Daphne was probably the most doltish person in my primary school class. By the time we got to primary six, it was common knowledge that her secret moniker was Dafty Daph. Daphne handled the mockery and name-calling well, at least at the face of it. Till date, I cannot figure out how she contained that much derision and teasing from the school for those many years. Sometimes, even teachers joined in to poke fun at her for her below-par intelligence. Although Daphne never quite got the required grades to progress through the classes, she was always added to the lot because her father was a major bankroller for the school.
During the long vacation before Junior High School, I was taught at a Sunday School camp to not look down on people. And as if the Sunday School teacher knew what I did in school, she kept stressing on people who are considered less intelligent. “Your responsibility as a child of God is to be kind to these people. Encourage them, be nice to them and, if you can, help them”, she said as she taught us.
As one of the gang leaders who always instigated the cruel acts towards Daphne, I felt guilty. I approached Mrs. Kwakye, my Sunday School teacher and told her all about my misdoings. She was very nice, contrary what to how I thought she would reprimand me. She and I discussed how I could be a better person and be a positive influence in school.
At the beginning of the school term, I was excited about living out all the things Mrs. Kwakye discussed with us. On the first day of school, I was feeling sick but went to school anyway. It was all fun and games until Daphne walked into the class. Drake, one of my friends, jeered at her and sarcastically called her the “Queen of Intelligence”. Everyone laughed.
I wanted to speak in her defense but fear grabbed and bound my tongue. Daphne ran out of the class. I was ashamed. I had failed. It was only one day yet I could not live by what I had promised myself all vacation long., I mustered courage and asked the class to quiet down. I stood in front of them and explained to them why they should stop teasing Daphne and anyone else for the matter. I tried to tell them how demeaning and unfair it was. My message was not received well. There were boos coming from all angles. People started pelting me with folded pieces of paper and other stationery.
As the persecution went on, I started feeling uncomfortable; my tummy rumbled. I ran out of the class to go to the washroom. At the male washroom, the juniors were scrubbing the place so it was inaccessible. A streak of sweat fell from my forehead. With one hand on my butt and the other on stomach; both hoping to calm down the two body parts that were conspiring against me, I walked to the ladies’ washroom – that was my other option.
It took me a whole three minutes to find out whether anyone was there. In spite of my discomfort, I was able to feign three different voices, the headteacher’s, the housemaster’s and the senior prefect’s. I asked in all those voices whether anyone was there until I was satisfied that no one was there. I entered and practically tip-toed towards a cubicle. At this point, anything could trigger a release. Sadly, I didn’t make it to a cubicle. I was literally two (just two!) steps away from a cubicle!
I was stuck in the washroom – the females’ washroom! All the possible embarrassing scenarios played out in my mind. The worst one scared me: I would be found in the females’ washroom and accused of being a pervert. On top of all that, everyone would know that I poop-soiled my pants. I prayed to God. I did not know what to ask him but I knew he had to do something. If not for anything at all, for the act of kindness I just exhibited in class.
A little after my prayer, I heard the squeaking sound of the washroom door. It sounded like someone was locking from the inside. My heart skipped a beat. I closed my eyes and waited for the worst.
“Hey, the coast is clear. Come out and get changed”, a voice spoke. It was a familiar voice.
“Daft… Daph… Daphne…?” I stammered.
“Yes, it’s me. I heard what you did in the class. I was following you to thank you. I saw everything that happened. Come out now before anyone comes in”, she responded.
“Good Lord!” I exclaimed under my breath and came out. Daphne had got me P.E. clothes and she had a waste bag too. I took a quick shower and changed into the clothes Daphne brought. She waited outside and ensured the hallway was clear in order for me to come out.
I sighed as I stepped out. I wondered what would have happened to me if I had allowed fear to get the better of me earlier. Daphne and I have become best friends since that incidence and we have kept this as our little secret.
Well, it’s not a secret anymore. Now, you know.