Short Story: Non-Fiction

13th September 2009

Dear TJ,

I am sorry I haven’t written to you in several weeks. I have been impossibly busy—the new biology teacher intends to murder us with drawing tests and assignments (he claims we know nothing in that regard), my father has got me maths and physics tutors in addition to the Jamb classes I take during the weekends and my mother has decided I must learn to cook now that all my older siblings have abandoned us to study in the university—and time has passed like a speeding race car. Nonetheless, not much has changed since my last letter; Papa Jones still talks to his chickens every morning and I am still dying to visit you in Akure. Your letters have only left me more eager.

I had to write to you today because of a secret I’ve been keeping that is now proving a burden. No, it is not a boy. I know that is what you would expect, it hasn’t happened yet. And let’s be honest I am not interested in any of those empty-headed boys; they aren’t interested in me either. They want boobs and the sorts and we both know I am not endowed in that sense. All that is useless talk sha, my father has already warned me against making boys my priority like Sister Shola. Remember what he did to her? See, my father does not make empty threats. Back to my secret; let me start from the beginning.

There is a new girl in our class and oh my days Tijesunimi, isn’t she the snob? The whole of SS2 knows this. She walks with a slight bounce and her chest is always pointed extra forward as though to announce her arrival. I will give it to her sha—yes, she is fine, the kind of fine SS2 boys like. I won’t lie about that. And I should probably also mention now that she is no bimbo; she is quite smart for a superficial, big-chested, snobbish brat. Lara—class olofofo—has made it public that Anna—new girl—is from a rich family and she only came to our school because a teacher attempted to rape her in her former school. No one knew how Lara knew but we all know better than to disbelieve her, so for the first few weeks we treated Anna with the familiar sympathy people dose out to victims. That only lasted two weeks. She lashed back at Mr. Adekola for correcting her, he gave her his customary two strokes of Mr. Goody-Goody and he was fired the next day, hence why we have a new biology teacher. Right about then, we all realized she wasn’t the type deserving sympathy or friendship for that matter. Maybe that’s a bit too harsh since I barely know her, but still.

Anyway, last week Monday Anna came to school with a new set of highlighters that were so painfully cute I could not look away. Nobody asked but she told all who had ears that she bought the set at CLOUDNINE BOOKSHOP the day before. She also did not forget to add that they gifted her a mathematical set to go with the highlighters because the owner of the bookshop was a friend of her father’s. I did not care deeply for the last bit of information as I did for the first. I wanted those highlighters so I decided to go to CLOUDNINE to ask for the price and then head back home. That was a bad idea.

There were many bad omens about heading down the road to CLOUDNINE—never mind the fact that it is only about 10 minutes from the school gate—one of them was that it was raining. It was only a slight drizzle when I left the school gate but by the time I crossed the express, heaven’s gutters were let loose. But you know how much I love rain; the weather didn’t really bother me. I quickly removed my leather black shoes, exchanged them for my PE canvas and continued on my way energetically, especially since I had the bookshop in not-so-distant sight.

This is the tricky part. Remember that white mansion on the way to CLOUDNINE, the one that borders the road that leads straight down to the bookshop? Yes, that one. There was a landslide on that road, such that the road itself is about six feet below where it was before. It sounds like a giant joke I know. But I’m not kidding. It looked pretty bad. I don’t know when or how it happened but that’s what I saw when I got there. Not only that, people now treaded a narrow footpath between the white fence and the now six-feet-below-road to get across. I was alone on the trail and I decided I had better get going and stopped analyzing the situation lest my father came looking for me. I stamped my left foot twice on the narrow footpath before I stood on it fully—it felt solid enough. I made it to the other side and brisk-walked to CLOUDNINE. The rain was subsiding.

The highlighters were 500 naira. Imagine that; just 500 naira and Miss A was bragging up and down. I was able to buy it immediately because it was Monday; I still had my allowance for the week and I didn’t want to have to go back there. I even bought Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart because it was just 350 there and 500 in school. By the time I was done with my sightseeing and limited buying (I am still going to spend my first salary in a bookshop TJ), the rain had come to an acute halt and my clothes were less damp. Not dry enough to save me from a scolding but less damp enough to save me form a beating.

To my utter shock TJ, I came out to see a semi large crowd at the site of the landslide. I dashed there to find out what had happened. Turned out an old woman was doing exactly what I did—walk the narrow footpath—and the fence came tumbling down on her. She felled head first into the accumulation of mud water six feet below. And died. She died. I was totally astonished. I didn’t move for about fifteen minutes. It was beginning to get dark when the crowd started clearing and I came to my senses. I had to fetch an okada to take me through a different route to get home. I told my parents I had extra work in school hence why I was late. They were both in the sitting room. My mother shook her head. My father said something about boys, I didn’t hear.

I haven’t told anyone what happened, well except you. I don’t know if I should be happy it wasn’t me or sad someone died. It even appeared in the papers, it was my father who showed me in the same causal alarmed way he shows me unusual news he finds in the papers. I was low-key shivering.

I am glad you know, at least someone knows. Someone knows I could have died but I didn’t and somehow that makes me happy.

Write back soon.

Your best friend,

Damilola.

 

PS: I miss you, always.

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