February 11, 2016 By: Winstanley R. Bankole. Johnson
Every youth must have at a point in life experienced the dilemma of which one among the list of admirers should be the “Valentine of the year”, especially where an existing relationship had become irreparably strained in the preceding days to February 14th on account of foolish pride or jealous ego or if for some quaint reason a steady relationship never existed in fact. My own experience centered on the latter scenario – no previous relationship. So it was by sheer coincidence that I met the beau seated next to me at the right rear long seat in the lower deck of a “Double Decker” with proximity to the Conductress.
As the Bus Driver deftly negotiated the curve from Pademba Road into Campbell Street, this beauty, adorned in a pristinely cute Albert Academy 6th Former uniform with well-polished pair of black shoes and white sockets to match, accidentally slid to my side (and yes into my warm embrace) and exclaimed apologetically “Oops!! I’m soooo sorry!!!”. “Never mind” I quickly replied, still holding on to her hand, and which posture she didn’t resist anyway.
She hopped off at the “Ports Town” Bust Stop with me abandoning my original destination and following in her trail. I soon caught up with her and as we walked along exchanging pleasantries, an invitation to visit her at home on February 14th which she said was her birthday was soon extended. “What a St. Valentine’s Day gift!!” I muttered. It didn’t concern me much about how her parents were going to react on seeing me. After all every Krio parent no matter how strict, is expected to exhibit a little disciplinary flexibility towards their studious girl children.
That lady incidentally was the second sibling I had approached in that same family in two years without either of them knowing about it. I suppose it wasn’t common then for girl siblings with say three years or more age disparities to be discussing boyfriends, which worked out quite nicely to my advantage at the time. My earlier encounter with the younger lass ended rather abruptly following a serious “mutilation” I had caused the Queen’s language during a conversation one day after school. She was curious to know why in spite of our being the same age; I was in a form lower than another mutual boy acquaintance at the Grammar School. Trying to bluff my way out of that danger, I confidently explained to her that “….it was because of my “demotation”. “Demotion!!” She screamed, and walked away. That was the end of our romance.
As I accepted the “gauntlet” to visit the elder sister on her Feb 14th, birthday, four dilemmas crystallized immediatelywe parted company-: (1) I had run out of money the moment I aborted my original journey at “Ports Town” Bust Stop to follow her and so had to “pile” (walk) back home to Fetter Lane in the East. (2) What to wear for that maiden visit to my “Valentine”. By then I could only boast of a single pair of trousers (long pangs), attractive only in darkness but which like the best of my shirts had seen better days. The shirt issue was less serious because with a versatile Seamstress mother as I had in the late Oseh, I had learned how to overturn shirt collars with such adroitness as would maintain the symmetry even in striped materials. (3) As a Fourth-Former at the Grammar School, which trick or school activity would I have to conjure up to obtain permission to leave my home without my uniforms on that day? (4) What shoes will I wear? That in fact was my greatest constraint.
But as the “D-Day” approached, answers to all my dilemmas emerged. My trousers were neatly pressed and the soles of my shoes properly padded up with as many layers of cards as would last throughout the return journey. I had saved the six pence cost for the return bus journey and even memorized a few romantic lines to be delivered as our conversation progressed.
Came the “D-Day” and everything went according to plan, until I was halfway into Benjamin Lane from the Campbell Street end when it started pouring down with rain. Without a “brollie”, I managed a few “Dog Umbrella” gimmicks until I was about ten (10) yards from my Valentine’s compound when, in attempting to dash for their gate, I miss-stepped and fairly and squarely landed with both feet into a puddle of water, soaking my shoes in the process. Hmmmmmmm!!! Trouble!!!
The reception from both my Valentine Celebrant and her parents were as warm as circumstances permitted then. No embraces. No kisses. Just handshakes. I was ushered into a chair in the parlour by the front door and was soon treated to a glass of ginger beer and slices of cake and rice bread. But we had scarcely had time to gaze at each other emotionally when my earlier accidental fall into that water puddle began having a telling effect on the soles of my shoes – and on their linoleum floor mat too. The card layers inside my shoes had been soaked beyond measure – and melted – oozing drips of water unto the floor. My shoes literally wept!!! And the more I tried to pull my feet backwards and under the chair, the more the pressure applied on the soaked padded cards and the greater the leakages.
The family soon absorbed my discomfort and out of respect, the mother quaintly smiled and walked away from the parlour. The father was understandably far less courteous. A Cobbler all his entire life, the last thing he wanted was a poor prospective son-in-law who instead of changing their fortunes, would only come into the family to re-invent the wheels and cycles of poverty. So pointing towards my feet he enquired: “Oosai wata dae commot sooooo??” (Where’s water coming from like that??) I did not proffer any answer, but just pretentiously looked downwards to both my left and right sides. The father then calmly advised that we move to the porch which we did, with my shoes now loudly quacking like a duck and I stepped along, leaving in their trail squirts of water.
My Valentine birthday girl was visibly embarrassed by that experience. She led me unto the porch and rather unemotionally advised that I should be leaving because it was already time for her to commence her studies. And that was the end of that relationship.
How delighted I am to have met Lady Clarice many many years ago. And I’ve been enjoying blissful St. Valentine’s Days since.
A Happy 2016 St. Valentine’s Day To you All In Advance!!!