Baka B. Bina works at the Supreme and National Court at Waigani. He is Voluntary Organising Committee of the Crocodile Prize Competition. Mr Bina writes and contributes lots for writing competitions.
His book called, Man of Calibre won the 2015 Ok Tedi Book of the Year category. Some of his writings are published in the Crocodile Prize Anthologies. Mr Bina is a published author and some of his titles available on Amazon’s e-books and Kindle.
Below is a piece he Co-wrote with his wife:
In times gone by, if a girl fell pregnant, her life fell apart. We were discussing the possibility of our daughters getting pregnant while still in school and in talking to them, we came up with this piece.
It is now part of anthology in the soon to be published – Musings of Sogopex.
Love For A Graduation Present by Baka and Emily Bina
The morning was cold, chilly with mist hugging the ground and coffee trees surrounding the village. Inside the houses, the cold penetrated the blind walls and dug deep into the blanket and bones. Yasiiname felt the chill creep in among the pitpit blind on the pitpit bed and pulled the old gaman blanket that she had been using for the last umpteen years over herself one more time. She kicked her legs and pulled the last of the blanket to cosset herself within its warmth.
She had done this so many times before. Most mornings, she had to throw back the blanket, get out of the warmth of the bed and meet the cold morning to get ready to go to school. Today, however, was different.
Her last day of school, at least this school, had been yesterday and, with it, the compulsion to throw back the blanket. She really loved this old gaman blanket and she pulled it in all over herself again making sure that no drafts creeping in from the pitpit blinds onto the pitpit bed could get to her. She wanted to wait for the cold to disappear before crawling out of the blanket to think about the day.
‘Jasii girl! Yasiiname? Are you in there or not?’
The voice that she had dreaded each morning for all these years called from somewhere outside the house. ‘Fathers can be terrorizing,’ she muttered to herself.
‘I don’t need to get out of bed now!’
Yasiiname rued the day and pulled the blanket in tighter. She knew the cold air would sit in the bowl of the valley until the sun came high over the mountains to chase it away. She would wait for the sun. She deserved it. Surely Dada could spare her a morning in bed?
She had been a slave to drudgery, having to do the same thing each morning since she started going to school as a tiny tot: get out of her blanket and prattle across to the creek, brushing past chilly dew that clung onto the slender kunai grass and the occasional mimosa grass, not to mention the occasional scramble to get over clumps of bush in the way because the morning pigs were trying to get to the early worms, making her all wet and soggy even before she got to the creek.
It was never easy getting under the hewn bamboo pipe to wash herself with the bone-jolting icy water that cascaded from its spout. The cold splashing water woke every cell in her body, and standing in last night’s cold muddied water brought the threat of frostbite to her poor toes. And the pool at the bottom of the waterfall swirled in a backwash that was black, deep and scary.
She was not going to that waterfall this morning. Can’t they stop calling her, especially Dada? She just finished her schooling yesterday, only just. There was going to be no more early chilly wash from this morning on, she asserted to herself as she squirmed in the bed to get the last of the blankets in a cocoon around her. She had been at it all of primary and high school. So, on this morning at least, she had earned the sleep in. ‘Where is Yasiiname? Did she sleep here or what?’
‘Oh bother, Dada. You go to sleep too, please’, she groaned as she tried to roll tighter within the blanket.
Yesterday, Graduation Day had brought a huge surprise. She knew she was an average student and would have just passed her exams, but to be called to receive the top prize for social science was something she wasn’t in the least expecting. Her head had pooped when it was announced from the podium that hers was the top mark in the national exams for schools in the Eastern Highlands Province. Boy, she knew now, for certain, that she was one smart cookie. But it had not been too evident during her school life.
She dug her head into the bag of old clothes she used as a pillow trying to remember how she walked along the aisle up to the podium to receive her prize. All stars and spangles, she had floated on cloud nine.
It was, however, a staged walked. She tried to remember how the walk had been hijacked – when it turned from casual walk to a parade of pomp and flair – because her heart had been fluttering.
She knew she had him or, rather, he had her.
Shocked at her name being called, she had sat paralyzed until probed from behind to stand up and move. Through the glaze of this first shock, another had loomed large: the sight of the smiling face of her Adonis. She had seen him, immediately in front of her, as she began her aisle walk – the dashing young fellow who held her heart in tatters, beaming a mile wide smile for her.
She had gone from shock one to shock two, making herself all watery in between and then, a flash back of yesterdays and yester nights. She would have fainted for him there and then, but had held her head up and continued robotically to the podium. She could not remember the applause or the walk back as she strutted back, all pomp and ceremony in her gait. She had been on cloud nine. Yeah, she reminded herself in the blanket, and it had been for him alone. She must have grown a couple of inches for him and it had been for him only. She knew then that she was totally in love.
She felt hot flushes recalling the nights of passion they had shared just a few weeks back. She reminisced about the mornings when she had crept back furtively to the house and tried to wash. Some mornings she had been reluctant to wash. She wanted his smell to linger with her forever.
‘People are coming. Go wake up the girl.’
‘Yasiie girl, please do wake up!’ it was the plaintive voice of Sukale, her mother.
The sound of axe on good dry casuarina wood rang through the village – the signal that a mumu was going to be held. It was followed by sounds of stone on stone meaning the mumu pit had been excavated.
‘You slumber like that and your debts will pass you by and grow like some mushroom without you knowing it. Come on girl, wake up. We are preparing the day for you and you sleep in like a baby. Girl, wake up! Your Aunty is bringing the pig and we need you to see the pig.’
Yasiiname pulled her hands in slowly trying to imagine that her Adonis was next to her. The cold air, instead, bit into her and she slowly, grudgingly rolled the blanket away, angry that there was no Adonis and angry at those people outside. She wished they had made the fire inside the house. This would have chased the cold out. ‘What have mushrooms and debts to do with the day? The man is crazy,’ she uttered silently to herself.
She picked up the dress of yester nights that she had worn to be with the Adonis and put it to her nose. The smell of the smoke from the dry casuarina tree that they had used to make a fire had permeated the dress, and there was the discernible smell of the Brut perfume, his Brut smell. She tuned in on the spot on the dress where the smell was greatest and inhaled it, savoring the memory that it brought. She would make a beeline for him later tonight. ‘Some morning,’ she rued. Oh boy, it was good enjoying the morning re-living her hot flushes inside the warm blanket and, brraa…h, she hated this early chilly call out.
It was a pity that she had been unable to escape to the Adonis’s arms last night because well wishers from the village had come and they had kept a long night small talking, with her enjoying the limelight. She wished that her father would not be so abrupt with her now. She knew, however, that she was obliged to see the size of the pig that Auntie would bring along and to record it as her own debt that she was expected to repay some time later in her own life. That was the way of life for them, a traditional dictate.
She held the dress fleetingly to her heart and then hung it by its neck onto the pitpit blind walls for a later time when she would return to his smell.
She walked out of the door into the mist-covered morning to see her father put the last of the stones onto the fired-up mumu mound. The smoke from the mumu pit was already chasing away the mist. Her mother was up too, sitting squat peeling kaukau for the mumu. Behind her was a small fire with a teapot on it. In a tray on the ground were some cups and a sugar packet which was low on sugar.
Today was going to be her day in the village. She felt the warmth of her head growing big. It was in the atmosphere. The front of the house and around the mumu pit had been swept immaculately clean. She could see that even the dark green leaves on the coffee trees beyond the mumu pit had an extra sheen this morning.
She made a cup of sweet tea. Oops, she made a mistake. She should have used a strainer. But never mind. There were a lot of tea leaves in her cup.
‘Make me one too, if you will. The whole family is coming and you still want to sleep like a baby. Those who did not come last night will come in the morning. We will need a lot of water for the tea and plenty of sugar, if not lemon leaves or mapanuho’.
Yasiiname could already tell what the day was going to be like if they were going to have tea made of mapanuho.
There would be more good things said about her and her name would draw sweet praise from the villagers and her peers. She was the only one from the village to have been awarded a prize at yesterday’s graduation. Also, inside the envelope that she had been given was her letter of acceptance to the new national high school that she would attend in the new year. This piece of news would be broadcast at the mumu and so her blood was oozing special.
‘I did not get the first prize’, Yasiiname protested.
‘No, yes. You did not get the first prize, but the news of you going to the national high school is the big news. Now that is the first prize because it is the first for this village. It is a step towards university.’
Yasiiname looked at Sukale. Her mother was a beautiful woman and Yasiiname was told that she took after her. She would bring her mother untold joy if she could get to university. She could repay her for all the early mornings she woke up to cook kaukau for her to take to school. She had never heard her mother complain about her beauty being wasted. Yasiiname knew she was beautiful also, and had a long list of boys who had wooed her. She was a bit more than size twenty-eight, but the boys never minded that she was shorter and slimmer than most of girls.
Her mother’s perseverance in roasting kaukau each morning had paid off when Yasiiname, in a first for the village, had been offered a place in national high school. Her proud mother was wearing her happiness on her sleeve. She worked with gusto peeling the huge pile of kaukau, enjoying the work with a newly found energy oozing from her body.
Loud noises erupted when Aunty came pulling a rope with a pig teetering on the end of it. The reluctant pig was putting up some resistance. Ha’namo took off the bundle of banana leaves that straddled Aunty Rosa’s head and accepted the end of the rope.
He cleared his throat and called out to Yasiiname.
‘Eh, Yasiiname, my girl, you see this pig. I think it is a good pig to begin celebrating your success. Your mother here, Rosa, is very proud of your success. We have high hopes for you. It will be the start of bringing good things to our house.’
Yasiiname looked at the pig. It was a chubby black and white male pig whose husks were just beginning to form. It was a pig that would have to be to be repaid. Her cousins, Rosa’s children, were still small and already there was a duty or an obligation imposed on her. This was the start of her own debts that she would have to repay in one form or another. Already there were investments in her new outings.
‘Vultures,’ she hissed to herself. She remembered all the kaukau that she had eaten in the mornings for breakfast, for lunch, for tea, and for dinner. It was a monotonous meal that had been hers for the last ten years, and now the vultures are coming in for the spoils even before they had been gotten. Where was she all these times when there were times when parties could be had but they could not because her parents could not afford them? ‘Bring it on, relatives or not, bring it on’. There was some cockiness in her line of thinking, but she was sure as hell she had earned it.
The gathering grew as her extended family came in with their contributions towards the celebratory mumu. Several more small pigs and many chickens were also being slaughtered and cleaned. One family came with enough sugar cane to feed the whole village. As they arrived, they showered her with congratulations. Ha’namo kept on asking Yasiiname to record everything that had been brought to the feast, which she did on a piece of paper. Some debts she rued. If these did not stop, she’d be swamped in debt before she could even start at the national high school.
The crowd and the intense activity did not, however, hide her desire for her beau. She still wished him around and made arrangements for him to come around to their yard. She had spent a good part of her growing up in Paliyo and Mamito’s house and she talked her father into inviting them to the mumu, even though the Paliyos were from the other clan in the village. It was in the Paliyo’s house that she had started her liaison with the young Adonis. She knew that the Paliyo entourage would include him.
Contented, she busied herself with assisting everyone at the mumu so that her mind would not wander away to her Adonis. She helped to fetch water from the creek to pour into the mumu. She then swept away the rubbish and cleaned around the house.
The village square beyond was very clean and the grass lawns low. This was a highlands village, full of round houses, topped up freakishly by several coconut trees, making the place look like a coastal village. Yasiiname remembered her very many liaisons against the coconut trees with many of the village boys. But this one was special and she was going to make the best of the holidays before she left for the national high school.
The aroma of the cooked pork meat spread throughout the village and mothers soon mingled with crying children around the mumu hole. A table with a clean sheet was put in front where her certificate and letter were proudly displayed. There was also a dish with a huge pork backbone and a couple of chickens in one dish and a second similar dish.
Uncle Jowari began the proceedings with words of thanks to her for bringing pride to the family. She was going to be the first female from the village to go to this new national high school in the new year. Several of the girls before her had either gone to technical, teachers or nursing colleges from year ten. She was entering into something new for the village – going to year eleven and twelve.
‘Going to the national high school is the first step to getting a place at one of the universities. It warms my heart to be the one to dish out this food in celebration of this achievement. Look after yourself. Do not do things that will return you back to this village. Ehe’q, look after your body and watch where your throw away your rubbish.’
Yasiiname half listened to all the cautions and a smile escaped from her when uncle started something about boyfriends.
‘Ehe’q, boys are only for making babies, babies that they will not necessarily want to look after or take as their own. You are going to a foreign school where boys from everywhere will be there. Some will have strange customs and some will have no land at all. Some will come from customs that will not have respect for your elders. They will be an impediment to your schooling.’
She rolled her eyes. If only her uncle knew of the boys she had played with and courted since grade five. She had given her first kiss to a boy in grade five in the classroom in broad daylight after a dare by her friends. She had lost her virginity two years later in grade seven and had had active courting nights since then, in between having her first period at the beginning of the year in grade ten.
Talk about boyfriends. She rolled her eyes again behind uncle’s back. If only he knew.
Her uncle hoisted up the second dish for Paliyo and Mamito and to thank them for letting Yasiiname live with them, resulting in Yasiiname excelling in her school work. There was a round of applause and happy shouting whee haha in gratitude for them. It was rare that a girl from one clan would find house in another clan.
Mamito took the dish gratefully while Paliyo gave his reply in thanks.
‘We saw from her early days in primary school that she was clever. But our house is a house for all the village children and she was no exception. We only ask that she remembers us when canes become our third legs’.
Yasiiname was only half-listening, distracted by her beau who was standing behind Paliyo. The Adonis looked at where she sat in honour next to the table. Yasiiname saw his crooked smile and smiled back weakly, already planning the night. The voices faded out and she was in cloud nine.
It had started a bit after her final exams. He had returned from his college down on the coast, all filled out from good food. He had made a beeline for her despite all the other girls eyeing him. As they sat out the night under the coconut tree, she had felt his touch and it was exhilarating and spuinking – a word she had coined to describe the feelings she began to feel for him. It was instant and rapid, this spuink.
It was not long before he had literarily carried her to his house. He had so much energy for the night and she was truly spent for the next couple of days. But she craved for him and made tracks to his house every night. In his house far from the village they had done things that they couldn’t have done standing against the coconut trees.
She hungered miserably and could feel her body exuding an irritating yearning for more of the spuink.
When Unca Jowari finally crowned the presentation to give her dish of food, she went through the motions. Her mind was elsewhere. She accepted the dish of food with the meaty part of the back bone and the head of the pig that Mama Rose had brought. Some present it was. She looked at it with disdain. Presents were wrapped, not dished.
What was his present? He had said it, after the night of spent passion: ‘From me to you with love, a graduation present’. That, she thought, is a better present than this dish of food.
A thought then suddenly came upon her.
Her period had been due a few days ago. But it hadn’t come! What were the school lessons on this? Her Home Economics teacher was specific on this. ‘If you miss a period, you are probably pregnant if you had allowed a boy to…’
All the girls in the class had laughed at this laughable idea that schoolgirls were into sex.
‘Girls, girls, it is no laughing matter. Girls, one way or the other, do miss a period. And girls do allow boys. If you did, don’t feel embarrassed. I let it happen when I was in grade seven’.
Every girl had blushed. She couldn’t have done her first one in grade seven. Not this teacher. She was still single and not likely to fall prey to the other species and be in yoke to them.
The girls, however, had felt strangely reassured by the knowledge that they would not be the only ones doing it now that the teacher, who they thought was so godly, could admit to having been in a situation. It was a comfort, too, that girls from any society generally do find themselves in situations they cannot get out from and are forced into doing it. It was important for the girls to fully understand their bodies and to be very careful.
Here they were in grade ten all thinking that they would not be found out.
‘And it only has to be the one right occasion. So girls, get rid of the notion that you have to have many trysts to fall pregsy.’ And they had laughed again at her pregsy word. The rest of the lessons were a whirlwind of pregsy statements as the class joked incessantly. They knew very well that some of them would be married off immediately upon graduating. ‘Yeah, being pregsy did happen and will happen to every one of them, and they were involved with boys and …ahh.’
For her now, time was of the essence. When was the one right occasion? She scratched her head. She could not remember. Diaries and notebooks were not for her.
She sat down squat onto her chair again trying to keep time, trying to confirm in her mind that she was not running late for her period. The praises and debts heaped on her started to feel a bit sour.
She sat squirming throughout the talk as the reality of being pregsy seeped into every pore of her body, replacing the fun-filled enduring spuinking touches the loving Adonis had sunk into them.
She tried hard to remember the home economic lessons about her cycle. But everything was a blur.
Pregsy! That laughable word was not an option for her. But she could not ignore the enormity of it, if she was, in fact, pregsy. The world began to take on a gloomy hue. She sat transfixed in the old three legged chair.
What was going to happen if these people now wanting her success were to know that she was pregsy? She could just hear, in replay, the words that had floated over her just then about looking for boys. Ehe’q, they cautioned, boys will only be interested in making babies. She looked down at the end of the footstool where her feet had been running brushes with the soil. She wished the soil would open up for her and drag her into the innards of the red humi. She wished they had told her earlier that some boy would have spuinking touches that cut through to the heart before the … ahh making babies bit.
Did someone mention that her going to year eleven opened a path to good living? It was a start to going away from the backbreaking mundane task of making kaukau mounds to grow enough to feed unappreciative people.
This was the boy that she’d stand up to her father for. She’d murder her father if the boy asked for her hand and her father said no. But alas, she could not do so after all the accolades today.
She could not go to the new school if she was pregsy. Damn that teacher for this new word. It was tormenting her now and with glee, like an ‘I told you so’.
The new debts and accolades today were going to be a non-event and a case for much back talking, back stabbing and fodder for the gossip mills in the village.
And she would not be in Aunt Rosa’s good books for a long time, because she had brought and given away her prized pig – for nothing!
Her going places will be zilch, zero.
The only place she was thinking about now was the pig’s hut on the other side of the village. She’d hide there for the duration of the time it takes to bring this child into the world. So much for the euphoria and the spuinkings.
She swallowed the bile that was retching up in her: from me to you – with love, a graduation present. It was now wrapped up in the prospect of a child and a future that was going terribly wrong.