The Stubborn Mini-Skirt
Miss Gwendolyn Ajehla was both popular and notorious throughout Government High School (GHS) Ibamakuo and even beyond. She was a teacher of English Language in the school. And she had graduated from the Higher College of Education (HCE) Yamandé, with a First-Cycle Secondary School Teacher Certificate in English Modern Letters some two years earlier. Given that Miss Gwendolyn was very young and beautiful, she became exaggeratedly proud. She was barely twenty three years old, with a light, slim skin and of an average height.
Her popularity stemmed from her good mastery of the English language and her unbeatable near-native accent in the language. She had mastered her phonetics and phonology lessons so well that when she spoke English she almost spoke like a native of England. Among students, teachers and other inhabitants of Ibamakuo, she was generally described as the lady who speaks through the nostrils and can bite her tongue. The biggest flaw in her English, however, was the fact that she sometimes confused the British and American accents. But on the whole, everybody admired the way she spoke English. And when it came to teaching that language, she did it masterly too.
Despite Gwendolyn’s exceptional mastery of English and her professional teaching skills, she had also earned a very bad reputation in and around GHS Ibamakuo. She was very, very notorious for her immoral and indecent dressing style. Her love for skin-glued dresses and mini-skirts surpassed a fish’s love for fresh tropical waters. She would shave her eyebrows – as if to correct God’s errors of creation – and paint her lips in both red and blue, all these in the name of beauty and fashion. Whether in class teaching or elsewhere in public, Gwendolyn usually looked like a mermaid that has been taken unawares by the sudden coming of dawn.
All these qualities of Gwendolyn’s combined to earn for her a multitude of nicknames. Some people called her “British English Madam” and others “American Madam.” And yet some others referred to her as “the White Lady Prof.” Worst of all, behind her back, everybody called her “the White Prostitute”. During her lessons, some daring students, especially boys, who occupied the back desks, would call her some of these nicknames. They would shorten the last of them and simply call her “White Pros.” Each time she attempted to identify such courageous and sometimes unruly students she failed like someone who attempts to wage a war against their entire village. So many reasons accounted for this failure: the class enrolments were often too large for her to manage properly, there was usually strong complicity and collaboration among the students, plus the fact that the students were all aware that their principal too didn’t approve of Miss Gwendolyn’s indecent dressing style.
“Madam White Prostitute!” Julius Asaba, who was in Form Five then, called her one morning in front of a handful of students.
“I will report you to the principal”, Gwendolyn told the boy, and making sure that she articulated all her words like a native speaker of English.
“Better go and report me to God in Heaven”, Julius continued, “and have the chance to see how angels and saints dress, you White Pros. You learnt how to speak English well and forgot to learn how to dress well.”
At this point, Miss Gwendolyn bowed her head in defeat and walked away from the boy and his mates. She went straight to the Staff Room of the school while the students shouted in confusion – while some of them were cheering Asaba for his courage, others were reproaching him for having spoilt Madam’s day and some others just went about ululating at the top of their voices.
Before midday that same day, Julius Asaba had been summoned to an impromptu disciplinary council. After listening to Miss Gwendolyn’s case, the council members unanimously decided to slam a three-day suspension punishment on Julius. The latter wasn’t given any chance to speak, but the school principal, Mr James Gopte, addressed the council and spoke at length to his teachers on the need for them to dress properly and avoid such nasty situations. The funniest thing about the council’s decision was that in the end no teacher ever cared to prevent Julius Asaba from attending classes within the three supposed days of suspension.
Who doesn’t know that the stubborn fly always follows the corpse to its grave? To be very honest, it would appear Gwendolyn did not learn any lesson from both the incident with Julius and the principal’s advice – constant advice for that matter – on the need for decency in the way teachers dress. All the pieces of advice lavished on her amounted to nothing other than the act of throwing water on a duck’s back. In reality, not even an ounce of improvement was seen in her blind rush for “fashionable” dressing. She kept on dressing as before, always exposing her body like wares on sale in an open-air market.
One fateful Thursday, Miss Gwendolyn had a two-hour lesson in Form Three. The class was a morning one; it was supposed to begin at seven thirty a.m. Miss Gwendolyn made her way into the class at seven forty-five a.m. amidst wild cheers, shouts and applauses. The commotion was not caused by her lateness. It was rather her exaggeratedly indecent dressing.
From her head down to her feet, everything was a cause for concern. For her hairdo, she had long, thick locks that came down a little above her buttocks. She rather looked like a reggae-star from a back view. In the place of her eyebrows conspicuously stood thick, bluish lines. There was no hair at all. The lightness of her skin overemphasized the presence of these lines, making her rather look like a scarecrow in a far-away maize-farm. Her lips were as red as a fire-wound. And nobody could dare say she hadn’t applied a full tin of powder on her face. She was putting on a skin-tight, blue T-shirt with a widely open chest that left her breasts almost completely naked. Squeezed up in new immaculate breast wears, her breasts could be compared to nothing other than two fat oranges hand-squeezed close together into twin babies’ mouths. This T-shirt occasionally refused to cover her little, round navel. A navel which disappeared into a bottle-smooth, soft, light stomach-skin. Below this T-shirt was a stubborn, very stubborn, mini-skirt. The skirt was blue in colour too. Her long, light, hairy legs continued out of this skirt down into a pair of blue, high-heeled shoes. The heels of the shoes must have measured ten centimetres in height or so. What a wonderfully beautiful, young lady! However, she managed to maintain some silence in the class from the beginning. The students quickly calmed down because they were already used to, very used to, her ways. But the worst was still to come.
The young teacher’s mini-skirt was as stubborn as a street child. Not only was it too body-tight, but it seemed to have been made out of some slippery substance. This material would slide against her soft skin the way prey slides on a python’s spittle. For this reason, it kept on sliding and folding upwards towards her waist. Consequently, she had to constantly use one of her hands to help pull the skirt downwards.
The lesson of the day was centred on the comparative and superlative forms of longer adjectives. She taught the students that the formula is to add “more” to the adjective followed by “than” for the comparative and to add “the most” to the adjective for the superlative as follows: beautiful—more beautiful than—the most beautiful…The students quickly grasped the formula. And for each adjective she called out, they gave her its comparative and superlative forms at the speed of lightning. She now fully committed herself to the exercise, and was particularly busy writing on the blackboard and turning back to talk to the students. In this way, she was carried away by the spontaneity of the lesson to the extent that she forgot the perpetual war she had initially been fighting with her stubborn mini-skirt.
Before long, the skirt folded upwards and sat comfortably round her waist, exposing her large womanhood. The upper part of her womanhood was so large that it seemed to have swollen. If she were in Yaoundé, nobody would doubt that she was a nocturnal worker at either Miniferme or Mvog-Ada. Her stainless, white drawers were the “string-type” and thus left most of the carefully-shaved skin of her womanhood bare. It was an awful and admirable sight at the same time. Most boys in the class must have wetted their pants!
What called her attention to this terrible happening was the direction of the students’ eyes. No eye rose above her stomach level. All eyes were on her waist and womanhood. As soon as she noticed the shame and disgrace her stubborn skirt had brought to bear on her, she stood still on the spot like an erring actor on stage. She became immobile and speechless like a carved statue. While some students were fighting hard to suppress their uncontrollable laughter, a majority of them had gone wild with laughter, shouts, jeers, cries and ululations. While some banged their desks, others climbed onto theirs and began singing and shouting all of Miss Gwendolyn’s nicknames: Miss Prostitute. British English Madam. American Madam. The White Prostitute. The White Pros. And so on.
The noise and disorder in that classroom soon spread into total commotion on the whole school campus, attracting students and teachers from other classes. In a very little time, the door and windows of that class had been flooded by students and teachers. This created an artificial darkness in the room.
By the time the school principal and some powerful teachers had pushed their way through the thick crowds into the centre of the scene, they found Miss Gwendolyn lying – perhaps seemingly – unconscious on the class floor. Her stubborn skirt was still sitting comfortably round her waist just as it had been before she “collapsed”. The teachers pulled down the skirt, carried her to the principal’s Mercedes Benz and drove her to Ibamakuo District Hospital.
Meanwhile, consternation and disorder continued on the school campus. Classes unofficially and prematurely came to an end for that day just like that. Both the students and the remaining teachers carried the news back home and it kept on spreading in and around the town like wild fire on a mountain during the dry season.
When she regained consciousness – did she really go unconscious? – the Principal and the other teachers present in the hospital talked to her bitterly about the kind of disorder and shame she had brought to the school through her stubbornness and indecent dressing. The Principal was particularly very bitter to her because, as he put it and it was true too, he had given her more than enough advice on the importance of proper dressing. Miss Gwendolyn apologized to them, begged for their forgiveness and promised to undergo a U-change.
It was under the cover of darkness that she was escorted back to her room in town. The worst error committed this time around was that she was allowed to spend that night all alone in her room despite all that had transpired during the day. On Friday morning, when Mr James Gopte, on his way to school, stopped by to check on Miss Gwendolyn, he discovered that the latter had drunk some poison and died overnight. Her corpse was lying on her floor, near the table, with a tin of the poison on her reading table.
This story was written on Thursday 02 May 2013 at Monatélé II. It got its inspiration from a dream I had in the early hours – at about five thirty a.m. – on the same day.
Nsah Mala is an award-winning poet and writer, motivational speaker and youth leader from Cameroon. He is the author of four poetry collections: Chaining Freedom(2012), Bites of Insanity (2015),If You Must Fall Bush (2016), and Constimocrazy: Malafricanising Democracy (2017). His short story “Christmas Disappointment” won a prize from the Cameroonian Ministry of Arts and Culture in 2016. In December 2016, his short story “Fanta from America” received a “Special Mention” in aBAKWA Magazine short story competition. In July 2017, the internationally acclaimed and award-winning Franco-Ivorian writer Véronique Tadjo quoted his French poem “Marché mondial des maladies” in her novel Encompagnie des hommes. His French poem, “Servants de l’Etat”, won the prix spécial e-cahiers littéraire de Malraux.org in December 2017. His poems and other writings have appeared (are forthcoming) in anthologies and magazines like Stories for Humanity, Modern Research Studies, Spillwords Press, Tuck Magazine, Dissident Voice, Scarlet Leaf Review, Better than Starbucks Poetry, Miombo Publishing, Parousia Magazine, Vanguard HIV/AIDS and Sexuality Awareness Anthology 2017, The Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Campaign, and Best ‘New’ African Poets 2017. His French poetry collection is forthcoming.