THIS IS NOT ME. I will definitely come for you bearing fangs. I don’t see pretending not to know as a grace. Unless you are cooking up an unpleasant surprise for the perpetrator, it’s always best to let out your anger, disappointment or frustration. This I did one time.
The year was 1996. The place was the ancient city of Calabar. I had just met my husband and we had started dating for about four months. His friends or rather drinking buddies did not know much about me. They only knew me as that “crazy Warri girl.”
“Crazy” in the sense that I wasn’t the regular, timid Calabar girl who’d sit quietly and grin foolishly while the men were having a “serious conversation.” My fashion sense was very daring and way ahead of their time. I was that chick who wore a Medusa head Versace t-shirt braless; with a full chest that was unbelievably perky on fringed daisy dukes with platform heels and back-length hair. I was that chick that knew everything about current affairs and what was trending in the news and confident enough to chip into their conversation. I was articulate and intelligent. I was a threat.
At that time, it was a big deal to see a young woman my age driving a car. You could count the number of cars in Calabar as the historic city was rather swarming with motorcycles. Ben had just bought a new car; a Peugeot 505 and was putting up his old car, a Peugeot 305 for sale. One of his friends bought the car but was yet to learn how to drive. So Ben asked me to help drive the car to the new owner’s home. Ben led the way, driving his 505 in front, while I trailed behind. The new owner sat on the passenger seat, while another friend of theirs sat behind. Then the gossip began.
“How dare Lenstrokes make a woman drive you home when I am right here?!” The friend behind asked angrily in Ibibio.
The new car owner trying to be cautious answered him, “Can’t we talk about this later, since his girlfriend is right here?”
“Don’t bother about her!” Mr. Bad Belle dismissed his fears tartly. “He told me she’s from Delta State or one of those places like that. She can’t understand a word of what we are saying.”
The new car owner relaxed a bit and explained to him that since I was the only one there who could drive when the purchase was made, my [then] boyfriend asked me to drive the sold car behind him to park it in his house.
Mr. Bad Belle was angry. “You should have sent for me to drive you home!” He bellowed. He ranted about my boyfriend belittling them by asking a mere woman to drive them while they sit in the car as passengers. I maintained an ignorant expression throughout the ride to the new owner’s house. I never gave them the slightest impression that I understood a word they had said.
A few months later, my boyfriend invited them to announce our engagement over dinner at Eskor Cafe. After toasting heartily to the good news, Mr. Car Owner said, “All roads lead to Delta State for the wedding!”
“Yes!” They all cheered.
My fiance corrected them, “No all roads lead to Akwa Ibom. The traditional marriage will take place in Akwa Ibom.”
“Ah…ah..what are we going to Akwa Ibom to do nau?” Mr. Car Owner asked.
“That’s where she comes from. She is the Adiaha (first daughter), their tradition demands that we marry there.”
“I thought you told me she is from Delta?” Mr. Bad Belle asked, his face looking like a gun has been pointed to his head.
I looked at him straight in the eye and gave him a cold smile knowing why he was looking deathly pale.
“I told you she is a Warri girl, meaning she lives in Warri.” My husband said.
The two gossips turned to me trying hard not to show they were trembling. My fiance was their central bank; buying them ceaseless bottles of alcohol to drown themselves in every night. This new discovery might spoil the awoof for them.
“Are you really from Akwa Ibom?” They asked.
“Yes, I am.”
“Do you understand the language?” They probed further.
“I understand Ibibio perfectly,” I quipped “I also speak it too.”
They both exchanged looks.
Mr. Bad Belle pulled me aside and said,
“Did you understand all I said in the car that night?”
Then the fear and hatred began. Unfortunately, my husband waved off the incident when I told him about his misogynistic friends and how I felt about them. I didn’t want to be that girl who came in and severed an existing friendship. It was Ben’s call to make, not mine. Today, he regrets not listening to me.
This was a scenario where I kept silent and let things unfold to shock the perpetrators. Next, I will narrate where I confronted the perpetrator to their face.