Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Friendships Lost 2

Q's disappearance didn't mean much at first. I thought she was playing a rude prank on me and I was going to let her stew. I didn't have her time anyway, exams were approaching and even though I didn't care that much for my books, I had to show some sign of seriousness.

By the third day of her disappearance, I started getting worried. How is it that I hadn't run into Q. at the tap or in class or even at the dining hall for that matter in the past 3 days? Was she ill and at the clinic on admission? I checked and the nurse hadn't seen her all term. By that weekend, there was a red alert all over school. Q was missing!

I found myself being called to the staff room every few hours. It was dawning on me ever so slowly that I was being held responsible for Q's disappearance. Some prefects were assigned to me and I was to lead them to all our hide -outs searching for her.

Somehow, they were sure she was still within the premises at least most of the time. The teachers kept hearing reports of how they saw her at the borehole at the staff quarters or at the tuckshop gate late one night. There were all sorts of reports but no proof.

"Enkay, you are hiding Q. somewhere, you better produce her or risk being suspended!"

That was our form teacher. She was frustrated and frankly so was I!

That night during night prep, I poured my frustrations into my little diary. I accused Q. of being selfish and mean for playing such a prank and leaving me to stew in her mess. I told her I regretted having her as a friend if friendship with her meant the kind of suffering I'd had to go through for the past few days. I said I didn't understand her and her weird ways at all and that if she ever got back, I'd give her a piece of my mind.

That pretty much sums up what I wrote in that book. I'd really had it up to here and my small 10 year old mind just couldn't take any more.

The next day, we were walking back to class from the old home economics lab (The same one we went to steal water from earlier) and we had to pass by our uncompleted dining hall building. The thing had been abandoned to rot and you usually won't find students in it. Suddenly a class mate screamed "Q!". We all turned to see what the noise was all about. The girl was pointing frantically at a broken window "I just saw Q. in there!". We all stared at her blankly as the window she was pointing at obviously had no Q. in it. She insisted and started walking towards the building. the window in question happened to belong to one of the 12 toilets that lined that side of the building. Since the window was quite high, one of us dragged towards it a broken chair so she could at least get a peek.

She jumped down after a few minutes shaking her head "all I could see were cobwebs broken toilets and dry shit"

I left them there and walked towards the entrance of the building. The rest didn't know it but Q. and I hung out at that uncompleted building sometimes. There were rooms in there I was sure no other person even knew existed. Suddenly, I knew where to look. Sure enough, there she was huddled in a corner of the room. There was dried up feaces everywhere (evidence that some others knew the place better than I'd thought). She just sat there and stared at me with a look that dared me to judge her. Her hair was brown and obviously hadn't been combed in all the 2 weeks she'd been missing. Her uniform was dirty. Really dirty. It was obvious she hadn't had a bath the whole time. Did she sleep out there those two weeks? All by herself and in the cold?
Something about the way she sat there staring at me defiantly made me realize this was no prank. This was more serious than I'd thought.

"Leave the entrance all of you! Clear the way!"

It was our house mistress. I turned to look at her and that's when I realized that the rest of the class had gathered at the door way. I hadn't heard them approach. I did as I was told and stepped aside. I don't know what words were spoken but in a few minutes, Q. was being led to the staff quarters. She was to stay with one of the female teachers.

I was asked to get her clean clothes and fresh underwear. I went to her locker but couldn't seem to find any. They'd probably been thrown out by some overzealous senior. Instead, I got out my own uniforms for her and a set of my newest underwear.

By the time I went back the next day, I could see that the teacher had done quite a good job. Q's hair had been nicely trimmed, even though the unhealthy colour was still there. She looked clean and my uniform though a bit large on her somehow sat right. She wouldn't look at me though. I wondered why. I just sat there in awkward silence. I had so many questions to ask but she returned barlely one day ago and it didn't seem fair to bombard her like that.

She was at the teacher's place for another 2 weeks. Her parents had been notified and they were asked to come get her in person at the close of the term. Stories traveling through the grapevine had it that Q. said she was frustrated and wanted to kill herself. What?! What did a 10year old know about frustration and suicide for goodness' sake?!

Even when she returned to the hostel, Q. still wasn't speaking to me. She avoided me like the plague and treated me like a stranger. What have I done now?

We wrote the exams and got ready to go home. Two nights before we left, Q. walked up to me...
"Thank you very much Enkay. I heard what you wrote about me in your little black book. I thought we were friends. Now I know better."

She just turned and walked away. I was shocked to say the least!
First of all, who told Q. about the stuff I wrote? Secondly, is this how I get paid for the stress she put me through?

The next day when I asked her, she had no explanation but to say "It was B that told me what you wrote!"

She and B had become fast friends in those last few days. I should have known.

I wanted to apologise but Q. didn't give me half a chance.
Her mom came to pick her at the close of the term.

I don't know what the principal told her but Q. never returned to our school the next term. She'd been transferred to another school closer to her hometown.

I never got the chance to say my own side of the story. I never got to apologise. I'd lost Q. forever and with her, a great friendship.

Nearly 20 years later, I run into Q. again. I wish I had something really pleasant to say about that re-union (If you'd call it that). We met again on FB.

"Hi! is this the same Q. that went to XXX school? Do you remember me, Enkay?"
"Yes it me. Nice to see you again. Keep in touch"

And that was it. Nothing more.

From her frofile I could see she'd grown into a pretty, self-assured young woman currently doing post graduate studies somewhere in the UK. I was glad for her. That stint with Enkay many years ago probably forever wiped off her memory.

Still, I'm glad we were ever friends at all. That our paths crossed. For even up till now, I am yet to meet anyone like my dear, dear Q!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Big Three-Oh!

I can’t even remember that day clearly but according to my journal entry –which by the way cannot lie – the date says 8th December 2002 and the title says “Thirty things I would love to do in all of my life time!”

And then I proceeded to make this list of mine but somehow, I only stopped at number 26. I wonder why? Okay, lemme just give you guys a sneak peek into my dream list…. The words in parenthesis are my thoughts on the issues now.

  1. Learn to drive. (Imagine? How come that was number 1? I must have really thought driving was a BIG deal huh? ‘kay that one’s accomplished already, been driving for more than a year now!)
  1. Learn AutoCAD (Wow AutoCAD was THE software then! Everyone was raving about it. If you wanted to be a relevant engineer, then the AutoCAD way was the way! That’s also accomplished too and even more. In my 5 year career as an engineer, I’ve learnt to use five other more advanced engineering software!)

  1. Go to MIT (Now that’s one dream that’s still sitting on my list untouched. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Back then, I wouldn’t hear of any other school! And not that I didn’t try. I wrote my GRE and scored 1200, Wrote my TOEFL, applied to the school blah, blah, I got rejected and I promptly dropped the idea. Fickle of me I know. But I’ll get round to it again. Soon I hope!)

  1. Get married to the most wonderful man in the world! ( ) (Yeah, I left the parenthesis like that in my list ‘cos I didn’t know who it was going to be. Sure enough, approximately 1 year after I made that list, I met him! Of course I didn’t know it was ‘him’ then. We got married 4 yeas after. Mwuaah! Kisses P.! He’s absolutely the most wonderful man in all the earth! My special gift from God! I love you loads dear!)

  1. Acquire my first piece of land before I’m 35. (hehehe! Did that when I was 26. And I’m in the process of purchasing another!)

  1. Write at least 10 books. (Hmmm, me and books! I’ve started writing at least 3books but I’ve never finished any of them! I don’t even think any of them will be part of the ones I’ll eventually write. Hehehe! If I could just settle down….)

  1. Raise godly children. I’d like to have 3. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I married a man who wanted 3 kids too! Right now, I’m thinking I’d like to have had all of them by the time I’m 36 that means I should have the first one in my 30th year. Amen to that!)

  1. Own a jeep of my own in addition to 2 other cars. (I bought my first car last year and guess what kind it was? Yeah! My very own SUV! I had already driven it for 6months before I ran into this list again. I had completely forgotten I’d ever written anything like that down!)

My list contained lots of other stuff about traveling the world, getting involved in missionary work, learning music, learning to cook all sorts etc. A lot of stuff on that list has already been accomplished and there are many more waiting to be. I’ll complete the list to 30 and I’ll start another!

Okay why I’m showing you guys my list? Well just in case the title of the post doesn’t say it loudly enough, it’s my 30th birthday today!! I am thirty years old!! THIRTY! I have lived thirty years on this earth? My, my! But I don’t feel thirty! Should I feel thirty? Is there any feeling attached to thirty? Lol!

I wrote that list of mine approximately 7 years ago. I was 23 then and see how full my life has been since then! It sure didn’t seem that way while the years passed…I had my heart broken a few months after that list, I gathered myself together and moved on, My dad became sick, his company crumbled like a pack of cards, my dad died, I served my nation for one year, matured a bit, watched momc try her hands at business, I met this great guy, I searched and searched for a job, I got a phone call inviting me for a test, I got another inviting me for an interview, I waited and waited, I got another call congratulating me on my appointment!, I learned the ropes of the job, I got my very first chance to leave the shores of this nation, matured some more, P. proposed to me, I changed jobs, got promotions, got more proficient in my skills, learned the ropes of investment, lost a good deal of my money, matured some more, got married….my life has been full!

My birthdays usually fell/falls around the Easter period so I never really got to celebrate them in school. Once in primary school though, I got the chance when my mother had the bright idea of having my birthday celebrated along with my younger sister’s during a school term. I was sooo excited; I couldn’t sleep the night before. There were cartons of biscuits and vip all over just waiting to be loaded onto the school bus the next day. My new dress was hanging in momc’s room. I didn’t have to wear my school uniform like all the other ‘ordinary’ kids. I felt so special and relished the furtive and sometimes outright questioning looks I got from the other kids. I wanted to scream for everyone to hear – “it’s my birthday!!!” I was treated specially throughout that day. Frankly that was the first time I got any special treatment from anyone other than my parents. I felt so important! My heart was almost bursting with new emotions I could barely contain let alone describe! I floated on a cloud all day.

I still had some of that cloud under my shoes when I got to school the next day but they quickly disappeared when my teacher looked right through me as I entered the class and other kids treated me normally. I was disappointed but I quickly adjusted and tucked the memory of the previous day somewhere in my heart under the file name –“Birthday special feelings”

The next time I got the chance to celebrate my birthday was my final year in secondary school. As usual, I only got the chance because all form 6 girls were in school for extension classes in preparation for SSC Exams.

The rules were simple. Spread the word that your birthday was coming soon. Arrange with one of the house mistresses to cook your rice at her house. On the D-day, dress your bed with a really nice bed sheet – preferably one we’ve never seen before and wait for the gifts to arrive! There was one kink however, be prepared to live with the ‘shame’ of not getting any gifts after dressing your bed and waiting all day. So don’t start if you’re not up to it!

A little digression here if you please.

Your popularity and value in school then was usually judged by the number of beds that were required to contain your gifts on your birthday! You would usually have a ‘committee of friends who watched out for junior gals bearing gifts in the general direction of your hostel apartment. They’d rush to the girl and ask who the gift was from. And then depending on the size or perceived value of the gift, they’ll start screaming and announcing the approaching gift! All the hype! Lol!

And then there were those who weren’t so popular. They didn’t dress their beds with the special bed sheet until they’d received at least a few cards and a few gifts. That way, they saved their face in case things didn’t ‘go very well’.

At the very bottom were the most pathetic of the lot. These ones usually bought themselves several gifts and several cards and arranged for them to be brought to them by junior gals in the name of other seniors. Some wouldn’t even go that far, they’d just dress their beds and proceed to bring out their ‘gifts’ from their lockers in full view of everyone! Hahaha! Na wa o!

Okay back to my narration. I followed the rules. I announced to everyone my birthday was approaching. Thankfully, everyone was aware of the fact that I’d never before celebrated my birthday in school the previous 5 years. So there was a level of excitement there. Thank God! If there was going to be any ‘shame’ it’d be a small one. The rice was cooked but I just didn’t have the nerve to dress my bed till the first few gifts met me on my undressed bed! I quickly dressed it and put on my birthday smile. Would you believe it? By the end of that day, I had two beds dressed and filled with gifts and cards! I was overwhelmed! Again I reached into the recesses of my heart and found that special birthday feeling. I relived it and added this one to it. I had no idea I had that many friends! I felt so blessed! What a way to bow out of secondary school! That was my 16th birthday.

Two years later, I had left school and JAMB was dealing with me. I enrolled in this jamb lesson and what do you know, my birthday came around again! I’d attended the lesson for about 7months and I’d made some new friends – note that most of my friends from secondary school were from all over the country. Some of them I’ve never met again since and even those in Lagos, I was yet to locate. It was my 18th birthday. My coming of age birthday. The age at which I could finally perm my hair! (Yup, my popc was mean! I could only braid my hair. My afro kinky hair was with me till I turned 18!) I’d announced to everyone it was my birthday. Everything was set. The rice, popcorn, juice, cake, prawn crackers etc. My 18th birthday was going to be the bomb! I’d gone to lesson earlier to remind everyone and I rushed back home to get it all ready. I wasn’t expecting anyone to come until after 2pm when lesson would have been over. By 4pm, I took a chair out to the gate just to see if anyone had lost their way. I was there till 6pm. Still no one showed up. The rice was getting cold, the popcorn and prawn crackers stale, the drinks warm. By 7pm, I took my chair inside, turned on the music and commanded the party to begin! I had the party alright. My able siblings, all 8 of them were in attendance. We ate and drank and danced. We had fun! When I went to bed that night, my pillow was wet with my tears. Tears of disappointment and rejection like I’d never known before. That night, I reached into that folder of ‘special birthday feelings’ and I deleted all the files there. Something not so nice replaced it.

The next day at the lessons, everyone was full of apologies and they brought me gifts up to one week after the fact. I smiled and told them it was okay. None of them knew that none of the others showed up and I preferred to leave it that way. I took the gifts, but they meant nothing to me. I don’t even remember now what they were. Sigh!

Since that 18th birthday, up until now, I have NEVER called anyone to my birthday. I had no idea it affected me so badly but I just don’t do parties! The closest I came to organizing one was my wedding and it was a relief to see so many people there! Funny right? That relief was real still.

What I have done since and this only after I started working, was to order a nice cake and drinks. Cut the cake without much ado. Maybe a few pictures. I’d share the cake and drinks with my colleagues at the office and that’s it. Pretty convenient if you ask me. That way, I take the ‘party’ to them and I don’t give anyone the chance to ‘disappoint’ me.

Maybe I need therapy. No?

I’ll throw a party. I will! Maybe when I’m forty. But before then, I have this secret dream I hope will come true sooner than later.

In my dream, my birthday approaches just like it always does every year. Nothing special is attached to it. A friend (could be anyone at all), somehow manages to get me out of the house. Or better still, lures me out for an innocuous meeting at some restaurant. Something. Anything that doesn’t seem suspicious. As I approach the rendezvous point however, I see these live billboards (you know those types that show motion pictures) with my face on it. I do a double take as my eyes slowly become saucers and my mouth is finding it difficult to stay closed.

Picture after picture pops up and the words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY ENKAY!” splash across the screen. I’m overwhelmed, my heart is beating really fast but I keep walking towards the entrance.

Two well dressed gentlemen approach me just as I reach the entrance.


I’m surprised and I nod “yes?”

“Please come with us”

Now my curiosity is piqued. I’m looking around to see if I can find any familiar face. There is none.

The men lead me to an entrance by the side of the building.

The ambience instantly relaxes me and I only walk a few steps before I realize they are playing one of my favorite songs!

I’m looking into the faces of the young men then for some explanation but they wear blank expressions.

They point to a door and then ask me to go inside. There is a lady there I am sure I’ve never met before but she goes ‘Enkay! You are welcome.”

I smile and start to ask a question but she smoothly brushes that aside. Strangely I feel relaxed. She proceeds to bring out from the closet the most gorgeous dress I have ever seen. I knew instantly it was for me!

Under one hour, she has done a complete makeover on me. She worked expertly on my hair, face, nails etc. I feel like Miss World!

When I open the door, I can see the shock on the faces of the two men. Apparently, they’d stood outside the door the whole time. Keeping guard? Maybe. They lead me through a narrow passage way into what seems like a really large room. It is so badly lit that I can only see a few feet in front of me. Suddenly they are no longer by my side. I reach out and call out “Hello!” No one answers. There’s no sound in the room but I can almost swear I’m not a lone in there.

Suddenly, the lights come on and I am momentarily blinded because they are so bright. And that’s when they all scream – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Oh! My God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The whole place is filled with everyone I have ever known all my life! It is a surprise banquet held in my honour complete with a live band! I start crying. They are tears of joy. It’s unbelievable. All this, just for me?.............

The dream hasn’t ended o! But y’all catch my drift right?

Now see how long this post has become!!

I’d just like to thank my Father in heaven for these wonderful fulfilling years he has given me. They have been 30years of beauty that only He could have given me.

Thank you Father!

I love you so much!

Blogville, please dance with me will you? It’s my special dance. My jubilee dance. My dance of thanksgiving. My dance of gratitude.

I look ahead with hope and great expectations. The years ahead are definitely going to be greater than the ones I have seen. This, after all, is the true meaning of my name – NKIRUKA.