The first time I heard the words ‘saturated’ and ‘supersaturated’, I was in junior secondary integrated science class. My teacher; a middle-aged Muslim woman who wore a jilbab had explained the meaning of both words with her palms on the sides of her head while giving the illustration of a brain filled with so much information, it can take in no more.
The first time I heard the word ‘fanatic,’ I was in senior secondary literature class. We were studying Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and my teacher had described Kambili’s father as being fanatical. It was also the first time I learned to pronounce the word ‘coup’. While reading out the paragraph in class, I pronounced it as ‘coop’ and my teacher said “No, the p is silent, the word is pronounced /ku/ read the paragraph again”.
I remember many firsts and I cannot seem to recall many others.
I do not remember the moment I noticed I have a small fear of thunder, all I know is that I shudder each time it strikes. There are times when I try to prepare myself for it, bracing up like an athlete prepared to hear the word ‘go’ but I always fail woefully. lightning comes first, I tell myself, thunder will follow soon, but when thunder arrives I am frightened. After all, how much preparation can save a mere mortal from the hands of a supernatural force.
It is just like pain, nothing prepares you for it and when it arrives, it demands to be felt. Sometimes it cripples you so badly, you are left wondering what life was like before its arrival. Other times, you are able to balance it on your head like an experienced hawker whilst carrying on with your daily activities and when you are asked how you are doing, you simply say fine because how does one begin to describe a pain that is not visible?
The first time I in played in the rain as a child, I remember being so excited, I completely disregarded the cold but later that night, my body wouldn’t stop shivering. Cold, cough, catarrh, sore throat, and a worried mother – the consequences of a reckless decision.
As an adult, I avoid the rain like a plague, recently, however, I decided not to. While on my way home from a meeting with friends, it begins to thunder, one loud rumble after the other like they are in a competition to see who can make the most noise. A young man kindly offers to share his umbrella with me so I do not get wet from the drizzle. I thank him and say my house is less than 5 minutes away. And so here I am, walking the short distance home, no fuss, no rush as if daring the rain to catch up with me and take its course. It is water, not fire, we will deal with the consequences later.
There is a small palm tree behind my window, its leaves are battling the wind. left, right, forward, backward, rinse and repeat, again and again. When morning emerges we will know who the victor is.