A rumble could be heard, overhead, as thick, dark clouds gathered in the sky. In no time, the sky gave way to a thousand tear-like pitter-patter on the roof of the houses around.
I had just gotten into my room and flicked on the light switch by the entrance. The bulb was extremely bright, tilting the whole room white, as I looked around. I shifted the box I had just brought in and pushed it through the wardrobe at a corner of the room. I was exhausted. I didn’t even spare a moment before pulling off the cotton dress on me.
Thank goodness I had decided on going in something simple… at least I didn’t freeze out there. The rat-at-tat-tat sounds of the rain that hit the windows, combined with the sound on the roof, were just suitable for a good sleep. I fell on the bed just after throwing the dress on a couch, staring at the ceiling.
I should’ve just as well killed the lights, but at the moment, my feet were just too heavy to carry my body. I was smiling, trying to recollect some remarkable moments in America.
“Hey, Pretty.” That smile on his face when he said this while stretching out his hands to greet me. I smiled back in shock. I’d heard of him before then, just hadn’t seen him until that moment. He was so cute! I remember how I couldn’t stop blushing whenever our eyes met, later at the show.
The slot machines’ sound could be heard in whistles, as the dealers whirled cards in their hands. Murmurs of the crowd and the smell of Shrimp filled the room. I walked in through the back door, and sat on the game table, subconsciously staring at a man who was sobbing at a corner; he had lost all his money to my casino.
My assistant walked through, right after me, and stood silently by my side. The game would begin in several minutes. Something seemed to have distracted me, I couldn’t place my head on it. I was taking cognisance of my environment, when… I suddenly became oblivious to everything but one. The clicking of the roulette wheel at the other end, the sight of the gold, silver and bronze, and the exquisite fountain reminded me of her. And, yes, it was her. The lady at the show.
It was a bright Monday Morning in a regular Nigerian School. Everyone’s heard of the Abami that was born five years ago, they saw her in School Devotion today. The pupils couldn’t stop staring at her, it was such a divided assembly. Ayanfemi didn’t commit any crime being born –– a poor little Abami she was, ignorant of the circumstances surrounding her birth.
Later, she would have to ask her mother in her sweet, tender, and tiny voice, “Mom, why am I different? And why does everyone look at me oddly in school?” Her surprised mother, not expecting the question so soon would then be stuck on words, staring at her little girl for a moment, before quickly covering the expression with a smile, thinking of how Ayanfemi needed to real the ministry. She would think to herself, ‘They have to do something about this. There’s no way I’d let my daughter grow up feeling inferior to others.
She’s a special child and so she has to be treated as one.’ “You’re a special child, Ayanfe,” her mother would continue. “That’s why… that’s why I love you.” Then she would smile, not letting any sign of worry leak from her face, so as not to make her daughter feel uncomfortable. Poor Ayanfemi would then hug her mother tightly, smiling sheepishly. “I love you too Mom.”
But none of these had happened yet, and the lass had to deal with the pressure pressing from her classmates,
“‘Z’ for Zebra!” someone yelled, and the other pupils all broke into laughter on watching Ayanfe. The latter felt nervous and confused about the current development. She wasn’t a Zebra, as her mother had explained to her a lot, even though she had some of the animal’s physical traits; she wasn’t born by a Zebra, and was in every way human… she was a special child.
She ignored the side jests and locked gazes. It was very obvious this was the beginning of her cynosure days in school, just not how anyone would want their attractiveness to be.
The rolling years showed that Ayanfemi was a bright child. Her good grades soon began to stand out at school. At her tender age, Ayanfe started developing nice curves that complimented her feminine beauty. The way she walked, talked and even associated with others would show that she had a little bit of shakara; the Nigerian way of pride.
The Minister was taken aback when he received a sudden call from his secretary, at the Ministry of Science, announcing Arewa’s visit, wondering the reason for the impromptu meeting. ‘Was Ayanfe mi alright?’ The man stared at her with so much worry the moment she entered his office. Arewa couldn’t help her emotions as she let the tears in her eyes roll down her cheeks, the moment she sat down.
“Afternoon Sir, Why me? Why my daughter?” the words slipped off Arewa’s mouth very quickly that one would have thought she had been suppressing the question all the way here. She had already burst into tears, uncontrollably.
The anxious minister replied almost cutting her off, “Is anything the matter, Madam is Ayanfemi, all right”?
She shook her head amidst the tears.
“We’re not fine, Sir. My daughter is going through things worse than a malady. Firstly, throughout kindergarten and nursery school, my daughter had to live with being isolated by the other kids… like some parasite, or as though she were a leper. Finally, she has to deal with all her age groups in primary school having her monikered as a freak. She sees herself differently and gets different reactions from the other children in school like she’s abominable even to society. I don’t want my daughter to grow up with this inferiority complex.
Something has to be done about this; I’m just worried! The poor girl keeps asking me questions. I love my daughter and I don’t want her to go through this alone. The happy girl I gave birth to is suddenly becoming unhappier by the passing day.”
The Minister was tongue-tied, as he looked across his table at her, with pity.
“Arewa, your daughter would be fine. Awareness has been created. She’s not the only Abami in the world, but the only one in Africa and that makes her really special. That’s the major reason we try our best to always create a show for her on her birthdays, and let the world see how special she is. As the years grow by, she’d even be a celebrity, after living through this phase. She will be fine, Arewa, you have my words.”
Arewa felt a bit pacified on hearing what the Minister said. He was right, she thought, Ayanfemi was becoming more popular even with the rejections — it had better be for the greater advantage for them in the future.
I was late!
It was 7:50 am in the morning already and the school timetable I was given stated that the school’s assembly started by 8:00 am. I was nervous and my heart was racing faster than my feet.
“Mom, do I have to stay in the same class with the other kids?” I asked my mom while on our way to school.
“Zen, you don’t have to worry, you’d be fine, you’d get used to it. There’s just one thing you don’t know, and that’s in the fact that you’re an Abami, the only one in Asia. You’re great Son, so, if the kids make jest of you, ignore it all right Mom loves you.”
A week ago I was with Mom in this school’s principal office for registration, and I felt a need to use the restroom. The kind principal who kept looking at me as though I was an interesting TV star directed me to the restroom, which was just outside his office, down the corridor. I stepped out of his office and saw this group of students. I was excited to see them, they looked like children my age!
The first impression matters the most right?
In excitement, I walked toward them to introduce myself as their soon-to-be classmate, only to have one of them, on seeing me, screaming at the top of her voice, “Monster!” Before I realised what was going on, they had all run away from me, leaving me completely dejected.
“Am I that ugly?”
I couldn’t help the embarrassment as the other, older kids who were watching this burst into laughter. At that moment, I forgot about my urge to use the toilet and ran back into the principal’s office to tell Mum all that happened with tears smeared across my face.
I hope I wasn’t getting into the same class with those jerks. They were too rude for my liking. Besides, I prefer learning martial arts at home, to being with those kids… but Mum insists I get to associate with others outside. Not until last week, I’d been indoors all my life having a private tutor who’d usually drag my Eagle beak of a mouth and make fun of it whenever I misbehaved. I didn’t know what it felt like to be with others but when I did…
Mom keeps saying something about always loving me, but the special part about my being special is still not clear.
“Ben, I’ve got to see you,” said Mr Adams, our sports director, right after our usual evening practice. “In private,” he added.
“All right, John, you head on. I’ll call as soon as I get home. You’re coming for prom tonight, right?” I nodded at the coach, smiled quickly, and said to my friend.
“Sure! See you later, buddy.” He smiled and walked away with the rest of the team, while I followed Mr. Adams, slowly.
I didn’t like what Jude had called me; a Dog. I’m not just a Dog!!
To be continued…