I thank God for my life, I mean, being born into such wealthy family gives you every reason to thank Baba upstairs. My dad was a foreign ambassador and was nicknamed, “Father of many nations” by my mum. He was always in and out of the country; a philanthropist at that. My mom, a top level civil servant, business woman and model; not what you think. She is not a runway model. She was more of a face model and she was into adverts. So yes, she’d pass of as a model. Her versatility was also an inspiration to a lot of people. Apparently, she was a model in more ways than one. I was the last of seven children, the only boy amongst them all. Five of my sisters had been married out; the last was far away in India studying medicine. I had everything at my disposal. The keyword being everything, from attending the best school in this part of the county, travelling abroad every summer holiday, and to having the latest of toys.
All these took a twist in the summer of my SS2 holiday. Mum walked into my hotel room to tell me I was no longer going back to that school. I paused the movie and transferred my gaze from the laptop screen to her face wearing a smirk. Finally, I am going to finish my schooling over here in America I thought only for her to tell me I was being transferred to a public secondary school. I felt a numbness in my legs as the words fell out of her mouth. I knew it had to be the punishment for throwing a house party a girl almost drowned in the pool while they were away. Dad never complained about it but I knew he had something terrible planned for me as punishment. I wailed and questioned her.
Her reply was, “It is your dad’s decision. Moreover, life is not always as sweet you’d want to have it, it has its own bitter side. You need to be unchained from the shackles of excessive pampering. You need exposure!”
Those words got me silent. I didn’t bother asking her to try and convince dad as the undertone in her voice showed she was into the whole idea of my transfer. My dad’s word was gospel anyways.
The remainder of the holiday rolled by without me noticing. I was distraught by it all. The hardest part of my new reality was telling my friends. They laughed over the news of my transfer for days. I guess that is what you get for having savages as friends. Upon resumption, I wore my new school’s colors – green and cream with a hideous pair of sandals. My first week at Feyingbole Grammar High was a nightmare; the second day of that week especially. During lunch break that day I was deprived my lunch. A boy from nowhere tossed my lunch out of my hands at the canteen intentionally twice. The second time, I challenged him and he called it “egbon”, his way of welcoming me. As if that humiliation wasn’t enough, I got back to a locker filled with grass and biscuit wrappers. I was too hungry to shout at anyone. I lived out my biggest fear of being bullied in High Definition (HD). I was picked on at every little chance.
My new reality went on and even though Mum could sense my struggle at school, she chose not to utter a word. I woke up late one morning to discover with dismay that I didn’t have any clean uniform to wear. I literally died at the thought of cutting grass or washing toilets as late comers would after morning assembly. The toilet in that school is best described a disaster waiting to happen! Normally, Nana, our house help would have taken care of my laundry, all I needed to do was wear it. All that changed upon resumption, my parents wanted me doing all that myself. I scrambled into the bathroom where I washed and towel-dried my uniform. I ironed it afterwards. One could say I dressed up on my way to school, yet; I was late.
I cursed my alarm for not ringing out loud enough as I imagined the bruises about to be imprinted on my palms after cutting grass. This train of thought was cut short by the punctuality prefect as his badge read, he signaled that I should go in without having to do any work asides pick one or two papers. Such relief! That was the very first day I smiled while passing through the school gate.
Shortly after settling into my seat, Mr. Babalola our Yoruba teacher walked in. He had this nickname amongst students “Aja One”, names in this school made no sense. Nothing did in general. I assumed it was the shape of his ears or something. There was uproar in the class as someone called his nickname throwing the class into a frantic state. Calm was restored when the punctuality prefect who saved my palms from blisters walked in. I was surprised at such authority. Apparently, over here at Feyingbole High, some students commanded more respect than teachers themselves. I thanked him afterwards as he tucked himself in the vacant seat beside mine but he passed it off as nothing. He happened to be my seat partner. We read chapters from Ijapa Tiroko during Mr. Babalola’s class. At the close of day, he walked me home as we talked along the way. He happened to reside two streets away from mine. His name was Damilola.
Damilola seemed to be all I needed to settle in fully, as tears I shed from the hardship of my new life dried up faster than a well in a desert. Our bond grew after first term results were released. I had an E in Mathematics while he on the other hand had an A; like he did in every other subject. He offered to tutor me for our WAEC examinations which were fast approaching. Some days we stayed back at school after school hours. Other days he came over to my house to teach me. I went over to his house after much persuasion. His house was rather small, almost the size of our garage, if not smaller. I started to realize life wasn’t all rainbows after all. I admired him a lot. He was frail in stature but full of big dreams; a near perfectionist. He was everything I wasn’t. I learnt the ropes of survival from him.
WAEC came around and I wrote with such confidence, after nights of rigorous study, practice and tutorials. Mathematics was a stroll in the park thanks to Dami. Yoruba was our last paper, after which we headed to my house. He wanted me to work on the National Photo Competition our principal had talked about sometime earlier. The theme: “Describe you last year of Senior Secondary School in one picture.” He understood my love for photography and encouraged me to take a step.
“What do you have to lose?” he asked.
We headed out after changing from our school uniforms with my camera in hand. Taking random shots at we sauntered down the street. On getting to his street, we passed by his house. His compound was all busy as they prepared for his sister’s engagement.
“Dami,” his father called, “come hold this head. Learn how to be a man!” his father ordered.
He took off his shirt and threw it in my direction before his father’s words left his mouth. After he was done dehorning the cow with his father, He playful raised the horn to the sky like a gladiator in the arena. The pose struck me and I took a shot. Unknown to him that described my last year of senior secondary school, I felt triumphant!
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