It may sound absurd, but I use to hate staying with people, these people – except Joel.
I had become everyone’s banter, the laughing stock, the uncivilized, the poor thing, accented in native Ondo language. Was it even my fault?
I wish I hadn’t told Batya my hometown, the place I had lived for sixteen years. But I did tell her and she announced it. Now my accent puts me off as the daughter of Wasinmi.
I’m fighting bigoted humans, especially the girls as it started with them. When I just want to be me, to possess freedom of expression, their inhumane acts and words inhibit me. They are the girls. The ones who deserve to ‘pepper dem’ and when one of their unfortunate admirers trade my path, hell let loose, they ignite like diesel in the slightest provocation of fire – ‘Omo Wasinmi,’ they start, ‘Nah one small forest where dem no dey wear clothe o,’ ‘say that accent again let’s hear you.’ They cheer.
Little Wasinmi, my hometown; existing with no bank, no hospital, no stable electricity to watch television. Houses stand in their muddy body and they gather in one line. Lizards, geckos, goats and even turkeys outnumber humans. Sun and rain encourage cocoa farming and every family seizes the opportunity. All these, the girls learned from Batya, my traitor of a friend. Trusting Batya with my story cost me my freedom.
I had made and even executed plans to deal with the situation. To avoid humiliation, I had to go to class as early as possible, do not sit forward or too backward, and when class ends, I slid off like breeze. And for some time these helped me. The public humiliation and embarrassment become pared.
But even then, I feel, often, like a monkey being pelted with bananas in the girls’ circle, and when the whole class reverberates with laughter, bananas feel like horsewhip and the floor below would threaten to cave a space that I may go into and lock up for eternity.
Often still, the girls would find me. The lecturer is late, they call, Omo Wasinmi. And each time I wished I could just punish Batya that she may go through what I’m going through, she says she is sorry, and that she wished the girls will let me be.
But again, it starts to get worse by the day. And I almost cry. Why was I born in Wasinmi?
The girls have stormed my desk again and it is a bad day, a bad moment out of many. I’m as helpless against these girls as against my shaking lips and pushy-tears.
“Why can’t you girls leave me alone?” Laughter. Humiliating laughter is what follows.
“Just hear her accent, bush-baby!” one of them points fingers at me.
I did cry, and even more, if Joel hadn’t popped like the fourth man in the furnace. I stand up to run out of the classroom, but Joal grabs me by the hand.
“When will you stop running?” He asks. But I don’t care about his question. I want to free my hand from his grip and go home to cry.
‘These girls didn’t pay your tuition, remember.”
Still, I fight for my hand’s freedom, his grip is too firm. ‘
Fight,’ he says, and then let go, almost making me crash to the ground.
That same day, I decide to fight. I want to peel the accent off like snakes do their skin because I’m more than it and it’s costing me my freedom and peace of mind.
I make the library a home and watch sweet talkers and speeches for months. I am no longer the old me, and never again will I be.
The next semester and subsequent semesters are for me, not for them anymore. I become the Academic-King Kong. The girls repent. Little choices come their way, for if they want to pass courses like Algorithm, they have to attend classes with me as their tutor, their butts down, and their lips sealed – they simply repent.
Watching their face as they frown at Algorithm, smile excites the depth of my stomach. They pushed me and there they are frowning. I learned, there is a deficiency in every one.
If one commits to helping herself, she will help those around. Only and only if she has helped herself. They pushed me and now I’m smiling, and they are frowning.
The accent did not peel off, though, because it is in me and ‘trying to’ is enough. One can’t change everything – yes, I am Bewaji and yes, I am from Wasinmi.