I did not choose to get on that bus. I was 11 and Mr. Okoye was one of the friendlier school bus drivers that lived down the road from our house. He greeted papa well, and would sometimes try to coax my mother into leaving him tips. There was no reason not to trust him.
But I did feel uneasy. I can say now that I got on that bus because I did not want to disobey the demands of an elder. I was scared, so I got on the bus.
In my culture, we are taught to pay absolute respect to our elders [I will always be an advocate]. This pervasive culture, along with my extreme introversion, made it really difficult to think freely.
I cannot share the exact details of the ensuing hours on that bus, but I assure you that what followed was just an attempt by a scheming, scamming, scumbag, who understood his power, and used it against trusting young girls.
He spent hours trying to convince me that he’d tried nothing inappropriate, and that there was no need to tell mother. I believed him, but mother knew better. When she got the details out of me…, I later swore to my friends (in an embellished story), that mama went mad that day.
I would have stopped at ‘scheming’ in the above description, had Mr. Okoye not – when mama pushed for his resignation from the school – showed up at the house with his wife to suggest that an 11 year-old girl made up this story about him.
I stood to behold the jury; mother, anxious that I speak, Papa patiently waiting for my response, Mr. Okoye avoiding my eyes, and it seemed Mrs. Okoye was praying.
You see, she contended that the family needed her husband’s wages to survive. It would be wicked for my mother to strip him of his reputation, and his job…
At that moment, I choked. I felt this man would lose everything he’d worked for because of me. My panicked eyes darted back to mother and she understood, because she quickly found her voice.
“My child is not lying!”
She turned to Papa, “Honey, please ask them to leave.”