Gentleman’s guide to Dinner Etiquette “A gentleman is one who puts more into the world
“We accept the love we think we deserve”. Stephen Chbosky
At every time and stage in life, a man or a woman strives to discover him or herself through the reality of the moment. This we usually do through love. As our heart and spirit grow with us, so does our love too.
Growing up, life appeared to be very limited because our experience in it was just as limited. But the world in general looked too big because we didn’t understand a lot of things. Looking back now that one is an adult, we smile wishfully at how naïve and simple we were back then. To some people, real love is found in this childhood fantasy, not because we were naïve, but because the intentions were pure and no matter how childish it seemed, it was never deceptive.
For the purpose of this illustration, let’s say the “childish” love is the “Baby love” and then the “adult” love is the “Master love”.
There is something about Baby love that is pure, serene, playful and memorable. The Master love however is more of the reality, a love that is forged through heart breaks, time and affection – not necessarily like those we had when we were kids.
For me, if I were to be a hundred years old, I would prefer the Baby love laced with a dash of the Master love -best of both worlds. There is something I crave about the past that cannot be explained – but can only be felt!
Innocent adventures are far sweeter than the calculative expeditions.
For those who are yet to grasp how life works; for those who do not know what they want; for those who are yet to realize themselves; love will always be a fun feeling.
But for those who are in the clutches of love, it is not just a feeling, it is a way of life, it is sacred with its own philosophy.
It is 1993, political posters adorned every space of the philanthropist turned politician, MKO Abiola and his fierce opposition and rival – Bashir Tofa. A lot of political activities were going on at the time. The presidential election was extraordinarily loud, so much that the frenzy of activities could make you think history and the future had collided.
I now owned a Walkman audio cassette player which I carried around with extra alkaline batteries in my pocket. When I exhausted my battery stash, I would dry them in the sun for a “recharge”, that barely lasted 3 minutes.
I listened to BoyzIImen’s- End of the road, Shai’s – If I ever fall in love, PM Dawn’s – I’ll die without you, I want to sex you up by Color me Bad, Paula Abdul’s – Rush, Naughty by Nature’s – OPP, Michael Bolton’s –When a man loves a woman, and quite a ton of others.
I would listen to these songs until my batteries were well and truly exhausted or till I was serenaded into a sleep. I had the pleasure of watching Home Alone 1&2, Sisters’ Act, Last of the Mohican, The body Guard and Aladdin during these period.
For those who attended boarding schools in the 90’s, they can relate with the idea that schooling seemed more regimented, than those who were “day students”. Although in contrast, there was a form of loneliness attached to being in boarding school, especially in the early days when the student is fresh from home.
For a child between the age of eleven and fourteen, the boarding school was not only lonely but cagey. This reminds me of Tubosun, my good friend who would often hide at the back of the dining hall to cry his eyes out every other afternoon.
“It’s brother Akeem that brought me to come and suffer here!”
He would repeat the statement so loud with tears streaming down his face until we drag him away for some comfort.
He would cry so hard thrice or more every week, depending on how needy or lonely he was at the time. The Akeem in question was Tubosun’s elder brother and a medical Doctor.
Since the Sade’s Fiasco(read love starts innocently), love never appealed or occurred to me anymore. It felt like a taboo, a mistake or perhaps an offence which I should not have committed in the first place.
But two years into my junior secondary school, love came back.
It flew into my heart without wings!
This time it was Bashirat and unlike Sade, Bashirat was darker, plump and attractive, even at the age of twelve she already had all the beautiful curves of early womanhood- a decent bum, popping breasts, a chubby face and silky skin.
The problem however was that; it seemed that the entire boy population in my school found Bashirat desirable and a dreamy love interest too!
In the dining hall, all peering male eyes would set on Bashirat as she walked by. In the classroom, all eyes settled on Bashirat when she sat listening. In the club meetings, all eyes lingered on Bashirat, on the morning assembly sessions, all eyes ogled at Bashirat’s curves and on the sport field, heads turned to catch a glimpse of Bashirat as she chatted away.
Meanwhile, on the flip side, in terms of attention or fame, nothing was working for me: I was not amongst the brightest and best in the class, I was no where close to being athletic or outstanding in any sport or any other thing of interest for that matter. I merely existed and it seemed I was the only one who knew of my existence.
I was convinced that I had to make a move Bashirat as she was everywhere and everything I could think of. Every song I listened to reminded me of her.
Back then at the local bus park, vendors didn’t only sell newspapers and magazines, they sold books of lyrics for popular romantic songs. This book of lyrics contained artist like BoyzIImen, Sade Adu, Celin Dion, Shai, PM Dawn, MC Hammer and others.
I would then recklessly expend my pocket money for a copy of the book. Thereafter I tore out a clean sheet of paper from my note book and with the best handwriting I could ever summon with my teenage fingers, I wrote down the lyrics of Sade Adu – No ordinary love.
I ended the love note with a dash of the lyrics – “Bashirat my love for you is not ordinary, but please let me drop the pen of love here”
It took three weeks to attempt the first move. It wasn’t because I hadn’t seen Bashirat around, but she was hardly ever alone!
My lucky day arrived when we were both heading towards the hostel after class hour. I had been mentally prepared to meet her and I had rehearsed my opener hundreds of time, but everything crumbled the moment I called her name and she turned to look my way.
She answered and smiled calling my name sweetly; her gap tooth and dimple freezing me out totally. Again, all the strategy I had stacked in my memories were either paused or deleted.
After about forty seconds, her smile gave way to a questioning stare and I still couldn’t say or do anything although the lyrics I wrote was safely tucked in my pocket. I had been carrying it around for three weeks!
She quickly walked away. It was after she had turned her back that I realized how I had goofed. I felt mad with myself for losing my confidence in her presence. It took a week and a half to spot her alone again. This time, I ran after her calling out her name, she looked back at me and continued walking away. Undeterred, I caught up with her.
“I am sorry about the last time- I saw your beautiful face and I got lost” I said in between pants.
“I don’t know it just happened”
“So, what is it about?” She looked genuinely inquisitive.
“I love you” reeled out of my mouth like hot buns.
She paused, smiled and busted into a wild laughter then ran off!
I was confused, I never envisaged such a response. As much as I didn’t see the situation as a loss, I didn’t see it as a win either.
Few days later, while finding my way to the Library building, Bashirat reached out to me with a tap on my shoulder.
“Good afternoon Bashirat”
“Good afternoon to you too Femi”
I nodded my head looking down at her toes beautifully wrapped in her brown leather sandals.
“I wanted to ask. When you said you loved me does it mean we should become lovers?”
“Yes” I quickly replied
“So, if we are lovers, are we going to kiss each other and hold each other?”
I looked into her eyes but not for too long before I looked down again
“Yes, sorry! No I meant” stuttering.
“Ok whenever you make up your mind, please let me know” and with that said, she ran off!
Again, I was confused didn’t know what to make of the situation. I felt like a fool for not knowing what I wanted. I could barely study and during the class sessions I could not concentrate too. All I did was listen to music, mastered lyrics and think of Bashirat.
While I was still cracking my head, trying to figure out where and how to meet up with Bashirat to tell her how our love will look like, she came up to meet at my desk two days later.
“So, what is it going to be like?” She asked
“We are going to be lovers and we will read together, study together, kiss and hold each other” My response was well rehearsed.
Before I could say more she nodded her head and walked back to her sit.
During break hour, a junior student came to inform me that my attention was needed outside. I quickly followed him as he led me to the back of the class block where to my surprise, Bashirat and the school prefect stood beside each other.
“So, you are the one toasting my girlfriend?”
I was more than surprised. I immediately looked away fondling with the pencil in my hand.
“Answer me are you deaf?”
I shook my head both ways to signify that I wasn’t deaf”
“Is your mouth stiff? Can’t you talk?”
“The mouth that was not stiff when you were toasting me”
“Let this be the last time you will ever talk to my girlfriend or else I will teach you a great lesson”
I remained quiet; surprised, embarrassed and belittled even.
“Now apologize for your childish action or else I will make sure you get suspended from school and that is if you don’t even get dismissed”
I felt very oppressed and irritated by the whole drama that was unfolding. With my ego bruised, I found my voice back and responded in kind.
“I never knew she was your girlfriend and I don’t owe her any apology”
The look on Bashirat face became sterner and bitter, the school head boy gave me a “dirty” slap but before he could return to his position beside Bashirat, I returned the slap in equal measure, feeling my fingers beating the lines below his jaw.
The shock, embarrassment and anger on his face drove him fiercely towards me, but I quickly maneuvered myself away as he tried to pounce on me, I gripped his left leg upsetting his balance, but Bashirat jumped on my back and buried her gap tooth into my flesh. The bite was deep.
I screamed hard, it was like a bee sting. I immediately disentangled myself and ran away, almost losing my stamina as I did. They both came after me instantly, but I dug my fingers into the loose soil and flung a hand full of dry sand at their faces.
That bought me some time as they both moved back struggling with eyes full of particles. The air became dusty and brown as I ran into the bush.
For the rest of the day I couldn’t step into the hostel. I confined myself in the bushes around the school premises. My friend, Adefila, would come look for me in the bush- we used to roam the bushes together in our free moment. I explained all that happened to him and he was kind enough to return with my meals – lunch and the dinner.
He then suggested I sleep in the “Intro-Tech” laboratory as it was not safe to head back to the hostel. He informed me that the senior prefect and his gang had check in my room hundreds of time and there was a general feeling in the hostel that I was in a serious conundrum.
The following morning while I was waiting for Adefila to come around with my breakfast, I was surprised to see the senior prefect and his girlfriend Bashirat in my safe haven – the laboratory.
“So, this where you have come to hide” Bashirat hissed
“Now I will beat the hell out of you” the senior prefect screamed as he ran towards me.
I ducked and ran in the opposite direction, but he was relentless as he chased after me round the workshop.
Bashirat threw objects my way, wooden pencils, scissors, wood cutter, duster, rulers, cutters, Tee Square, drawing board and others within her reach.
I dodged the ones I could and barricaded myself with chairs and table that I dragged along while running. But Bashirat kept throwing more objects at me, graduating to flinging wooden stools. At this time, I made for the window and luckily it was unlocked.
I felt a crushing pain on my back when I jumped and slammed myself against the giant Shea-butter tree behind the workshop. She had tossed the stool at me as I jumped. Immediately I jumped, the head boy ran and made a jump out of the window too, but Bashirat’s ill-timed throw of the wooden stool pinned her boyfriends’ right leg to the window. It was an unsightly image with his right leg was stuck within the legs of the stool, while half his body was out and his other leg hanging precariously inside the laboratory. The zinc wall tore into his flesh as the senior prefect screamed “My leg is broken!”
His screams and voice got quieter as I jogged further into the bush, with the heavy pain on my back.
I found out Adefila had tipped Bashirat about my location and in return he was promised two free meals for the day. The senior Prefect on the other hand had broken his leg and was promptly taken home for proper medical care. He was to have a major surgery.
Bashirat and I remained sworn enemies until we both left the school few months later.
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