Mama used to say there was a season and a time for everything. A time to learn and a time to grow. A time to listen, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. She had said that each person's time and pace were different, and that anyone who moved slower or faster than his or her time, would eventually tire and be full of regrets.
"God's ways are the best. His ways are all we ever need to grow beautifully and excellently, at our own time" she had said. "Because God makes everything beautiful in His own time, He requires you to walk with Him always, presenting and keeping your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto Him." She had added. "So my dear Funmi, never be faster than your shadows. Trust in the Lord to guide you in all things. Pray, study His word, and live a godly life always- one that is pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ, because that is all you need".
I remember vividly now, how she had always sang those words to me as a child, and how she had always clearly insisted that I kept my body and abstain from sex until marriage. She had taken her time to teach me to pray, and had groomed me in studying the Bible and memorizing passages such as Romans 12: 1. Together with Papa, they had religiously taken me to church every Sunday for Sunday classes, and we had always sat at the front pews for service…
I remember all these now, on my hospital bed, in regret, pain and anguish. If only I could turn back the hands of time. If only….
My name is Olorunfunmi Jomo. A 17-year old teenage mother, and a dying AIDS patient. My child just died last night of the same disease. And I know that I'm next in line.
Time is ticking for me. Any moment from now, I would be breathing my last. As the tears gather around my eyes, I realize that I need to save someone from making the same mistakes I had made. I know that I need to save someone from walking down this path of pain and regret, and prevent someone- anyone, from ever wallowing in this misery. I need to tell my story.
I was born into a Christian home. Unlike most teenagers, I had the privilege of having Christian parents who were strong believers. I was tutored, groomed, and raised in the way of the Lord. My parents were average civil servants, who had lucrative jobs and were quite successful in their personal businesses- Papa with his trading in construction and building materials; and Mama in the cloth/fabric industry. They both loved us (Tunji, Dapo and I) with all their hearts, and did not fail to show us their love, all the time. I was their only daughter and Papa's little girl, so I was pampered and spoiled by him, much to Mama's annoyance.
We attended church almost all the time. Sunday schools, weekly activities, home fellowships- and we were amongst the families modeled for good behavior and moral uprightness in church. In fact, everything was rosy, and we were a happy family. Papa made sure we had the best of what we needed; Mama had just opened up another branch that had begun to blossom, and everything seemed wonderfully fantastic. Just everything. Until Papa died from that dreadful car accident.
I had just turned 10 then.
And unknown to even myself, I was the worst hit. Our world came crashing down afterwards. Papa had been everything to us. Mama had been madly in love with him, that his death pushed her into severe depression. She became a hollow of herself, the businesses crashed, she fell sick occasionally, and was eventually considered 'unstable' to keep taking care of us. We had to relocate to Granny's place in the village, where we were to spend the rest of our lives without Mama, who needed to constantly visit the Psychologist in the city. I was almost 12 when we moved. And that was when my story actually started.
I was a very beautiful and intelligent girl; and also an early bloomer. Papa used to say that I looked like his late mother, who had been of mixed blood (partly Lebanese and partly Nigerian). So, by the time I was 9, I had begun to develop in all the right places. I was big for my age, had the beautifully shaped body of a teenager, and was the cynosure of eyes. My light skin was extremely attractive…like sparkling stones in clear water, and my hair was as long and soft as an Egyptian goddess. I easily got the attention of men, and this always excited me, but then, I had Papa and my brothers as my watchdogs. I didn't have many friends because girls either envied me, or were scared of me. Even women were jealous of me, because they couldn't just pass by without stealing a second glance, or even a third at me. I was simply stunningly beautiful, and I knew it.
Papa had been my chief watchdog. He had always protected me, provided for me, and monitored me so I wouldn't fall prey to the jaws of men. My brothers didn't really see the need for 'protecting' me, but they did what they had to do anyway, because Papa insisted.
Well, all that ended when Papa died, and we relocated to the village to live with Granny.
Granny was aged and a bit slow. She didn't have much, but was a strong Christian. Mama was her only surviving child, and Granny loved us dearly. But I didn't like her at all. In fact, I detested my grandmother. To me she was a poor, smelly, old woman, who had this backward mentality that was annoying, and she seemed never to have enough to give me. "Godliness with contentment is great gain…if we have food and clothing, we should be content with that," she would always say, but to me she was simply covering up for her stinginess.
I wanted more. More. More than Papa had even been giving me. And I was going to get it.
Within the year, I moved to a boarding school, far from the village. I had insisted on moving far because I didn't want to be close to Granny. Dapo, my immediate older brother had also returned to boarding school, and Tunji, who had been on a scholarship in England, before Papa died, had gone back to school a long time ago.
It was in boarding school that I met Sade, the queen.
Sade-she was simply called the queen because she commanded such authority that even teachers feared her. She was daring, bold and fearless; and was also rude and snobbish. She always seemed to have her way around others; and could get any male student or teacher under her control. Her father was the serving governor of the State, and everyone tried to avoid her or please her out of fear of her father. Sade was beautiful, rich, and spoilt.
Sade became my best friend.
It was she who fed me consistently with thoughts of how beautiful I really was, and how much power I could wield over men. I was an intelligent girl- top of my class all the time, and I felt that I had been 'caged' by Papa. I needed all the fanciful things of life that Granny would never afford. I wanted to be free. I wanted more. I wanted to have fun, and I wanted to be popular and rich. And I had seen all these in Sade. So I began to follow her everywhere she went. At first, I was new to drugs, alcohol, and sex; but gradually, I began to adapt.
In school, Sade and I became daredevils- notorious for breaking the rules and regulations, sleeping with male students and always getting away with it. And we were just 13 then.
We scaled the school fence countless times to go clubbing in town; drank, smoked, and kept a flock of male friends at will; and were tagged 'wild girls' by even our teachers. I became rich, famous and revered by all. I always had adventurous and exciting stories to tell after each encounter, and so, eventually, I deceived more girls into following me.
By then, my grades had dropped drastically, and there was nothing I could do about it. I had always gotten away with bad grades by simply sleeping with my randy and sex-starved male teachers, but eventually, I was expelled in my SS1 by the newly appointed Principal who was a fearless and no-nonsense man. I, Sade and eleven other girls were expelled, after been caught red-handed in a club, far beyond the walls of the school.
By then, I was too far gone to be redeemed. That also was the last time I heard from Sade again.
Because I had barely gone home during school breaks, I simply couldn't face my family with my expulsion from school, and because I had no other means of survival, I ran away to another town, far, far away-where no one would ever find me. It was there that I kept living my wasted life of unprotected sex, drugs and alcohol. I had a number of abortions, and then eventually grew so lean and so sick, that I was dumped at the door of a hospital by a male friend.
At that point was when I knew I had AIDS. I'm being taken care of by a charity organization, and I've given my life to Christ again, even though I know I'm going to die. I learnt of my child's death from his social worker, and I cried because of the pain I made him pass through.
And I regret everything. Everything. I should have listened to my parents' instructions, especially Mama who never failed to call me even while I was in school. I should have been a good daughter, sister and granddaughter. I should have avoided terrible friends. I should have obeyed the principles of God's words and kept my body for Christ Jesus. I should have avoided a lot of things, instead, I had been greedy, rude, foolish, selfish and stubborn, and I was paying dearly for it.
The Bible clearly states: He that has an ear, let him hear. Therefore, I advise all young girls like me to flee all appearances of evil, and run away from sins such as greed and fornication. Jesus is the only way, and His principles are more than enough to guide. A word is enough for the wise. May God save my soul.
(Note: photo above is not the character in the story)