It is sometime around 10 a.m. I am in my school uniform, walking away from my secondary school. I have been sent out of school again, for reasons owing to late school fees payment. The proprietor has called my father, and they have both arrived at a conclusion that involves me leaving the school, only to come back when I have the fees. I am sitting on the chair in the living room when my father arrives from work.
You’ll have to change schools, he informs me. I am shocked. A 14-year old realising that he isn’t going to see his friends anymore. Why?
Your fees. I can no longer afford your fees in that school.
I am devastated. Junior WAEC is only a few months away, and this is what you come home to tell me. In less than three days, I resume in a school not far from home. An uncompleted building that passes for a school. The school fees is fair enough, so my father do not really care about the little things that bother me. Like the English teacher who has a weird accent, and the Economics teacher who frequents Baba Ijebu shops.
February 14, 2014.
I have my first girlfriend; and it is at this point my woes begin.
How do you know she loves you? What do you even know about love? You are 14. She is 13. Stop all these fooling around and face your studies.
This is the first time I break a woman’s heart. We are both young, and in love (according to whatever definition). We visit each other, kiss at random times, but never talk. I do not know why we never talk. Perhaps the intellectual gap isn’t as inconsequential as we initially thought. The teachers might say that I am one of the smartest kids in class. When it comes to my girlfriend’s academic abilities, they would rather sigh and talk about something else.
Perhaps this intellectual gap is one of the few things that trigger the breakup. I pen a five-page essay on why I should not have a girlfriend at the age of 14. Then send her a message on 2go announcing the breakup. It’s not you, it’s me. I have to figure my life out. She send messages. Send her friends to speak with me and all that shit. I’ll have nothing of that. I need to focus. A girlfriend is nothing but distraction.
A few years later, I will be going through my updates on WhatsApp. Her picture will pop up. I wouldn’t know how exactly to feel because she will be looking all sexy and beautiful. I will just scroll past.
Life is getting serious. I cannot seem to have a complete grasp around my life, around things. I don’t have a girlfriend; I cannot even speak to a lady and explain my feelings. I’ll be 15 in a month. I should be living the teenage life, you know, with all the drama and all. I’m not. I am in the sitting room listening to my parents fight again.
Saturday evening and I am writing a poem about a man who lost his family; it’s for church. It will be recited on Thanksgiving Sunday. Mother barges in. Father comes out. A fight ensues. Mother shouts, father attempts to hit her. She dodges his punch.
I’m done, she shouts. I’ll have no more of this.
Then she goes in and starts packing. My brothers are staring in disbelief. Shock. Fear. I keep writing, but my eyes are moist. That night in September, mother leaves.
This is how mother leaves home. Like a scene in a Nollywood movie. No building up. No prior fight. I am wondering why I have never written about this until now. I do not know why I never talk about it with my parents; it’s not like we ever talk about anything. I should feel better after this. I should.
For a short while, we have a stepmother. She is kind (everybody is in their own unique way). After a short argument on one of those days where the sky is a faded grey, and you do not feel like washing your clothes, she leaves with her two daughters. My stepsisters.
I miss those girls. I think.
I and my brothers live with mother for a while in Mile 2. She is doing well.
We have just moved into our house. Mother is back. And she’s fucking beautiful. I have been given an Android phone; Itel. I really like it. It is so easy to download songs and games. Porn too. There are times I even stream them. I am writing my GCE exams. Life seems good. Until I lost my Android phone on a Saturday, and I get a call the next week announcing Daniel’s death.
Daniel is my older brother’s best friend. He is dead.
I am thrown into a fit of unexplainable emotions. How did it happen? The caller said it was a headache. Headache. I am thinking so hard, trying to find the sense in his death. The logicality of the whole event. The why. The reason why death chooses to claim an only child. A good friend whose birthday is just a few weeks away. And a visit too; he promised a visit.
Depression isn’t some fancy word you throw around. It eats you up, like cancer. Eats into your skin slowly, like a patient vampire. Enters your bloodstream, fucks with your veins and arteries. Fucks your brain up. Then it gives you a gun, and you blow your fucking head to pieces.
I start having weird dreams. Writing long poems. I begin seeing horns on the heads of other people. I hear random people breathe. I cannot remember the name of the guy who just introduced himself to me. I am listening to so many songs by so many artistes.
It is a new feeling, and I have no idea something is wrong. Nobody is complaining; I have always been an introvert. I have always kept to myself. Why should anyone — including myself — be worried?
With all these, I do not cry for Daniel.
It is raining cats and dogs here. I am in the living room on a two-seater sofa, listening to songs. My dad suddenly comes out of his room.
David, follow me.
He is disheveled. His cloth is slung over his shoulder. His eyes are unsettled. I ask no questions, I follow.
We stop at the house at the street’s junction. We see several men gathered under the rain, talking in hushed tones.
Minutes later, I hear, an older friend has been struck by lightning. He is dead.
I do not cry again. There are just some things we’ll never get to understand.
Have you ever seen a game between Barcelona and Real Madrid? You see how you can’t predict the goals, no matter the form of each team? That’s how death is.
Sometimes in April.
My mother loses her sister — Aunty Mary — to tuberculosis. I do not think I believe in a God anymore.
It no longer hides. It no longer hides behind my fake smiles and short stories. It no longer paints itself as something else. I am a flower blowing in the wind of life, and nothing holds meaning for me. I have thought of suicide. But why the fuck can’t I just go ahead with it?! Perhaps I am scared. Of what? Death feels like a great option. So what am I scared of? I don’t want to think about it.
I am probably suffering from overthinking.
Things aren’t changing. I feel as though there is something after me, thirsting after my soul. I find solace in silence. Solitude, and perhaps some Sufjan Stevens. Or Green Day.
Oh, David is just an introvert.
I am gradually slipping away, and sometimes it actually feels good. It starts with me doing something fun, like listening to sad songs. The song gradually fades away, and I am in this trance-like situation, watching myself do something else. Like a lucid dream.
Or I am on a job that requires me to write about how to be a successful entrepreneur in the 21st-century. Yet I suddenly find myself staring emptily into space.
Good news: I have been admitted into the University of Ibadan. So what? Perhaps it is an escape. It better be an escape.
It is a scary thing to fall in love. One minute you are talking about stars with your hand in hers, and the next she is throwing shoes at you.
Mine isn’t exactly like that. That actually is better than mine.
It is November 4, 2018, and the young woman I love with all my heart is leaving to study in a country two continents away.
I. Just. Want. To. Fucking. Scream.
These days I exist. Like a tree. Usually just there. I answer with fine to how are you’s. I listen to trap. I don’t try to make new frientds. I offer comic relief in awkward situations. I argue movies. Discuss songs and books. Have fun with the boys. I play PES. I avoid deep conversations. I spend time with Mia online when I can. I write. I eat as much as I can, even though I still look like a low-budget J. Cole. I smile. Sometimes. Maybe most times. Sometimes genuine. Other times it’s because I have to sign my course form, or make someone feel good. It can be tiring though. I pray most times. For a lot of things.
Speaking about my dreams with my girlfriend.
You shouldn’t rush, David.
I’m not. I just have to do all I want to before death finally seizes me. Or before this mental illness drives me to a mental health facility.
Perhaps I am a survivor. Perhaps life has more in stock for me. Till then, I’ll keep existing because that is all I can do.
ADEWUSI G. DAVID