“Uncle Franque, did this happen to you when you were younger?”
I looked at my nephew and gave him an indulgent smile.
For as long as I can remember, Jo has always had girl issues.
Whenever I took him out as a toddler, ladies wanted to carry him, or coo at him or just look at him.
Then he grew up and went to school, and it only got better – or worse, to hear Jo tell it. Every end of term he changed his number because the girls would not let his phone be.
A girl once asked to borrow his phone. She said that she wanted to call a friend and her phone battery was flat. He lent her his phone and thought nothing of it.
Later that evening he got over thirty calls from the girl; she had called her phone and so had his number.
After a few calls Jo stopped taking her calls, but it did not stop her calling his number. Eventually, near tears, he told his mom about the girl. Big Mama called her and begged her to stop calling him, that he was not happy with her calling. The girl apologised and promised not to call him again.
When Jo returned to his bedroom, he saw twenty-nine missed calls from this same girl. That night he broke the SIM and got a new one the next day.
A month ago we were driving to Maryland for soccer and Jo was on the phone. From his irritation, I could tell it was a girl.
“I will tell you after,” he said with a furtive glance at me.
I was looking straight ahead, but I could see his embarrassment from the corner of my eye. My lips quivered from suppressed mirth.
“Oya come and put your hand in my mouth and drag it out nah,” he said into the phone.
“Tell her what she wants to hear jare,” I teased him and he chuckled.
“Is it not my uncle?” He said into the phone in response to a question the caller must have asked. “He said I should tell you what you want to hear.”
When he hung up, I teased him mercilessly about the call and caller.
“Is that a girl from school?” I asked.
“No. She lives here sef.”
“Here on this your street.”
I have lived on this street for six years and I only know a handful of people, yet my nephew comes for a few days and he has a girlfriend?
Curious, I pressed him till he told me who it was. It turned out to be one of the few kids in the area I acknowledged. She lived two houses down the street from me.
Jo’s phone phone rang frequently. It could ring fifteen times during a game of soccer. The caller IDs showed most of the calls were from girls, and I noticed the girl in my neighbourhood called him the most. Sometimes he would take their calls, other times he would ignore it. It distracted from the games we played, but being the cool uncle I tried to understand. Besides, when his BIS expired, she sent him airtime to renew it.
The other day we were in the kitchen; my girlfriend was making dinner and I had just come home, when he told us of a girl at the filling station where he went to buy fuel who told him she wanted Jo to date her sister. He also told us about the three girls at the church Harvest & Bazaar who asked for his number.
Here was my nephew living the life of most boys his age, and loving it – even if he pretended otherwise.
I was in the middle of explaining why it was better to give a girl his Blackberry pin rather than his phone number when his phone rang.
“Hello,” he grunted. “Uh huh… Uh huh… So you can see me? Are you serious?” He hung up, and then walked to the parlour to drop the curtains. When he came back we asked him what that was about and he told us that his friend had called to tell him she could see him leaning against the cupboard in the kitchen.
She could see into my kitchen? Which other part of my house could she see into? Who else could see into my house? All those days and nights of walking about naked, have they been similarly observed?
So when Jo asked me if I was stalked when I was younger, I told him it was not with the same intensity as his.
The holidays soon came to an end and he had to return to school.
“Have you told your friend?” I asked him the morning before he left,
“I told her yesterday and she spent most of the night crying. My phone was just hot, and when I start falling asleep, she would start to cry afresh. Uncle Franque, why did she cry?”
“Jo, I have asked myself the same question over and over now for years. I still don’t know why.”
I knew how women’s tears could be employed as a game changer in certain situations, and so I had the “do not let women distract you” talk with him. I shelved the “abstinence and protection” talk for when he came on his next holidays – I did not want to be the one to put ideas into his head about those things just yet.
I know that is a line we feed ourselves to help us deny that our children and wards are growing or have grown. We do that more for our protection than theirs, but it is a talk that must be had. And I will have it with him; just not yet.
Being an uncle is hard work; being a father is harder work. I guess it is a good thing M.O.N.C has so many older cousins with whom I can practice. Hopefully, when it is time to have the “girls will break your heart” talk with him, I will be ready and better prepared.
PS: Earlier this week, I entered for a writing competition and I felt good about myself when my entry was approved. I even went ahead and spread the word to canvas votes. But then I had a conversation with some friends and we all agreed that the organisers may just have got this one wrong.
Then, I read this piece http://pearlosibu.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/etisalats-popularity-contest-prize-for-flash-fiction/ written by a friend of mine, and I knew a lot of us felt the same way.
Even though in my earlier message I had said “if you like it, vote”, who was I kidding? Most people who got the message voted, and maybe even voted multiple times.
I have never wanted anything I did not feel I earned or deserved, I do not want to start today. So friends, if you are interested and have the time, please visit etisalatprize.com/flash and read the stories there, then you can vote the story or stories that you liked.