As youngster, parents in my younger days placed a high premium on age. This doesn’t come as a surprise though because this belief is deeply rooted in our African tradition. In many tribes across Nigeria for example, the first born child (sons, mostly) are viewed as the natural heirs. Any child that comes after was expected to serve at the pleasure of the eldest.
It is believed that having spent a longer time on planet earth than his/her siblings, the eldest child is expected to be wiser and by implication more responsible. For many first children, this expectation of responsibility was quite a burden.
As a kid, the fact that I was “senior” deprived me of some things even though with it came rare moments of pride; that occasional selfless moment in an attempt to live up to that responsibility. Of course, I learned at a young age that I was no super man. I couldn’t do it all. Neither could I be the best at it all.
However, what I viewed as responsibility was for others like me, a license to bully. I shall say so for the umpteenth time; I hate bullies. When I encountered them, I was always the voice of “rebellion” even if I ended up getting my arse kicked and maybe in retrospect, thought the pain of arse kicking wasn’t worth the trouble but it was a recurring decimal in my life.
Anyway, that’s that about that. We all remember that familiar verse in the Bible where Jesus Christ told us to offer the other cheek if we were struck? Yes, the first time I heard it at the Sunday School, I thought to myself, what nonsense! I was incensed that it was alright for anyone to just walk up to me and strike me and instead of an equally vehement reaction, I was to double down and offer the other cheek was incredulous to say the least.
But Jesus as a man was a man of peace; and as a God, a God of mercy. The greatest personality to ever walk the earth’s surface…
Ik was a family friend. His dad and my dad were college buddies and work colleagues so for as long as I could remember in all my twelve years on earth, we had spent about five Christmases holidaying alternately at each others house. He was three years older than I was.
I never really enjoyed those holidays except for his pretty little sister Ada for whom I would do anything for but I think he did. He was not allowed to bully Ada for obvious reasons so I was always a welcome change. He would get me to wash plates when it was his turn and when I protested, he would say he was my senior and I must do whatever he told me.
He had this uncle who came in from the US every Christmas and stayed with them for a day or two. Uncle Emeka, or Uncle E for short was everyone’s favorite Uncle. He never failed to come with clothes, shoes and toys for everyone. One this particular Christmas eve, he brought a special gift for Ik, a Nintendo Game Boy. Oh boy, was I jealous! Every cool kid had a Nintendo Game Boy and I had in my many letters to my aunt in the US, pleaded that she get me one.
I was glad anyway. I had no doubts that Ik would let me play but how naive I was. Ik played the game from morning till night, baiting me with his house chores which I fell for over and over again because I desperately wanted my hands on that game. I washed the plates for the full day, swept the house, the veranda, mopped the floors, washed his clothes and even surrendered my meat from every meal!
He still didn’t let me play the game and promised i would have the game all to myself that night so hope lived. Later that night, I finally got my hands on the game but it was useless because he removed the cartridge and hid it!
So I was all shades of mad when he grabbed my meat at breakfast the next morning when I went to get water from the fridge. His response was that he would give me the game today to play but I was past caring. I wanted my meat back and I told him so in unflattering terms. I was quite shocked by his reaction than from the sting of the slap that landed on my cheek!
I held my cheek in a daze, hopelessly expecting some explanation which came.
“Don’t ever talk to me like that again. I’m not your mate. I am your SENIOR!”
I think it was at that moment something snapped inside me. I didn’t know of course as I was past the stages of shock, grief and was gradually making my way to anger.
I remembered Jesus Christ, Sunday School and Matthew 5:39;
“But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
It was a last ditch attempt to control myself by subjecting myself to the Bible rather than giving in to the rage that had engulfed me. So I subconsciously turned the other cheek…
Came the clearly well-measured slap that stung a hundred times worse than the first one on the other cheek.
Believe me, I dug deep in my head for what Jesus said to do after you received the second slap on the other cheek but could find nothing…so my fist wrote the rest.
Ik was taller and bulkier than I was but on this occasion, physique counted for squat as the element of surprise stood in my corner as my feet effortlessly propelled me across the dining table, fists clenched, knocking over Ik’s plate of half eaten Jollof rice, my half eaten beef, his untouched beef, the half full cup of water — all spilling on his shirt as we tumbled to the floor on his chair. His facial expression turned from a daring smile to absolute shock.
My fists worked like pistons in mid air and continued when we hit the ground, his head connecting the floor with a dull thud. He tried to bury his head with his hands to protect himself from the blows that kept coming but my surprising strength waived them off like a piece of paper and continued to deliver them punches. I only stopped when I saw how puffy his lips had become and pulled back.
As I stood watching him in a fetal position, he emitted a piercing little sound which increased in volume. When I realised he was crying, I kind of felt embarrassed for him; senior indeed!
I still can’t remember why I did what I did immediately after, thinking back now but I picked up my half eaten piece of meat and his whole meat and ate them. Of course that was the last Christmas I spent with Ik in his house or mine. Something about me being a bully but I didn’t care.
And as if my actions were approved, I got a letter from my dear Aunt in the US…and a package containing a Nintendo Gameboy and four cartridges!