I Was Thirteen Once

Story, Story?

Once upon a time, I was a thirteen year old girl. I had just finished NECO junior secondary exams at FGGC Bida and I came home for the very long break between Junior and Senior secondary school.

Because I was a boarder in a school that was very far from home, I wasn’t up to date on the comings and goings in my neighbourhood. I didn’t know a bookshop/stationery store had opened near the bus stop, it wasn’t until that I wanted to buy something (maybe it was cardboard, I can’t remember now) for a project that I walked in and saw him for the first time.

Chidi-Mokeme

Yep! Cuter than this.

Image Credit

He was tall, light skinned and handsome (think Chidi Mokeme when he was much younger but he was way more handsome than Chidi and had better dentition too). His name was Chidozie and he had the most gorgeous smile I’d ever seen, luckily I’d gone in with my brothers because I was tongue-tied and my brothers ended up buying it for me. All I could do was to greedily drink in the sight of him.

 

I thought about him day and night, I wished I could see him all the time. I just wanted to talk to him and look into his beautiful eyes all day long. So I cooked up reasons to go to his store, anything to see him again, to hear his heavy Igbo accent and have him look at me.

 

When he asked what my name was, I was overjoyed and thought he was also falling for me as quickly and as thoroughly as I’d fallen for him. It didn’t quite turn out that way, he was unfailingly kind, he would smile at me when I came in for numerous silly reasons and would never fail to wave to me when I walked past. When I had to transfer to a secondary school in Lagos, he was one of the reasons I wasn’t sad about leaving Bida.

 

I came from a loving family, my parents gave my brothers and I attention- too much attention perhaps. Even at thirteen, I knew where I wanted my life to go. To finish secondary school at sixteen, take a gap year and then get into the university just before my eighteenth birthday to study Petrochemical Engineering (Pharmacy came up in SS2) and I was a child of God. Yet there was something about Chidozie that made me yearn for the undefinable, for something I knew wasn’t quite good for me.

 

My parents had no idea about him but my brothers and friends knew that you just had to say Chidozie and I’d blush bright red. Until I wrote JAMB UME, my feelings for him did not fade. He still made my heart race whenever I saw him, his smile still made me feel like my brain had been replaced with a big ball of wet cotton wool.

 

Was it love? Definitely not! Yet it was something powerful enough to make me unsettled, and at that time I would have called it love. Would I have followed Chidozie to a city thousands of miles away from home? Who knows? He never acted on my very obvious feelings. What if he had? What if he told me he loved me and wanted me to be his girl? Me awkward, bookish and too big for her age girl? Could I have held on to the precepts of the bible? I’d like to say that I would have ignored my feelings, after all I was focused on my dreams and had a stable family life. But the part of me that is true and practical doesn’t quite agree.

 

When details about Ese Oruru surfaced last year and as the furore rose this year, I couldn’t help remembering the thirteen year old me and realising just how lucky I was. A thirteen year old no matter how well adjusted, is STILL a child. They might sound mature, look mature and think like an adult sometimes but that doesn’t make them adults.

 

My heart has bled as I have watched people heap insults on Ese and her parents for what she went through, where’s our compassion and sense of outrage? How can anyone blame a thirteen year old for getting carried away by her feelings? That is if she wasn’t hypnotised or jazzed (I wouldn’t doubt the jazz/hypnosis theory… The things my eyes have seen in this Nigeria ehn!). A young man who should know better, not only preyed on the girl but took her away from home and some Idiots say he did it because he loved her? From Facebook to twitter to gossip blogs, I have been disappointed by just how worthless the life of a Nigerian teenager is, how easily we disregard her fragility and how we are so prone to ridicule her.

 

Ese is going to need a lot of help, what has happened to her is horrible, terrible and atrocious. She made a mistake, we all make mistakes especially in matters of the heart. It’s hard to meet anyone who hasn’t had a relationship (as an adult) that he or she would not rather forget about and expunge permanently from the record, how much more a thirteen year old? I hope she gets the help that she needs.

 

How can we help other teenagers who like me and Ese are in the danger of letting “feelings” take them down a wrong path? We can mentor these young ones in formal or informal capacities, we can be their friend and listening ear when they need one, we should be slower to condemn and quicker to praise and most importantly, they need our prayers. Pray for all the teenagers you know, even if you can’t talk to them. Your prayers might just be the shield they need.

 

PS: in case you’re wondering where Chidozie is, I haven’t seen him since just before my 19th birthday. They left the shop in Lawanson and settled in Yaba, that was where I saw him when I went to buy books for second year in pharmacy school. We talked a bit, he was happy that I was in school and told me to read hard.

 

PPS: This week has been rough for me, in sooo many ways. It probably has been my roughest week this year and to make it even worse, Esmeralda- my tablet packed up on Thursday. One minute I was looking at Nicole Chikwe’s Pictures on Instagram after Uju tagged me on her post and the next? The screen was frozen on her picture for ten hours before shutting down. It hasn’t come on since then. Esmeralda isn’t just a tablet, she has been the storage for my dreams, hopes and in fact my whole life since August 9th 2013. When I think of taking her to be repaired I feel an ache in my heart because my budget is tighter than yoga pants and I might face the reality of losing everything on her.
Just when it seems like the wall are caving in on you, God will always send help your way and he did it with Tamie’s Post and Eziaha’s

 

PPPS: You can follow up on my fiction series Pendulum HERE

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24 Comments

  1. For Ese, we need to add Nigeria to the list of items Eziaha talked about in the post you mentioned in your PPS and then a deliberate social and mental re-engineering that’s targeted at 3yr olds and below. Any other age bracket,I fear may be a DOA project.
    For Esmeralda, All Iz Well!!!

    Reply

    1. You’re so correct about the age range we should target but I think everyone can be re-engineered, it’s just harder with the older folks.
      As for Esmeralda…

      Reply

  2. Prayer and Mentoring would really go a long way in helping teenagers.
    Sometimes when I think of my teenage years , I know for sure there is who had been hearing my mothers prayers and thereby kept me.

    Sorry about your tablet.

    Reply

    1. Indeed it does! Where would we be without the prayers of our parents especially our mothers? When I think of how easily I could have gone down deadly paths, I can’t help but praise God for seeing me through.

      Reply

  3. Awwww… Esmeralda.. Maybe she can smell a new one that’s why she packed up. The files on her tho.
    It is well. ☺
    And we really need to start praying for Nigeria and not destroying what we’ve prayed for with our words.

    Reply

    1. Amen! @ new one. I don’t want to think of the files in it cos I’d have full blown panic attacks.
      We really have to pray for Nigeria especially now that everything seems so bleak.

      Reply

  4. Hey sweetie!
    E-hugs. What brand is Esmeralda and do you know where you can get it fixed?
    I like that you’re now putting links in your posts. It’s a great thing. And we, the beneficiaries appreciate the overflow.
    Please take Esmeralda for a checkup. The warranty must have expired but still…
    Alliswell

    Reply

    1. It’s a Samsung galaxy note 10.1. The problem with going to the Samsung store is that it wasn’t bought in Nigeria, Samsung guys wouldn’t even touch it even for a fee.

      Reply

  5. I remember being 15 and having a friend who told the mum about every single thing, including the boy she had a crush on and the mum advised & talked to her about boys. I wish i could talk to my mum about boys too but the beatings that will follow won’t even let me think abt mentioning Boys to my mum. . Most parents shy away from such conversations which isn’t helping at all.
    sorrry about Esmeralda.

    Reply

    1. That mum was really cool, I agree with you on the beating thing. Sadly our mums didn’t know better, having an open atmosphere with your children can save them from terrible mistakes down the line.
      We definitely won’t be repeating that mistake, it will be better for our children.
      Esmeralda… sigh! Thanks.

      Reply

  6. This is lovely.
    I thought it was mostly love for ESE and pity for her parents I saw ooo. Didn’t know there was plenty blame. It is well ooo

    Reply

  7. I am so sorry about Esmeralda *am I the only one grinning that a tablet has a name?* don’t worry it all takes a leap of faith, just walk into a good tablet/phone repair shop and she’ll be fixed at an affordable price. You can’t abandon her ooo…all your stuff is saved in her drive.

    Yes, we were all thirteen once and many of us had crushes *man is not stone so*. It is sad to see Nigerians talk stupidly about Ese’s story. Yes, she thinks she loves the guy and no, the scales won’t fall from her eyes till she’s about fifteen when she’ll have a new crush. Somehow, I blame parents for not taking responsibility over their children, I mean…what is wrong in calling your daughter whose just reached puberty and telling her that she can confide in you? Many parents see the ‘mother/father and daughter/son relationship as a sign of weakness.

    As for the young man, I feel he deserves sometime serving some kind of punishment. You have no right to take an under aged girl and elope all in the name of love and present her to your people as your wife without any form of bide-price payment, heck, you have no right having sex with her and then, no right getting her pregnant.

    I don’t know how Ese would focus on her schooling and the raising of her child and I think it’s too early for two families to fight over the custody of an innocent child.

    Reply

    1. Lol at man is not stone. The negativity I have seen surrounding Ese was terrible, as for her parents? Her mother is a food seller. She has to wake up early in the morning to get things ready and she’ll get home very late. Where’s the time to take care of her children? Modern life will end up costing us far more than we have bargained for eventually, with our busy lives and quest for money.
      Like you I don’t know how she’ll get her life back on track, are they fighting for the baby already?

      Reply

  8. The Nigerian situation is terrible. I was arguing with someone the other day about this story and he told me that ‘Please that girl knew what she was doing. Thirteen year old girls these days know more than adults’ I tried explaining to him that a young girl can be adult like in some matters does not mean she isn’t still a child at heart, easy to confuse. I remember my secondary school days, during our ss3 towards the end of waec, during the parting gift craze (i’m sure most of us would wonder now why we were so bothered afterall we were leaving the school), many girls sourced for funds in ways i know they look back and regret now.
    And do you know what he replied?? “I believe that the age of consent should be reduced’ What the actual f***??

    I can’t understand people’s reasoning in this country sometimes. We all act holier than thou while we are guilty of worse crimes.
    I just pray for Ese and her family, especially for an NGO to take her out of naija so she can start afresh elsewhere.
    P.S: Didn’t mean for this to turn into a post
    P.P.S: Did i just hear that they are fighting over the unborn baby??? I still don’t get why a woman does not have rights to her child in this part of the world

    Reply

    1. I haven’t replied this comment yet?! My bad!
      A teenager is still a child! and it’s even more dangerous because they are children in grown up bodies. Your parting gift story made me smile and remember some of the crazy, stupid things we did in secondary school.

      Reply

  9. This is some of the reasons I usually go on media fast. People never cease to be humans – up and doing with crazy stuffs. I mean what does a 13 years old girl knows. I cringe and can’t begins to fathom the level of irresponsibility and animalistic tendency of that guy claiming to love a 13 years old enough to be his niece. And his family not raising an eyebrow to his choice of relationship. The girl i in question is technically still a minor not matter how mature she may be physically. I just hope the girl could be taken out of this mess to go get a better education and move on to better things

    Reply

  10. Evocative and beautifully written from a humane point of view. The heavy hand of the law needs to fall on those culpable. There are lessons in this for all of us. I pray for Ese, beauty for ashes.

    Reply

  11. I love how you write. The points you raised are very valid, if he had been less of a man, and you were just a bit more needy and starved of attention or love from home things would have ended differently.
    I look at my teen years and it’s a wonder that I wasn’t raped and that I managed to wait till University before having a proper boyfriend because I met and was friends with a lot of men, some older than I was.

    Reply

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