In the summer of the Year 2017, my family and I moved to the suburbs.
Dad had just bought a house there and I was ecstatic. Mum didn’t seem to like the move so much, she missed the city life, but I didn’t mind at all.
I liked the quietness, there were no cars horning their way through in the early hours of the morning and there was no traffic! Our home was big, and we even had a yard! Dad had a swing installed right in the center of the yard, I loved it! I would sit on the swing in the cool of the evenings, reading a book.
But the best part were the woods that lay in a close distance. A trodden path narrowly cut through them, lines of trees and ferns running along each sides.
I had always loved trees, a luxury I didn’t get to enjoy in the city, so it was pure delight to have so many of them here. I made sure to stroll through the forest every chance that I got. I liked how the dried leaves and bushes creaked under my feet as I marched past, the sounds of the birds chirping and singing made for even a much more fun experience.
Some of the trees bore fruits, fruits of different kinds, but my favorite was the avocado pear. I made sure to pluck some and drop into my bag every time I was in the woods.
Other times I was lucky to have the ripe avocados fall to the ground, lying still as if in wait for me.
My parent’s were my heroes, semi gods was how I saw them, especially dad – I idolized him. I made sure to do everything right by them, their opinion mattered more to me than anyone else’s and I was determined not to let them down.
I liked Arts, I could sketch anything. On the table in my room lay a scrapbook that carried all the sketches I had ever drawn.
“You cannot use this one to make money tomorrow o” my mum remarked scornfully one evening as she stared down at my scrapbook, listlessly flipping through it’s pages.
“I know mum”. But I didn’t mean those words, I couldn’t possibly have.
“You cannot shame me, I will not allow you to” Dad said a few Months after when I was crying because he seized my scrapbook.
In the midst of my tears, he asked me to give him names of people who had made it big in Nigeria by simply drawing, but I honestly could not come up with any names.
I was sixteen and all I knew was that, I was happier when I sketched, it came easy to me. It was passion, it was fulfilling and I just wanted to know where that could take me.
I ran to my room, flung myself to the bed and wouldn’t stop crying. Mum came in, she sat besides me and began to corroborate dad’s words, she spoke about Art’s not being important and encouraged me to pursue the Legal career.
You see, growing up, my parent’s nick named me Barrister, they called me by that title more than they called my birth name, it was who I was going to be when I grew up. It was determined.
Eventually I stopped crying, buying into their school of thought. I told myself that they were right, Arts was just a waste of time, and so I buckled up, determined to become the greatest Lawyer of all time.
Jamb was two Months away and I started to prepare for it. I read like it was no man’s business. I would lock myself in the room, reading and going over past question papers.
One night while I was studying, Dad came into my room, he stood over me and bobbed his head repeatedly, obviously impressed. My legs were soaked in a bucket of water, a trick that was meant to keep me awake. I was sleepy but I couldn’t afford to sleep, exams were the next day.
“Well done ehn?” He complimented.
“Thank you Daddy”
“I’m sure with all these preparations you will pass”
I smiled, nodding in agreement.
He lowered himself to the empty chair besides me. “Chinelo, I know that I am hard on you sometimes but that is only because I want you to do your best at all times…”
“I know Daddy”
“Failure is not an option in life, I know the challenges I and your mother faced earlier on in our lives and I don’t want you to have to suffer the same fate. And it all starts now. If you make your exams at one sitting, the sky would be your limit, but if you fail, you would stay at home while your mates go to the University, and I would not accept that.
Those people that pass do not have two heads. So you too must pass. Don’t bring shame upon me my daughter. you are already aware of how I brag about you to all my friends so don’t go and fail and make me to feel ashamed before these very people.
We have tried our best in giving you the necessary things of life, we moved here so that you would have a quiet environment to study in, this A.C,” he pointed towards the air conditioner hanging on the wall. “…was to make you feel cool while reading.
We have done everything and if you need more, we will still do, so now it is your turn to show us how much you appreciate us by passing your exams.
That way, our efforts would not go in vain. Failure is not an option, you must always remember that”
Whatever sleep that I had been feeling disappeared from my eyes. “Thank you daddy, I will not disappoint you” I promised sincerely.
“Okay my daughter” He pulled his weight off the chair and walked out of my room, shutting the door quietly behind him.
I let myself ponder on how hard my parent’s worked to give I and my sister a comfortable life, my sister passed her exams at a sitting and was doing well in her third year in Medical school, I had to follow in her foot steps. I could not afford to let my parent’s down.
I shook away my thoughts and glanced up at the wall clock, it was 12.am, thinking in itself was time wasting, I had to keep reading.
I got up, lifted the bucket of water to the bathroom, turned it over in the tub, fetched fresh water from the sink and carried the bucket back to my room. I climbed into it before sitting my behind on the chair.
I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my table, dropping my head down to the text book I earlier left open.
There would be no sleeping for me tonight.
I was nervous.
I sat quietly in the exam hall, watching as other candidates took their seats. Dad had made sure to drop me off at the venue on time, and that enabled me to complete my biometric verification way before the others.
None of my friends were posted to my center but I didn’t mind, I liked the fact that there would be no one to distract me.
I stared at the computer screen in front of me, soon, the invigilator would ask us to start by entering our registration number in the space provided for login. Thank God for my computer lessons, I was already familiar with operating these machines.
All the candidates soon got seated and it was time to begin.
The Invigilator yelled “start”
I clicked the bold “start exam” button and my time began to count. I answered the questions as they came. I had two hours to answer 180 questions but I intended to finish before that time elapsed.
“Chinelo, how was it?” mum asked cheerfully as I walked into the house with dad. He had gone back to pick me up after the exams.
“It was okay mum, I was scared at first but I answered everything”
Dad took a seat on the couch and crossed his legs, smiling up at me as I related the events of the day to my mum.
“Ah! thank God!” My mum clapped. “I’m very glad you finished o, Naomi’s mother was complaining that her daughter could not finish hers….”
I dropped to the sofa, stretching out tiredly “No oo, me I finished”
“And you will pass in Jesus name!”
“Amen” echoed dad and I.
“My Barrister!” she clapped cheerfully.
“My dear wait for the result to come out first, you are rejoicing as if she has already passed” commented my amused dad.
“Ah! she will pass o, in fact she has already passed in Jesus name!” she emphasized.
“She better pass o,” Dad was still smiling. “because if you fail, don’t just come back to this house” he said to me, his voice calm yet underlining with seriousness.
Mum laughed, but my heart was skipping in fear. His words resonated in my head like a loud bell.
“Let me bring you people’s food” she said and turned towards the kitchen.
I stood up from the sofa. “Mummy I’m not hungry,” I called after her “I bought egg roll and mineral after the exams while waiting for dad”
“Ehn. Let me go to the woods and pick some fruits instead”.
“You and this forest sef! Every time forest, every time tree, Ooo ngwanu!”
She turned to my dad asking him to sit at the dinning table while she served his food.
Their voices faded away as I walked out of the house. I went into the kitchen through the back door and collected a small knife then proceeded into the woods.
I picked some avocados and climbed a short tree, I found a stable branch and balanced on it. I cut the avocado into two halves and began to chew away.
I thought about what Dad said about not coming back home should I fail my exams, I knew it would not get to that because I would pass with flying colors. I was sure of that. I had worked too hard not to pass.
Failure was not an option in life.
Mum woke me up a few Weeks after. “The result is out” she announced, shaking me out of my sleep. “I just watched it on the news” she said to my half awake self.
Whatever sleep I had left in my eyes vanished. I jumped out of bed and scrambled towards the bathroom. She was laughing, we were both happy, I was a step closer to becoming a Lawyer.
I rushed my bath and dashed out of the house, refusing my mother’s invitations to first sit down for breakfast.
I hiked to the nearest computer centre, paid for some time and sat down in front of the screen. With eager hands, I typed in my email and username and was immediately directed to my profile.
I selected my examination Year then inputted my Jamb registration number. I paused for a second before clicking the print result slip option.
I shut my eyes and squirmed my face to the side as the page loaded. I released one eye open, the second followed in shock, the confident smile that had been on my face quickly metamorphosing into a confused frown.
I leaned into the screen, refreshed the page thinking for a second that there had been a mixup somewhere.
The page reloaded and the score of 52.2 still stared back at me. My shoulders slumped, I was never going to make it into the Faculty of Law with that score, what the University required was a score of 55.29.
I remembered my father’s words , “If you fail, do not come back into this house….. Do not shame me….those people that pass do not have two heads…”
My body began to shake, my lips grew wobbly. I sprung out of the chair and dashed out of the computer centre, I didn’t stop running until I got into the woods.
I climbed my favorite tree, sat on one of the branches and let out a loud wail.
I was agonized.
I had failed, this only meant that I was a failure in life. My dad had said it, if I failed, I would stay home while my mates went on to the University. I had let my parents down, they had given me everything yet I let them down. That realization hurt so bad it cut right through my chest.
I didn’t want to live anymore. What was the point? I wanted to die than live to see the disappointment on my parent’s faces by the time they found out that I had failed.
My mother’s call came through but I wasn’t going to pick it. I ignored the call, wiped my eyes and climbed down from the tree.
I couldn’t live with myself.
I walked out of the woods into a neighbor’s kiosk, repeatedly glancing over my shoulders to make sure none of my family members could sight me.
“Chinelo, wetin make you dey cry?” the concerned woman asked me.
“My mum beat me” I lied.
“Aaaryarh, wetin you do?”
“She said I should come and buy snipper since morning but I was watching film”
“Eiya, oya take” She wrapped a bottle of the insecticide in a black polythene bag and handed it over to me. I paid for it.
“Next time your mama send you for something, go do am immediately, you hear?” I nodded and turned around to leave.
“I hear say Jamb don comot, you don go check your own?” her words stopped me in my tracks.
My heart stung. I looked over my shoulder at her. “I go check tomorrow.”
“You na very intelligent girl, I know say you go pass am” She assured me, smiling confidently, the same smile I had before that page killed my hopes.
“Thank you Ma.” I forged on, back into the woods.
I climbed up the branch. Once I was seated, I screwed the cover open. I thought about my mum and my dad and my sister, I knew how devastated they would be but it was better this way, Me being gone would be better for everyone than living and serving as a constant reminder of my failure.
My dad was my hero, I couldn’t bear letting him down, I just couldn’t live with it.
Failure was not an option in life, yet I had failed. It was over for me.
Grasping the bottle tightly in one hand, I pulled out my phone with my free hand and texted my mum:
I’m so sorry mum, I tried my best yet I failed my Jamb, I’m sorry for letting you and Dad down, I hope that you can forgive me, I love u guys.
As the message ticked send, I gulped down the liquid, flung the empty bottle away and sat quietly, waiting for the drug to kick in.
It wasn’t long before my stomach started to churn, it ruffled in pain. I let out a loud wail, pressing an arm tightly to my hurting stomach as the pain traveled through my body.
My life began to flash before my eyes, I saw myself as a child running around the house, I saw my celebrated birthdays, I saw my sister carrying me in her thighs as we all gathered around the TV in our sitting room in the city, I saw different moment’s of the life I had lived replay before me like it was a movie.
The pain finally overtook me and I fell to the ground with a loud thud, landing on the dry leaves. I twisted and rolled around in the leaves, my arm pressed tightly to my hurting stomach, I was in pain, I was in excruciating pain.
And then, all of a sudden, all at once, it stopped.
I rose up and looked down at my lifeless body, laying peacefully on the ground, in my favorite place in the world – the woods.
My parent’s would come looking for me eventually, they would know to look here because there was no other place I would be.
Turning my back on my body, I walked on, into the world of the Spirits.