It was a cool evening. I looked through the open windows and felt the cool breeze slightly caress the hairs on my skin. The leaves on the stout shrubs moved to and fro—dancing carefully to the whistle of the wind. The hens hopped over the gutters, gawked momentarily then hopped again—like children playing suwe with stones. The stall owners stood around—waiting for patronage. Most of them made money by photocopying the hand outs and notes that the lecturers dished out. They supported their income by selling little things like snacks and stationery. But their photocopiers were the noblest investments.
The lecturer that just left the class was lazy—much like me. But he was also a bully, and that I could not understand.
He came into class about an hour late. I sat up—biro in hand. Preparing for what would be a boring lecture.
“You all would fail!” he started, “Sharpen your pencils and papers. And get ready to write letters, because your class is notorious for letter writing. But this time, you better address it to the Vice Chancellor himself!” The whole class roared with laughter.
I slouched in my seat, rolled my eyes and sighed aloud. He turned to me.
“You. Stupid boy. Sitting like king in my class. Stand up!” He had raised his voice by an octave. I stood up.
“So you’re king now eh? I say something and you roll your eyes. Who’s your father?”
I said nothing.
“What is your GP?” He asked more quietly
I stared down at my desk, fidgeting with my biro. All eyes were on me. I stood there hoping that the ground would open up and swallow me whole.
“I said, what is your CGPA you moron!” This time, he shouted. I felt the strands of hair at the back of my neck stand up like an erect member.
“One point zero four.” I said in a tiny whisper.
“What did you say?” he asked angrily. I looked up at him. He wore an evil grin.
“One point zero four.” I repeated.
“So you’re on a one point zero four and you’re feeling like king eh?” A mild wave of snickering and suppressed laughter passed through the class. Anything would excite these idiots.
“You know what?” He continued “Go and simulate your useless CGPA with an F in this course. And let me know what you get after that. Let us see if you would not get kicked out of this department. Non-academic student.” The whole class roared with laughter again. It was an enviable distraction.
When the class was over, the window called to me, I answered. The concrete slab motioned to me to hop over it and I yielded. I stood on the other concrete slab and looked downwards. I heard the buzz of the voices of my classmates, giggling and discussing—their noise had faded into the background and they were oblivious of my presence. Then I took a leap of faith. I did not think that I would grow wings and fly like a bird. I knew that I would land on the ground with a painful thud. But I knew what it wanted me to do. To taste the earth. To taste death. To taste freedom.
I open my eyes and blink incessantly. There’s a pain that envelopes my body. The pain is so thick—I feel its hands slowly lose grip on my soul. But I don’t want this pain to leave. I like this pain. It reminds me that I still can feel. That I’m human.
I had a guest. It was the student journalist in my school. The doctors told me that I had been in a coma for seven days and asked me if I felt up to an interview “Of course” I answered, “Let her in.” And they did.
“Good afternoon.” she said sounding sombre.
“Hey!” I answered. I could not turn to see her face because of the solid, paralysing plaster around my neck. And my rib cages. And my legs. So I asked her to please lean forward so I could see her pretty face.
“Are you hitting on me?” she asked, leaning forward. I smiled as I caught a glance of her. She was very pretty. Tall and light skinned. She had a birthmark at the top of her lips—which were painted in red lipstick. Her braids were tied in a bun over her head. She was tall and she wore a long blue dress that clung to her curves at all the right places.
“Maybe I am” I answered. She smiled. She introduced herself. Her name was Ebun.
“So why did you do it?” her voice was no longer sweet. It was clear and crisp and her expression: deadpan. I didn’t explain to her how I had felt like a dead man walking for some years. Or how I had tried to talk to my daddy when my grades began to slip because I had lost interest in everything and he had shouted at me to: get serious with life son! I couldn’t tell her about the numerous times I tried to talk to my friends that maybe, just maybe, death is life and this life we think is life, is really death. And that I was tired of dying and wanted to start living by dying. How they had told me to shut up with all my philosophical bullshit because: suicide means rotting in hellfire for the rest of my hypothetical life! I didn’t tell her about the times that I knotted the rope to the ceiling fan in my room, but my courage failed me every damn time.
“It was a mistake” I told her, “A failed experiment. Or an evil spirit. I think it was an evil spirit, because the courage that overtook me was external. A simple timid, man like myself, couldn’t have summoned up enough courage to taste death. Not in a million years.”
She held the voice recorder in her right hand and listened to me intently, searching my face for expressions. “That would be all,” she said “Thank you for your time.”
“No. Thank you.” I tried to wink but I think it ended up looking like I was wincing out of pain because she came closer and asked me if I was alright. I told her that I was fine and that all I did was try to wink and that obviously I failed. And she laughed.
“Before you leave. I’d really appreciate it if you could write your number on the plaster on my leg.”
“Sure. Why not?” she said enthusiastically as she scribbled some numbers on my left leg. I don’t know if it was post-failed-attempted-suicide pity or if she was really feeling the boy. I hoped it was the latter. She waved goodbye and I winked again. This time, she smiled. So, my fame had finally found me. Getting interviews from pretty women. I wasn’t just a nobody anymore. I was a survivor. I had tasted the poison that is death—and survived. A hero.
My next visitor was my dad. I heard his quiet footsteps approach and quickly feigned slumber. My father—a man of very few words. He said nothing. I felt him rub my eyebrows with his thumb. They were wet. I heard him sniff. He was crying. Then I felt a teardrop splash on my cheek. I wanted to wipe it off and scrub my face. I wanted to scream. My daddy never cries. The only time he cried was when mummy died. I felt terrible. Then I heard daddy’s footsteps as he walked away. They were brisk and unusual.
I couldn’t move my hands up to clean my face. My hands were pinned down by the plaster. So I laid there and felt the tear evaporate into the pores on my facial skin and then into my soul. It asked me only one question: why?
I couldn’t answer. I wanted to apologise to daddy. To tell him that I was sorry for trying to take our life. It was selfish of me. I should have asked for his permission first.