In this forthcoming novel set in the 1980s in Ghana, ‘My Twenty-One Changing Seasons’, Gideon, who has just completed his ‘A’ Levels, looks back on his seven years in boarding school. The book is planned to be published by summer 2012. Below is an extract, which recounts his day with the seniors.
Monday afternoon looked like the scene of an invasion as the senior students descended on campus. We were terrified, of course-we had all heard stories of how a form one student’s life could be made very miserable. We cowered by our window, where we had a clear view of the foyer and car park. Car after car arrived on campus and disgorged the students- from gleaming Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, ordinary Toyotas or Datsuns to rented taxis for those whose families had no car to their name. But wave after wave came and we wondered whether there would ever be an end. Campus was noisy as old friends greeted each other with the boisterousness that teenage students are known for. Of course there was no parent in sight-after all, these were no novices.
By four pm all of the form one boys in my dormitory were kneeling down in the form five room upstairs, and I am sure a similar exercise was being repeated in the other five houses. We had not committed any offences but for the simple one of being new boys. The seniors sat or lay on their beds and interviewed us, firing humiliating questions from all angles.
‘Hey you, yes, thick lips. How many times does your father fuck your mother in a week?’
‘Kwaku Nsemfo. What kind bush name be dat?’
‘You chop pussy before?’
‘You from Tiwa? Where in the name of Jesus is that? Do you guys have water and electricity there, and how do you get there? By canoe?’
‘My God, your face no fine koraa. Your mother must cry every day’
‘Do you have any beautiful sisters I could marry?’
‘Who did you inherit your ugly, mango-shaped head from?’
And on and on the stupid questions went. Senior James Fynn, otherwise known as Joe Capito, seemed to be in charge of the pack of baying hyenas in the room. I will never forget that face and name for as long as I shall live. He is forever seared into my memory. His questions always elicited laughter from the other seniors, however stupid or banal it sounded. He had the annoying habit of constantly picking his nose and then sticking his finger in his mouth. His voice was high pitched like the shrill of a football referee’s whistle. Tall and lanky as a pole with eyes like a cat, he had a sinister smile that sent a chill right down your spine, for you could tell that the smile was simply a preamble to some dastardly comment or act rather than any act of warmth or affection towards a fellow human being. I avoided those icy eyes. He was perched on the edge of his bed, his long legs dangling and swaying like weeping willows in the breeze.
‘Hey you, funny ears, what is your name?’ A set of keys landed on my ears with the precision of a guided missile almost as soon as the question was asked. I yelped both in pain and surprise. In primary school I was nicknamed ‘adanko’ meaning rabbit, because of my protruding ears. Of course I hated it. Laughter erupted in the room as soon as the keys clanged against my ears. I am sure I saw a couple of my mates trying to suppress a snigger.
‘Senior, please I am Gideon Asomaning’, I replied meekly.
‘Asomaning’ He rolled my name over his tongue for a minute or two over whilst scratching a rather ugly pimple located on his left cheek. Then his face seemed to light up as if in recognition.
‘Is your father that ugly minister for urban regeneration? You look like him, rabbit ears and all.’
‘No, senior. My father is a mining engineer.’ It always gave me great pride to reveal my father’s profession
‘Foolish goat, so what? Is my father a village blacksmith?’ clearly the question was meant to be rhetorical, for he did not wait for a reply, neither did I dare offer one.
‘So you are a mine boy. Which one?’
‘Your father is a gold thief. How many bars of gold are hidden under his bed?’
‘None, senior.’ I swallowed hard, affronted that this guy had the nerve to besmirch my father that way. But who was I to talk?
‘Come here’, he beckoned with his right index finger. I rose to make my way to him as ordered. The room went quiet.
Who asked you to get up?’ he barked at me. ‘Crawl to me’
I looked at him, not believing what I had just heard and rooted to the spot as if my feet had been nailed to the hard cement floor. There was a good six feet or so between us, and the floor was rather pock-marked. Within a split second, a hard cover Collins Advanced English Dictionary was flying in my direction from his bed with the speed of a bullet. The missile narrowly missed my head and slammed against the wall on the other side of the room with such force that the back cover came off. In a flash I was back on my knees and crawling towards Senior Capito with great alacrity.
‘Open your mouth wide and close your eyes’. His left forefinger was stuck in his nostril, scraping, exploring and excavating, and that sinister smile played on his lips. I did not need a second invitation and had no idea what to expect. My lower lip trembled, and I steeled myself for whatever this evil senior had decided to visit on me, wondering why he had singled me out for whatever he had in mind.
I drew a sharp intake of breath when I felt the forefinger of Joe Capito firmly lodged on my tongue and realized that this was his filthy finger when I felt some foreign matter in my mouth. My eyes flew open immediately and my body recoiled in disgust. Joe Capito’s finger remained firmly lodged in my mouth, pressing down hard on my tongue. My lower lip trembled vigorously and my mouth began to fill with saliva.
‘Get up. If you are man like me with pubic hair and solid balls and who has fucked more pussies than I have, spit it out and let me see’, he challenged, fixing me with a stare that could melt seventy-seven demons. Well, my closest experience of sex had been a sloppy, messy fumble back in primary school with Oparebea one hot sunny afternoon after extra classes, so technically I was still a virgin. However, even though I did of course have a solid pair of balls between my legs, I did not dare rise to the challenge, neither could I of course muster the nerve to swallow. I rose slowly and stared at him. As I came up his finger dislodged itself from my mouth. I knew boarding school life entailed some bullying and was prepared to take it in my stride, but this was madness.
‘Close that big smelly mouth of yours’. His shrill voice permeated my eardrums.
With great effort, I managed to bring my lips pressed together, but prevented my tongue from touching any other part of my mouth. At this point all the other seniors started laughing- a raucous laughter that reverberated beyond the dormitory walls. Only Capito remained impassive, as if he was wondering what on earth the fuss was about. My fellow form one students, all still on their knees, kept their eyes glued to the floor. They could clearly feel my pain, for they must have realized it could have been any of them. None of them dared laugh even if they wanted to, for that would surely have been an invitation to have something worse dished out to him.
My throat seized up and I felt as if a big lump of charcoal had been placed in its narrow confines. I blinked rapidly, forcing myself not to show any weakness and thereby give this idiot any pleasure. In my head, I rained curses on him as I stood there thoroughly humiliated. I invoked madness and disease and blindness on him. In my impotent rage, I wished he would die a slow painful death and that his rotting flesh would be picked clean by vultures and dogs and hyenas.
Then, almost as soon as these torrential thoughts crashed through my mind with great intensity and my soul blazed with anger, I felt a tidal wave of shame wash over me for wishing these things on a fellow human being. I asked God for forgiveness. I had been brought up to believe fervently in the Lord’s Prayer: And forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespass against us.
It was at this point that the dam in my soul broke and the tears began to flow silently like hot lava down my cheeks- salty tears of pain at the humiliation that I had suffered, tears of frustration that I was unable to do anything about this or question why I had been singled out, and finally tears of guilt that I had allowed this senior to push me to the point where I had developed impure thoughts and had sinned against my God in the process. These three rivers of tears joined hands and flowed freely as one unto my white shirt.
Eventually we were released, and I headed straight to my trunk to grab my toothpaste and brush. I spent the next half hour or so vigorously scrubbing my mouth, until my gums were flooded with blood. Then I rinsed it with some dettol, like the victim of a horrendous rape who seeks to wash away with soap and water the disgusting ordeal she has just been subjected to, for I had just been violated in a like manner. And yet I continued to feel dirty, and for the next few days, eating or drinking was a horrendous experience. Whenever I did, I felt I was swallowing the filth from Capito’s nose.
About the Author
Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Ghana and postgraduate qualifications in law from City University and The College of Law, both in London, UK. He currently lives in Accra, where he runs Walworth Consulting, a specialist UK immigration consultancy.
He has two books to his credit. His first book, Ghana at 50: A Trip down Memory Lane, was published in April 2007 to mark the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence. Abrokyir Nkomo:Reflections of a Ghanaian Immigrant, was published in June 2009. He is currently working on his first novel, My Twenty-One Changing Seasons. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org