‘Palava you dey find’ sang Fela!
I enjoy listening to Fela songs because they are lessons I need to teach all these new generation children. Anyway while I was seriously nodding to the tunes from my phone, someone called my name.
I turned to see who that amazing person could be. Jisos e! It was the child and her baby, the teenage girl who gave birth a few months ago. Doh oh! I greeted her while I looked at her carefully. She had tired eyes, a crying baby and dirty clothes on her.
How are you doing? I asked her. She adjusted her wrapper and said she was fine but not too well. I am just managing myself, she replied. I haven’t eaten well in the last three days. Since I cannot go to school, and everyone in my house is always busy; I am helping my mother sell at the market.
It is not easy at all. The baby is always crying and I have to breastfeed her all the time. My mother keeps yelling at me. I get frustrated with the whole thing; sometimes I just sit down and start crying. Please, I am begging you; can you help me with some food or money to buy some food for myself? She asked.
Eyah! Kpele! Doh! I sympathised with her. You see my young friend, what is happening to you now is called life. You hear me so! Life happens when you don’t prepare for it. I have some food to give you; but it is not only the food to eat I have got. You need to eat the food of knowledge and understanding, so you can have value for yourself and what pertains to your life.
I beckoned her to come sit with me as the baby had stopped crying. I went inside the house and brought a bowl of rice, stew and fried plantain; I served her and she ate voraciously like a very hungry lioness. I shook my head in sorrow, ‘poor child, how did you get yourself into this mess?’
After she ate, I served her a chilled Zobo Drink. As she drank with great delight, I started with the food of questions and answers. Yes na! Nothing is for free, even animals know that. Where is the father of this child? She almost fell off her chair. Why are you scared? Where is the father of the child? She bowed her head as she cuddled her baby. He is at home inside this our village. He is the son of well-known petty trader. Eh-en! You mean he is as young as you are and you decided to play love play (my sarcastic behaviour was playing out), I was already getting somewhat angry.
Hmm! He said he loved me and that nothing would happen to me. She quickly added as she saw the look on my face. My friends were doing it with their boyfriends, I didn’t want to be left out; so I did it out of love and to avoid my friends from laughing at me. Chai! You say! I exclaimed in a soft voice so I don’t scarce her. My dear, who is laughing at you now? Where is the love now? Why would you think your boyfriend loved you so much? And why did you trust your friends? Did you have a class on sex education? Or at least your mother telling you about the dangers of early sex and pregnancy or STDs if you are not married?
She started crying softly. Sex was taught during our Biology class, we joked about it. We really didn’t know about the consequences of pre-marital sex. My parents are more concerned about their own activities and they felt I was just a ‘small girl’. I didn’t let anyone at home know I had a boyfriend. He gave me gifts and I hid them or used them only when I was in school. Besides he said, nothing will happen even if he didn’t wear a condom.
In my head, you are so naïve. So how did you know you were pregnant? I asked her. She gave out a soft laugh, I didn’t. It was my mother who detected I was pregnant. I wasn’t conscious about my menstrual cycle, so didn’t care too much when I missed my period. Interesting! What about the Biology class on ‘Menstruation?’ Oh! That was one difficult class I didn’t understand and there was no one to explain to me properly. So my mother was just shouting you are pregnant, you this girl! You have killed me!
I ran to my friends, but they kept laughing and advised I do an abortion. I was too scared, so I went to meet my boyfriend. He yelled at me and almost had me beaten up. He said he wasn’t responsible for the pregnancy and I should never visit his house again. I felt like dying but I had to summon courage to live with my actions. How does it feel to be a teenage mother, I asked her?
It is not a thing to take pride in. It is very difficult to start life again except you have people to encourage you and it is not advisable to have a baby as a teenage girl. Now I have learnt my lesson, I wished others will learn from me.
Now you have eaten the food of the elders I said smiling at her.
From the Collection of Stories: Tales of a Layman
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