BY NONSO ANYANWU
She never knew that someday she would shed tears of longing for him like he had once done for her. She would need him like he needed her, she would love him, but he wouldn't love her anymore. And now, she saw that her greatest flaws lay not in the wrong she did, but in the right things she failed to do: she broke down and cried. She had been his ultimate obsession since their days in the university, the pilot that crash-landed him when he was lovesick for her, and above all, she had wasted her love elsewhere. An irrevocable choice.
He met her the second day he stepped into the university as a fresh student. In her, he found an overpowering beauty, and everything about her said she was a damsel—from the way she spoke to her flawless skin and to the way she walked. That day she had stood in the queue, for the collection of admission letters. It was she who put him through during the registration period. He depended on her for each step in the process until they were settled as fully registered students. They became friends and classmates.
On their matriculation eve, he asked her out, they were seated on the chairs in the school's love garden where they chatted on class and lectures issues at first.
-Is that what you called me out for? to discuss books? She asked impatiently.
-Oh! I'm sorry, so... tell me about your romantic life.
-A girl's romantic past remains a history until she meets another guy. Maybe we should just talk about how long or short we will last as lovers.
He was amazed.
They became fond of each other, the object of envy amongst their contemporaries and those before them. Their closeness fetched them the award of the department's best couple in their first year.
He became an intellectual problem to most of his lecturers. He was always raising controversial questions in class, questions which were unavoidable, most times; it became an object of ridicule to lecturers that creates a stubborn impression in the department. He was a serious student, in his first year, he had came out the best in his class, people stuck close to him; mostly ladies, they begged him for his notes, took any advice he gave to them, and he was at hand to tutor them on any area of difficulty. He was brainy, the reason his lecturers ached with envy the moment they see his exceptional works for assignments, they wish that they were theirs.
His problem started in his second year, like a common agreement most of his lecturers must adhere to; he would end up coming out of each course with an E grade.
Things never remained at ease between the two lovers as his academics crumbled. He looked more frustrated at each day break. He had looked for an opportunity to ask her why she had been ignoring him lately, why she looked unhappy when he's around her.
He caught her unawares that evening; they appeared to be the only people around.
"Hey... what's really happening?"
"I said nothing."
Her voice was a bit impatient.
It’s unlike you, not to talk to me about it. He was calm.
There is something I ought to tell you, something we all know.
She suddenly sounded so solemn; he was cold.
Tell me about it.
See what is happening to your G.P (Grade Point). Are you okay with it?
Her look was an expression of pity. There was a calm silence between them when she continued.
"You have to plead with the lecturers to help you out."
"How do you mean? did I offend any of them?"
"Everyone knows it... You are too bright for all that is happening to you. I warned you, and everybody did."
"Where did I go wrong? Art ought to be challenging as well as entertaining, but these lecturers seem to be sadists. They see every form of correctives as an insult."
"Please my dear, don't fool yourself on what we already know, your problem is pride."
He was shocked about what she had just said. Their intimacy should have erased such prejudice against him, he thought. He felt a sudden emotional weakness.
"Why would you say such a thing?"
"But you know it. I will advise you to go, beg them."
"Yes! I'm afraid; people are beginning to see me as your adviser. It’s high time I take a break."
"Are you saying it’s over?"
"My dear, next year we are graduating. And you are likely to come out with a pass result if you continue this way."
"The situation of this country does not even guarantee automatic employment to first class and second class upper degree holders. Why not think?"
"I think we have come a long way. love is sacrifice not selfishness, when someone loves, they don't hurt no matter the circumstance."
"Please, save me your love sermon. Heaven helps those who help themselves... if you can't help yourself, I'm sorry it won't work anymore between us."
"Please come, please!"
His look was anguished when she walked out on him.
He took a lone walk to the hostel, a different road he barely follows- the grassy path with trees by the sideways. He sat under a huge tree, reflecting on life; it's plot is never linear. He was grieved in his state, just dumbly and so flabby to the strangeness of his new circumstance, this gave him a painful lash of tragic muse that whipped his emotions, with that, he was buoyed up as he brought out his diary and wrote a short poem in it. In writing, he would pause, after a long period of oblivious stare, when he felt that his fountain pen is a long cigarette which he sucked the butt as if expecting smoke to whorl off the tip. He continued until he realised what he just wrote:
My fulfilled destiny, I find
A happy ending with riches left
The success of life, not got with pain
The peaceful home; the quiet mind
Dependable friends; no grudge, no hurt
Wisdom joined with honesty
The night, bereft of deceit
A peaceful mind,
Wisdom joined with honesty
A gentle mind....
"Guy, why are you like this? You’ve been moody since you came back," his room mate asked him.
"I'm not so sure about love anymore," he said with something of soberness.
"You are sounding philosophical today. What happened?"
"I was with...."
"You mean your babe?"
His room mate asked impatiently with a distraught expression on his face.
"Some few hours ago. She called off the relationship."
"Really! That shouldn't surprise you. The mind is attuned to change."
"I loved her more than I thought I did."
He went quiet.
"You need to control your emotions. Take charge of it," his friend finally advised.
The last time the two lovers saw each other was the day they collected their statement of result and certificate. His classmates were all smiles; it was more like jubilation.
"How are you?" He held her hands as though in their by-gone love days.
"I'm okay... very fine."
She said in discomfort. It was rather unexpected; she had snubbed him since she called off the relationship.
"Will you be chanced later this evening for a hangout? "
The question had hit her in a rush.
"Okay, no problem." She was a little uneasy.
It was just after twilight, they sat for a couple of soft drinks and a wide spread of suya, spiced specially and marinated meat.
"So, to whom do we owe this merriment?"
He smiled. He had come short of words, his smile was a grimace.
"Perhaps, and this is the last time we would see or ever hear from each other again."
"Why do you say so? we still have each other's contact, we will surely communicate."
"Sure, we will."
"What are your plans after school?"
"I will try to achieve fame and become immortal," he maintained, calmness in his voice.
"That sounds great; tell me about your ambitions."
"Nothing much to say. just that, my ambition is to surpass the achievements of my fathers."
"That sounds great. So, your desire is to be honoured one day?"
" Well, not like that anyway. You see, honour loses its worth when it becomes an aim to be desired."
"Hmm! Tell me. What exactly are you going to do after now?"
"Like I told you, I will try to erase the weight of prejudice on my shoulders."
"Anyway, I'm so sorry about everything that has happened to you. You don't deserve such."
"There is nothing to be sorry about, at least, there is life. I'm not those whose past are as non existence as their future."
Drops of tears trailed down her cheeks, of a truth, she saw that he had been victimised.
"Let me ask... do you still have any feelings for me?"
She was silent, she didn't answer.
"I have to go now, my journey starts as early as six-a.m tomorrow."
"Won't you stay for the graduation party?"
"No. Parties are wasted on people like me. What have I done to celebrate, how have I inspired great respect on the ones after me? No need to waste the little happiness left, when they are not hopes of recovery."
She listened quietly until she felt the softness of his hands ran over her oval face, wiping the traces of tears. It was just for a moment. Then he stood up to go. She felt a sudden numbness in her limbs that made her stare at him sheepishly as he walked out on her and faded into the dark.
He had decided to live a solitary life after he graduated from the university with a pass result, a deep disillusion to his family; especially his mother. He thought of what could give him immortality, perhaps the availability of another world that he could live. Staying totally away from any form of familiarity might ease them of the heartbreak of seeing him wander about on the street with the famous brown envelope. After his one year National Youth Service, he left for a state unknown to him, rented a room, cut off from all family and friends' call contacts by destroying his sim card, then lived an isolated life for five years. He had refused everybody his new phone contact except his employee, the father of the two sisters he runs private tutorials with in their home after school as a source of livelihood, a street away from his street- his only contact with the world. He would lock himself from the world, cogitating on the next word, phrase or sentence to include in his novel. Determination had limited his eating appetite, for five years.
In his room, the only furniture are his books, at a glance, one could see everything. He sat on his study desk, staring intently at the scattered pages of papers which inscribed drafts and written chapters of his materials, used and unused pens, text books, literary journals, fragmented pages of newspapers, dictionaries of three types, plus thesaurus.... You have suffered a great deal! He said to himself.
His amazement left him frozen for a moment when he was announced the winner of a writing competion, his blackberry's led light was blinking red, his Twitter, Facebook and other messengers were active. Compliments from both his friends he never saw for five years, and his new fans. At first, he couldn't reply them, he clicked on the letter icon to read his mail, and it was a congratulation from the organisers. Then he knew for sure that he actually won the prize. He read the mail repeatedly like he was memorising the words until he felt his eyes wet, heavy with tears. He received compliments from writers whose works he had complimented in the past and held in great esteem as classics.
During the award ceremony, journalists and news men feasted on him, paparazzi were at hand for snapshots, well-wishers were buzzing around for autographs, TV stations and newspaper companies were booking for interviews....
Her sister had brought the newspaper home, he was right before her as she gazed into his new outlook, at first, she didn't recognised him, he had grown heavily bearded and he was skinny. He made the headline; winner of the just concluded literary competition: the Fidelity Prize for Fiction, a five hundred thousand dollar worth! He had been the headlines of breaking news. He looked numb and nervous; his drained eyes still expressed some gratitude to the crush of dignitaries around him. Literary icons that seemed illusive, all posed with him in presenting the cheque, their smiles to the camera was his welcome into the literary web. A reporter had taken a full page account of the ceremony - during his acceptance speech; he looked pleased, but also puzzled that he was the centre of all attentions. He was brief and he spoke softly.
Nonso Franklyn Anyanwu hails form Imo state of Eastern Nigeria. A final year
student of English and Literary studies at the Ahmadu Bello University zaria,
Nigeria. A member of Creative Writers Club and Association of Nigerian Authors.
He has collections of unpublished poems and short stories as well as a novel,
he's currently working on his second novel