How are you? How is mother? Has her fever abated? Did your yams fare well this season? And did Adesewa pass her secondary school exam?
Baba mi, I would have called but the words I need to say to you cannot be said over the phone. As you know this is my final semester at the university, and after this, I should finally been able to get that white collar job in Lagos that you desire desperately for me to have and then properly take care of you, Iya mi and Adesewa. Father, I am sorry to disappoint you but I have failed you.
It is with a heavy heart I write this letter to you. Father, I have tried to circumvent the hurdles placed before me by this cruel and insatiable university system. I have tried to make you and mother proud but the system won. My endless nights of reading ensured I had little or no sleep and I attended every class and stayed away from alcohol, parties, and girls as you advised, but these sacrifices were not enough. Yesterday, my lecturer confirmed to me that I’ll be graduating with a second class lower and with the way the job market in Nigeria is shaped right now this degree will not be enough for me to get a good job. Not only have I failed you, but I have also failed the whole community and every single person that pitched in their hard earned money for me to pay my final year school fees. I am sorry I cannot be their beacon of hope for a better tomorrow as they had expected. Baba mi, I cannot return home. I cannot journey to the village a failure.
Father, I have decided to kill myself. I know this is against our religious beliefs, but I am not sure I believe in God anymore. If there is a God, where was He when Adesewa was raped by the band of travelling armed robbers that happened to travel past our village that night? Where was God when mother contracted pneumonia? Where was He when your crops were fed upon by animals and your barn was raided by thieves? Where was He when my endless toils went unrewarded or when a lecturer failed me for not accepting to sleep with her?
I have made my decision baba mi. You cannot convince me otherwise. By the time you receive this letter, I would have killed myself. Bury me at the eastern end of your farm, just beside the river that my soul may go wherever the water leads. Tell Iya mi and Adesewa not to mourn me; they have enough to worry about. Odigba, baba mi.
Yours truly, Tife
I stare at the pills for longer than I should, I am not undecided but I ponder on whether or not God will forgive me when I commit this sin. I wonder if there is an afterlife. I think of what my epitaph will read, and if people will say nice things in my eulogy. I pick up my phone and text her
Nothing is promised, even today. I hope you find another addiction
I want to be here for Vanessa at least, but I know that whatever we have between us might just be temporary. For a minute, I want to be alive. I want to breathe air, I want to look at someone and have my heart palpitate, and I want to see my mother smile again. The thought of the afterlife being unending darkness frightens me even further and makes me contemplate my decision. Finally, I gather enough courage and decide that this is it. I cannot rescind my decision, not after I have sent my letter. I close my eyes and brace for the impact of the yet to be ingested pills when my chiming phone interrupts me.
72 hours before,
I have always wondered why whenever we are at home we reminisce of times in school, and whenever we are in school we speak of the happenings and structure of our household. There is a name for this, I read it in a book but I cannot remember what it is called. I dropped “the letter” at the post office about an hour ago, since then thoughts about the little kids that often play in my family’s rectangular compound, my mother’s Saturday morning porridge, going to the farm on Saturday afternoons with my father, and Adesewa’s famous palm oil stew fill my mind. The rotund lady behind the desk at the post office told me it would take two working days for my letter to get to Kaduna from Ibadan. Today is Thursday, my letter will have arrived at Kaduna by Monday, and this means I have only four days to figure out a way to die. On my way back from the post office, I thought of ways to kill myself. I thought of jumping in front of a speeding vehicle, but this seems too grim and many of my finer features would be ruined for my lying-in-state, and there is no certainty this would even result in death. I thought of stabbing myself in the chest, but I think this would require a certain amount of self-hate that I do not possess.
I am currently in my dormitory where I have spent the last five minutes mulling over a quote by Ernest Hemmingway that says “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards many are strong at the broken places”. It’s from his novel “Farewell At War”. Somehow I can’t stop reading the words. I have been broken, but I have not come back stronger by any means. I am totally hopeless, and I feel like there is no point to my existence. I bide the minutes till my roommate, Kosisochukwu, will return from his lectures. He is the only person I know that partakes in alcohol, smoking, and frolicking with girls. I want to participate in all this over the course of the next four days because what is life if I cannot enjoy the morally deplorable things I had abstained from? This is my dying wish, and Kosi would know what immoral activity I should start with.
I school at the University of Ibadan and I am studying to be an electrical engineer. I am the first person from my household to actually make it to the University. Many family members had tried before me, but they just could not get the required grades to gain admission into an institution of higher learning.
I hear Kosi’s footfalls and I brace myself for the conversation I have planned to have with him. He waltzes in and bounces from one end of the room to another. He has his earphones plugged in, and the song he is listening to makes him a little more eccentric than he usually is. He eventually removes his earphones.
“Guy, how far?” he asks.
“Kosi, I want to drink alcohol.” I say this with all the seriousness I can muster. He looks at me funny for a minute and then bursts into uncontrollable laughter. I do not blame him. It is 5 pm on a Thursday, and it is a little early to start drinking. Although, I know he would not be laughing if I was not such a teetotaller. He regains his composure after a while and then says,
“Oh, you‟re serious? Wow”
“Yes, I am. I want to go to parties and meet girls, smoke cigarettes, any profanity you can think of, really, and I want to do it all over the course of the next four days. I need your help.”
“Okay, what happened? And why four days?” I liked that he had finally seen how serious I was and he was actually considering helping me.
“You’re the one that is always saying I should live a little. That is what I am trying to do and I am less busy for the next four days.”
I know not to tell him that I am planning on committing suicide, I learned the hard way that certain things are not to be mentioned to other people. When I was thirteen and still a naive child, I blurted out to Michael, the pastor’s son, that I did not believe God existed, and that the earth was formed as a result of the Big Bang and not God. I was made to attend bible study for three weeks, and it was mentioned in church and then my parents referenced it during our morning prayers and prayed for God to heal me from whatever disease I was afflicted with. My mother attributed this thought to reading too many books written by “the white man”. I hate that she is so ignorant.
“Will you help me or not?” I ask Kosi.
He thinks about this for a while and finally says, “Yes”
I spend the next hour ravaging through the pockets of all my clothing, looking to gather as much money as I can. Kosi says these things will cost quite an amount of money, and I smile when I finally gather all the money in my possession.
“This is three thousand and forty Naira; one bottle of quality vodka is two thousand Naira. This cannot do anything!” he yells, flipping the money in the air like my savings for two months does not count for anything. He can’t even hide his disappointment, as most people would have.
“Well, that is all I have”
“Okay. Okay,” he says grumpily “I will help you with the rest of the money but you have to pay me back by the end of the month.”
I nod. Kosi has been nothing but a good roommate through the five months that we have been rooming together, and I know I should tell him that I will not be able to pay back because I will not be here, but technically, I did not vocally agree to pay back, I simply nodded, and besides, it would really be nice to have someone that is not a family member cry genuinely at the announcement of my death. Kosi says tonight will be for drinking alone. He will get the alcohol and then call some of his friends over to drink and talk. He says I need to learn how to talk girls properly and that there is a party on Friday that we will both be attending. I want to ask him where the fun is in drinking with a bunch of guys but I do not want to upset him, after all he is making up for my financial incompetence and besides, he seems like an expert at these sorts of things.
AMOUNT LEFT: N2,040
I wake up a couple of minutes after 1 pm. Events of last night still a blurry memory and a throbbing headache constantly reminds me that I had too much alcohol to drink last night. Kosi is not much of an expert as I had thought. Last night, he could not handle his liquor and he ended up revealing too much about his parent’s dysfunctional marriage than we needed to know. I did not like hanging out with the boys yesterday, they spent a large part of the night gaming — something I did not know how to do — and talking about their escapades with different girls. I think they did this to feel manly and massage their egos, but I do not understand why they chose to slut-shame girls that they slept with. Did they not realize that they had slept with these girls also? By their own logic, were they not to be regarded as sluts also? It made them seem like children but I did not want to ruin my first night “having fun with the boys” so I said nothing.
Kosi wakes up at about 2 pm, and steps out shortly after. He says he will be back before 6 pm; the party is due to start by 8 pm. I clean the room for the next hour and have “breakfast” at the cafeteria afterwards. I skim through my class notebooks for a while before I start thinking of ways to kill myself again. I think of hanging myself, but the mechanics of executing it in our minuscule room seems too burdensome to manoeuvre. I think of jumping from the third floor of our four-storey building hostel, but that seems like a really painful death. I want something subtle and easy.
Kosi stumbles into the room a little after 5 pm. He does not utter any word before he slumps into his bed and dozed off.
It is 9 pm, and I am at a house party with Kosi. The host is one of Kosi’s classmates. Kosi says one of the keys to being noticed at these parties is to be fashionably late, this and the cigarette run Kosi made earlier are the reasons why we are one hour late to the party. The air reeks of marijuana and there is loud music playing in the background. There are lots of people just hanging around, while some are actually dancing, some others are just seated together smoking and laughing loudly. This house party is not like the ones I see in those American movies or maybe I am just bad at socializing. It is just a bunch of pre-existing cliques that would normally hang out during daytime hanging out in a house, drinking and smoking together. I spot a pretty girl sitting alone, I want to talk to her, but I can’t. She is fashion magazine type of pretty, way out of my league. She is clad in sky blue jeans that hug her frame tightly and a casual tee-shirt that has a comic character on it. Out of nowhere, Kosi hands me a drink and nudges me toward her, “This will help” he whispered. Before I say something to defend myself, I see him talking to another girl. The drink is really bitter, and it makes me feel even crappier than I already feel, my face can not mask my emotions
“You should not always drink what strangers give you, you know?” her voice is tender just as I imagined it to be, and she spoke with a softness that put me at ease
“My parents said I should not speak to strangers but here I am, talking to you” She laughs at this and says, “You are funny”
“I think it is the alcohol” she laughs again. Two days ago, I would not have the courage to sit beside someone as pretty as she is and be comfortable, but here I am, making her nearly laugh her head off
“My name is Vanessa” she stretches out her hand.
“I am Tife.”
We sit together for the rest of the night daring each other to drink inordinate amounts of alcohol while discussing why socialization was hard and why college parties suck. We talk about the future and how we could currently be partying with a future senator or the future judge of the Supreme Court. I light up a cigarette for the first time ever; Kosi had placed three sticks of cigarettes in my breast pocket on our way to the party. I had paid for the whole pack but Kosi said I could become an addict if I smoked it all in one night, I wished I could tell him I was going to die soon and I had no problems being addicted. He had also said girls at parties like this one liked it when a boy smoked. I think I agree with him, the bad boys I see in the movies always have cigarettes in either the corner of their ear, dangling between their lips or hanging outside their breast pocket. I take a long drag and offer her a stick, she obliges. I forget to exhale the smoke after the drag, and I feel it settle at the pit of my chest, I ache to cough but I do not want to. I do not want to seem like a first timer at smoking especially not in front of Vanessa whose acquaintance I have just made. So I try to stifle the cough from erupting, I feel my eyes redden and a sharp uneasiness in my chest, the smoke is really clogging my chest. I let out stifled sharp coughs in quick succession and then I blame it on the marijuana-filled air. Being a bad boy is really hard.
AMOUNT LEFT: N1,540
It is about thirteen minutes after 9 am when I wake up, I reach for the other side of the bed and I feel her body there. Her heaving chest, the only indication that alcohol from last night has not killed her; I stare at the perfection that she is for a minute or two before I finally step out to get breakfast for two. She finally wakes around 10 am, tired and groggy,
I smile at her and mumble “Hey”
“Hey, did we sleep together?” Her demeanor is calm but I see the tension in her eyes. I nod and smile sheepishly.
“How could you?!! I really thought you were different.” She is angry but too fatigued to yell, words struggle to roll off her pale pink lips so she settles for facial expressions. She has only her bra and panties on and then she starts gathering her clothes that are strewn all over the room and slowly puts them on
“Oh, I did not have sex with you. We simply slept TOGETHER on the same bed” I say, a smirk permanent on my face.
“How am I undressed then?” she asks.
“You insisted on following me to my room, where your drunk self pulled off your clothes and asked me to ‘take you’ which I declined politely and you passed out or should I say slept off “
She laughs at this “I actually asked you to take me? I am sorry”
“Oh stop, it’s not your fault. I am practically irresistible” I laugh at this first and then she does also before I say “I brought you breakfast though”
She eats as she speaks. First of her parents and how they pretended to still be in love with each other when they clearly were not, and then of her siblings and about the disconnection between all of them. She is in her second year in the university studying to be an economist; she says her first year in the university was horrible. She had experimented with a lot of drugs and drank excessive amounts of alcohol. She partied every other weekend and she had sex with just about anybody. She says she used to hate herself after every tryst and feel worthless, she says she even contemplated suicide but then found God and He saved her.
I feel jealous of her for a minute, she had found a way out of the darkness and I could not. God has failed me, science has, logic has. Kosi strolls in minutes later and then leaves shortly afterwards. Vanessa says she met Kosi before at a party, and he was really mean to her. She says I am different, that I am not like the other boys and that I am something special, I want to believe her but I can’t.
An hour after Vanessa leaves, Kosi returns. He says Vanessa is a whore, and that it is nice that I have had sex with her this one time, but I should not fall in love with her or sleep with her again. He says whores are clingy. I want to tell him that I did not sleep with her and that she is not a whore but I know he would not believe me. He says it is another boys’ night tonight and that this one is different because a drug dealer friend of his will be around. I know I will hate it but I do not object. It will just be another lonely alcohol-laden night with boys telling of their sex escapades just to prove their manliness. If I had my way, I would kill myself tonight but I still have not figured out how and I want to see Vanessa again.
AMOUNT LEFT: N340
Yesterday was an absolute revelation, the boys night was as drab as I had predicted and the boys did nothing but do drugs, drink and tell of their stupid and boring sex escapades, priding themselves on how many girls they had bedded the previous week, each one besting the previous boys’ record. I met Kosi’s friend, the drug dealer, yesterday and that was the revelation of the night. From him, I bought lots of different pills which he claims would get me very high. He warned me that taking too much of the pills at the same time could kill me. I grinned with so much joy when he uttered those words, if he was even the least bit sober, he would have been genuinely worried at my expression. But he was not and I now have the pills I need.
Today is Sunday and believe it or not, Kosi has gone to church. The sky is overcast today. I want it to rain, not torrentially but heavy enough for me to remember what it was like when I was ten and enjoyed playing in the rain, I want it to remind me of a time when I had no worries, when my mother was healthy and my father’s farm produce was enormous and Adesewa was not raped.
I step out of my hostel at around 2 pm and I sit at the chapel lawn watching the congregation troop out of the church in their Sunday Best with their hearty waves of laughter carrying in the afternoon air. Their faith renewed while mine diminishes with every passing second. She spots me from afar and saunters to my side. I had known she would be here; I had called her earlier and asked where I could meet her. Vanessa is wearing a white gown that compliments her dark skin tone. It makes her look angelic and I love that she looks so pure and innocent.
Before she says anything, I say “You really have to stop stalking me or else this would prove to become an unhealthy addiction”
“What if I like being addicted to things?”
I had no witty reply so I smile and say “You look stunning”
“I know but thank you. You look horrible, handsome but horrible” She smiled as she spoke.
Today, I do most of the talking. I talk about my parents and my background, I talk about Adesewa and for the first time I do not leave out the part where she was raped. I tell Vanessa of the huge weight of expectation on my shoulders and how I have failed to meet them. I tell her how I had been a very pious kid before, and that I did not drink or smoke or even attend parties before last Thursday. I speak of the sexual assault I suffered from a lecturer and how that changed my grades and ultimately my life. I tell of how I would rather be a lawyer than an electrical engineer and how my father’s myopia and limited intelligence is the only reason why I am studying to become an electrical engineer. She nods through everything and although I am not sure if she really understands me, I am just happy that I am able to finally tell someone my truth and maybe have someone see all the sides of me that there is and hopefully be a loving memory to someone not because I choose to hide my shortcomings from them but because they have seen my shortcomings and they love me regardless.
We are about to leave when she says: “I want to write you something and I want you to read it anytime you feel downcast or sad.” She tears off a piece of paper from her jotter and brings a pen out of her bag.
“Okay” I mutter
I have barely entered my room when I open Vanessa’s note, it reads:
“Tife, you can overcome all these things you’re facing, I’ll help you, and God will help us both. I am sure your parents are proud of you. I am proud of the man that you are even though I didn’t know you 72 hours ago.
The strength of a man is not how many times he is broken but how many times he rises up to fight again. They said that during the church service today. You are strong Tife, and you will overcome this. Remember, even broken crayons still colour
PS: You are gradually becoming an unhealthy addiction
I tear the note apart and dump it in the trash can just outside my room. She did not understand me after all.
THE D-DAY AMOUNT LEFT: N0
When I was eight and still in Kaduna, a cattle rearer, Aliyu, and his male lover were lynched after they were both caught having sex by Aliyu’s wife. Homosexuality was heavily frowned upon. I watched as Aliyu and his lover were both burned alive, the final verdict to burn them alive was delivered by the then head of the village council. I held my father’s hand as we watched Aliyu and his lover writhe in pain, the whole village was made to watch the horrific display as a warning of some sort to other homosexuals to desist from their sinful ways. I hated that my dad who was the deputy head of the village council could not save them, I knew it was not he who decided their fate but I just wished he would have done something, anything, to stop the barbaric act of burning them alive. When I was fifteen, I graduated secondary school with distinctions in all my classes, I ran home with my result in my hand and found my dad and the head of the village council doing what Aliyu and his lover were prohibited from doing. I did not tell my mother or Adesewa or anyone else. I did not tell even my father what I had seen, but I told God. I asked our pastor if God blessed sinners, he said God is a forgiving being and he would bless sinners if they acknowledged their sins and repented.
I stare at the pills for longer than I should, I am not undecided but I think of whether or not God would forgive me when I commit this sin. I wonder if there is an afterlife. I think of what my epitaph would read, and if people would say nice things in my eulogy. I pick up my phone and text her
Nothing is promised, even today. I hope you find another addiction
I want to be here, for Vanessa at least but I know that whatever we have between us might just be temporary. For a minute, I want to be alive. I want to breathe air, I want to look at someone and have my heart palpitate, and I want to see my mother smile again. The thought of the afterlife being unending darkness frightens me even further and makes me contemplate my decision. Finally, I gather enough courage and decide that this is it. I cannot rescind my decision, not after I had sent my letter. I close my eyes and brace for the impact of the yet to be ingested pills when my chiming phone interrupts me. It was Adesewa calling. Did my letter get there earlier than expected? The rotund lady had said it would get there in the evening, it was barely 10 am. As soon as the call dropped, my phone rang again, this time it was Vanessa. I ignore it but not before long, I am constantly interrupted by intermittent calls from Vanessa and Adesewa. I swallow a handful of pills before I pick up the phone and say