”What did you say your name is again?” I asked, trying to steady my footing. The innocence and beauty of the girl standing before me is underscribable and I will not even attempt to.
“Hauwa sir” she replied. “My mother sent me to ask you if you’l nee water for your bath so I can fetch from the public tap” she added in impeccable English. Prior to coming to Gamawa, the impression we corpers had was that the girls in the villages where both illetrates and totally unapproachable due to their strict parents especially fathers. However, we had seen a glimpse of how beautiful the girls could be but not one of us had ever thought of beings friends with any talkless of getting married to one as most of us were of the chritian faith and not even northerners. We had been told that the last two were prerequisites to getting married to a girl from these regions. Their fathers were either alfas or at least strong muslims and so were very strict with who and who their girls mix with. So it was a big surprise that Hauwa was standing in front of my door that morning and not just that, she was very beautiful too.
“Erm, no I don’t need any water thank you. erm, yes, I think I do need water..”, I fidgetted. What was wrong with me. How could I, a whole graduate from one of the prestigious Higher institutions in Nigeria be fidgetting before a small girl who probably was not even through with secondary school talkless of getting ahigher education. Totally unheard of especially considering that I will be resuming as a mathematics teacher in the only senior secondary school in the village. Nah, that’s totally unbecoming of a secondary school teacher!
“Take the bucket from the backyard and fetch me two buckets” I said with an authoritative voice, ”and say thank you to your mother. ” I added with good measure.
”Ok sir, I will” she said innocently and scampered away…”come back here” I called out before she ran out of sight, ”how old are you?” I asked feeling the stupidity of my question before I had the chance to withdraw them and hoping noone else heard.
”18 sir, I am 18 years old” as she stared at the ground as she said it making me a bit more guilty for asking her that question. ”ok, you can go”. I watched as she went around the house and then emmerged with the bucket I had placed there just the day before when I was contemplating going to fetch water the previous day and had decided against it after noticing the skies had turned grey like it was going to rain cats and dogs. It never rained. She walked graciously away on the path to the public tap, the closest of the three that were in the village. The principal of the school I was going to resume at had told us that an NGO had built those taps for them just a few years back, prior to that they had to go to the nearby village to fetch water.
I went and laid down on my bed and stared at the tiles of asbestos that represented my roof with noticeable cracks here and there. I wondered for a few seconds what would happen to me when the rains start pouring and I quickly made a mental note of making a report to the principal come monday. Then back to Hauwa.
I did not think I had a chance with her. There were just too many obstacles. We obviously belonged to two different religion and regions of the country. What would my family back home say if I suddenly showed with a girl from the North and introduced her as my wife to be, there will be mayhem! But that mayhem is incomparable to the one that would happen right here in Bauchi should there be anything between this christian from the south and a daughter of one of the islamic clerics. That mayhem was something I didn’t dare to think about.
All the thoughts were to disappear on monday, the first day of the new school term. I had been assigned to teach Physcis and Mathematics in the senior secondary school classes and I didn’t need more than two seconds in my first class to realise that Hauwa was one of my students. She was sitting right at the far corner and even though there were over seventy students in class all wearing the same colour combinations, it was impossible to miss that smile.
‘Good morning sir, we are happy to see you sir, God bless you sir’. The greeting by students followed what sounded like a rhythmic knock on the table made by someone who I later realise was the class captain. After the brief introduction and formalities, I tried doing an introduction to the course as required but I couldn’t take my mind off the damsel that was sitting on my far left. She was just impossible to ignore. I knew at that time that I had to take a step! After lectures, I asked Hauwa and the class captain to see me in my office.
At exactly lunch period, they both showed up as I asked them to. I had chosen that time specifically because most of the teachers would have gone to the teacher’s cafe jst near the school for lunch. It was a good time to lay down and execute my plans. I admit I didn’t think it through. Maybe if I had, I woouldn’t have taken that step or maybe even discussed it with friends and listened to counsel. However, at 1pm on that monday morning, it seemed to me as the best thing to do!