This episode dates back to this time last year. I was still a student. I still had three brothers and I’d never have foreseen what happened within the time frame of just three months.
I guess it all started with Feddy’s death. Feddy is my eldest brother and somewhat my mentor. He could do no wrong in my eyes; I always found a way to justify his actions. I loved him. I still refer to him like he’s still alive because to me, he is. It seems like he’s lurking somewhere in my mind, somewhere unreachable. This may sound delusional but it’s my only solace. I can feel him though I can’t see him. I often dream about him, but strange enough, he has never spoken to me in any of those dreams. He just smiles like he understands and says nothing. He smiles exactly the same way he used to when I got so confused and threw one of my tantrums for no actual reason. At other times, in my dreams, he doesn’t even recognize me. I’d wake up disheartened; he really has no idea the great void his death created. It’s a miracle that I have the courage to pen this down. I guess I’m stronger than I often give myself credit for.
But this isn’t about Feddy’s mysterious death – he died in a motor accident; a trailer having lost control and ramming into the bus he was in. He was at the back seat. They said he suffered from severe internal bleeding and he died at the hospital. He was the only one who died from the ‘accident’.
Were we broken?! Yes. Did we show it? NO! That’s where my main problems stemmed from. It should be listed as the surest way to die – not expressing exactly how you feel. I think that’s why I write; to release the millions of emotions and thoughts that run through my ever-active being at once. This is one of my own sweet escapes. I wouldn’t want to go into the rest of them.
Anyway, my whole family was in pains. He was the first son and the first child. My remaining brothers – Bubu and TriQ, never cried; at least, I never saw them. I couldn’t wail or go into screaming like I really wanted to. Our tears would have broken Maama the more. So, we hid our tears behind taut smiles and often hugged her as she refused to cry too. We all seemed unfeeling, but in truth, we were drawing strength from each other.
I remember the funeral vividly. The family house was milling with thousands of people especially the youth. It seemed like the burial of a chief or a really wealthy man. I guess Feddy was just too good to everyone. People just wanted to reach out to me and touch me in support. I didn’t want any of that. I walked around in my mirror aviator shades and smiled at the people I knew, the people who came around to support a sister. My eyes burned with unshed tears, I could swear they were already red. I was really thankful for my eyeglasses.
I stayed at a vantage point and watched people fling themselves on the ground, wailing and cursing out to their gods when the coffin was brought in. I sought out my immediate family members, we were all calm; or we all seemed calm. I blessed God for all of them. My friends smiled at me whenever they caught my attention. Belle even gave me the peace sign while wriggling her eyebrows at me. It actually made me laugh. The whole day was quite a blur, though I remember bursting into tears right after the burial. I finally released a minute part of my pent-up emotions. It made me feel better.
Within days, the initial crowd that came to offer condolences thinned out considerably. My family finally had our time to ourselves. That was hell on earth – accepting and living with the fact that Feddy’s body had been buried just a few feet away from the main door, coming out and seeing his freshly-heaped grave. I died a little inside every time I was confronted with that sight. I couldn’t still really talk about it with my brothers or my mom. Even when it eventually arose, it’d be evaded with some encouraging talk of how Feddy is in a better place. Knowing him as well as I did, I know he didn’t give up without a fight. He was too alive, too likable, and too jovial to just die. I had questions. I craved to see him, even just one last time. But at that period, whoever was in charge of granting broken-hearted young girls’ wishes was obviously taking a break or just painfully ignoring me.
We all felt the pain, though I think we felt it differently. Mine was slow, like it was steadily growing on me until it finally embedded itself in my system and started draining my life force. I was gradually losing my will to live. Yes, I admit I toed the line of chronic depression. I often felt like I needed the services of a shrink, an experienced psychiatrist I could talk to about the raging despair I had sunk into. I lost faith in God. I was doomed enough to study a bit of philosophy in school and my mantra became – ‘Life is pointless. What is the point of life, when we live just to die?’ Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus became my favorite philosophers. I could totally relate to their twisted thoughts. At least, my grades in those philosophy classes were awesome.
My books were my distraction and I did a lot of research for my project work. I read till I was fagged out so that I could fall right asleep and not wake up till the next morning. Nightmares became as regular as breathing. I merely existed.
That was when I turned to certain people to seek solace. It’s funny how everyone lends a listening ear when you work on their human emotions. The last thing I wanted anyone to feel for me was pity. I wasn’t a pitiful creature. I didn’t want people doing me favors because they felt pity for me. This is where my story starts.
Who else has met people online and contemplated dating them? Don’t be shy. I’ve done it and there’s no guarantee that I still won’t do it. I mean, actual dating here…not the contemplation. I enjoy the initial excitement, keeping in mind that it just won’t last. Not everyone is open-minded to understand that where someone is met isn’t much of a barrier, as long as the person can stand your inner demon.
I know that being open-minded might someday be my downfall, but what can a young girl do? I’ve met tons of people and I’d still meet more. It pays to be open-minded. After the burial, I became even more open-minded, ready to take on new challenges and slay dragons. I hung tightly to my new-found philosophy. To me, it justified all my actions.
Within a month after the burial, I had graduated from the university. Prior to my graduation from the university, I had discreetly avoided the family house, lying about my project work keeping me busy and other little lies I told. I couldn’t still bear the sight of Feddy’s grave. Well, upon graduation, I had to stay home. Only Heaven would understand the demons I fought daily at home. I had the strangest urges; to take long walks in the middle of the night, with nowhere in mind or just wander and get lost. On countless nights, I hugged myself tight and cried myself to sleep, after wetting my pillow and giving myself a severe headache.
I remember attending my secondary school reunion and Feddy’s picture was flashed on their screen as ex-students who’d be forever kept ‘in loving memory’ (in my family, all the kids attended the same secondary school). I dunno what went through my head as people turned to look at me with soft sympathetic looks. Their looks clearly said, “Ehyaaaaa”.
I knew every other person was feeling Feddy’s absence too. Maama took it pretty hard. After the funeral, she appeared strong before the guests but she had to resort to popping sleeping pills. It wasn’t a surprise to wake up to her feeling my body temperature or simply standing close by, listening to my deep breaths in sleep. She got scared for the rest of us. Everything was done with the dangers involved resounding from Maama. I was restricted in everything. Every movement had to be totally necessary. Being used to my freedom, it was like the walls were closing in on me. People were always offering their sympathies, like it could bring Feddy back. Sometimes, when I was around a group of people, I’d be introduced as the-girl-who-just-lost-her-brother. It was downright painful.
So, I ran away from home and everyone who knew me intimately….
***Read up what happened next in the next episode*** LoL. That’d have been perfect if I were to be a Nollywood scriptwriter.
Yes. I ran away from the very people who loved me dearly and were trying to protect me. But, I didn’t run away the customary way people do. I didn’t pack my essential items to flee in the middle of the night like a common criminal. I’m not yet that rebellious. So, I played on one of my family’s weakest points: education. Being done with school, I lied that I had been selected to be among the representatives from my university for a work seminar which would absorb us into their system as soon as the seminar/ training was done. It was a plausible lie; I was among the best graduating students from my set, so it didn’t seem far-fetched. The ‘training’ was to be at Lagos. Maama bought the idea immediately. I mean, she’s a lecturer. Such things would definitely appeal to her. Learn to fear a desperate liar.
That’s how I left the house and found myself Lagos-bound with little or no plans for my immediate future. I just knew where I’d be able to spend my first weekend. I was avoiding members of my extended family for the same reason I’d left home. So my best bet was friends/ wooers in Lagos who’d been craving to see me. In my ‘fresh-graduate’ mind, within two weeks of being in Lagos, I’d cop a good job with my good degree and still fluent French accent. Afterall, when I was in the university, my professors always took their time to hammer on the fact that our course is highly sought after, that’s why they had to teach us all the irrelevant jargons we know. Somebody lied!!!
I had another option of being part of a music tour with an upcoming music act. As I had been told, he wanted to tour Francopone Africa and I was to aid with the language barrier. So either way, I had back-up…or so I thought. If my certificate couldn’t give me the desired job, I could still tour West Africa with a music crew. I felt formidable. I had plans. Everything seemed brighter as I had left the house; though I had to keep the lie going. Maama believed I’d be in Lagos with a reputable firm who had sought the top students of my university. Meanwhile, I was really in Lagos with plans to spend short time in various places while searching for that reputable job. My plan B was to accompany a music act on a tour. Oh! The heart attack Maama would have gotten if she knew the actual truth. But whatever I did, I did for my own sanity.
The music tour was to be with a friend of mine. Lemme explain this friend of mine: he’s a friend’s friend. And the way it works for me, like they say – your enemy’s friend is your enemy too. For me, my friend’s friend is also my friend. Enough bambling about this friend; his name is Yele
At Feddy’s death and with my whole family acting calm and collected under the strain of grief and pain, I finally turned to my friends. At first, it was my girlfriends; but with time, I began to sound like a broken record. Coupled with the fact that I started missing classes and they always did a good cover-up for me, including writing tests and assignments; bugging them with my depressed state would have been way too much. I really appreciate all they did for me. It was totally priceless and I owe them a lot.
I didn’t want to sound needy, so I turned to a total stranger. Yele was the perfect stranger. We’ve been chatting though we’ve never met. He wanted us to date or at least, have a fling. I liked him, but not enough to date him without meeting him first. He is a cool guy, or so I thought. He was the one who brought up the idea of me going on a music tour with the upcoming act. He gave me the faint glimmer of hope from the gloom I had been living in. He was one of the main reasons I ‘ran’ away from home.
I guess I was so desperate for my breath of fresh air that I didn’t see the loop holes – a total stranger offering me a job, accommodation, a fun trip involving music, feeding and even a birthday gift. I grabbed my chance and worked towards it.
I got to Lagos with basically all my casual fun clothes, nothing too serious as I was to be with fun people. I looked forward to the fun job. I looked forward to the experience. I looked forward to seeing Yele. I was thankful for my breakthrough. Well, I called Yele and told him I was in town. He seemed happy but begged for some time as the artiste just released a new song and they were going around for its promotion. I understood. To me, the newly-released song meant real work for me. I wanted to be part of it all. I kept in touch with Yele for a couple of days as he still didn’t give me a definite day we’d see or a definite plan. He mentioned something about the management delaying the whole financial process. I still understood it all. I didn’t have any other choice than to understand him. I totally understood until Yele stopped taking my calls.
Yeah, he’d ignore my calls. I tried calling with a different phone number and he picked up immediately. It dawned on me that Yele had been avoiding me! All the while I was being understanding and making excuses for the young man, he had been cleverly avoiding Yours Truly. Was I pained? Yes! Did I show it? YES!
My world spiraled out of control again. I almost regretted leaving my family house. I was strapped for cash. I couldn’t call Maama to tell her anything about what was going on. I had lied my way out of the house. If I had the guts to tell her of my situation, I had to be ready to tell her the absolute truth. I might have being confused at that point but I was dead sure that I wasn’t ready to spill the beans. Nothing was going according to the plan. The plan wasn’t to stay in Lagos stranded. I had to act really fast. Then, my lying games began in earnest. But I couldn’t pull it off alone. I had my accomplice: Cokes.
I’d have to dedicate a full episode to the pranks Cokes and I have pulled off together. Selfless Cokes had my back as I cooked up a story of being alone at my uncle’s place as he travelled for business and the rest of his family had gone for the summer holidays. We sold this lie to her mother. I ended up at Cokes’ house. All this while, I kept on trying Yele’s phone number. He never picked my calls, neither did he return them. I didn’t want to think the worst. I couldn’t go home. I’d sink into total despair again. I was out and I was determined to stay out.
When it became crystal clear that I was on my own; no fun job, no hopes for the immediate future, I had to go back to my first plan: getting a good job with my good certificate. But I had one problem – I had just fun clothes in my luggage and I was dead broke! And once again, Cokes came to my rescue. Looking back now, I laugh at how stubborn I was. I could have easily taken the next bus home. Something in me kept fighting. That would have been my plan Z; after I had exhausted all the other plans.
I applied in several places and they all bounced me. I was a fresh graduate with zero experience. It was a catch 22. No job unless I had experience, no experience except I’ve had a job. It was just funny. How was I to get experience without a job? No one was willing to give me a trial. I actually wrote the interview for a French learning institute, I passed it and got all its requirements. Then they dropped the same stale story for me: No Experience.
The little optimist in me was patiently hoping that one day, my phone would ring and Yele would apologize about work taking all his time. I’d forgive him and go on my fun trip/job. It never happened. I eventually deleted his number and went about my business. I’m glad for my struggles for I’ve learnt from them. Yele never called me for the rest of 2013. He didn’t call me throughout this year either; until this Tuesday.
Yele called me after a full year of keeping me in the dark. Of course, I didn’t know he was the one. When he introduced himself, I got weak. I felt the optimist in me feeling triumphant. He called because he wanted us to see me. I felt vengeful. I wanted to scream at him, to know if he understood how the world works. I felt spitting venom at him wouldn’t justify how I felt and still feel. He obviously called to see how well I had improved because he started asking about my well-being, school, NYSC and every other thing. When I told him that I’m working with a record label and I now stay in Lagos, I felt victorious. I spoke about the record label like I was the CEO. I rubbed it in his face that I survived that dark phase of my life, despite everything that had happened. He sounded intimidated.
Now the dilemma is – should I agree to see him or I should simply ignore him like he doesn’t exist?