SPLINTER MOVERS

The log in my eye is a trifling matter,
The splinter in yours offers more to conquer.

You’re angry, shocked and disappointed at the same time. Despite all your motherly efforts, Charity, your unmarried 27 year-old daughter, still wound up pregnant. You’re ashamed. It shouldn’t really be your problem but it is. How can you now hold your head high amongst your peers? What will your fellow members of the women’s body in church say? Your husband isn’t helping matters. His opinion: if she’s 27 and old enough to drive a car, vote and go to jail, then she’s old enough to get pregnant.

You’re castigated in church. Some women deliberately shun you. The Catholic Women Organisation’s leader has moved a motion for your immediate suspension and demanded your resignation as the secretary of the society. She’s disappointed that you’re not a shining example of motherhood in the church. What a disgrace! You feel let down by your daughter and even contemplate leaving the church. Unknown to you, your accuser’s daughter, Chioma, has committed three abortions. Each time, she was accompanied to the hospital by her mother.

Beats me too…

That’s the summary of what the parishioner said about Charity’s mother’s travails once her daughter became a conveyor belt on a 9-month standby for an heavenly package.

I overheard Charity’s case when I was ironing my uniform for school that Sunday evening. Mother didn’t even know the gist was as hot as that. So hot that I almost burned my shorts too; this would have been a bad thing because it was my last good pair. The remaining two were already decorated with a shiny iron mark – like a badge, one smack on the right butt cheek. The parishioner who paid us a visit gave mum the update – the CWO leader’s dirty linen. I know Charity, she taught me catechism when I was nine and she was kind to all of us. I wondered if it was a bad thing to get pregnant. Mom was pregnant a few years ago and it wasn’t a big deal then . Anyway, what did I know?

The next day at school, agony was what greeted me. I was flogged by Mrs. Lucas. Students – including myself were of the opinion that she’s a witch. My uniform was clean and ironed but I had no socks on. Then I was made to crawl 50 metres on gravel on my knees with the others. And that was just the beginning because she was put on gate duty much more often from then on. We hated her – so much that we called her Cyclops behind her back because the frames of her spectacles looked like the one Scott – Cyclops – wore in X-Men.

I was happy when they transferred her, a joy shared by my classmates and many others. She was like a hawk in the examination room. You couldn’t even look to your left or right without being hit on the forehead with a metric ruler. We believed the glasses she wore gave her special abilities. Cyclops was transferred because she tried to slip her son who was in science class, a cheat sheet during exams. Some students saw her and given the beef, were more than happy to rat her out. That was the first time I gloated over another person’s misfortune. I didn’t care; my knees and butt would rest and this was solace enough.

That left me with one less woman to worry about but Mrs. Okome was still a thorn. Okay, I didn’t bow properly – with the back of my head paying homage to her chin – when I greeted her on Sunday in church. Okay, I also had a penchant for hiding out of Sunday school. She was so particular about how children should behave and kept reporting me to my mother. Mum would smile and apologise to her while pulling my ears at the same time. I still admire mom’s multitasking skills. As a result, I stopped greeting Mrs. Okome altogether, choosing to ignore avoid her instead.

Two years later, I saw Chuks, Mrs. Okome’s second son in a fine ‘94 model Honda Accord. He’s transformed into a big boy. He even renovated their house and bought a Corolla ‘First Lady’ for his mother. Three months after I saw him, I was told he’s skipped town because the police were looking for him. I wondered why. I later learnt that Chuks was into internet fraud, one of the yahoo boys.

I expected him to be in the university because he aced his WASCCE and JAMB examinations. He was in the same school his mother taught but he didn’t write his final exams there because his mum wanted him to pass so she enrolled him at a ‘special centre’. I wasn’t so lucky – I had an E in maths.

Today I still meet people like Cyclops, Mrs. Okome and the CWO leader; male, female, adults and teens alike. Like a neighbour of mine who back then threatened to shoot me if I came near any of his daughters again. I’d known those girls since I was pre-wet dream 13 but it has suddenly dawned on him that I’d grown. I understand, a boy is no threat to the purity or innocence of girls, but a man is. Just ask Senator Yerima. We’re cool now, there’s mutual respect between us. Sometimes we cross paths at the barber shop or at the hotel behind my house where I choose to watch the English Premier League matches. On those latter occasions I raise my glass of Heineken and pay homage to him – and his side chic.

Speaking of beer, I remember a friend of mine back in my undergraduate days. Then, he was the closest I’ve come to politics because he’s a politician’s son. He once got upset when his laptop was stolen. For the first time, I heard him rail about insecurity and greed and thieves. I was there so I told him his father was one, pointing to a community newspaper accusing his father of misappropriation as evidence. He laughed about it really hard, clutching his belly with one hand and pointing at me with the other, adding a f**K you in between for good measure. We ended up sharing a few beers amid talk on random stuff. He’s not as bad as his dad. He didn’t have mad moneyyet, or a political appointment.

I’ve got a splinter in my eye and I’m sure you do too. In that regard, we’re not so different; our flaws are what we have in common. But there are those who try to be ‘helpful’ – only they’re not. They have splinters too but they deny it, choosing to focus on every other splinter they see out there. That’s where the Pinocchio Syndrome kicks in because you cannot not have a splinter in your eye – not if you’re human. That would be a lie. To deny the splinter would mean denying your humanity and our error prone nature. In this case, the Pinocchio Syndrome doesn’t make the nose grow uncomfortably long; the splinter does instead till it becomes a log.

I need help with my flaws. I acknowledge them and do what I can to become less flawed and better with each passing day. We all need help. But if you’re going to judge or condemn someone all in the name of ‘helping’ them, you’ll be better served shoving that help up your nether region.

Cast the first stone or love like Jesus? The choice is yours.

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