ONCE UPON A MIRACLE
Feyi stood up and sat down
again. He stood up and sat down again. Then he stood up and
paced the room, trying to think. He picked up his watch and
watched the quartz blink away the seconds. It was an
unconscious act. It was an unconscious act still when he
dropped it. The actual time did not register. He resumed
pacing. He was bitter and angry and mad and confused. Yes,
all of this together and more.
He tried to go over the events
again. He became madder still, angrier still, more confused,
and bitterer. But who could be the target of these negative
emotions? Bosede? Was she wrong in what she said? Was she
wrong? Was she wrong in reacting the way she did to what he
tried to do to her? But what was wrong with it: what she
tried to do to her? What was unusual in his approach? How
many could he count that had been so approached? How many?
He liked to pursue this new
line of thought. A trip down the memory lane, yes.
Feyi discovered that it was a
long journey back. He stood up in spite of himself and
walked towards the window. The sun had suddenly gone down
and the atmosphere had become sombre. Looking through the
window, he saw the path meandering towards the past. He took
a step forward and soon discovered that he was being pulled
on, again in spite of himself. It was not that the journey
was long or difficult or in any way tedious. It was just
that the path was crowded and busy. The temptation was
strong for him to spend too much time on one spot and
consequently take too long before hitting the take-off
Feyi was careful as he
followed his memory. Arriving the starting point, he went
again into a fit which, indeed, was almost uncontrollable.
His rage, this time, was directed against the person who
started him off on the course. At a less important level, he
was also mad that he had allowed himself to be so taken. But
then, it occurred to him that anger might not be the
appropriate reaction at this moment. Any individual
undertaking a journey back to the past must maintain control
of himself if he must make anything out of the experience.
Indeed, it seemed interesting to him how a destiny could
have been completely altered just because of a little
incident. For, given what he now remembered of his early
years, it seemed doubtful that his life would have taken the
current turn but for his encounter with Beatrice Okumagba.
Truly, Feyi was a shy little
boy as a secondary school student. Easily the smallest and
the quietest, he stood the risk of remaining forgotten in
his corner but for his sharp mind. He was very brilliant and
therefore a great paradox: small size but very big head.
Very, very big head. His mates nicknamed him the quiet
genius. He had a great weakness though: no head for figures.
Only God in his mysteriousness could understand such a great
puzzle: somebody so well gifted yet with so much denied to
him. The boy did not seem to bother though. He settled for
the Arts and came out with six distinctions, a very good in
English and an ordinary pass in Mathematics.
Yet he could not make the
university immediately. His score in the joint matriculation
examinations was well below the cut-off for his intended
course. This was incredible, but the boy had no choice but
to spend the year at home. When he still did not make the
cut-off grade the following year, he became desperate,
desperate enough to make him agree to enrol at an advanced
Feyi remembered his one year
at the so-called tertiary institution for teachers, and
hissed as he remembered the numbskulls that he had to cope
with. More importantly, he remembered powerfully his process
of initiation. The two were complexly related.
Numbskulls. Could one really
call that place a higher institution of learning, a place
milling with numbskulls? Most of them had just two credits
at the schools certificate level. Two credits out of sheer
luck and a pass in English. That was all that was required.
Not that this was not violated either. For it was the time
of partisan politics. Elections were approaching and, at
such times, horses could easily pass through a needle’s eye.
It was the problem with Nigeria. Illiterate politicians,
with absolutely no sense of commitment, except to their
selfish interests. And the public too was unenlightened.
Thus it happened that higher institutions of learning sprang
up in great numbers, invading the landscape, destroying many
highly reputed and well – established secondary schools. Or
how else could one describe a situation where a highly rated
secondary school suddenly got converted to a higher college?
No manpower, no facilities and no thought of them. Only a
change of name; that was all that was required. And party
loyalists abound aplenty, ready to take up appointments as
provosts and rectors and registrars while secondary school
teachers transformed overnight into lecturers. Admissions
were very cheap of course, selling at ten for ten kobo. And
how dare anybody use coconuts as a metaphor to describe the
heads of most of those who bought them. The fruit is edible,
highly nutritious. The water stored in it is beyond
comparison in purity and freshness. But these other heads
contained nothing, could retain nothing, were useful for
nothing. It could be a great ordeal for the uninitiated to
have to relate to empty barrels. Most campuses were like the
scene of an unending party, especially with the butterfly
flamboyance of the female students, their blood – red lips
which chattered unceasingly and their nail – heel shoes
clattering incessantly on the concrete floor. It was a great
ordeal for Feyi. But only before his initiation.
Beatrice Okumagba did it. It
was a Saturday, around eleven in the morning. His room mates
having travelled, Feyi sat alone, going through his notes
when, simultaneously with a soft knock at the door, a
powerful fragrance invaded the room. The door opened and she
entered, Beatrice. Feyi noticed her perky breasts as they
threatened to pierce her blouse, open necked, worn over a
tight – fitting skirt of blue jeans.
Having now come into the room,
the scent of her perfume became over-powering. Feyi felt
uncomfortable, oppressed even by her presence. Though they
had an appointment, he had not expected the girl now
standing before him. He thought of taking en excuse, leaving
the room never to return. He decided against it and waved
her to a seat. She took the one directly opposite him.
Eyeful glances as they
discussed, each making sure to avoid a confrontation of
eye-balls. This was just a matter of time, of course, as
there was no way it could have gone on for long. For,
suddenly, as if pre-arranged, their eyes inter-locked.
Messages of passion shot out from both ends and crossed
paths as they travelled in the direction of their targets.
Feyi felt his manhood responding, in spite of himself. He
found himself shifting in his chair. The other side noted
this, but the discussion continued. She was soon to complain
that she could not see properly, a reason for which she
changed her position. She now sat by his right hand side and
the discussion continued. He raised a point which she found
interesting. She clasped her hands in excitement, her
breasts heaving up simultaneously as if in affirmation. The
man in him responded once again. Still, he suppressed his
reaction. At least, he tried to, and the discussion
continued. Beatrice’s hands returned, but not to their
former position. Or, more precisely, the left did not.
Rather, it dropped casually on Feyi’s right thigh. He looked
at it and her eyes followed him, studying his reaction. The
discussion continued. The hand, after some time, began to
move. It wandered upward, following the thigh. It moved
slowly but continuously. Feyi’s system protested, rather
mildly at first. He struggled to hold himself together as
the tempo of protest increased. The hand continued to move
upward and he could almost hear his manhood growling. Feyi
could not understand how it happened when he placed his
right palm on the hand. Again their eyes locked. He was very
nervous. She saw it. Her eyes studied his face as the hand
moved again. Up and up it went until it reached a point.
Feyi would never know what came over him. He would never be
able to describe what happened. All he was able to capture
were the tell – tale pictures of the aftermath and the table
which fell forward with the books scattered, some torn, many
soiled. Beatrice’s chair must have first fallen backwards
and then rolled on its side as they struggled. She herself
had a bruised elbow. Her blouse was crumpled and dirty. The
hook of her brassiere had snapped and the elastic broken.
The big brass button of the skirt could not be found. The
zip, however, remained mysteriously intact. Her hair was
dishevelled, with dust clinging all over it, and all over
her body. Like him, she sweated; and like him, she breathed
heavily. She posed a miserable sight, looking every inch
ravaged. In the thick odour pervading the room with the door
securely locked, she undressed to wash her face, arms and
legs in a bucket. She cleaned her hair with his towel and
re-arranged it. Her blouse was washed and dried with the
heat of his pressing iron. Her skirt was also ironed. She
dressed up again and left.
Beatrice was to confess to him
later – during the relationship that inevitably developed –
how inscrutable she thought he was, and how her curiosity
had given way to love and how she decided to communicate it
to him. She confessed also her terrible experience of shame
following what happened. Feyi had also told her of his total
lack of experience prior to that day. Beatrice had reminded
him that it was always so with first timers.
But hard as she tried
afterwards, she could not cultivate Feyi. Indeed, the poor
boy was like a caged bird let loose. He simply went wild,
digging and exploring.
Crossing over to the
university at the end of the session, Feyi simply went
haywire. He became, in fact, a playboy. Several factors
helped him. He had brains. He had books. He had looks, and
he dressed well. At the end of the first year, he won the
university award for the most brilliant student of the
session. He was the first to win it in the Humanities. He
retained it all through. He was very popular and he
exploited this. Whenever he set out for a girl, it was with
great confidence, with profound self – assurance. He hardly
went through the details of the process of wooing. Rather,
he simply perfected the initial experience with Beatrice
into an art, eliminating the crudities and now handling the
situation with finesse. No problem for him at all. Well, not
anything significant until he came across Bosede Abiola.
Feyi found her impossible,
Bosede. Nineteen, sure – footed, proud of carriage,
excellent in composition, Bosede was a combination of beauty
and brain. Feyi was in the third year when she came in. She
was a cynosure, attracting all eyes. Boys rushed at her. She
rebuffed them all, rejecting their advances.
Feyi was not part of this. It
was not his style. His was to bid his time, and he was not
about to change it. She was in the same department as he was
anyway, and was therefore sure that when things began to get
very hot, she would have none else to turn to but himself.
He was the chief consultant for those who had problems with
their studies. Only he diagnosed best the difficulties of
all students in the department. Only he knew the best and
the appropriate cures.
He waited for her for a very
long time. She did not show up in his room throughout the
first semester. He became curious. Was she that brilliant or
has she somebody else to whom she took her problems? Could
she have hooked up with a lecturer so early? Not to worry,
he thought. She would still come round to it. She would
still seek him out. He was sure. Yes, even if she was as
brilliant as rumour would have him believe, she still must
pay homage to the master. Again, he waited, but in vain.
Thus it happened that in the middle of the second semester,
Muhammad decided to concede victory to the mountain.
Feyi cornered her for a chat.
She responded well and they became casual friends. Casual
indeed, was the word. It was obvious she respected him
though. She received him warmly whenever he called at her
room as he did now and again, and she too returned his call
once in a while. Then they talked and talked. Her behaviour
was intelligent. Her confidence affected the whole room. It
He became more curious. Was
she naturally like that or was she just being deliberately
difficult? Was she simply putting on airs? The curiosity
grew more intense as time went on. With it, a great respect.
With it, a great liking. With it, affection. A session ended
and another one began. Feyi was now in the final year. Time
was running out and here was this girl, insisting on her
position, standing her ground. He thought he must have her.
He liked her. He wanted her. He might need to change his
normal method of approach, if only because of her.
He invited her out. She
honoured his invitation. He felt flattered. The outing
turned out to be good. They chatted no end: academic and
other matters, including a lot of irrelevancies. At last he
came round to his point, expressing his intention for a
relationship with her. He could not remember himself having
made such a proposition for a long time past. But he felt
within himself that it was worth it. Oh yes.
She took her time to reply.
For Feyi, it was like waiting for eternity. She picked her
teeth as she talked. And even after he had finished talking,
she continued to do so for a while. When she stopped, she
took great care to lean the little stick against the
ash-tray on the table. Then she picked up her bottle of
coke, filled her glass and took a sip. She went back to the
tooth – pick and drew invisible marks with it on the table.
She was very composed. Her actions, deliberate. When she
spoke eventually, her voice was soft and sweet, affecting
him like a gentle breeze on a sweating skin. It was a polite
turn – down. Feyi was consoled with the way it came.
He went over the experience
later and did not like it. He did not like the way he
allowed her to dictate the course of events. He was
disappointed in himself. His anger was later to be turned
against her. Just what was special about her? Why so many
airs? After all, was she not a mere girl; just another girl?
Why did he fumble so much? Why did he allow her to control
the situation? He had encountered many of her type, hadn’t
he? In what way was she different from the numerous girls in
his past? Her beauty? No, there had been many more beautiful
girls before her. Her brilliancy? So what? Did that make her
a female no longer? Did that make her less feeble and less
weak than the rest of the members of her sex? It was
incredible that he could fail so woefully. Very bad of him.
Too bad for him. He yearned for another chance.
That chance just presented
Two days before, he had met
her coming out of the library. She told him she would most
likely be coming to get certain facts clear on a point she
had just read. He had insisted on a definite appointment and
it was agreed for Sunday at noon.
It turned out to be a very
eventful day. His mates, obliging his request, left early.
He cleared the room, swept it thoroughly and cleaned the
chairs, desks and other furniture of dust. Next, he made his
bed, re-arranged his shelf and put his wardrobe in order.
Satisfied, he dashed for a bath. He came back and took his
time dressing up before heading for the cafeteria. Breakfast
comprised of bread and omelette. The coffee was steaming
hot. He returned to the room satisfied, very ready; but only
to meet two boys; two absolutely unwanted individuals,
totally unexpected, waiting for him. Lanre Adelakun and
Fidelis Okoye. They were student activists, most genuine and
very influential as campus politicians. Feyi hated their
guts. He did not know what they could be doing in his room.
They had nothing in common. His own popularity was hinged on
his being an intellectual. He was never interested in
student unionism. Hardly did he even cast his votes during
elections. What then could have brought them?
“Good morning, Feyi.” Lanre
greeted him, stretching out his right hand simultaneously.
“Surprised to see us?” Fidelis
asked the question as he smiled broadly.
“Yes, very surprised. But
you’re welcome all the same.” He was trying to conceal his
hostility. After all, he did not know why they had come. He
checked his time. It was a quarter past ten. He wished they
would quickly come round to their point.
“It’s a nice, neat place you
have here.” This again came from Fidelis. And although he
liked to be paid such compliments, Feyi would gladly have
done without it for now.
“Thank you.” He did not feel
what he said to follow this up but he thought he must try to
be pleasant. “I don’t know what to offer you.”
“We are all right. Thank you.”
Lanre answered for the two.
“But you’ve never visited me
before.” Feyi surprised even himself. He never knew he could
be such a fake.
“It doesn’t matter. It is our
hope that this would be the beginning of great time
together.” Fidelis volunteered this.
Great times? With rabble
rousers? How presumptuous some people could be. Yet, he
managed to keep himself in check, Feyi.
Just then, Lanre shifted in
his seat and cleared his throat, an indication that he was
ready to begin to discuss the subject of their mission.
“Feyi, we’re sorry to encroach upon your time, especially at
this stage of the semester. But as you will see, the matter
is very important, very grave and it cannot wait.”
Oh God. All these preambles.
Why don’t you save them for another time? Why don’t you come
to the real point?
“I’m sure you’re aware of what
has happened to the president and three other members of the
“Do you mean their indefinite
suspension from the university?”
“Exactly. If you remember,
their suspension was due to their protest against the
lackadaisical attitudes of library staff to work and their
rudeness towards the students.”
“So what?” Feyi betrayed his
impatience for the first time. He could not see how the
matter concerned him. All the same, he must learn to wait.
Lanre noted his reaction but he continued as if there was
“I’m sure you will agree that
what they fought for was in the interest of the students.
You may disagree with their methods as some have done but
the facts will still remain there. Now exams start tomorrow
and these people are yet to be called back. And, as you
know, it would mean at least an extra semester should they
miss the papers.”
What are these people up to?
They’d better not start any trouble now. But Lanre
“We think it would be an act
of betrayal should students just go on to write the papers
like that; that is, without doing something to show their
solidarity with their suspended leaders. We plan no
demonstration, no protest. I want to emphasize that: no
demonstration, no protest. But we think it would be good if
we can get round to mobilizing students to assemble in front
of the V.C.’s office tomorrow morning, then get one or two
people to speak on behalf of the students.”
“And what happens to those who
have papers tomorrow.”
“All papers scheduled for
tomorrow are, hopefully, to be boycotted. Those people might
have over – stretched themselves as some people think – they
might have been tactless - but they acted in our interest.
This is why some of us consider it important to do something
to demonstrate that they had our support in what they did.
We’ll do everything within our means to keep things under
control, to make sure they do not degenerate into a riot.”
“So how do I come in?”
“That’s a good question. You
see, we are not likely to be taken seriously if seen leading
the students tomorrow. By “we,” I refer to Fidelis, myself
and such other students about whom the authorities already
have a fixed opinion. The standard response would be that we
did not prepare for the exams, that it was because of this
that we had decided to foment trouble. But you’re very
brilliant. One of the most brilliant that we have, in fact.
You’re a university scholar. The authorities respect you.
The effect is likely to go down deep if you can speak on our
“I see.” This was involuntary.
“Also, we intend to call an
emergency congress tonight. Many students are already aware
of the plan but it is at the congress that we hope to make
it formally known, and then work out the details. After
that, we intend to go round the hostels for further efforts
at mobilizing the students. Your active involvement in this
would be highly useful.”
By now, Feyi had started
boiling. He considered it an insult that these people could
even try to involve him in such a plan. Crazy people! Yet he
thought he must watch his reactions and utterances. You had
to watch it with students or you got labelled a traitor even
without your knowing what was happening. One had to be
shrewd and this could even mean giving a reply which was
directly contradictory to what one felt. “You certainly must
be very concerned about the fate of the suspended students
to have to think of taking all this trouble. I’m also
impressed that you could think of involving me. But I’m
sorry I have to disappoint you.”
“Why, please.” It was a
tactless slip from Lanre.
Why? And he must answer that?
For a moment, Feyi felt like
ordering them out of his room. Again, he managed to keep
himself under control. “Well, you know, I’m not an activist.
I have no interest in politics. That’s why I go my own way.
I’m very sorry but you’ll have to excuse me. I especially
cannot stand a large crowd. You’d yourself be disappointed
if you see me fumble. May be some other time, if there’s any
way I can help, I’ll be most ready.”
“Feyi,” Fidelis called in a
deep, grave voice, “I won’t insult your intelligence. You
should know, perhaps more than I do, that a man lives not
just for himself but also for others. This is why it becomes
necessary once in a while for an individual to pause and
examine his course! Am I right in what I say or do? If so,
are there other areas in which I’ve been negligent? Do I
live for myself alone? Is it the appropriate thing to do? I
say this because, as you know, a life has purpose less in
relation to itself than in relation to other lives. Some
sacrifices now and again are necessary for meaningful
existence. It is for this reason that I would like to urge
you to think over what Lanre has just said. We intend to do
everything within our power to prevent a demonstration. An
appeal to the vice chancellor, that’s all. And with somebody
like you on our side, we feel confident that our plea will
not fall on deaf ears.”
Feyi continued to boil within
himself. He did not like the people sitting in front of him.
He did not like their guts. He felt like throwing them out
of the room. Their plan was crazy. It could erupt into a
violent demonstration. This he hated. He would give anything
to subvert the plan. But these two people: there’s no
preventing whatever they set themselves to.
Lanre spoke again. There had
been silence for some three minutes, meaning to him that
there was nothing more to add for the time being. “Feyi, as
Fidelis has stated, we would like you to think over the
matter. There’s going to be a meeting at five this evening
in the P.R.O.’s office in the students’ union building. That
is where we hope to straighten out our plans before meeting
the students at half past seven. You’ll be most welcome if
you are able to join us. We’ll be grateful for it, really.
I’ll check you up again at four-forty-five. I hope you’ll be
They stood up and left. Feyi
was glad to see the door shut after them. He was set in his
mind: he would be nowhere to be found at five.
Bosede came in on the dot of
twelve. Feyi thought it a great way of getting over the
earlier experience. She looked even more beautiful in her
simple rig-out. She wore a knee – length gown made of purple
colour Kampala stuff decorated with white patterns. This was
perfectly matched with a pair of flat – heeled, rubber
sandals, and she had tiny rings dangling from her ears. Her
jerry – curled hair was neatly combed backward. Nothing
more. Nothing but for a small, black bag containing her
notes. No lipstick. No false eye – lashes. No make-up
whatsoever. Yet she looked charming. Magnificent.
Feyi suggested she sat on the
bed since using the chairs would mean them sitting at the
opposite sides of the table and shouting across at each
other. She obeyed. He sat near her and they started. It went
on well for a long while. Feyi was truly a master. Bosede
saw this, admitted it, conceded it to him, openly. There
were light moments, of course. Then she smiled, her face
glowing, her lips parting to reveal a set of snow – white
teeth. At times she laughed. When she did, she was even more
relaxed. Her laughter was sonorous.
Feyi studied her, watching for
the right moment to strike.
“I never knew the African
world – view to be this complex,” she had retorted
unexpectedly. Feyi had illustrated the subject with the
Yoruba myth of origin.
“Very complex, actually. In
fact, in many respects, and at the risk of offending your
sensibility, more complex than the Christian or Muslim world
“How do you mean?”
“Oh, it’s obvious enough.
Let’s look at it from the notion of the Godhead. Both
Christians and Muslims conceive of God as perfect, whereas
each of the African gods possesses certain frailties. The
Christian God especially is a merciful God, possessing only
positive qualities. Evil is attributed to Satan. But Ogun as
a single god embodies within himself both the creative and
destructive essences. In his various efforts to be useful,
he finds himself committing multiple errors, destroying
things in the process. Of course, he atones for them. This
is also man’s real nature. For the traditional African, the
negative and the positive are inextricably interwoven.”
it seems to be the fashion these days to disclaim tradition.
You’re either a Christian or a Muslim. It doesn’t matter
that you don’t understand what you proclaim, and more
importantly what you reject.”
“Well, yes. But I suspect
people are far more traditional than they claim to be. Or,
rather, to be more precise: than they know themselves to be.
Not many of our people actually believe in the ability of
God to redress wrongs for example – I hope you understand
the sense in which I have used the word “God.” Most people
would rather invoke the spirit of Sango or Ogun or some
other no-nonsense god. They also don’t violate their own
gods as they do that of the Christians and Muslims. Where I
come from, you dare not carry flash light in the rain or you
risk being struck down by Sango. And look at many of our
drivers: most of them claim to be Christians and Muslims yet
they hold Ogun in awe. They don’t dare swear falsely in his
“Whereas they are only too
ready to take God’s name in vain. That’s blasphemous, you
“We’re both guilty of it, so
we will both end up in hell.”
“No, I won’t be there with
you.” They both laughed. Feyi seized the opportunity to tap
her right cheek. No reaction. He felt emboldened. After some
time, he made another attempt. Not again an ordinary tap on
the cheek. It was more to the point. It was an attempt to
cuddle her waist.
“What is that supposed to
mean?” It was a sharp rhetorical question, fired as she
simultaneously tore off the hand in a swift movement. Feyi
thought he should have expected this. After all, didn’t they
all feign resistance at the beginning? Again, he allowed
himself some more time before going on further offensive.
This time, the hand went round her neck searching for her
“What do you think you’re
doing for God’s sake?” She was simultaneously on her feet.
Feyi said nothing. “I consider this an insult and demand an
immediate apology from you.”
“Come and sit down.” He was
very patronizing as he said this, standing up.
“Come and sit down where? I’m
not going to sit down again on that bed.”
“O.K., you can take a chair.
Is that all right?”
“No. I don’t even think I want
to sit down again in this room. It is not safe for me.”
“Why don’t you take it easy,
Bose?” He walked towards her as he spoke.
“Don’t come near me. Stay
where you are.” She said, walking backwards. “I see. People
who peddle the story really know you: That when a member of
the opposite sex as much as says an ordinary hi to you, you
think of taking her to bed.”
“Whoever told you that?”
The story is all over the
place. In any case, haven’t you just proved it? You don’t
respect anybody and you have no other thoughts in your head
where it concerns the female sex. And I pity you. Because
you will just end up destroying yourself. You don’t
discriminate. Just any hole will do. Once a girl crosses
your path, you’re ready to go to bed with her. It’s rather
Feyi thought she was beginning
to go too far. He must stop her. “Now, now, now, I think
we’ve had enough of that. Shall we now go back to our
discussion; that is if there’s still anything you want to
“I told you I don’t want to
have anything to do with you again. You employ a positive
endowment to negative ends. You don’t think of anybody. You
have no ideal, no lofty dreams, and no high aspiration. You
have no thought for humanity: nothing but sex, sex, sex.
“Now, Bose, I won’t take any
more insults from you.”
“But I must let you know it.
Because you’re a fool. It doesn’t matter that you are
bright. Being good in class work does not make you
intelligent. So much crisis around you, so many issues of
great importance. The campus boils, the society burns
outside, the whole world threatens to explode but the only
thing our man thinks of is women. Not in any way beneficial
to anybody. Not even you. Because you’re as much a victim as
those you take to bed. I doubt if you have any sense at all.
And you see it every day: the tragic consequences of
indiscriminate sex? What about your health? You must change,
Feyi. You have to change. You need to sit down and think
hard. Otherwise you will just ruin yourself.”
She burst out of the room,
banging the door after her. Feyi stood rooted to the same
spot, gazing at the door. He stood like that for a long
time. A quarter of an hour at least. When he moved, it was
to sit on the bed, elbows on the thigh, head bent low and
cupped in the hands…
Feyi still paced the room. He
still felt dazed. He also felt bitter. He thought she had no
right to talk to him like that, that he shouldn’t have
allowed her to get away with it. But then he asked himself:
what could he have done? Fire back as she spoke? What had he
to fire back? And look at this: did she make any great
point? Was she justified in reacting the way she did? Was he
right in what he did to her? Should the fact that he had
done it to several others before her make it right? Was it
ever right at any point? Was there anything worth pondering
over? Questions and questions and more questions. He went
back to the bed, to his former position: elbows on thighs,
head in the hands, eyes fixed to the ground.
And the words began to come
back: “You don’t think of anybody. You have no ideal, no
lofty dreams, no high aspirations. You have no thought for
humanity, nothing but sex, sex, sex…”
But wasn’t she rather harsh in
calling him a fool? Was he a fool? “Sex, sex, sex”: wasn’t
it one of her kind that initiated him into it? But how
tenable was that as a defence? Why must he allow himself to
be so taken? Even assuming that he had been inexperienced
and so could not have resisted her on that first day, would
it have been any more pardonable for him to have carried on
in such a way? And the question of ideals and dreams… Yes,
those stupid boys also insinuated it. Stupid? Fidelis, Lanre:
stupid? Was he qualified to describe Fidelis and Lanre as
stupid? Were they indeed so? “A man lives not just for
himself but also for, and because, of others…” could that
have been uttered by a stupid mouth? Another sampler: “it
becomes necessary once in a while for an individual to pause
and examine his course…” And he, Feyi, claiming not to be
stupid, needed another person to point that out to him.
Now, why had he chosen to
stand aside? Standing aside? was that the situation? Was he
standing aside? Humanity, aspiration, dreams. Struggle. That
was the word: a much abused word: struggle. Why did he hate
the word? Did he hate it? Did he hate the word, struggle?
Perhaps. Why did he hate it? No, he didn’t hate it. He had
no reason to. But was he sure? Could he be sure that he
didn’t hate the word? “I’m sure you’ll agree that what they
fought for was in the interest of the students.” These were
Lanre’s words. They came back. He was talking about the
suspended student leaders. He was probably right. “They
might have been tactless but the facts are still there.”
Lanre’s words again. They were tactless! Wrong
methods. Always. All the time. Violent methods. Yes, that
was it. Violence. He hated the word. Again, did he? Yes. He
was sure now. Struggle. Violence. He hated the two words. He
probably hated the one because of the other.
But were the two words
inherently negative? Were they? Well, both seemed to go
together. And the effect was always destructive. At least on
university campuses. People tended to misunderstand the
issue, mistaking violence for an end in itself. A little
thing and they would go on rampage, assaulting innocent
people, burning down cars, looting things, destroying
This now appeared to be the
issue. This tendency by students to take laws into their
hands, to be destructive. But could this be corrected by
staying away? Could things ever become right when matters
were left to people who were at best muddle – headed? Again,
Bosede’s words: “The campus boils, the society burns
outside, the whole world threatens to explode but the only
thing our man thinks of is women.” Could she be right here?
Was she right?
There was a knock at the door.
It opened slowly as he lifted up his head. It was Fidelis.
Feyi made to check his time.
“Sorry, it isn’t time yet. I
was just passing by and thought I should check to see if
Feyi said nothing.
“Lanre will come back as
arranged at 4.45. It’s just about an hour from now. Fidelis
checked his time as he spoke.
Feyi still said nothing.
Fidelis couldn’t quite understand the situation.
“See you then.” He closed the
door and opened it almost immediately. He thought he saw it
in Feyi’s face: it was as if he wanted to speak.
“Where are you going now?” The
voice was unsure. But at least Fidelis was right.
“H1, 39. Only four rooms away.
Lanre left a note in his room that he would be there. And
there’re still certain things to sort out before the
meeting. It is important that I see him.”
Feyi opened his mouth and
closed it again. He opened it yet again without speaking.
Fidelis could not understand. What could be wrong? This was
not the Feyi he knew. He volunteered a persuasive word.
“Yes…?” Then as a follow – up
after allowing some time without Feyi still coming out: “I
thought you wanted to say something.”
“Suppose… suppose… er… I don’t
know if I can come along…”
Something was wrong here. This
was not the normal Feyi. The normal Feyi he used to know was
very sure of himself, spoke with confidence, was a very
arrogant person. Apart from this, Fidelis could not be sure
that he heard rightly, he could not be sure that Feyi indeed
was asking if he could come along. It was either that he
heard wrongly or it must be that Feyi meant differently from
what he had made out of what was said. He thought he should
not commit a blunder.
“Pardon, did you ask if you
“Sorry, I just thought it is
possible that I can be of some help. I thought there might
just be something I could do by way of assistance…”
There was no time to think
over this, unfortunately. No time to make sure it was not a
dream. It just couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be. No. Yet,
Feyi must not be allowed to change his mind. “Come along,”
Fidelis answered, “of course, it will be wonderful to have
Fidelis could not believe it
as he watched Feyi change his shirt; change from bathroom
slippers into a pair of sandals. He watched him comb his
hair. He was ready. Lanre still could not believe it: the
sudden transformation going on before him. He could not
believe it. It could only have been a miracle. Oh yes, it
was a miracle. Certainly a miracle.
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