The Becoming

He was just a town boy living in the village. When you have not grown up in the village, and at some point, life catapults you all the way from Lagos to a maize plantation in the middle of Ijebu-Igbo village, everyone knows you’re a rooster from the city. You smell like the city. You walk like the city. You look like the city. You talk like the city. Everything from you screams city because you can’t help but act like your background. When everyone else speaks fluent Ijebu, yours, despite having been brought up by pure Yoruba parents, your city accent sells you out. Your perforated use of the dialect’s semantics just leaves villagers giggling with contempt as if to say, “Oga just speak English, you’re embarrassing yourself na!”  

But here was the catch. They say the village rooster doesn’t dominate in the city. Well, city roosters don’t have that problem. While he was what Kenyans would call a ‘Born Tao’ – which placed him in awkward positions when relating with the elderly who viewed him as a boy who didn’t have a grasp of his roots, it was a different story among his peers. He was closest to 2Pac they thought they would ever meet in person. Worse because he was a university student at the University of Lagos while his age mates had already married locally and were breeding a second or third child while fending for them with farm work and other menial jobs. Some never saw the gates of a secondary school while others burned the education bridge before secondary was over. Either way, you could tell those who had made it to the end of secondary at least. They walked with a chin held higher and a bouncier spring in their step. He was coveted by parents, worshipped among the boys, and drooled over among the girls.

Being the cool kid, every boy wanted to be associated with him. They wanted to dress like him, in some buggy jeans and a buggy T-shirt, because it was the early 90s before everything suddenly went short and slim, but they couldn’t even if they tried. They wanted to learn how to say, “You know wharramsayeng,” or what nigga meant since he kept saying “My nigga” to everyone. They wanted to start listening to hip-hop music as he did, but only if they would afford to buy a Walkman cassette and discman like his. He would form his own village gang and be the mafia boss if he wanted to, but his interests were pointed elsewhere. The girls.

Girls who said hi to him every time they met on the road. They gave him unwarranted discounts whenever he found any of them selling in their father’s shops, and would receive a dog’s beating anytime the folks would discover. Other girls would throw stones at the roof of his simba on some nights so that he could come out and have a chit-chat with them. They wet dreamt of having him walk out shirtless, probably since it’s nighttime and boys like to sleep topless, unlike girls. Or do they do too? Some would carry packed food, having lied they were delivering supper to a cousin. Those said cousins must have slept hungry on so many nights. Others would attempt to write him letters and have their little brothers be their mailers. If only they knew how he used to laugh at the contents of those letters in the wee hours of the night till he kissed the floor – they would develop chronic esteem issues and opt to go back to school.

But barely any of these girls moved him. He wasn’t as good with the ladies, in fact. Being a nerd, women were not his strong suit. His prized crushes back on campus were way out of his league. And here he was in a world where the sound of his footsteps sent wind up the skirts of almost all the girls in the village. All but one. This one was from quite a good family. She was not your ordinary village girl because her parents ensured she went to private schools. He would find her humming to Celine Dion’s songs whenever he went to her father’s shop. She’s the only girl who didn’t give him a discount, by the way. The only girl who didn’t see anything worth dying for in him because she had been to boarding schools with boys from the city, some even richer than him, cooler than him, and hotter than him. And as is the rule of the jungle, lions go crazy over the hardest prey to catch.

Now there was no other shop worth buying from apart from Mr. Agboru Enterprises because of this girl who was now in his league. Mr. Agboru was known to be very strict and a terrible miser. Madeline, his daughter, hated him for that. He was the kind of father who wanted his children to learn the meaning of suffering like he did growing up, and only then will they not take life for granted. The irony of life is that the strictest parents bring up the most notorious kids. Ratchets and brats. The higher the standards, the higher the urge to rebel. These kids are always looking for opportunities to breathe the air of freedom, and they maximize even the smallest window of opportunity they get, like prisoners on a break. And here is where it worsens; they outdo and overdo themselves whenever they catch a whiff of freedom. I know of a girl who couldn’t wait for her 18th birthday to be free from her parents, only to get wasted, then drugged and possibly defiled as a result – on her birthday party at a celebrity event. There is almost nothing they won’t try if it’s brought before them on a silver platter. Not all of them are outrightly rebellious, though. Some are just insanely freaky and naughty. They could present themselves as angels on the outside, but they are angels in hijabs by day and the only fans in lingerie by night. Their parents think they are taming and protecting them from the harsh and spoilt world in the name of love. In fact, sending Madeline Agboru to boarding school since primary school did not do any good because she, like other children of very strict parents, thinks that her parents don’t love her.

And because she believed her parents didn’t love her, the idea of sneaking out to a boy’s simba suddenly didn’t seem bad. It was, in fact, a wild idea since, finally, there was a place she could go to and not be under her father’s rules. She didn’t really like Taurus, the town boy; he was just a useful pawn in her hide-and-seek game. Furthermore, he was an okay guy, older, and had some level of cool which comforted her that she wasn’t stooping so low. She didn’t have the money to go to Lagos where her secondary school best friend lived. But here was a campus boy who didn’t mind if she spent the entire day in his house while he was in school – playing the songs in his Discman and Walkman back to back. She loved having someone bring her niceties to eat besides the ordinary herbs they had daily for lunch and supper at home. Even better, he would come with booze. Why would she give up such freedom?

She had been sneaking from school her entire teenage life, and she and her friends would sneak back with booze in polythene bags. I mean, who is stupid enough to bring them in bottles that are bulky and harder to hide and dispose of? Her notorious escapades entertained their conversations in the middle of the night as they sipped and gulped together. Taurus, on the other hand, had never really done anything juvenile, especially being an only child who was given the world up until his parents couldn’t anymore. Their business went down, his father went into depression and passed on, and his mum had to get a job in another state. The good thing is his dad had already paid half of his university school fees. They lost their house in Lagos, and that’s how he had to start living in their home village, which he was lucky to be a commutable distance from the University. But he never liked talking about his stories; he liked listening to her because she was more talkative.

This was the first night she had decided home was not worth returning to. The father had the whole village look for her that night. Upon returning the following morning, Mr. Agboru greeted her with fire and brimstone.

“You think I cannot kill you oh?”

“Kill me nah papa! Kill me nah! You will have done me a huge favour!”

Even before she could decipher what she had just said, the slap on her face sent her on a tailspin and for a minute she saw her ancestors beneath the ground. She didn’t wait for the next thing that would follow. She would have teleported as we see in Nigerian movies, if she had the powers to. But the way she ran was close to going into warp, like in a Star Trek movie. There was only one place she could run to and since she had been a regular there, she didn’t bother knocking. She flung the simba’s door breathing fire through her nose and exhibiting terror on her face, ready to find a shoulder to lean on and just cry when her eyes landed on something. Something that confused her terror-stricken self, maybe with more terror? Or let’s call it confusion because it’s the last thing she expected to see and worse, she never expected to see it like that and worst, she never expected it would look like that! Under ordinary circumstances she’d be amused and go out laughing in disbelief, probably even blushing, because damn boy! But it was more of a shock on such a day when she was bridled by emotion. She had dared gullible guys who thought they had a shot with her and could do anything she asked them to but whatever they presented was nothing compared to this. You’d think it was transplanted from a donkey.

The shock didn’t allow her to stay put. She dashed out again. If Taurus were a Kenyan in the present age, he probably would have said to himself, “Hii imeenda,” because of how embarrassing that was. But who can blame a man for morning wood while wearing his birthday suit in preparation for a bath in his own simba? He didn’t see or hear from her for a week until one night, he was woken up by loud knock.

Snorting, “Who is it nah knocking on my door at this hour of the night?” He grumbled while getting up.

“Open it’s Madeline.”

He opened. No questions asked. They got into bed and slept. What the young man didn’t know yet was that there is a period in a girl’s monthly cycle when intense hormones impair her judgment. She craves for things, others totally beyond her reach or budget like marshmallows dipped in red wine and other things her own gender cannot provide. It’s even worse when she knows the boy she has been casually hanging out with owns a pet bulldog and she has never even realized. Because of course he had never brought it out to play. Had he knows that it was that time of the month for her, well, I want to say he would have been more careful to slow things down but let’s not lie to ourselves mjango. Hehe. Men are the same yesterday, today and forever. Knowing that wouldn’t make any much of a difference. The fire is already lit, she has come with some marshmallows she wants to roast and he has a stick that could help with the roasting. So why not?

But had he known that night would have been the defining night for the rest of his 24 years, he probably would have made a different choice, like commanding the dog to stay. As was the tradition in the village, any man who knocks up a girl before marriage is forced to marry her. That’s how a 20-year-old boy ended up marrying a 17-year-old girl. That simba that had become her escape haven turned into her new home. That boy she was not really interested in but didn’t mind him because he was convenient to her lifestyle became the main man in her life, husband and father of her soon-to-be-born son. It is interesting how marriage or an ‘accidental’ pregnancy has a way of revealing whether you really like someone. Leave alone love, just like. It’s okay if your friendship with someone is with benefits, just as long as you’re nothing more than friends. But when it dawns that you’ll be tied to them for the rest of your lives, you compulsively panic punch the exit button a million times, praying to God that it’s nothing more than a pregnancy scare. You pray and promise to mend your ways so you can never be in that dreadful situation again. But wait until it passes over you and another ovulation period kicks in.

So before Taurus could pray to God to reverse the swimmers, Mr. Agboru was already dragging his daughter into his Simba. By 21, he was a father and a provider of a mother who loathed every bit of it. She didn’t sign up for that so she thought she deserved soft life. He did his best to offer her effortless motherhood. He got a job and worked his ass off to pay for workers to care for them while providing every possible necessity. They even didn’t have a relationship because they rarely talked and never even saw each other bare again. She was also bitter that she didn’t get to continue into college.

More than a decade into it, he had managed to get them out of the village but still nothing above middle class. He just had a house and a car, and a job at a tech company. He also had a side chick the wife didn’t mind him having since she was seeing his boss anyway. Fear your boss mjango. He thinks she must have been knocked up by the boss, prompting her to file for a divorce sooner. She said she was going to take the house and car and they’d be done. He thought it was a small price to pay for getting rid of a marriage that wasn’t working even before it started.

But we all know how such stories end. They end with a happily ever after for the woman who found love and more babies in her ex-husband’s boss and the ex-husband growing into a rich, smoking mubabaz who looks more 33 than 44, driving nuts (literally) and money into the heads of twenty-something-year-old girls who in turn drive twenty-something-year-old boys nuts because they say they are broke and not mature enough for them.


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Written by The Mjango

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Sam Musyoki
Sam Musyoki
4 months ago

Great piece.

4 months ago

I was gonna say nice flow, but the ending was a bit rushed 😂 then I remembered you’re not one of my students. So, I’m gonna say, is there a part two? This is good. It left me wanting more!

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