Junior is seated on the dining table. He is saying something, some sort of a farewell speech. I stare at him from head to toe like I am searching for something. My eyes settle on his swinging legs, the gently hypnotic sways causes my mind to drift away, slowly like a leaf on gentle water current.
The way junior swing his legs listlessly and without care reminds me that he is still a boy even though his shoe size is now 42.
It reminds me of the swing we swung in primary school, riding care free in the air, our lives left at the mercies of the strength of metal chains and the direction of the wind.
It reminds me of the voice of our physics teacher shouting “Oscillatory motion!” during simple harmonic motion and pendulum class, eight years ago.
It reminds me of Junior, not the one now asking me if I have a girlfriend; but the one who once lived two blocks away. We would walk back from school with our dirty pink and white uniforms bearing evidences of our reckless play in school.
It reminds me of our first fight. That day, we had returned from school and he was carrying my bag. He had insisted I go upstairs to their flat with him before he gave my school bag back. He was afraid of “ojuju calabar.” I had mocked him. I told him that he was okuko agric, afraid of monsters lurking around in their dark staircase. I continued, jeering at him. But Junior did not budge; he stood there taking in everything I said. I moved to snatch my bag away from his hand and he ducked. I fell. Hard. I stood back up and saw my bruised arm letting off droplets of blood. Enraged, I tackled him, twisted his arm and took my bag and ran home. Junior would not talk to me the next day. It was I.K, one of our mutual friends who forced us to reconcile. We apologized to each other after he threatened to tell our other friends that we were keeping malice like girls. The thought of that forced us to hug each other and make up, walking hand in hand when school was over till we went up to his flat and I said farewell.
It reminds me of us in class three days later where we heard the sound of a very loud gunshot; I.K said it was “Ndi army” that was passing, that they were on their way to the barracks. A second shot came, followed by many others. We soon saw Gunmen enter our school, shooting sporadically in the air as they entered the principal’s office. I don’t know how it happened but Junior and I were no longer at our desks, we were under the teacher’s table, holding hands and praying fervently as much as 8 year olds could, asking God to spare our lives. The robbers left with some money and other valuables but no one was hurt.
It reminds me of the Junior that came to visit me every day after my scalding hot water accident that ripped the skin off my thighs. I remember Junior saying he was going to get Aloe Vera juice so my Mother could apply it on me so I would heal faster, that his Mother once told him that it cured skin ailments. I begged him not to bring the Aloe Vera because he told me it would be painful and he agreed not to. I remember him bringing it the next day and giving it to my Mother. The betrayal intensified the pain I felt as Mother applied copious amount of the juice on my wound. I scream at Junior, telling him to leave our house and never return, telling him I hated him, that he was wicked. Mother ordered me to shut up and then told Junior that I didn’t mean what I said, that it was the pain that was messing with my mind. But true to his word, the Aloe Vera juice sped up my recovery and my skin was healed and as good as new. I apologized to Junior with a meat from my Sunday stew.
It reminds me of the Junior who watched in disbelief one Sunday he visited, that we were eating yam porridge instead of the conventional rice and stew. He was shocked out of his very parochial mind and I was furious with Mother that day for cooking yam.
It reminds me of the Junior who taught me how to plait the hair of my sisters’ Barbie dolls.
It reminds me of him in secondary school. He’d come to my class to share the food I came to school with as the one they gave to them in boarding house was “rubbish”, as he would say.
It reminds me of him and his tears when he finally changed school. The day he told me, I didn’t say a word. I simply walked out of their flat.
It reminds me that I began to see Junior only during holidays. We were drifting apart, his new friends creating the space between us. By the time we were in SS2, Junior was already an Adonis that played basketball well. I on the other hand was always indoors, trying to outgrow my younger sister who was then taller than I was.
It reminds me of many digs I had to endure about my pimple-ridden face. Chibuike, our neighbor’s son even told me that my face was like a road with many bumps. We laughed, but deep down, I cried, hating my face, gradually hating myself.
It reminds me of Junior and his new best friend, Chuka, with whom he did everything with. I remember the tight knot I felt in my chest and throat anytime I saw them together.
It reminds me of writing Jamb and getting admission Into UNIZIK, Awka. I remember Junior telling me congratulations, when he heard the news. I remember my soul falling apart the day I heard he was travelling abroad to study our dream course-Medicine. I had shaken his hands firmly, without attempting to smile, and wished him well. I remember how my sister said he cried the day he was leaving and how his Father had scolded and told him to be a man, whatever that meant.
It reminds me of the first video call we made the day I visited their home using his Mother’s phone. I remember him crying and saying he missed home and me telling him to endure and not cry. I remember blinking severally to keep my own tears at bay.
It reminds me of Junior as tiny green dots on Facebook, as beautifully taken pictures. He was doing well, he had finally learnt how to play the trumpet; a longing he always had.
It reminds me of Junior challenging our church doctrines especially the ones pertaining to sin, death and heaven. I began to wonder what he was smoking abroad.
It reminds how my heart skipped for joy the day I heard he was coming back for the long vacation after 5 years abroad. Many things had happened since he left; his family had relocated from our street to GRA in Onitsha.
It reminds me of Junior and how light skinned he had become. I remember his smile, one thing that remained unchanged through the years. He said I was not looking bad. We talked the much we could over plates of noodles, candies, peppery goat meat, Suya and beer when I visited their new home on his return. I remember telling him about my writing. He laughed.
“Dubem, you are still a book freak.” He said.
It reminds me of him saying that we would talk more, and he asking about my girl. I don’t remember giving him any answer as other friends who wanted to see the “obodo oyibo” boy came around. We never got to talk more as there were many things and many people he had to catch up with and I had my NYSC to return to.
It reminds me of him asking about how my NYSC was going and how I replied with “Fine”, the general answer to a question Nigerians didn’t want to talk deeply about. I didn’t tell him I am not enjoying Port Harcourt as I thought I would and that I was finding it difficult to make friends there.
It reminds me of us taking few pictures at a mutual friend’s birthday party and him commenting on my big belly, beards and surprisingly smooth face. I laughed.
It reminds me of the moment when I told him I wanted to get a job after NYSC and pay my bills for my Master’s degree and not depend on my parents for that. I smacked his head when he replied, “Dubem, that’s the best thing I’ve ever heard you say in my life.”
It reminds me that his holiday is up and that he would be leaving in four days’ time.
It reminds me of…….
“Dubem!” he calls out, bringing me back to the present. I look at him; his legs are still swinging,
“I have not forgotten us, our friendship, what we’ve been through, we may not talk always but you’re always in my heart, you are family. I want us to pray for each other always, I know our tomorrow would be better. Never forget one thing. ” He says and then pauses. “I love you bro.” Another pause, he stands from the table and adds, “No Homo.”
I shake my head at how backward humanity had become that men who loved each other couldn’t express themselves or show care for each other for fear of being grouped and labeled as weak, homosexual, gay, fag and the very many other warped names the English language has helped us form.
“Dubem, O gini ka I na-eche?” What are you thinking about? Junior asks in a mixture of Ogidi and Onitsha Igbo that was still uncorrupted even after five years abroad.
I smile, look him in the eye and reply.
“I Love you too, Junior.”
I remember him smile, then grin.
About the Author
The author, Okeudo Emmanuel, is
Curious, a believer, reserved and in love with food