Bunmi Ajai The Fence Jumper
This afternoon, pottering around in the kitchen, I heard a knock on the door. I froze. Like most Nigerians in Britain, I do NOT open the door if I am not expecting anyone and there is a knock on the door. Not because I owe anyone money, but, well, just because. When you first arrive in London, one of the first things ‘Aunty’ or Uncle or ‘Madam’ tells you is this – ‘this is London. Don’t open door for anybody o. If it is me, I will use my key’. There are lots of mad peepule in London and if you go and open the door to one of dem, dey will just stab you for no reason and you will die’. So, yes, 20 years on, I still don’t open the door except I am expecting anyone. This afternoon, still feeling tender from the Fibroid procedure, but bored of staying cooped up in bed, I came downstairs to potter around when I heard the knock. I peeped through the window and saw my neighbour’s daughter. So, I opened the door for her. She explained that she had locked herself out and could I just let her climb the fence in the garden to her own house? So, I said ok. No problem. I opened the door to the garden for her and she dragged an upturned plastic chair to the garden fence, hopped on it, piam piam piam, she had hopped on the wall and jumped over. As I watched her doing, this, I felt deja vous all over again.
I was 22 when it happened. I had just finished my degree course at Jos and was waiting for my call up letter. My sister, Yemisi was home on holiday and my dad was away on one of his numerous postings. I think this time, to Warri but it well could have been PH or Calabar. He worked at the Nigerian Ports Authority and was a Port Manager. When I graduated, my mum suddenly gave me more freedom. Freedom to party, to have 2 more ‘holes in each ear. Her condition was that if you were going to a party, you had to leave when there are still people on the roads. So, that would be before 11pm or after 4am. And of course, we choose the latter rather than the former option. Also, you had to go with a friend she knew and trusted. I had a party at the Tejuoshos’ at Surulere. Yemisi was going clubbing. But we told Mummy we were both going to the same party. She would not have let us go to different parties. She gave us the key to the house sha and we went. There were two different cars, two different guys taking us to two different places but we pretended like we were going in one car
There were no mobile phones then (I know right?) so, Yemisi and I agreed that we would get to the front of the house at an approved time and that Yemisi would hold the key since she was more careful than I. She would then open the gate padlock so that Mummy would think we went out and came back together. We had no Maigardi that day. The Maigardi had been sacked and we were in between maigardis. That was the plan. A good plan. Or so we thought. I came back from my party around 4.30ish. There was no Yemisi at the front of the house. I thought maybe she had not arrived yet. The plan was to get there around 4.30. My toaster, being a gentleman, said he would wait with me for Yemisi. A few minutes later, Yemisi tiptoes to the gate. But she was inside the compound, not waiting for me outside. Apparently she had misplaced the key and had had to jump the fence. I had to jump the fence too. WOW! My toaster said he’d help me but for some reason that even till now, I can’t understand, I told him I don’t need help that I was ok climbing fences. I just wanted to appear wordly. Why? I don’t know. I was wearing a short tea-dress, not jeans or any pair of trousers, so, please imagine that in your mind. I just felt that if Yemisi could jump the fence, so could I. So, I pulled up my dress and proceeded to jump the fence. And I was doing very well, I was nearing the top, I was almost there till I heard my Mum’s booming voice ‘BUNMI! SHA DURO BE! MA KO OLE NI ONA ATI WOLE. ME JE KI OLE MO WIPE ILE WA, KO SORO WO. MA F’ON HAN OLE!’. Bunmi! Just wait there! Don’t teach thieves the way. Don’t let thieves know that it is easy for them to get into our house. Don’t show thieves the way! I froze! I was almost at the top. Apparently, my mum had heard ‘huru hereh’ in the compound and had come to our room which was the room that faced the gate and had seen someone trying to jump in to the compound. She had initially thought it was a thief till she saw that it was me, hence the reference to me showing thieves how to get in. And my toaster? Laughter wan tear him bele.
Parents are funny. When you think you have done something that you are certain they will almost kill you for, they do and say nothing. This was one of those occasions. My mum no longer beat us, and neither did my dad but the talk could be worse than be beaten. I thought she would talk talk talk. She did not. She simply came downstairs, gave us her own set of keys and went back to her room. She did not talk about and neither did she tell our Dad.