The Day Before Yesterday…

I STOOD IN the midst of him lost as it were, in the realm of unknown thoughts, eyes rolling from one corner to another unable to catch any particular sight.

Every item in the living room appeared awkwardly strange. 

For example, the ceiling fan seemed to be flying at an entirely different axis, as though it had lost its coordinate and is about falling off its hook. The strangest part is how I could be sweating profusely down my pants when this three bladed object above my head was at top speed.

“This boy, so you go to school to play away your time eeh!?” he thundered.

“Not………so…..daddy,” I stuttered. 

Not that I was a stammerer but the condition in which the question was put forward to me called for a stutter.

“What is this? he queried. You mean I am wasting my money sending you to…”

The next thing I heard was his slipper tip tapping the souls of his feet in very fast motion making that scuffing sound as he disappeared into his room.

I already know the meaning of that. 

In fact, that tip tapping movement accompanied by the scuffing sound is one I and my sisters have become very accustomed with, one we are not comfortable with not because of the sound itself but because of what follows it.

Whenever daddy walks off like that, be sure that as he reappears, he’s not going to be alone; his “akpuluekwe” (cane), as we call it in our Igbo parlance, must be a faithful occupant of his right hand as he shows up.

My report card whose content was the bone of contention laid carelessly at a corner. As I took a cursory gaze at it, I wished I could swing my hands in one motion and change it into something more palatable, something that would send  chills of smile across daddy’s moustache-filled temple. 

Early on, after I got the report card and had seen my position in the class engraved in blue ink, 32 out of 32; I had fantasized with the idea that 32 wasn’t a bad score after all, that 32 out of 32 meant I scored everything good.

Nonetheless, as I arrived home and dropped my report card in the waiting hands of daddy, it didn’t take more than a few seconds to snap out of this senseless fantasy.

So the moment daddy zoomed off in that tip tapping note which I had become very familiar with, I didn’t need a soothsayer to explain to me what the future held for me at that very point. The future was as bright as the sun. And it’s a future every child who knows the bitter taste of “akpuluekwe” as it lands on a succulent buttocks never dreams of.

Realizing by now what would be my fate, I began to shout for help even though I knew it was pointless.

Daddy reappeared with “akpuluekwe”.

What happened next is better experienced than told. 

Within splits of seconds, my whole body was in so much pain with bumps and bruises in different parts of my tender white skin.

I was sobbing in Chinese language. You know that kind of sobbing when you are full of cries within but are trying hard to lock them off because you’ve been warned that if you’d cried out, more spanking would follow.

That holiday I was grounded. It was Christmas holiday but unlike other Christmas seasons, there was no much freedom to get all wrapped up in the spirit of yuletide. While others jumped around like a free bird, I was locked up in a corner all by myself to learn the never ending timetables and solve many more arithmetic problems than can be imagined. 

I presume this was how my isolated nature was developed. As I was compelled to face my studies squarely, my feeble mind was unconsciously adapting to a life of solitude. I unwittingly began to lock away from the outside world of people and things while embracing more of the inside world of thoughts and feelings.

Obviously this was advantageous for teaching me focus, whose primary purpose was for better academic performance. But the flip side produced a state of the mind that sees the world out there as a foe.

As I look back objectively at this event, I remain grateful for how it shaped my academic life. Nonetheless I wish I had been spanked for a different reason…for failing in business or even anything else as silly as climbing that mango tree against all odds…


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