TEACHING IS AN integral part of who I am. It’s an endeavour that was hard-wired into me right from above. Almost nothing gives me pleasure like impacting knowledge to other people. I started teaching when I was in primary four. However, I began earning some money from it when I got to senior secondary two. I worked, part time, for a Home Tutor Agency…teaching various subjects at both the primary and secondary school levels; and I continued with the job while I was at the University of Lagos studying Quantity Surveying.
I met Rachael for the very first time during a teaching session. That particular morning, which turned out to be a lecture-free day for me and my course mates, I had gone to teach the fresh students in my department. I was in my fourth year at this time. These freshmen, who had just tasted a few weeks of the first semester, were grappling with some of their courses – especially the core ones. This, of course, is not uncommon with Jambites (a local parlance for first year students).
In my usual manner, and just as I had done (and was still doing at the time) to the students who came before them, I went and taught the year-one students, severally. Even many final year students nestled within my sphere of teaching. They usually approached me to help them clarify any difficult topic. And I could do this because I normally read way ahead of my class.
So, on this day, after lecturing the new students on one of their core courses, I asked if there were questions. Generally, I always advised my students against being shy or scared of asking questions – no matter how dumb the questions might seem.
None of the new intakes indicated with either hand.
Okay…that’s a good sign. But I need to be certain.
I was about to ask if they clearly understood all I had taught them when a certain girl, seated about two rows from the back of the class, slowly raised her right hand.
“Okay, we have someone with a question,” I said genially.
About thirty pairs of eyes followed mine.
Seeing the girl was now feeling shy, and wilting as a result of all those curious eyes directed her way, I encouraged her to ignore her course mates, stand to her feet, and ask her question.
After what appeared to be a brief battle, with her will, she shrugged off her fear and stood up.
Well, well, well. Who do we have here?
I observed she was well-dressed, remarkably beautiful, and endowed with a curvaceous body; and she was a strange face, because I knew all the students in my department by face – and nearly all of them by their first name.
The lovely girl then proceeded to ask a question she wouldn’t have if she had attended one of the previous lectures I’d had with her course mates. Some of her course mates groaned in protest at the fact that she was dragging them backwards.
With a cheerless expression, the girl explained to me that she had joined the class late owing to personal issues; in fact, she was yet to commence her registration as a bona fide student of the university.
Well, her case wasn’t peculiar. Mine had been worse. I remembered, as a new student then, I had completed my registration a week to the first semester examinations – due to matters out of my control.
So, calming her ruffled colleagues, I sympathised with the girl as I patiently answered her question satisfactorily. Her colleagues had none. So I dropped the marker I was writing with on a table. The students thanked me graciously, for the lecture, and arranged for my next one with them.
My stomach growled with hunger as I left their classroom.
Once outside, I headed for one of the university’s cafeterias for lunch. I had taken just a few steps when someone called my name. It was a female voice. I looked back and watched curiously as the attractive year-one girl approached me briskly. When she drew near, she apologised for stopping me in my tracks. I brushed it off and told her not to worry about it – since I was already used to having students stop me on my way all the time, to ask me one thing or another – either relating to their courses or something else.
I have to admit here that I was quite popular in school. A lot of students, as well as lecturers, in my faculty and others, knew me. This was because I had one of the best results in the school. In fact, I was second place on that particular list. And with the way things were going academically there was no doubt that I would finish as number one, which I eventually did.
So Rachael (she introduced herself) wanted a personal favour. She appealed earnestly to me to lecture her, privately, as she desperately wanted to catch up with her course mates. She was almost on her knees as she unfurled this request. Without giving it a second thought, the teacher in me agreed. After all, nothing gladdens the heart of a good teacher like a student who is sincerely willing to learn. And so, we fixed a day and time for the first lecture.
And that was how it all began.
Within a short time our relationship advanced from teacher and student to being friends…and then good friends. She told me about herself, her interests, her family, amongst other things. I did the same. We were both from the same state, and our villages were merely thirty minutes apart.
Several weeks, after I began tutoring her, I discovered, much to my astonishment, that I always wanted to be with Rachael. I noticed I couldn’t get her out of my mind.
What the hell is wrong with me?
I couldn’t really comprehend that state of mind. It felt as if something concrete had shifted in me, like a secret passage way, and Rachael had stepped through the opening and heaved the door shut.
Am I falling in love with her? I thought severally. At first I wasn’t sure of the whole love idea. Was it was a sensual thing? Was I being lured by her beauty? I mean…Rachael had a face and a body to die for. And if I said I hadn’t thought about stripping her naked and making her moan with pleasure as I worshipped her body, I would be the greatest liar ever born.
But, when I thought about it, really thought about it, burrowing past the superficial, I found that what I felt for her went beyond mere physical connection. It was crystal clear that whenever I was with Rachael I felt whole. She really filled this emptiness on the inside – one I had been feeling for years.
And, then, one bright Saturday morning, it all came together; it all made sense. Oh, yes it did: I was completely in love with Rachael. All those difficult questions had finally been resolved by one simple answer…or rather, admission.
Okay, now that the first strong step had been taken, what next? Should I tell her? Was that a judicious move? Was it not? Two voices fought to pull me down their side of the fence. One voice said yes – since I was now certain of my feelings for her. The other voice said no – since I didn’t know if she felt the same way.
I knew one thing though: Rachael really liked me; I felt I could tell by the personal stuff she shared with me; some of which she swore she had never told anyone…not even her parents. For instance, how her father’s younger brother had almost raped her when she went to spend a brief holiday with him and his family.
And then there was her heartfelt concern about my general welfare. She always seemed genuinely interested in matters that concerned me.
So, I knew she liked me; but did she love me? Was she in love with me? I wasn’t sure.
Wanting to share the love burden weighing on the shoulders of my heart I decided to confide in my two close friends. Their suggestion was simple, since they felt my dilemma was no dilemma at all: Tell Rachael how you feel about her was their two-kobo advice.
If all worked out, I had myself a girlfriend; if it didn’t…well, I still had both of them as my good friends. They were quite happy for me; happy that for the first time in the four years we had been friends I was in love with a girl.
They were aware of the sizeable number of the female folk (mostly in my department) who flocked around me to teach them one course or another. Girls from my faculty, as well as from other faculties, also came to me to teach them Mathematics and English Language, which were courses across the board.
Naturally some of these girls wanted something that went beyond teaching; they desired us to share a deeper, tender friendship. A few bold ones even wanted us to be friends with benefits…with promises of regular, mind-blowing sex. One of them even told me that a guy like me wasn’t made for just one woman. She surprisingly quoted Isaiah 4:1, which talks about seven women approaching one man for the purpose of marriage. Twisting this biblical passage out of context this girl brazenly stated that I was one of such few privileged men; that I was meant to be shared by, at least, seven women. I could only stare at her, speechless.
Anyway, on the overall, I believed these girls were all drawn, like pins to a magnet, by my popularity and high academic intelligence. I didn’t blame them. Neither did I sexually fool around with any of them.
So, against the risk of being rejected, my balloon of love deflated, I followed my friends’ suggestion.
The following Saturday afternoon I took Rachael out for lunch. It was at a newly-opened fast-food restaurant at Akoka…a few kilometres from UNILAG. There, after our meals, I poured out my heart to her. I studied her closely…watching, as she listened, carefully, with a rather amused expression.
I was bothered by the look on her face; by the possible fact that it meant one of two outcomes. One: she was waiting for me to finish so she could reciprocate my feelings; or two: she was waiting for me to finish so she could tell me she already had a loving boyfriend and that the joke was on me…sucker! And then she would throw her head backward, open her mouth wide, and laugh her heart out while I sat there looking foolish and soaking with embarrassment.
Well, when I was done with the love speech Rachael smiled – she had a bewitching smile – and said, “Fred, you don’t know just how long I’ve been waiting to hear you say everything you just did. Honestly, baby, I fell in love with you the very first day I set eyes on you…while you were teaching in our class. And since then I’ve been having a lot of sleepless nights… just thinking about you. Fred, my love, I can’t wait to be your sweetheart.”
The relief I felt is ineffable.