COMMON GROUND: Perfect Perfect Perfect

Posted: January 13, 2014 in Articles, Common Ground
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

by Fiona Lovatt

“My daddy never said anything I couldn’t trust but he wanted me to come here and it is too hard for me.” The delicate hand lifted a renegade tear from the jaw before it dropped to the knee of the simple cotton trousers. A blue so dull it was grey, as if all the colour in the world needed to be left behind to live this life.
Two pairs of uniform came with this life. Washing and ironing once a week. Not always ironing. It was hard to get the iron. Pegging the sets out, first one and later the other, on the concrete with a stone placed where no mark would show. All the uniforms like empty soldiers, pegged out with stones on the court where grass had pushed through last rainy season and now the ant lions, tossing mango petals up and out of the sand trap.
Up and out of these walls. Over the razor wire. Maybe an ant lion, if he was big enough, could toss a student up and over those walls and back to a daddy who had never said anything a child couldn’t trust. Not till he said to come here.
“The discipline is good,” he had said. It is good to be disciplined. It made sense when he said it. His words were always the best for me.
The discipline keeps a child crouched or kneeling, just manners really when there is someone older to greet, to listen to. The discipline means you can rise two hours before the light appears as a thread of white on a starry horizon you have forgotten, beyond the razor wire. Discipline means you fetch water and wash, waiting your turn among so many others here. It means you can attend the prayers on time, not just in the morning but in the routine of the day, every time on time. Discipline means you can wait hours studying in the long hours, bitingly cold in the cold, cold months of harmattan. Copying without understanding but copying nevertheless. The hand cramped with the copying from an indecipherable text in an indecipherable language that came from somewhere else and it does not end, this stream of words marching down and down and down. Dictation may be described as the pedagogy of the ignorant and timid. Gravel to crawl across. Wiper blades for the flogging. The only freedom is in the movement from here to there and back again. A movement so slow that it is a kind of stillness so still that a heart can recall a mummy and a daddy. There are two types of families: a nuclear family and an extended family. Everyone has a role to play in the family. The children must obey their parents and do help their mother. The family may be described as the smallest unit in a social order.
There is sweeping. There is scrubbing. There is sweeping and scrubbing. There is more to copy and more water to fetch. There is tuwo and stew. There are two pieces of meat like two joints on your thumb. The words drop down and down in the endless lines and we pray. Amen. We pray.
Long hours until there is no more talk and no more work to do in a day and the collapsing into sleep, into sleep with forty bodies coughing, weeping for home or whispering prayers. Brave, patient, confident, whole or broken all of us will sleep. The small ones always cry. Some had never left their mother’s beds before they came here.
I do not think of my mother’s bed.
“I think of my father’s word and how I never had any reason to doubt him, but this life is too hard for me,” the hands sat upon the knees of the simple cotton trousers.
“You have disappointed me today,” the teacher said softly. “You have disappointed me and must never let it happen again.”
And Zara knew then, with the tear wiped into the fabric of her uniform, that she would be staying the distance, the remaining nine months to the exams. She had no phone, no way to write, no way to call, to tie a note on a rock and throw it over the razor wire? There would be no visit.
“I am sorry. I will not do it again,” and next time she wouldn’t copy the question first because it wasted too much time in Continuous Assessment. Next time she wouldn’t lend her maths-set to anyone. Next time she would be perfect, perfect, perfect and in nine months her daddy would come in the land-cruiser and she would eat again without this rumble in the stomach. She would wear her own clothes and her own purple bathroom back and O! she would sleep again. “I am sorry,” she said again. For everything.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the written permission of the publishers.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. Chimezie Chika says:

    The remarkable thing about this essay is the language in which it is written–almost like a prose-poem. It made the act of reading it feel crisp and brand-new.

  2. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    This is a very beautiful write up…soothing is the voice that told me this story, the hand that painted this picture. Yes it is a pity that education in our part of the world has become moreorless a disciplinary course. Diverse Opinions are suppressed and a rigid curriculum is vigourously enforced. Sometime one feels like suffocating in it all. Perfect perfect perfect, good work Miss Fiona.

  3. LegendaryCJN says:

    This feeling again! The same I felt when I read Chimamanda Adichie’s “Purple Hibiscus”. The simplicity of the narration is simply out of the world…making it very easy to read and relate with.
    Like Mr Solar rightly said, education in this part of the world has become so rigorous that it now snuff learning from the people it was supposedly intended to impart on. The constant impersonal urge within, coupled with the desire to live up to expectation and not to ‘disappoint’ the teacher and to reach parents’ expectation is another thing that is like a mindless rough beast in the life of every GOOD student, especially those in boarding schools (Emphasis mine).

    Nice read Fiona and keep writing…you can only get better…@lyriversity

  4. Moses opara says:

    This work is Fionalish. A beautiful perfect perfect. A view in this again can scratch off the heart in awe.

  5. Fiona, Sorry for reading your “perfect perfect perfect” under a rather scorching sun.
    And you know what I mean…hidden meanings weren’t laid bare.

    Besides, my eyes say you did well

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      I believe you should take out a few minutes of your time and slowly but diligently go over this beautiful writeup again, you will appreciate it better.

  6. Sheyzznote says:

    A lot of us have gone through that routine of school life, boarding schools just because parent thought it the best to inculcate discipline and make us better persons in life. We learn, we became better through understanding.
    This is so poetic and lyrically scribbled, I so like it. Wish I can write like this too… Well done Ma!

  7. Anene Francis says:

    Wow! Very nice. Need repeating words. I second Chimezie’s comment.
    Experience of a freshman in a missionary boarding school. My school Admin always said, ” Discipline is painful but the reward is gainful”. I agree totally. But I may ask ” where do one draw the border line between child discipline and torture?”… Good work. Keep it up

  8. Anene Francis says:

    Wow! Very nice. No need repeating words. I second Chimezie’s comment.
    Experience of a freshman in a missionary boarding school… My school Admin always had said, ” Discipline is painful but the reward is gainful”. I agree totally. But one may ask ” where do one draw the border line between child discipline and torture?”… Good work. Keep it up

  9. This is a beautiful writing built in an essay to relate diction. The take down of the simplistic events and the symbolistic appeal of imagery presented is par excellent.

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