about that.” Bunmi whispered to me.
“Its okay” I answered. Smiling as if the teacher had just given me a pat on the head and a tickle.
My palms hurt like hell.

For the next two minutes I focused on the teacher. He was still droning about the makings of water. It seemed pretty silly to me anyways. Was he trying to say that if oxygen flows in through one window and twice as much hydrogen flowed in through the opposite window we would have a fountain sprout in the middle of our class?
After two minutes of pretending to listen to his ridiculous lecture (who needs water?) I stopped looking at him.
I opened my desk.
Beside me I heard Bunmi Gasp. I didn’t blame her.
Inside my desk, beside my lunch box and stationary kit, were 7 novels lying in wait.

I gave a quick scan, The Adventures of the Wishing Chair had been my favorite but The Enchanted forest was just as nice. I settled for that one.
“Let me know when he looks at me.” I told Bunmi with a smile.
And with that I went back to reading.

Tale closed.
was the episode Bunmi was referring too. Tales of our youthful exuberance.

I looked at Bunmi and smiled.
We had migrated to a soft drink booth during our recant. Now we were seated. I had a bottle of coke in my hand .She had settled for soda water.
Dieters. Yuck!
“You were crazy back then. “ She said with a laugh. “Supposing the teacher had seen you again.”
“Oh. I had you to back me up then.” I replied laughing with her.
“Thanks. Not that I was much help. If I remember correctly half the time I used to read during class alongside you. We were crazy about books.”
“I still am.” I said.
I couldn’t help it. I finally stared at her boobs. They looked. “Wow!”
“What’s your number” I asked.

She was right. I loved reading as a kid. As I smiled with nostalgia, I got thinking.
It didnt seem to be the case anymore.

It seems to me that reading has taken a decline amongst our young ones? What most children want to do now is watch some animation or zone out on the various game consoles out there. I’m not against that ( I’m still guilty of the same) but no one seems to read anymore. I used to stay locked in my rooms for hours on end reading books after books. In my world Enid Blyton was a Goddess and the chronicles of Narnia were masterpieces that were Shakespearean in accomplishment. There used to be great importance and credence given to the game of I’ve read more novels that you have. It wasn’t just enough to read. But to read as much as you could. The pace setter series, The Nancy drew mysteries, the hardy boys. All the eponymous books about kids solving crime. Reading was fun. It was loved. The thirst for knowledge was a virus that gripped us all. The few of us who didn’t love to read actually pretended too, just so they could be cool.

Some of us where so passionate about it we were willing to ignore the lecture of water making just to find out what adventures Moonface or Dame washalot was up too.
It was cool to read.
If you read. You were cool!
When did all that change?

Make no mistakes about it. Change it has. Over the past two decades the number of children who enjoy reading has reduced. How did that happen?
It’s a sad thing to loose. The culture of reading. In a lot of ways I am more reconciled to the notion of adults not reading. It’s easier to forgive. Life has a way of taking up your days when you’re an adult. As much as you’d love too, finding time to read is a lot harder as you age. There’s so much else to do. Work , fun, sex and sex.

But Children have so much time and so little to do. Reading as a kid made me half the person that I am. Aren’t children today missing out on all the important lessons I learnt because of their dislike for reading?
I fear that, in Nigeria at least, reading is a culture that is slowly being lost amongst our children.
Where did all the love go?
How can it be brought back?

“I’m not sure. “ Bunmi answered when I asked her. “I think it’s just the way of the times. Most parents don’t read themselves so they don’t feel the need to urge the same trait in their young ones.”
I took a sip of my coke and stole another look at Bunmi’s Bosom.
In the end perhaps there was still hope. Maybe it was one of those dictated cycles in life. Maybe after a while the child hood lust would return.
After all, not all my childhood lust was gotten over as quickly.
Take Bunmi’s chest for instance.
“What are you staring at?” she finally asked me.
Girls. Some things never changed. Girls were still as observant as they had been back then. She probably had been aware of my gaze for the last thirty minutes.

I looked at her face.
She had a mischievous smile.
I smiled an innocent smile in return. My doe eyed Bambi look planted firmly on my face. Over a decade after primary school, I had gotten very good at it.
What was I staring at?
There were a million answers to that question. Her button. Her necklace. Good old nothing.
I could answer the question.
Or I could ask her one of mine. The Nigerian way.
Answer a question with a question.
I rubbed my hand across my hair and asked.
“What’s the capital of Egypt?”