Daddy had finished his Coke now and was lying on the sofa, his head propped up with one of the throw cushions. “You, are you not going to eat? Madam lawyer.” “I am okay with the chocolate for now, I will eat later,” I answered. At that moment, I had something more important on my mind than food. All the other questions I had asked him were easy enough and straightforward.This one, I didn’t even know how to start.
Daddy, you know I am 16,” I said matter-of-fact. It was a rather foolish way to start. Of course, he knew I was 16. He was trying to turn on the TV on the wall with a remote control.The TV refused to come on. He turned the remote control over in his hand, slapped it against the other hand and pointed it towards the television again. When it refused to come on still, he opened the battery case of the remote control and took out the two batteries. One of them dropped and rolled towards me. I picked it up and handed it to him.
He muttered a thank you, re-inserted the batteries and replaced the cover with a noisy clap. “Now, I command you to come on,” he said to the TV as he pointed the remote control at it again, like a magician waving his wand. But still the TV refused to yield, looking black and dead like those television sets I once saw at a market in Lagos. Big Mummy said they were called ‘No Testing’.
Even though they were very cheap, you were not allowed to test if they actually worked before you buy them. She said, sometimes one might get lucky. But more often than not, one would have ended up paying to bring a piece of junk into one’s house.
I couldn’t see the sense in that. “Maybe the batteries are dead,” I volunteered, trying hard to hide my irritation. Here I was, about to ask the most important question of my life. Yet, all that this man cared about was his television. “I hope it is just that,” he said. “Anyway, what were you saying?” he said as he laid back on the sofa, placing the remote control on his chest. “I should have some batteries in my room. You know we have a match this evening.”
By “we”, he meant Chelsea. He was a devout fan of the English football club. One evidence of his devotion was the fact that all the bibs that I used as a baby were branded with the club’s logo. Mummy would often joke that she was surprised he did not name me Chelsea. In addition to the bib, almost all my first belongings on earth were blue and bore the club’s logo. And this included my feeding bottle.
Mummy said she complained vehemently at the time that blue is a boy’s colour, but Daddy would not be deterred. All of the artifacts of my Chelsea childhood were still held in a box in the pantry. I had come to like Chelsea myself Perhaps, that was inevitable. Mummy would say I was a Chelsea fan by genetic engineering.
She was not really keen on football. I was also not so emotionally committed like Daddy. But we would always pray for Chelsea to win so that Daddy would remain in good mood. I recalled on one occasion, he actually refused to eat because they lost a game. I remember, it was a Champions league final against Manchester United. Several days after the match, Daddy was still bemoaning his team’s defeat, talking about how Drogba would have scored a penalty if he didn’t get a red card for slapping an opponent.
I prayed that Chelsea would win that day so that Daddy would still be in a frame of mind to answer my remaining questions. Especially, this very burning question: “Daddy,”I said, “you know now I am 16.” “Of course, how can I possibly forget that you are no longer a child but a young adult,”he answered and laughed. “Daddy, be serious now,”I said, squeezing my face at him. “But I am.”
Okay,I mean now that I am 16,1 am old enough to date, right?” “Date. What is that?” He asked and sat up slowly. He scratched his neck and suddenly became interested in the remote control again. I knew my father. I was sure he understood exactly what I was asking him. But if he didn’t have a ready answer to your question, he would pretend not to understand, so as to buy himself time. “I mean, like… a boyfriend.
I can have a boyfriend now, can’t I?” “Boyfriend? What does that mean?” he asked, looking straight into my eyes. Now, it was my turn to look away. I suddenly noticed some dirt under my nails and began to pick at them. “But Daddy, I thought you said I could ask any question.” “Of course, you could. I just wanted to be sure I understand you, that’s all. Okay, let me put it this way. You said dating first, then you said boyfriend, right?” I nodded. “Okay, what I would like to know is that when people say they are dating or someone is their boyfriend, as in your own case, what do they do
together? What does that kind of relationship entail?” “Well, I am not sure. But I know, like, they hang out together and stuff like that,”I replied. One thing I learnt about my father over the years was that you should never take anything for granted. Whatever you wanted, you had to be able to justify.
And you could not do worse than telling him that the reason you wanted to do something was that other people were doing it. He taught me what he called the jive-why’ test. He said by asking ‘why’ five times, any issue could be clarified and seen for what it really is. I prayed he wouldn’t remember that now. If he did, I wondered how many whys I would be able to answer. I think I should have a boyfriend.
Why? Because I am now a young adult. Why? Because most young adults have boyfriends. Why? Because… because it makes them feel good. Why? Because. . . Silly. “What does ‘ hangout’ and ‘ stuff like that’ mean?”He continued. “Daddy, why now? I am sure you know what I mean.”I said with some agitation, if not irritation. But I knew I had to answer his question. “I don’t really know, but I know they do things together, like talk and spend time together.”
“That’s all, talk?”he asked, feigning ignorance. “Okay, Daddy. Maybe also… like HAK, KOTL and stuff like that,” I added. I was so embarrassed, talking about these things with my Dad, of all people. “What are those? HAK and… what did you call it?” He looked genuinely confused. He sat up and leaned towards me. “You mean you don’t know?”I said, genuinely surprised. “No, I seriously don’t.Tell me.”
HAK means, like, Hugs and Kisses. KOTL means Kiss On The Lips.” “But… how do you know all these?” he asked, almost in consternation. “Come on Daddy, everybody knows these things, duh!” “Everybody knows what?” “As in… it’s kind of the way people speak now People don’t have time for long talk anymore.”
You call talking in acronyms a way of speaking? Anyway. So, how much of HAK and KOLT have you been up to?” “Me? No, I don’t have a boyfriend. And it is not KOLT Daddy, it is KOTL.” “KOTL. Okay. Now, are you telling me that everyone your age knows the meaning of these things you just said?” “Well, most. It is like social media language. Yes, I think so. I mean everybody is on social media.” “Well, we’ll come back to that later. So, you want to have a boyfriend so that you would be doing KOTL and what was the other one?” “No Daddy, that is not…,” the rest of the sentence got stuck in my throat. I began to feel hot despite the air conditioner and my armpit began to itch.
to be continued……