Binta couldn’t believe her eyes as she went through her West African Examination Council’s report card. Her feet became numb. Head felt dizzy. Jaws clenched. The F9s stared back at her. She knew something was off the moment her history teacher called out her name. He stared at her as if she wore no clothes, even though she was fully covered. That look was not a look of disgust, she thought, it was a look of disappointment. Hands shaking, she grabbed her results and quickly rushed out, hiding from her classmates and colleagues.
“Hey, Binta, what did you get?” a voice called out behind her.
“Arr, I don’t know yet, haven’t checked, going home, bye,” she said, walk-running without offering a glimpse of her second.
Arriving at her junction, she began to walk her hundred-meter journey back home. On a normal day, it would usually take her less than ten minutes to reach home from the junction. However, this walk took for-ever. Like a chameleon, she took her time to process her emotions.
“Oh my God! What am I going to tell Dad? I’m dead. I’m dead,” she spoke to herself.
“But, at… at least I’ve credit in English, Agric and Government,” she said, wiping beads of sweat coursing down her cheeks. Not only her cheeks though, sweat was coming from everywhere; even places she never knew could produce sweat were sweating. These emotions were novel to Binta. She felt as if she was having a panic attack.
“Is this what it feels like to die?” she asked herself, laugh-crying.
Wiping her tears and blowing her nose onto her veil, she mustered some courage and entered the lion’s den.
“She’s here, Binta’s back Daddy,” her little brother shouted excitedly.
“Hey, shush!” she warned. Barely paying attention, he proceeded to the living room announcing her arrival.
Her legs were heavy. Trying to maintain balance, she dreaded to enter the living room.
“That’s my girl. Come, I was just telling your uncle that you went to pick up your results card,” her dad said, proudly.
“Yes Dad,” she replied.
Binta loved-feared her dad. He could be her best friend and worst enemy depending on the situation. When it comes to education, he held high expectations from his kids, especially the eldest: Her.
“Did you know, your cousin Fatou, got 8 As and 1 C? She did well,” her dad said.
“But she could have done even better. I was expecting 9 As from her. You know kids nowadays. They don’t push themselves the extra mile like in our days,” Uncle Modou said.
“I know. But you can’t compare the generations, I’m I right?” Her dad replied, smiling.
Binta’s dad motioned her to sit with him. She didn’t want to get close. What if the claws came out, she thought? Her dad wasn’t one to be aggressive, but he had a quick temper which was fuelled by failure, of any sort. He detested it with every core of his being. All he knew was to succeed.
“I wish I was never born,” she murmured as she sat next to her dad.
“What did you say, my dear? You look tired,” he asked, concerned.
“Ar, no… nothing Dad. The sun was just hot,” she said.
“Oh, okay. Show me your report card,” he said, beaming with pride.
For the first time in her life, Binta wished she had superpower to disappear from planet Earth to Pluto. She hesitantly removed her result card from the bag and slowly handed it to her dad. Then waited for hell to break loose.
Sitting by herself, she was admiring the new okra leaves bathing in the sun. Their branches looked rough, she thought. Just like her current situation, she examined. The news did not sit well with her dad. The colour on his face changed dramatically as he went through her report card. Oblivious to the situation, he thought she was pulling another prank on him. Oh, how she had wished it was a prank. When reality kicked in, her dad began to fume. He shouted, screamed, and called her names. Binta had never seen her dad react like that. Although, whenever he would become angry, he’d always give her a beating. This was when she was much younger. So, she had anticipated something similar. The beating would’ve been okay though, she thought. But her dad didn’t use the belt this time. Instead, he harmed her with words which cut through her spine. Her mum just stood there. Disappointment written all over her face. Crying, she ran out of the house and secluded in the garden. Whenever Binta was sad, she’d always walk to her garden and admire the vegetables growing neatly. She loved growing okra and carrots. Maybe because they were her favourite vegetables to eat, she mused.
Face swollen from much crying; Binta was disappointed in herself. She had let down the people she cared most about: her family. Less did she care for what other people had to say about her failure, but when it came to her family, she cared a lot. She wanted to make her dad proud and study law at the University of The Gambia, just like he dreamed she would. With results like hers, the chances of gaining admission were slim.
It’s six months since Binta finished Senior Secondary School and it already felt like six years.
“Time is so slow,” she said to herself.
These days, she would sleep like a pig at night and chore like a donkey at day. She’s become the maid of the house. When she was in school, her mum would do all the household chores and she would only cook on weekends. Since her graduation and, of course, failure, her mum seemed to be having a vacation. Surprisingly to Binta, her mum was also considering potential suitors for her hand in marriage.
“Me, a housewife with no career? Never,” she murmured to herself as she cleaned the dishes. Fetching a bucket of water, she walked to the garden and fed the okras and carrots.
“Look at how pretty you are. Almost ready for harvest,” she spoke to the vegetables.
“I will cook some delicious super Kanja with you, and you, I will make a tasty carrot smoothy just for me,” she said, excitedly.
As she inspected the vegetables, a thought ran through her mind.
“What if I sell some of the okra and carrot to our neighbours?” she asked herself.
“Oh yes I will!” she replied, smiling mischievously. This was the best idea Binta had in six months.
From door to door, she started selling okras and carrots. At first, she didn’t think anyone would be interested, but the demand kept increasing. Neighbours wanted more of the vegetables. However, the production was low. She only depended on her small garden which was only meant for family use. Her mum scolded her for selling the vegetables. She argued it was only for the use of the family. But Binta needed money and her dad had cut her allowance. Somehow, she managed to sell a lot from that harvest. Even her mum was impressed. The money was good.
“I want to turn this into a business, Mum but I need space, and land to grow vegetables, see it as an investment and convince Dad please?” she pleaded.
“Do you think it’s going to work? Do you want to become a farmer for the rest of your life? What will people say?” her mum asked, concerned.
“Mum, the money is good. And I want to be successful doing something I love. So what if they call me a farmer? I’d rather be a rich farmer than a poor housewife” she said.
“You and your tongue!” her mum smacked her butt while suppressing a laugh.
With that, Binta managed to convince her mum to prevail on her dad for the additional land.
After three years of hard work, tanned skin and bruised hands, she managed to turn her hobby into a business. She marvelled at the field of land covered in green and stretched beautifully. The sight pleased the eye. Cap on, hands in gloves and neatly placed on her hips, she beamed with pride.
“Let’s get to work, shall we?” she called out to Buba, her assistant.
“Okay boss, but the sun is hot. Can we wait a bit?” he replied.
“Nope, we’ve got to make some money. No time to waste and you know why? she asked.
“Nope,” he said.
“Cuz here, the grass is always green,” she winked at him.