I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THIS WHEN I was watching that boy demonstrate words. I'm sad. I feel like breaking bottles now with this gin going through my nerves.
I WAS IN MY ELDER BROTHER'S ROOM, this evening, looking out onto the street through the windows. The street was busy like it always was every other Sunday evening; vehicles were moving past at different speeds, young and older persons, boys with visibly cute bulges and bodies and faces, long-legged girls with grace in and on their bodies and gaits.
I was there for the boys. There is something about boys to me. This something about boys is like an unquenchable longing, an indestructible want. But I wasn't caught by a boy with much beauty. I was caught by my emotions, superior emotions: love, sadness, sobriety. But the emotions got caught and caused by a boy. I call him a boy because I think I saw a little swelling around his crotch, covered by a pair of ash-coloured shorts. If he was really a boy then he was an effeminate. His gait. The movement of his hands. His butt. Much about him seemed feminine.
I cried when I saw him signal to a child passing by and its mother. He first made a sound, and then started with his hand. But they never saw him. They didn't notice him though the way he behaved showed that they were neighbours. He then turned towards the road. Yes, towards the road. He was sitting on a big old and out-of-the-state-of-usability tyre beside the road. He started soliloquizing. But not the way we do it. He spoke to himself with his hands. I saw life. He gave me some sense like a finger of banana out of a bunch. He would later ask the woman selling oranges at the junction, who had given him an orange, if she was leaving her wares to go home. The woman would nod. And tell him, with her hands, that she was going to return after a while. And he would nod.
He would soon join his elder brother, who was playing with other kids, but he would sit quietly away from them. He stayed on his own and he was not the sort of kid you could easily label as a good child. No. I watched him beat up younger kids who had sat beside him on the tyre. His smile was that of wickedness. He smiled to them only when he was about doing something wicked. He was happy when his brother ran away with the rings of yellow and red and green rubber bands that they all(the other kids) played with. He supported evil.
But I cried for him. I cried because I knew what it meant to be alone. I cried because he was too young, maybe seven, eight, or nine. I cried because I couldn't hold myself back. I cried because words could be formed in his brain and tongue, but could not roll out. I cried because I could only cry. And now I want to write that I wept. But I think that crying is just the same thing as weeping.
I would later learn that there are two dumb boys in his nuclear or immediate family. I would learn that they(he and his brother) are also deaf, and not just dumb.
I HAD MY MATHEMATICS EXAM YESTERDAY. It wasn't easy. I tried my best. And when I was ready to shade the ones I didn't know and couldn't solve out, a girl sitting beside me, who had subscribed for answers, and had also paid the Chief Invigilator to let her use her phone, offered to help me. I happily agreed. I would later request that she shade the answers herself so that we would not be caught - the invigilators will not let anyone who hadn't paid to pair with someone who had paid them. It was not bribery. It was not corruption. It was not examination malpractice. Call it this: Helping Yourself. People were helping themselves, though they never did that when the External Examination Centre Supervisor arrived.
Sometimes we can't stand as high as we have always stood. Sometimes our eyes, our legs, our bodies become so heavy with problems and we have to run for support in ways we once considered to be not-so-good.
There was this boy in the hall; slender, almost yellow like a pepper coated with a whitish-brown powder, lovely. He was the son of the President of the Customary Court Judges Association in the state. He was always helping himself. Unlike others, he never paid daily. Maybe a parent had paid for all his papers. Sometimes he was using his phone, a textbook, notebook, etc. I had learnt his name: Valentine.
And there was Vincent who always sat with the Essay Answer Sheet and pretended to be writing while a teacher from his school, which was the examination centre, wrote for him. The External Examination Centre Supervisor arrived while we were writing our Government Objective Paper. The beautiful woman made it to the centre against the anticipation of the centre invigilators. Vincent couldn't write. Later, when the woman had gone, one of the teachers would help him erase the 'wrong' answers and shade the 'right' ones.
And Jennifer a Grade 11 student who never came to the hall but, like the ones who stayed outside, under the Jacaranda tree, had her papers passed in the hall. I wonder what happens to her attendance register. Jennifer is a celebrity in and outside the church, her school (the examination centre) and other places. She is a lot of Miss (this and that) and she had won a scholarship to study freely for a school year because she had performed astoundingly well in the state's debate competition.
While we wrote the Government paper. I talked with a boy sitting behind me. A sweet, cute boy who was my senior in school. We talked about people who came into the hall to take many
answer sheets, to submit some and pass the others to students. We talked about students who paid so they could move to the backseats and help themselves. And we also talked about the noisy helicopters moving in the air because the President of the Federal Republic, a wiry, once beautiful, sick man had come to commission the flyover bridges and road projects in the state, and take some chieftaincy titles.
HE DIDN'T GO ON LAND. He didn't come from Abuja in a car.
Mr. President, do you know that Nigeria is a country and not a nation?
Mr. President, how will you know the state of the federal roads when you don't use them? Why should your coming stop the normal activities in the state capital and keep people grounded in their homes? Didn't you notice that the way to the places you visited were barricaded? Maybe you didn't notice that because of those carrying placards and singing
for you by the roadsides. Those people suffered to get there. Didn't you notice that none of them could come nearer than they were? Their legs weren't actually stiff.
Mr. President, it was fear. Fear. That single word that meant almost everything. That word that could be attached to every feeling or emotion. It hardly changed its form but it could change that of others. Those people were fearfully happy. Those people cheered and applauded you in fear. Those people were afraid of some things. They were afraid of the military men everywhere. They couldn't draw nearer because they had seen a little girl lose the full tray of groundnut. They had watched the soldiers beat-up an old man. They had seen the soldiers flog people out of the way. They watched the military men do all that for you. They had seen the fastest vehicle that conveyed people to the transcendental planet. Guns. Big guns were everywhere.
Fear is two cold arms folded over the chest. Fear is a heart beating, pulse counting rapidly, eyes wandering with caution, ears carefully listening for the slightest sound signalling danger. Mr. President, how big are you that you are bigger than a crowd? How old are you that the aged get beaten because your legs have touched the ground? How kind are you that your presence made those soldiers disperse wares to the crowd - if they were ready to feed from the ground? Were you like them when you were an active soldier? Will you destroy me if I tell you that I had wished the helicopter you were in had crashed?
YOLO YOLO BY SEYI SHAY IS LOUDLY PLAYING on repeat from the home theatre. I am lying back-to-the-floor in my elder brother's room. I am trying to see the young boy (I believe he is not up to sixteen years old), who had helped a woman transport her heavy tubers of yam in his wheelbarrow, in my mind's eye. The boy was smallish. He was dark. I hardly believed it when people compared the skin colour of others to charcoal, but the boy I had seen was almost a charcoal. He was sweating. Salty water soaking up his used-to-be-white shirt. The woman would later give him a fifty naira note. The boy would complain that the money was too little. He would beg her to increase it, to add a little more. And the woman would smile devilishly and arrogantly tell the boy to thank her for being so generous as to give him that much.
And why do we think young boys who are thieves are wicked? Can't we see that we sometimes lower our standards and level of discipline because we can't live through them,
because people will always hurt us if we keep our hands folded watching them, because the world is not a paradise, because life is never fair?
I'm not drunk like I was that night when I mixed some orange juice in equal proportion with a half-filled tot glass of my father's gin. My stepbrother had brought a bottle of 8PM whiskey to my father that evening but I was afraid of drinking the whiskey. Not because it would have a greater alcoholic percentage. No. I was just afraid. I feared that he might have added some spells, some wicked prayers to the drink. I was afraid of harm. I was afraid of writing this. The Electricity Distribution Company are afraid. They will not cut the electricity supply until the President leaves the state. And there will be a total blackout.
Fear has always done something unexplainable and inexpressible to us. Now I'm afraid that all magazines will reject this.
Nwanne Agwu is an Igbo teenager. He is a shy, happily angry humanist with many questions smiling in his mind. He dislikes and likes a lot. Some of his stories have appeared in the Pegician, Flash Fiction Press, Brittle Paper, Afreecan Read and Youth Shades. He'd also posted some things here: nwanneagwu.wordpress.com