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Also, no one gets pregnant from a handshake,” he said and laughed at his own attempt at a joke. I didn’t find it funny though. “I know, Daddy. I am not stupid.” “What do you know?” “Daddy, I have heard ‘sex’ before,”I said and rolled my eyes at him. “What? You have had what… ?” “Come on, Daddy. I mean heard, as in heaaaard,”I said, pulling at my ear.

“Phew!” We burst into laughter and he held his chest, saying he almost had a heart attack. “But… tell me, how did you know about… sex?” he asked. “Of course, everywhere.

On TV, from some of my classmates… it is also in some books, magazines… whatever.” “Which magazines?” “Well, like Cosmopolitan,” I answered as I bent to pick up the plastic bag to dispose of my empty ice cream cup. ‘And where did you get that… Cosmopolitan?” “I found some copies in my Auntie Molara’s room after she left for school, I said.

I regretted this immediately. Maybe I shouldn’t have said it. I didn’t want to put anybody in trouble. Auntie Molara was my mother’s younger sister. She was in the university, but she stayed with us during the holidays.

I liked her a lot and always looked forward to having her around. “But you know some of these things are meant for adults only and you should not really be reading them,” he said in a low and sober voice. “I will have to talk to your mother about that.” “I am sorry, Daddy. I will not read that kind of stuff again.”

He did not say anything. He still looked upset. “Ha-Ha, Mr. Bello, I said I am sorry,” I tried to put an arm around his shoulder. “You better don’t get us killed,” he said and smiled as he tried to keep his eyes on the road. He seemed to like it when I called him Mr. Bello. I called him that whenever I wanted to get him to do something.

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Mummy sometimes even got jealous that I was able to succeed with him where she had failed to get him to do some things. “Daddy, I hope you’re not angry with Auntie Molara? It was not her fault. She didn’t even know I took the magazine.” He shook his head and said he was not angry with my aunty.

He would only tell her to be mindful of what she left lying around. “Sex is everywhere these days, sad to say,” he lamented. “All over the place. Even commercials and advertisements do not appear complete nowadays without the trash… I heard that even some children’s cartoon now contain references to sex. Or even these things that you call Hannah Montana, High School Musical or whatever…” “Hannah Montana? That’s like, a zillion years ago. Besides, nobody watches TV anymore these days,”I said.

What do you mean, nobody watches TV anymore?” He asked, looking genuinely curious. “You can download and watch everything on Netflix…” what is Netflix?” “You don’t know Netflix?”I was surprised. “No. Never heard of it,”he said. “Daddy, how would you not know Netflix? They stream videos online. They were the ones who did House of Cards.” “What? You have watched that? “He sounded genuinely horrified. “Hmm, kind of,” I answered cautiously.

“What do you mean ‘kind of’?” “Daddy, I know what you are worried about. But I don’t  watch those things. Whenever I see that it is getting like that, I just fast forward it. He looked frustrated and worried at the same time.   ‘This is on the computer in the study? Or, do you have access to another one that I am not aware of?” “No. It is just that,” I answered wondering if I had  not put myself in another trouble.

You see, Aliya, your mind is like a beautiful room. You have to be careful what you let in. And am not just talking about sex All sorts of Vulgarity, bad language, violence, they are all as bad. Watching those those is like dragging filth into your beautiful room.  You have to avoid them. I mean your mother have a duty to guide you, but we cannot be monitoring you all the time. He did not sound as upset as I feared.


I hated to make him angry for any reason. I also liked the example he gave about a beautiful room and dirty things. He reached for his bottle of orange from the cup holder and gulped down what was left of it. Then he switched on the car radio as if to signal the end of the discussion. He fumbled with the dial for a while. Then he switched it off again. “I also want you to be careful what kind of company you keep in school,” he continued. “Some of these classmates that You said were talking about sex, who knows? It’s quite possible they have started doing bad things with boys. Don’t emulate them, don’t be like them.

They may try to pressure you to join them. You should not do something simply because other people are doing it. The majority can be wrong. They may even call you a ‘bush’ girl if you refuse to follow their way. But as I have always told you, pressure from friends is never a good reason to do anything.

You also don’t need anybody to approve of you or the kind of person that you are. You should never be afraid to stand alone as long as you stand for the right thing.” He reached for the radio switch again. Music streamed out this time, and he quickly turned down the volume. The mood in the car had changed since the issue of the magazines and television came up.

really angry with me. It was possible that he was even angry with himself: He always wished he had more time to spend with me, especially before I went into the boarding school. “And one more thing,” he said. “Please don’t allow anybody, and I mean anybody, to touch you in your private parts.” “Okay, Daddy ” “And I believe you know what those are?” “Yes, I do.” After that, we barely spoke until we got home.

That was four years ago. He had always tried to teach me things. Sometimes, my mother would even complain that I was too young for some of the things he wanted me to learn about. The letter he wrote to me for my 16th birthday was like a recap of everything he had taught me since I was old enough to understand what he was saying. It was like a textbook on life.

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I recalled the story of the prophet, Lukman, who was sent by God to teach his own son. Maybe he was my prophet. Despite the coming Chemistry examination, I read the letter twice. I didn’t realize I was crying until I saw teardrops on the paper in front of me. I dabbed at it gently, careful not to blot the ink.

At that moment, I felt nothing but pure love for my father. I was very happy with the camera, but this letter was the greatest birthday gift I had ever received. I was determined to keep it safe, and if possible, show it to my own children one day. Even after two readings, I still did not fully understand everything he was trying to say to me.

If anything, the letter had actually raised a lot more questions in my mind. I resolved that after my examination, I would read the letter again and underline those parts that I wanted him to explain further. For now I had to face Chemistry.

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