Kabir was at the verge of losing his mind over the graduation celebration ritual. He just could not keep his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth or his lips firmly sealed. ‘How on earth would full-grown fellows be forced to contribute kobo, shi –shi, and widow’s mites to buy bottles of wine only to waste them and then come up with a convenient name(wine popping) to justify the foolish act’, he nagged and stammered as we negotiated the bend close to the footpath leading to the hostel.
Unknown to K-guy, as he was fondly called, most of his rants and raves fell on deaf ears. My mind was exhausted by the conversation we had a night before our final exams. The broad grin on my face was just a decoy to steady his resolve that he was making absolute sense even when I did not hear Jack. I was quick to grasp his lamentation about the wine that was popped in class that morning because it was said amidst gesticulation that included his thick, snow-white, unadulterated saliva droplets landing on my face. It caught me off guard. The ‘wawu’ that found its way out of my mouth was necessitated by the impact and mild irritation the saliva had on me. I was not entirely surprised at his exaggerated expressions or the saliva; I had endured those for four years.
Our larger-than-life campus friendship was a product of love at first sight. We met on our matriculation day. Halfway into the event, it began to rain. The wind that accompanied the rain rolled off the canopy that shielded us from the showers; even though it did not save us from the cold. Without thinking twice, we ran towards the building opposite us. Unanimously, we rested our backs against the wall and used our hands to wipe off the remaining droplets on our eyelashes. Guess what? Without consulting one another, we slid our folders into our worn-out shirts. At that moment, we knew we had something in common- which was poverty. We connected instantly and grew inseparably almost throughout our stay in the university. We were known for throwing banters at each other to the admiration of others.
A day to our final paper, K-guy became restless. His restlessness got me restless too. It saw both of us tossing from one side of the bed to the other with an awkward silence hovering over us. We were like newly wedded couple going through their first nuptial incongruity. When I had had enough of it, I decided to prod, one more time. Boom! It worked.
‘My guy, I will not graduate this year’, he said beneath his breath with half of the words jerking through his heavy tongue. ‘God forbid’, I chanted swaying my hand over my head to assure him that I meant each word. ‘But I have not paid my tuition for the last two sessions’, he continued.
K-guy knew his onions; natural intelligence had roots in the fiber of his brain. He was too gifted to be allowed to waste. That night, I started contemplating loaning out my sister’s savings to save K-guy. She had been saving (for three years) in my account to get a sewing machine after completing her training at the fashion school. I shared the idea with K-guy which brought smiles glazed with tears to his face. He promised to find a way to pay back even if that would involve doing odd jobs.
Few days after our exams, we strolled to the bank on campus, withdrew the money, cleared his outstanding tuition, and went back to being jolly-good fellows. We decided to stay back (in a single room off campus) for our convocation which was in four months’ time. We took odds jobs to ease the waiting process.
Few days to our convocation, I got wind of the information that K-guy had emerged the best graduating student with a jaw-breaking CGPA. Such feats had always attracted awesome awards and prizes. That rumor brought some sort of relief to my troubled soul. I was certain that with the cash prize, we would be able clear the mind-boggling debt howling our names.
When his name was called that day, my joy knew no bounds. Finally, I would be able to sleep with my eyes closed and my heart beating at a normal rate. Before walking to the podium, he leaned his head towards me and whispered, ‘we made it, bro’. Immediately, a shade of pride that signals accomplishment engulfed my entire being. It felt like the win was for the two of us. #200,000 was graciously willed in his favor. The gigantic cheque covered his chest but spared his face, enough to show the broad smile on his face.
For strange reasons, we did not return to the room together. I spent half the time bragging to our friends that K-guy gave all of us a run for our money. I went as far as teasing Jacob, the fashion icon of our set: ‘it’s not by wearing fine clothes o. With our one pair of trouser and three shirts we still beat wuna.’ Jacob had bullied us, especially k-guy, and I felt it was my job, as a good friend, to pay him in his own coin.
When I got to the room, K-guy and his belongings were nowhere to be found. He was gone. Neighbors confirmed that he left in a great haste and pleaded with them not to say a word of it to me. It took me days to convince myself that I had been a fool all along. The money was gone; so was our friendship. The thought of it left a sickly feeling in my stomach. Then my sister called. I sold all my belongings to raise half of the money- #17,500. I spate all forms of lies known to man and demons to cover up for my irresponsible and dastardly act until I was able to cough out the balance through my nostrils. All attempts to contact K-guy proved abortive. My pains grew as trust in men declined.
I came close to reaching him years later when I ran into his cousin who confided in me that the annoying protocol around seeing Kabir was frustrating. So, I gave up and continued patching my life that had defiantly refused to get patched for a long while until I found a teaching job. The pay was not good, but it was ok to keep body and soul together. Nana, the love of my life, made life easy for me with her unconditional love.
After the wedding introduction, it was time to start the procedure for our white wedding at her family church which was in another state. The trip was filled with pleasant moments and gave me glimpses into our happily ever after.
The next morning, we arrived at the church office to see the pastor and kick start the preparation for the wedding. The secretary walked us into the office with deep assurance that the pastor would join us shortly. We used that moment to throw banters at each other in a way that got both of us giggling in excitement, oblivious of our surrounding. Moments later, we heard footsteps from behind us, accompanied by a cheerful voice chanting: ‘oh! Nana, my beloved, I’m so happy for you’. That is the pastor, Nana said as we quickly jumped to our feet, a demeanor for respect. I made a quick turn to face the pastor with my hands extended to shake him…. Then, I came face to face with Kabir, the betrayer. The clerical collar around his neck made me feel twice removed from reality; it just felt off. For a moment, the world stood still. I was not sure of the appropriate reaction. A part of me wanted to hug him for the sake of Nana; the other part of me wanted to land my fist on his face. He stood there staring at me as though he just saw a ghost in human form. Nana saved the day by cutting the now embarrassing stares short. Both of us began to sweat even with the air condition on. Our brief stay in that office reminded me (with so much discomfort) of my pains: how I lost my money and my friend on the same day.
Peace Habila, a resident of Jos, Plateau state is passionate about creative writing. She wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org