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Living by Johnson Onyedikachi.

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It was a dry Wednesday noon with its moderation perfectly intact. The sun beamed less brightly than the day before, the midday wind came gently, seeking to please every form of vegetation which so easily bristled in its sway, and the chirps from the birds that perched on the branches of the guava tree in our compound was like a lovely vocalized serenade to me. The world outside of me was peaceful to a fault, but inside of me was a jumble of emotions.

I was thinking about how to stop thinking about any other thing, and the thoughts of shutting the shutters of my mind terrified me. Yet, a less alive portion of my sanity was suffused with the peace that comes along with joy and relief. I knew that once I had checked my WASSCE results, I would be dispossessed of this medley of feelings, and I just couldn’t be patient enough. Ever since Chukwuebuka, my best friend and class mate, had called me to tell me that the board had released the results, I lost my patience.

I was irate with the phone I was trying to use to check my results. Its network just wasn’t as fast as I needed it to be. It wasn’t reliable either because after several minutes of indicating that my results were being processed, an error message would still pop up afterwards: “No network. This could be because you do not have existing data. Check data,” the error message always read. I knew I still had an existing data bundle, but I just couldn’t bring my mind around any possibility that could have been preventing me from viewing my results.

I could still log in on Facebook and send messages on WhatsApp, and more annoyingly, I could get any information I needed on my browser; anything, but my WASSCE results. I dialed Chukwuebuka’s number and I told him the hitch I was experiencing with accessing the results. He told me he was having the same problem as I was, and that the only reason he could think of was the fact that millions of students across West Africa were trying to access the results at the same time, hence, the server was overloaded.

I grimaced for not thinking about that. I knew I was losing my sensibilities to the uncertainty of what the results would be. Chukwuebuka advised that we check the results late at night. I agreed with him at first, but after I hung up, that voice of dubiety nudged me to continue trying to access the results. After a thirty-odd try, it was displayed. My eyes first fell on my photograph at the top left corner of the displayed document. A cold shiver shot up my spine in a split second, clasped my heart, and wouldn’t let go. I didn’t even take the slightest notice of my shaking hands.

On the left were displayed the subjects I had offered, and on the right were my grades for each subject. Gently scrolling, I took a glance on the right and on the left simultaneously. And on the sixth row, I froze, staring agape at the grade that had been scribbled in there. Disbelieving my sight, I lifted my shaky index finger and traced the row where the bold ‘E’ had appeared.

“Chemistry!” I muttered breathlessly, hoping that by calling the subject’s name, it would be different. How could a science student get an ‘E’ in Chemistry? For three years, I studied Chemistry in secondary school, sitting exam after exam, but I never failed! Why now when it was most important? I didn’t make a ‘C’ in Chemistry and I planned to be called a doctor someday.

I loved the way those blokes and dames in immaculate white lab gowns fingered the syringe before driving the needle into a patient’s veins. I loved the way they listened to every rhythm of life with those ear-bud-like instruments called stethoscope. I loved the style of their writing whenever they put down their diagnosis and medication for the patient. The unlearned could never read what the doctor wrote, but the pharmacist, just as intelligent as the doctor, could. I loved the profession. I always had, but of what use was my love with this disappointing ‘E’. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how doomed my life was with this failure.

I wanted to cry, hit something hard with my balled fists, stifle and say that all was well. I wanted to do all of these at once. I became more confused than I was before checking the results. I began blaming myself for not taking Chukwuebuka’s advice of waiting until late at night before checking the results as if that would have made the results become any different from what I had already seen.

“Chukwuebuka,” I said in a voice that was too weak to even be a whisper. “He must have done well. So, he will go ahead of me now.”

And there it was, what I needed to crash into an abysm of despair. My knees gave way under my weight, and I crashed headlong to the floor. How could this be undone? I was asking myself as my phone buzzed in my hand. Chukwuebuaka was calling, but I knew I wouldn’t pick. I knew failure had nothing to do with success. It wouldn’t make sense if I began to bug Chukwuebuka with my negative energy, I thought.

I had scarcely shut my eyes to sleep, or probably die, when the door was pushed open and I heard my name. The voice was all too familiar that I knew I had to pry my eyes open. However, I still didn’t find the tiniest of energy to get back up to my feet. Warm hands fell on my shoulders, quaking me. Mother’s hands! She called out my name, asking what it was that had gone wrong. I craned my neck to look at her, and in those motherly eyes of hers was a gathering pool of tears. She hadn’t even known I failed, and she was already crying. What would happen if she found out? I asked myself, and sat up.

There was a splitting ache at the base of my head. I looked out of the window, and all I could see was the thick lightlessness of the night sky. How long had I been lying on the floor? I couldn’t tell. I turned to look at my mother, whose eyes were still worried.

Nna, what happened?” She asked, taking my hand in hers.

“Mummy…” a whimper escaped my lips, preventing further words. Burning tears began to stream down my cheeks. I took the phone, and handed it over to her. Realization poured over her face as she glanced at the phone. I looked away, uncertain of what she was going to do. My mother who neighbours had renamed ‘Mama Doctor’ because of my ambitions, my mother who had an aggressive confidence that I would make a fine surgeon; that mother of mine was staring at my failure.

“Have you eaten,” she asked. I lifted my gaze to meet hers, uncertain of what I had heard, but she asked again, “Have you eaten?” Subconsciously, I shook my head. She beckoned me to the dining table and took out a plate of jollof rice which she had brought home with her. A huge chicken covered the top of the plate so much so that the rice below couldn’t be seen. I looked at my mother, groping for the words to say, but she nodded at me to go ahead and eat. I ate. The next day, my mother woke me with a lengthy description of how she had borne the pains of conception, gestation, and travail just to have me. She ended the monologue with a warming statement: “I am your number one fan! You will make it!”

With that, in 2018, I sat another WASSCE. I recall that I had met a young man who was also resitting the exams. He told me he failed two papers in 2015. In 2020, I secured admission in the institution of my choice. I wouldn’t have secured that admission if I had refused comforting. I wouldn’t possibly have anything to write if I had given up.

I am your number one fan! Your exit would be a bitter loss for our dear ecosystem. Of course, you are that important! Yes, that eviction order from the court means you would get thrown out from your apartment, that confident ‘F’ means you are repeating that course next year, but you are not alone. Hang in there! Dying doesn’t make the problems go away. Graveyards are not peaceful. Graveyards are not war-ridden. The grave is simply a place where nothing works. Even if there were peace down there, you wouldn’t know. Don’t give up just yet!

 

 

Johnson Onyedikachi is an eighteen-year-old Nigerian creative writer who has unpublished manuscripts of poetry and plays. He recently picked interest in crime fiction and in August 2019, enrolled in an online course where he gained proficiency in article/journal writing including the use of referencing formats (MLA and APA style). He is hopeful that he will be successful in writing.