BATTLING WITH MY FEARS
It is 4:30pm. You sit on your bed, yoga style. The other day, you had read in a blog post how this sitting position was the best for effective writing especially when one’s muse was being toyed with by their village people. That is exactly your present predicament and you’ve been sitting in this position for God knows how long. Your phone lay on your bed, open to a blank page on WPS Office. The cursor blinks on desperately, yearning to be utilized.
Your head feels woolly. Many ideas swim inside it but none seem worth writing about. You want to write about your hard-to-please Creative Writing lecturer who, last week, had praised your ‘brilliant short story entry’ in front of the whole class. You want to write about the joyful pride you had felt after the class when your course mates came etching around you to have a glimpse of the story. You want to write about Ose who, according to your friends’ analysis, was your girlfriend. Of course, their analysis was wrong but in a way, you want it to be right. You want her to stop introducing you to her friends as ‘my friend.’ More ideas keep coming to your brain but each seems more unworthy of being penned down than the previous.
Minutes later, you become so frustrated you freak out. You say ‘fuck it’ and pick up your phone. You minimise the WPS Office page and log on to Whatsapp. Before you settled down to write, you had promised yourself you won’t go online until you had at least written two paragraphs. But sitting down there totally blacked out, you know if you had waited another minute in that ‘yeye’ yoga position, you could have gone insane.
Very soon, your Whatsapp messages come flooding in. You have 666 messages from 19 chats. You shake your head at the thought of the number of your messages being the same as that of the mark of the beast. You already know where the bulk of messages came from even before checking. It was from your departmental group. Most times when there were many messages like this, it was due to a verbal quarrel between two warring parties. You quickly click to check what the matter is this time. When you see what it is, your mouth opens wide, not of its own volition. “Our long awaited results are finally out!” your course rep had written. Following this message was a series of captured papers pasted on your departmental Notice Board which contained the results of the whole class. Suddenly, your heart begins to pound. You cannot risk checking yours, not now at least.
The previous semester had been a disaster altogether. It was not because you were given a late admission and therefore, had to resume a month later than your colleagues. Also, it was not due to the mad rush after resumption, how you had had to combine attending lectures with doing one Clearance after another; neither was it because for the first time, you had had to put up with the many rigours of hostel life. You know, now that you think of it, that it was all your fault.
Last semester had started and ended hazily. There had been a perpetual fear tied around your neck that had held you to ransom throughout the semester. The fear of failure. Its effect was so monumental that everything you ever did had been controlled by it. You had attended lectures listening keenly to the lecturers, afraid to miss one word from their repertoire of knowledge. It was worse when you read. You had read voraciously, paying attention to every word, phrase, clause and sentence. Throughout the semester, you had read more than you had eaten. In the exam hall, it was no different. Fear had gripped your heart even before the Question papers were distributed so that every answer was written with a trembling hand.
All these changed when you met Ose in the new semester. She came into your life and took away your fears. It was more like a divine set-up. It wasn’t because you both had met in Church that you think this. No. It was more because of the circumstances surrounding the meeting.
It had been on a Sunday. Sundays for you was a day for Church, Rest and Intense Reading. You would go for early morning Mass after which you’d go to the hostel, fill up your stomach and then head to the library where you’d read till your eyes began to itch. That Sunday, however, had been different. You were lured into waiting for a Legion of Mary meeting after Mass by your roommate who had always pestered you to join the group. Reluctantly, you had attended the meeting. At the end, you were grateful to your roommate for having made you wait.
“Hi. Brother Chima,” she had greeted with a smile just after the meeting’s conclusion.
“Hello. I don’t think we’ve met,” you had replied, taken aback.
“Then I must be some sort of goddess to know your name.” A deep grin was planted on her face as she spoke. “My name is Osezenaga but you can call me Ose, to save you the stress.” You could tell from the way she said this that it was something she said often, a ritual she performed while introducing herself to new people.
“Errhm…. My name is Chima.. I.. ” you stutter. You were surprised, not only by her manner of approach but also by her gorgeousness. She was of average height, fair skinned and possessed the most gorgeous set of eyes. ‘Beautiful’ would be very trite to be used in describing her.
“I know your name already na.” She smiled, showing all her teeth. “Do you stay in the hostel? I heard there are some bad boys lurking around the corner on the way. You’ll make a good bouncer.” Smiling was her second nature.
Your trip to the hostel was fun. You both chatted as though you had known each other for years. You told her you stayed in Ijebu-Ode, that your parents did business there. She, on her part, was born and bred in Benin. According to her, the only other place she had been to outside Benin was Lagos, where she sometimes went for holidays, at her aunt’s. She wouldn’t stop talking about Lagos; the sky-reaching skyscrapers, the Sea and the general boisterousness of the city. She argued that Lagos should have remained the capital city of Nigeria, that no other city has an amazingly empirical description of the two major classes of people that existed in the country. The Rich who stay on the Island and the Poor cum Middle Class whose place is on the Mainland.
You had learnt a lot from the conversation. You learnt that other tribes other than Bini existed in Edo State. It was when you asked her if she spoke Bini and she said No, she didn’t. You had wanted to say that you weren’t surprised. That you had, in fact, not expected her to be able to speak her language because the lingua franca here, even among the adults, was Pidgin English. She had cut you off. She wasn’t Bini, she had said. She was Esan and she spoke her language perfectly well. You had become puzzled and she had laughed at you, a laugh that said ‘I understand how you feel right now.’ She then went ahead to explain, mentioning some other tribes that were also a part of the State.
When you get to the front of her hostel, you had realized you didn’t want to part with her just yet. You knew she had also felt the same way. She had reduced her pace and sometimes even stopped walking, as either of you talked.
“Chima, how come you don’t have an Igbo accent,” she had asked at some point.
“Well, how did you know how to detect one who has it?”
“Common, I have many Igbo friends and all of them speak with the same intonation.” she had replied with a giggle.
“Wow. You have many Igbo friends?”
“Of course. You guys are an itinerant lot. Why is that, anyway?”
Now, that was a big word for you. You had never heard it before now. You had stared at her wide-eyed, unsure of how to respond. She had looked at you understandingly for a brief moment and then added,
“You travel all the way from your village and settle down in the West. You are not satisfied. Now, you’re in Benin for University. I’m sure you’ll be the happiest man on earth if you get posted to Kano for NYSC,” she had said with a chuckle.
You had smiled.
There and then, you had fallen in love with Ose. Not the erotic kind that made one touch themselves at the thought of the other when alone. No, not that kind. It was a sincere love, one that came from the depth of your soul. From then on, you both became very close friends. You weren’t in a relationship and if she had a boyfriend, she never spoke about it. You wanted your friendship with her to mature a bit and when you thought it was the right time, you’d ask her out.
Your meeting days was majorly Sundays. You’d meet in front of her hostel and walk hand in hand to church. Later in the evening, you’d sit together for hours unending at the Relaxation Park in front of her hostel. Sometimes, she’d cook spicy Jollof rice and you’d both eat in silence, savouring the food and the blissful moment. Most times, you talked. You talked about everything and anything. It was on one of those evenings you told her about your fears. She had watched you with tender eyes, listening intently to every detail. Afterwards, she had spoken soothing words to you, urging you to face your fears head-on and conquer it. Without that, she had said, one won’t go far in life.
It was the following week that your hard-to-please Creative Writing lecturer praised your ‘brilliant short story entry’ in front of the whole class.
Now, it’s 6:00pm and you’re still sitting on your bed but not yoga style this time. And you’re still logged on to Whatsapp. Your head is still as blank as a tabula raza. For the last hour, you had ignored series of messages and calls from your departmental friends. You know why they’re calling so you just keep ignoring them. Discussing results was the last thing on your mind right now.
Soon, another call enters. You get ready to mute it as usual until you see the caller’s name. Ose. Your heart skip a bit. Ose rarely called. Most times she called, it was always for a serious reason. A bad day, a disturbing male lecturer, family problems. You both chatted mainly on Whatsapp. She was always online. Sometimes, you wondered how she – an Optometry student in her first year managed to squeeze out some time for reading. She was intelligent anyway, you always concluded. You had seen her last semester’s result days ago and it was flawless.
With a shaky hand, you receive the call. Your guess is as good as true when you hear her words.
“Chima, something terrible just happened. I really need to see you. Let’s meet at our usual spot ASAP.” She sounds fuzzy, as though she had been crying for a long time.
You don’t stop to think. You jump off your bed in a frenzy and get dressed. In less than five minutes, you’re in front of her hostel, holding her hands, her head resting on your shoulders. She is as beautiful as always, even in her melancholy state. She is sobbing Now, quietly. You don’t want to bother her yet. You want her to take her time before stating the problem.
“My boyfriend broke up with me today,” she finally says.
You are unsure of how you feel after hearing this. You don’t even know what to feel. It seems to be a mixture of mild anger and gladness of heart. Angry because you had not known before now that she was in a serious relationship, the thought that she had hidden something of so much importance from you for so long pisses you off a bit. Your heart, on the other hand, is dancing merrily to Davido’s ‘If’ blaring from the speaker outside the nearby barber’s shop. A voice in your head tells you, “She’s all yours now.” You’re filled with so much joy, you’re afraid your heart will burst out open, spilling out tiny bits of happiness.
Ose raises up her head and wipes her tears. She looks at you right in the eye, straight-faced, as though she were trying to read your mind.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about him. I really am. He has always been a pain in the ass and I didn’t want to bore you, telling you about him. I’m happy we have now call it quits,” she says wearing a smile.
“It’s okay,” you say. “Everything happens for a reason.”
She smiles, a knowing smile.
“That reminds me. I heard your first semester results are out. How was yours?”
Her question jolts you back to reality. Your heart thumps violently. You are sure she can hear your heartbeat loud and clear.
You are beginning to explain why you hadn’t checked it yet but she didn’t give you room to. She already understood. She puts her index finger across her lips vertically and you hand over your phone to her, telling her your Matric number. In those fleeting seconds when she glanced at your result, you stop breathing. Your heart slips into your mouth and starts an abnormal beating sequence.
Moments later, she focuses her eyes on yours, her face expressionless.
“Congrats Mr Chima. Your have beaten your fears hands down,” she says eventually.
By: Joshua Ugwu Ebuka