One Saturday morning, I was standing in front of our house, a 13-tenant bungalow, when I saw her- the girl who always hurled insults at me whenever I passed by her neighborhood. She lives three streets from where I live. The location was easily accessible by everyone coming in or going out of our neighborhood. That is why our paths always crossed.
There was nothing exceptional about our neighborhood. Most of the streets were dirty and untilled. When it rained, floods danced their way into the gutters that were already vomiting water.
Iju Ishaga, the neighborhood where I first learned how to speak pidgin-English, is not considered a central part of Lagos. But it is a community that has evolved into a haven for both poor and rich. There was no apparent segregation by economic status. All the children played together as one, except for when there was a personality clash.
I never really understood why. But the girl enjoyed taunting me. Every day on my way from school or while running errands, I always prayed not to run into her. Sometimes my prayer was answered. Other times, I fall right into her. She called me names, coloring each with words such as stupid, crazy or ugly. I could never respond because she was always in the company of her siblings.
But today she was in my territory. Unarmed. Unaccompanied. I could do what I liked with her. It was payback.
“Shebi na me you dey abuse every time?” I asked in pidgin English.
She starred blankly at me as she walked past. I followed briskly.
“Eh hen, I don catch you today,” I said authoritatively, in an attempt to intimidate her.
She just kept walking. I thought of what to do. I couldn’t allow the opportunity slide, unutilized. I certainly didn’t want to fight. The girl was taller than me. She also looked way older as well. What if she ends up beating me in my territory? I thought to myself. That would be a shameful story to narrate to others, I thought to myself.
While I was still thinking up ideas, I saw Whisky. A perfect weapon. Whisky was the neighbor’s dog. It doesn’t know me, but it always responded by barking whenever I called its name, always from a safe distance.
“God don catch you,” I called out as we both approached whisky’s house- seven blocks [houses] away from where I live. The dog looked bored. He stood like a guard at the entrance of the building.
“Whisky,” I called out.
He responded with two barks. Perfect.
The girl looked at me frightened. She stopped on her track. She was where I needed her to be. In my territory. Unarmed. Unaccompanied. Frightened.
I smiled as I called out to Whisky again. I pointed at the girl as I did so.
The dog walked toward us, away from the gate and kept barking.
“Whisky, Whisky,” I called out again, “Go and bite her,” I commanded.
Something went wrong.
Whisky’s bark became vicious. Before I could call out its name again, the dog charged at me, and I took to my heels.
But my short legs couldn’t outrun the angry dog. I tripped over a stone and found myself on the dirty street. Whisky launched at me. Its bite pierced through my trouser. I let out a scream.
Neighbours from different houses soon gathered around us. The sight of a helpless six years old girl and an angry dog must have torn at their hearts. One of them called for the dog’s owner. No one asked what happened. They all looked at me with kindness in their eyes and asked me where I lived. The girl whom I planned to prey on was also there, sandwiched between the adults in the crowd.
She looked at me, pitifully.
That day, I learned an important life-lesson- if you point one finger to haul evil at someone, you have four fingers directing it back at you.
I could not look directly at her, out of shame. I ran home without responding to the inquisitive crowd.
Oh! I didn't wonder for too long why the dog came after me. I figured it out.
(c) 2014 Jennifer Ehidiamen