BEING A GIANT IN MEN’S WORLD

Were glad to welcome Nigerian writer Walter Dinjos to the pages of Galaxy’s Edge. His other appearances include Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Deep Magic, Lamplight, and more.

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Our neighbors said that when the doctor carved me out of Mama’s belly, the midwives all scrambled out of the maternity ward screaming abomination, their hands on their heads. They gossiped that I didn’t only arrive the size and weight of two average babies, but also had four fingers on each hand and two teeth protruding from the roof of my mouth.

The next month, the hospital became so unpopular that it closed down due to bankruptcy. Apparently no one wanted to lie on the same bed that delivered a monstrosity.

Although I don’t remember any of this, and I have ten fingers—mama said the teeth part of the gossip is true—it appears my life started to fall apart the moment I stepped into this pathetic world of men. It wasn’t until my teenagehood, however, that I began to realize this. The signs became too jarring to ignore.

For instance, I remember my last day at Model Central Secondary School when Principal Eji expelled me simply because I shooed some pesky rascals away from my teenage crush, Nenye. I overheard the boys plotting at the back of the classroom to lure her into the savannah thicket behind the chaplaincy and molest her—that’s the thing about having big ears; everything, even the slightest whisper, funnels in—and I had to do something about it.

But then Nenye and her buffoon of a mother supported my expulsion, claiming I assaulted the boys who were all a little over five feet. I, on the other hand, was seven-feet tall and my feet were at least twice the size of theirs. I suppose that when someone gets so big in stature, common sense suggests that everyone would avoid picking a fight with him. Thus, any fight he engages in must have been picked by him.

Then there was the many times Mama had to reconstruct our doors and windows and raise our roof to accommodate my height. She had to work four jobs to earn enough money for the regular reconstruction while I managed the farm. She didn’t know how tall I was going to get, so she kept predicting and rebuilding.

Once I asked her who my father was. Instead of an answer, she lulled me to sleep with tales of her adventures in the giant snake-ridden Asho Forest about a hundred miles from town. She said the reptiles, contrary to what people believe, aren’t aggressive except when faced with human invasion.

“So far they’ve kept wood cutters at bay and the forest preserved,” she said. “That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

I nodded and dozed off in my then three meters long hay bed. Now it’s five meters long.

If someone told me I’d one day lose her, I would probably grab the person and break him in two. She was all I had. She kept me hidden and safe from the world, schooled me at home when no secondary school would admit me, and toiled to satisfy my ever-growling stomach.

Often I would sit in the parlor and stare at the picture we took together, the one hanging over the black-and-white television the same age as me. We were both eighteen then—the television and me. It was a fourteen-inch box and I was eleven feet tall and, in the picture above it, I carried Mama in one arm. I remember the photographer had trembled as he took the shot, and the next day he had called Mama and asked her to come to his office and collect the picture. Alone.

Now that she’s gone, I always carry that framed picture in my big trouser pocket. Comfortably. Being a giant, it seems, has its perks. Just two perks, I think. The other one presented itself the day my uncles arrived to take over Mama’s properties. They came wearing red hats adorned with vulture feathers and palm fronds to show that the old gods were with them. As soon as they saw me, they changed their minds and recoiled out of our compound.

Thus I was left alone, without the love and care of a mother. Not that a twenty-year-old needs a mother to survive, but knowing the world out there with its politics, inequality, and unfairness, as Mama portrayed it, I couldn’t get myself to go outside. I fed on our barn of yam, rice, and beans. Then I moved over to the livestock until soon all I had left was the two-hundred-thousand naira in Mama’s microwave-sized piggy bank.

And I reckoned I ought to go out into the world and live life like everyone else. It was time to break out of the comfort of our high fences. To do that, I figured I needed a few things. A mobile phone was the most important—I bought a tablet instead; yes, because I’m a giant and because punching the tiny buttons on Mama’s phone was frustrating.

* * *

Last week I saw a poster indicating vacancy in a company called Chibex Haulage and Logistics. Since the word “haulage” was included in the company’s name—logistics seemed too complicated to think about—and the vacant position, as stated on the poster, was “delivery manager,” I figured I, with my extravagant stoutness, would fit right in. These big muscular hands of mine have worked my mother’s farm for ten years, and that involved a lot of hauling and dumping. There was no one more qualified for the job.

I only wished the bald interviewer agreed. I think he would have agreed had he actually interviewed me.

A lot of things went wrong that day. No, now that I think of it, only one thing went wrong that day, and it is the fact that I’m a giant. You must understand that there is a difference between a tall person and a giant, and it is that the latter has more balance because his body parts are more proportionally distributed. So what’s the problem here?

Has anyone ever gone for a job interview only to realize he or she can’t have the job because he or she is a dwarf—you see what I did there? Of course, that never happens; the interviewer was below five feet, I swear. And I think that was the problem. Jealousy. Inferiority complex. Low self-esteem. He must have felt all that when he ambled outside to call me in.

The first thing he did was look me over from head to toe—I imagined that took a bit of straining in the neck—and regard the seven-feet-high door behind him which can attest to his dwarfism. I could picture him wondering how a fifteen-feet-tall giant was going to fit through that door.

“Man, you are tall. You are a man, right?” he finally said.

To that I said nothing, since a website I visited the previous night suggested “being on one’s best behavior” as one of the prerequisites of a successful job interview—not that I couldn’t stamp him to death if I wanted to.

“But no vacancy for you,” he added.

His words infused my heart with much sadness that there was no space left for anger. I’m a human being too, am I not? Why couldn’t they reconstruct their office doors and roof just like Mama did our home? I’m a human being and door makers and house builders ought to consider that not everybody is just six feet tall.

As I slouched out of the company’s bungalow-filled compound, I resisted the urge to grab the interviewer, lift him up, shake him up both with my hands and my stare and bellow into his small ears that I was more qualified for any hauling job than those short idiots he let in. But then I was certain he’d have said, “How can you be? I don’t see any schools with fifteen-feet-high doors around. Do you?”

I trekked home that afternoon with two big bottles of kai kai trapped in my armpits. If you are looking to drink yourself out of, or even into, misery, that’s the name to ask for in your local liquor store. But if your problems are the size of Jupiter or, worse, anything like mine, then add a bottle of palm wine to it, as I did, and you’ll sleep off for at least three days.

Well, I didn’t sleep for three days. My giant immune system shook the alcohol off in just three hours. Wait, is it the immune system that shakes drunkenness off? Or is it the head, as in the brain? I ask this because folk around here often say, “His head no strong enough to handle the liquor,” to men that pass out after a bottle. Plus, I woke up with a little lightness in the head. See? “Head” everywhere.

That light-headedness and the accompanying hangover was what made me stumble along my dingy neighborhood looking for a girl to woo. I settled for the first one I bumped into. She was tall, at least six feet tall, and her orange-ish skin was riddled with tiny dark spots.

She was respectful, I think, considering that she stopped when I said, “Excuse me.” Not many people would do that for me. But there was something about the way she contemplated me, as if she was wondering how awkward our first kiss was going to be, seeing as I would have to really bend or scoop her up to kiss her and I might end up licking her nose with my large lips and tongue. Either that or she was imagining how my stuff was going to fit in hers when we got down to intimacy. I thought they said that women liked it big.

It was when she began to stammer and back away that I realized I had more problems as a giant than I thought. So I stumbled home, wept through the night, and decided to try online dating the following day. My tablet came in handy in this case. The app I used was called Introverted Dating, and since it forced users to resize their pictures after uploading them, my face was the only part of me that went live on my profile.

I quickly messaged a few ladies. One replied. And she was in Awka. So we arranged to meet at Ms. K’s Joint at Unizik Junction.

It was on our date that I discovered that the taller you get, the fewer and uglier the women in your dating pool. I mean, the four-feet-tall actor, Aku, is dating the current Miss Nigeria. Contrary to what they say, women like it small, it seems.

I strutted into Ms. K’s Joint at exactly five p.m. that day. The place was a bush bar, roofs high and made of raffia, seats made of woven palm fiber, and tables made of trunks and stone. That was why I had chosen the place—no doors; lots of open space. My date, Uche, was already sitting by a mud pool and was all togged up as if she was there for a wedding reception. She was tall, taller and uglier than most of the men in the bar.

As I walked up to her, slowly so that my flip-flopped feet didn’t make the ground tremble, she looked behind me as if to check whether I had a bodyguard. No, I think she checked to see if I was the bodyguard. I presume because when you are guarding someone, sometimes the best place to stand is at the person’s front—that’s if the threat approaches from there.

When she saw no one behind me, and my hand was already descending for a handshake, she screamed, “Jesus!” and ran with her koi koi shoes in her hands.

The manager of the joint, who was as slim as a snake and dressed like a hungry banker, immediately called security for me. I explained that I came for a date, and he said, “Oh. We are sorry for this misunderstanding, but I think you may have chosen the wrong restaurant.” His bulging eyes indicated the seat beside us as if asking without words, “Do you want to break it?” The people dining around us stared at me with great unease. A man had his mouth open, a spoonful of fried rice hanging before it as though he was in a television show and someone decided to touch the pause button.

* * *

I’m fed up. I’m outraged. And I’ve decided that the world needs to know about the unfairness in the way they treat me. I need to put it out there, right in their faces and ask them to do something about it. I’m a human being too. I’m Nigerian too and I have rights.

So I make a placard using one wing of our barn door and the leftover paint from Mama’s last reconstruction of the house. The placard reads, GIANTS ARE HUMANS TOO. GIANTS ARE NIGERIAN TOO, and I carry it down to the front of Government House along the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, and air my grievances via a megaphone I borrowed from our neighborhood beggar—it is true that the less privileged are the most accommodating people in Nigeria.

It doesn’t take long and people begin to gather. I smile. They are listening. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll partake in another job interview.

An old woman limps up to me. I think she means to hug me. That would be reassuring, even though her face is heavily wrinkled.

“What are you doing? ” she asks. The cacophony of impatient drivers honking and curious bystanders muttering drowns her words, but my big ears are able to fish them out from that sea of noise.

“Protesting,” I say.

“Alone? Don’t you need more giants in order to pull this sort of thing off?”

I feel a sudden wave of shame. The people watching me aren’t listening, I realize. They are laughing in their hearts at a boneheaded giant making a nuisance out of himself. My eyes comb my surroundings. I’ve caused a serious traffic jam.

The police, thirteen men in charcoal black uniforms, arrive with heavy guns. If I weren’t the one they came for, I’d have definitely concluded that there were armed terrorists in the area and they meant to invade Government House. I suppose the policemen imagined that since I dwarf them all, I could put up a hell of a fight. And that’s what the guns are for.

They try to handcuff me, but the cuffs are much too small for my wrists. Dejected, I follow them, willingly, and as I climb onto the back of their Tundra, the vehicle groans and slumps.

I don’t think they’ve thought this thing through because if they have, they would have realised beforehand that their cells were built for men and not giants. That realization comes to them when we reach their station at Amawbia Junction. And with sighs on their lips and frowns on their faces, they let me go.

I smile all the way as I jog home. Being a giant is not so bad.

* * *

The next morning, I wake up, tune the television to NTA Channel 5, and find myself on the seven o’clock news.

Black-and-white televisions, it appears, aren’t too small to accommodate me. Unlike doors, they don’t discriminate. They accommodate everyone.

Governor Ebube speaks on the news about placing me on a monthly salary. But that’s not what I want. Of course, I’d relish the free money, but I just want to work, earn, meet a girl, live like a normal human, a normal Nigerian.

I turn off the television and recline on our massive sofa and pray that my brief fame fetches me a girl that likes giants. When I get a heavy knock on my door, I leap up and tug at my sleeves and slacks to straighten them up where they are rumpled in case the knock is my prayer being answered.

Instead, I open the door to find a man…a giant much taller and broader than me standing outside in the company of an equally imposing steed.

“I’ve come to take you home, son,” he says.

“Home?” The word that sticks with me is the other one—son.

“The Asho Forest.”

 

Copyright © 2018 by Walter Dinjos

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