I stood up from the bench to go back to my room, but before I could move a step, Eben appeared from the left side of the veranda. He was with my dog.
While I was away in school, he was able to pet my dog and had it moved to his village, about five hundred meters away from ours. The community was one that consisted of scattered villages and huts of peasants.
There was one community center where the basic school was. It was at the community center that the villagers often gathered for celebrations, parties, and petty trading activities. An untarred road from a major nearby town ran through the community. Aside peasant farming, some women engaged in petty trading to support themselves and their families. Grandma used to sell fish and palm oil that I used to her prepare. Esther’s aunt used to sell cooked food in the morning. Esther’s sister, one that she was with that morning, used to sell food too.
The community was lively. Men were each other’s keeper. And women often engaged in gossips, good and bad gossips. They almost gossiped about everything – love and sex life, achievements, failed and successful marriages.
Thrice, I heard my uncle’s wife and Eben's mother gossiping about how one beautiful woman in the community so much loved coition, and her inability to conceive a baby.
Also in the community was the practice of sorcery. While majority of the people who claimed to be Christians practiced it secretly, a few others were known for dabbling in the occult. Some were believed to use it to farm, and others for protection. Esther’s father and brothers were known in the community as men who so much dabbled in the occult. Many of the villagers feared them, but I knew them to be good men, men who readily helped those who needed their help.
With a smile on his face, Eben greeted. I responded without my usual enthusiastic demeanour, and that made Eben's enthusiasm to see me cool off considerably. He perhaps thought my dull demeanour was my disapproval of him petting my dog and having it in his village. He had no idea of what happened earlier in the morning.
Eben was Esther’s high school mate. He was the senior. There was another girl in the community who was in the same school with them. She was quite fair, younger, and slimmer than Esther. Her backside was almost flat but her titties were plump and beautiful. She was called Kate.
“I heard you have come so I brought the dog to you." Eben sounded quite remorseful.
“Are you not going to hunt squirrels today? You can go with the dog. Master hunter of squirrels, the day you will be away from this community for just a year, the squirrels will multiply,” I said with quite a warm voice than my response to his greeting.
My response made him to brighten up not just because it was humorous, he inferred that I wasn’t against him petting my dog.
“I’m not going hunting today. We are harvesting cocoa around our village. Today is a free day for the squirrels,” he replied, laughing.
Before he finished speaking, I stroked the dog on the head. It was looking at me and wagging its tail all that while.
“A day after a holiday is always a busy day. You won’t let the squirrels rest tomorrow,” I said, still stroking the dog.
Eben laughed much louder than the first and attracted grandma's attention. She came out of the kitchen, glanced at us and went back without uttering a word. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. But, maybe, she thought I was telling my friend about what happened earlier in the morning.
“No, tomorrow will not be a busy day for the squirrels. They are going to have enough rest. I will be traveling to check my exam results,” he said, after he had managed to bring his laughter under control.
I smiled and kept quiet. I wanted to diverge the conversation but I didn’t know how to start immediately. I didn’t know how Eben was going to take it. We had never discussed girls and relationships before. It wasn’t our thing. But, I felt the urge to start a conversation with him on that. Knowing his mind about girls and relationships would perhaps guide my imaginations about girls, and shape my choices. I didn’t mean to copy his preferences – no. I was about three years older than him, and I felt I knew better. I just wanted a talk between boys, to know another guy’s imaginations and thoughts about girls and relationships.
“Sit down,” I said to him, “there’s something I want to ask you.
He sat down immediately without asking what it was.
Ignoring the dog, I sat down beside him on the bench. And just when I was about to speak, grandma passed by us to the hall. I withheld my words about the topic I wanted us to discuss. I made something else up, and we talked about it till grandma got out. I didn’t want her to hear our discussion about girls and relationships.
“Boy,” I started, putting forward what I really wanted us to discuss, “do you have a girl friend?”
Eben looked at me like a baby trying to understand a language. It was either because he was surprised that I asked him such a question, or he didn’t know how to answer me. After his innocent gaze, he smiled, and turned to look at the dog as if the dog was providing him the answer.
“No,” he answered simply.
He laughed, and had his left leg drawn backward towards the bench. He became tensed. I could feel how uneasy it was for him to answer. After fidgeting, he answered with hesitation. “Um . . . Um . . . Um . . . I’m not ready yet.”
“That’s ok, boy. It’s a good decision. I commend you for that. It’s good for guys to finish school before thinking about girls. These our village parents and relatives wouldn’t allow you to have your peace when they see you close with a girl while in school.”
My commendation made Eben to relax. He perhaps thought that was the answer I needed, but I was not done asking the questions. What I wanted to know was yet to be revealed.
“So boy, if it should happen that you are ready now, what kind of girl would you prefer – short, tall, fair, dark, one with plump titties, a heavy backside, slim, chubby, quiet or chatty . . .?”
I didn’t finish listing the type of girl that would be his choice when Eben burst into an uncontrollable laughter. And that again attracted grandma’s attention. She stood at the threshold of the kitchen, and looked at us for some few minutes and got back into the kitchen.
“Boy,” I called, almost getting infected with the laughter. “What’s funny?” What makes you laugh so hard? I just asked a question, and I expect you to answer instead of laughing."
Eben didn’t answer me. He continued laughing. The more I tried to let him speak on his choice of girl, the more he laughed. I understood him. That was perhaps the first time he was asked that question. I knew he had a choice just as every young guy, but he was shy to talk about it.
In order not to prolong his laughter, I kept quiet on the issue till the laughter left him.
“I haven’t thought about that,” he said finally, with shy looks all over his face.
I knew that was a lie. Every young man, in one way or the other, dreams about the kind of girl he wants to have in his life. As our restless eyes keep darting around, looking at the feminine features, our brains keep our preferences for our souls to yearn for it. That’s how we were made. We are men, we cannot change. But for society to keep its holiness for our own good, we often pretend and keep quiet and numb our feelings over things our eyes see. And so, for a young man to deny that he has no such preferences is not only a lie but also an offense against his own soul. Keeping quiet and going numb against our feelings is discipline and a mark of self respect, but denying what one desires is not. The two cannot be the same.
“Looking at him, I asked again: “So you have no choice as to the type of girl you want to have someday?”
Again, he didn’t reply me. Instead, he threw the question back to me.
I didn’t want to answer him at first. “What if he’s not able to keep it a secret?” I thought. But, upon a second thought, I decided to tell him. That could be an appetizing bait for him to, perhaps, voice out his preferences that he was uneasy to talk about.
“Boy,” I started, without mincing my words. “I have a good taste. My dream girl is one with supple, callipygous backside; plump titties; flat belly; not too slim and not fat; not too tall and not too short; one with a beautiful face; not too chatty and not too quiet; white, black, yellow – any colour is ok, provided it’s natural; and she must be intelligent as well. She must have all the good qualities in addition to the physical features. I want everything perfect, an angel of some sort. You get it, boy?”
Eben burst into laughter again, but this time, he kept it short. My description of a girl I desired amused him. He probably had not heard someone giving out such details about one’s choice of a girl.
“Everything perfect?” he asked.
“Everything, boy; everything. That’s the dream of many young men. You think that’s impossible?”
“Yea, that’s the dream of every guy." He opened up on the topic for the first time, “But many of the girls I see don’t have everything that we want. Those who have nice fronts don’t have same at their backs; those with beautiful faces don’t have flat bellies; and many of those that are intelligent don’t have good looks at all.”
I nodded as he spoke. “That’s a good observation, boy. That means you have been keenly looking at the girls.”
We both laughed. The conversation was getting interesting. That was our first time of talking about girls. It was good that I brought the topic up, and that happened because of what happened earlier that morning. Never had I thought about discussing girls with my friends. I had no time for that. My books and other matters were more important to me. And, a rural society like ours considered such talks by young men as wayward. When grown men and women talked about romance and anything that goes with it, they did it secretly. That was the norm of a rural society, and they held on tight to it.
We got so engrossed in the talk that morning to the extent that, Eben nearly forgot about the cocoa harvesting that he was to help his parents with. The interesting chat ended when Eben's mum called him from their village.
“I will be back in the evening,” were his final words.
I knew he was truly going to be back in the evening. He was hooked somehow. To every young man, a first talk about girls is like taking an intoxicating liquor in a cold weather; it warms away your cold feelings, and at the same time gives you that foolish, undefined feelings of happiness.
Quite relieved of the burden of thinking about relationships and one's choice of girls alone, I stood up from the bench, and headed to my room but before I could get there, I heard grandma's voice calling me for breakfast. I returned to the kitchen and had my breakfast without remembering that I did not clean my mouth when I woke up. And that was the first time I experienced the foolishness of man when thoughts about girls overshadow our thinking.
“Men we are, and men we shall forever be,” I said to myself, laughing, when I remembered that I did not clean my teeth before taking my breakfast.
The day run slowly. I went to my maize farm, and after idling around for sometime, I returned home. I did nothing productive for the day. My zeal for what I planned doing for the day was sapped by what happened in the morning.After lunch, I took a seat under the cocoa trees around the village. That was where everyone sought refuge from the sun's heat when it got intensified during the day. I sat looking at two birds perching and playing on a thin branch of cocoa tree. Beautiful birds they were. I couldn’t tell whether one was female and the other a male, but one thing I realized was that, they were very attached to each other. If birds can love, then, they were probably lovers.I sat watching the unique bond between the birds until the sound of grandma's footsteps got me distracted. She was holding a stool and heading towards my direction. She was walking slowly, and her eyes were fixed on the ground. She was careful so as not to step on
Eben didn’t show up in the evening as he promised. So, I went to bed not long after supper. It was unusual of me to go to bed early but that day, like a habitual early bird, I went to bed before nocturnal creatures started their day. It was not because I felt overly sleepy. I needed solitude to free myself from the day’s shackles. Grandma’s superstitious predictions about Esther and me was the most stubborn stain on my mind that I needed to clean. I didn’t want, and could not afford, to allow grandma’s predictions to come to pass. It was against my will. A young man’s choice of a girl is one that is complete in every aspect, and so, Esther, though quite appreciable on that score, didn’t measure up to my satisfaction. Many men, like myself, desire to have a complete girl, a girl of their choice but quite often, that does not happen. They play games on fields where they do not intend to settle, and when they become stuck, they go ro
Days passed without seeing or hearing from Esther. Maybe, my interpretation of her visits were wrong. She perhaps just wanted to be a friend to a college graduate to learn from him. If she was really in love, she wouldn’t be able to stay away without seeing the one her heart desired. Or, women love differently? Men become restless when they don’t see or hear from a woman they love. It could be also, as I suspected earlier, that, she was just being pushed by grandma and Esther’s mum to me. If that was the whole truth, then, she wasn’t in love. And what about grandma’s superstitious predictions about us? I didn’t believe it, so why even think about that? Though a thought about her flashed my mind once in a while, I had no urge to look or find out about her. Nothing moved me. The only thing that lingered on my mind when I thought about her once in awhile was her ca
Grandma lifted the lantern and drew closer to me when I got to the kitchen to see whether supper was ready. From my toes, I was wet to the waist, and that perhaps made her curious.“Is the brook flooded?” she asked, as she pulled the wick. The lampshade shone brightly. The bright light was accompanied by the scent of the burning wick that was soaked with kerosene. “You shouldn’t have taken the shorter route to the community center,” she added.“Yes, it’s flooded. The wooden bridge has been carried away by the torrent.”I moved two steps away from Grandma after answering her, but before I could reach where the basket of fish stood beside the mud hearth, she asked: “How were you two able to cross the flooded stream?”I wasn’t moved that much by Grandma's second question right away. I thought it was just one of the overly caring attitudes of the aged that was on display. But upon a