It wasn’t easy adjusting to the fact that NYSC allowee no dey show again. I was restless and the post-campus blues was hitting real bad. I thought it was a good time to learn something new while I waited to get a job, so, I signed up for French classes at Alliance Francaise. And from then on, I been dey see life from up side down. What a view!!!
If your head is straight, those people know how to adjust it. I was the only one in class who had no inkling about French verbs. Most had done it up to WAEC level, but me I dropped out in JSS 2. Brethren, French verbs will kill you. And le conjugaison, grammaire and ecouter (listening) sessions is the rust on the blade that fingers the armpit.
A1: Monsieur Dumebi Iweriebor is scribbling les exercises on le tableaunoir like it’s Judgment Day. He tilts his head slightly, punctuating his words with “alors”, “alors”, “alors”. (Btw, alors is pronounced alo in Yoruba, meaning story). I’m humouring myself with similarities between French and Yoruba language; that customer who hasn’t decided what colour she wants her bag in, she’s having plenty ideas bert no budget.
And everything was jest okay before Feyisope commence a parler avec beaucoup d’espirit. I am choking, she’s speaking the French and go o, pele o omo tisha. Mon. Dumebi is grinning from ear to ear. Feyisope has all the French verbs in her quiver and uses them generously, and well conjugated too. What they are saying, I don’t know.
After the long rapport, along came the customary, “vous etes tres intelligente mademoiselle. Alors! Applaudisez-vous”. My eyes is rolling in their sockets. Me I wanto piss. I tell Monsieur Dumebi just that, he say “en francaise s’il vous plait (in French please); I dye that minute. Somebody cannot be illiterate in peace ni? Shebi is my money das wasting.
My enemy jest wanto take a dive from the fifth floor window, yes, that one overlooking Herbert Macaulay Way. Did I mention the breathtaking view from that window? Oh please forgive me. It’s so poetic, a panoramic view of city life stretching before you all the way from Agnes to Casino bus stop. The grind is thickest towards Sabo, with traffic traders breathlessly catching up with their buyers. Wind shield cleaners bent on giving you a wash you never asked for. Pedestrians meandering their ways through the traffic. Commuters hustling their “change” from greedy conductors, you name it.
But life is saner towards our building, more cultured and industrialized, a few colonial buildings and other subtle reminders of the past like senior citizens in their balcony all grey and frail examining old scars,
their reflections interjected by a litter of boisterous students periodically flooding the streets, teasing and howling, cocksure about life and love and such they have no business with. Indeed a scenic route for those who love such things. And that’s exactly where my mind was while my body mere bought time in class.
Breaking Time laidis, I couldn’t hear the teacher over the sound of my rumbling stomach. I go to Olaiya Canteen to recuperate over a bowl of amala.
Le Grammmaire Class: We resume with le grammaire and some ecouter (pronounced ekute (rat in Yoruba). I smother a laugh. Amala is setting in, I’m somewhere between snapping my gaping my slack jaws shut, keeping my head steady while smothering a yawn.
“Forgorsake mademoiselle, it’s just 11.05 a.m.”
Am confuse why French love to reinforce your spousal status, my lips part to tell him “jest Arinola, please, not mademoi——–“, my head is going again. From a distance, I hear “Mademoiselle Arinola, tu comprends, tu as une questionne? Alors! Tu dors?” Me kwa, I shake my head vigourously: meaning no question and am not sleeping. My eyes roll theirself again. Be there, me that wanto kee pesin.
Closing Time: I stop by the lounge and have some intellectual discourse with Nelson Pelumi Oluwafisola and his friend (forgotten his name). Am desperately making up for my cluelessness in class. We talk Politics, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Family, Life and Religion. When am dizzy with facts and theories, I go my house and face my bag business, not knowing I am “highing” on inhaled gum vapour.
A2: Monsieur Andrew is my new Monsieur, he don’t like me because I don’t know book, yet I am not humble. “Malheureusement”, me sef I don’t like him. Shortly after, I meet Monsieur Chibuzor Ndubuisi Nzenweofor in the lounge, he like my laugh and my hair. We are good friends. He is my new monsieur. He see I still have brain inside my head, he is teaching me le conjugaison, he is holding private classes with me. That guy, he can teach a tolotolo to know French. Small time, French is entering my head o.
And somehow, I figured the only way to speak good French is to think first in bad English, I got the formula right. Emi Oluaye shortcut funrara e, I never mess with formulas.
Am speaking French in my sleep. You won’t bellivit, I even brokered world peace in French, in my sleep. Am speaking French with myself. Am speaking French to my Awuwa (our dog). My mummy is proud of her daughter. But my English is getting bad every day, ko kon aye! If I commit to something nothing else matters.
He buy me French dictionary, some other plenty books all in French. We was like Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday. “He teaching me good.” He teaching me good “Tenses”, and everything is fine, then we get to “Futur Proche”. I dye sevinty sevin times. He is buying more books. Am getting dehydrated and tensed. I say “hol it there. I am not learning again. Is it your French? Is it by compostry to know French. Oyah o I didn’t do again. Come and be going”. I face Lagoon.
He continue buying books and buying books, he see something in me I don’t see. It is killing me, it is killing me. Am happy am knowing French. Bert my English is taking a plunge. Am speaking French with my mum, she is grinning from ear to ear. She don’t know am killing her with beaucoup de grammatical erreur (grammatical errors).
Rapport session: Monsieur Tayo is such a dude. We learn French’s love for romance, wine, life and living. We learn French life from French music. He bring the Eifel Tower to us in Alagomeji, his “Salute des Amoureux” make me cry. I pine for my long love. We are liking it. We are speaking French. We are interpreting French music. We are getting better.
He say “mot a mot tranduction est interdire” #kokanaye. We are killing le grammaire, he don’t mind. “Parle avec espirit, tu n’est pas timide!”. I find my tongue, I commence a parler o, talking, talking in French like Feyisope, I don’t stop. I’m recovering from my dullness. “Les enfants” are surprised. I chat with them on WhatsApp I’m speaking eloquent French. Am happy. Am glad. I am becoming a French genius.
B1: I meet Monsieur Sappy, he like plenty “isokuso” but he is very good teacher. Everything he say is bad something, “vien mademoiselle, je vais te senti” (I want to feel you)… Shey eyon niyen?
Memoirs of the Last Story Bender.