Friday Osoba and myself were very good friends in and outside the school. We were in the same class. We lived on the same street, at Oke-Iyin, Ilesa. I lived in my father’s house in the middle of the short street. The short street was and is still accessible through the rusty untarred road that kissed the trunk A road that sped through Ayeso to Odo-Iro and to the historic and beautiful Ilesa City.
Friday lived with his father and younger brother, Augustine, at the end of the street that threatened to go through the Nigerian Police Barracks. His father, a very tough man, was a warder at the Nigerian Prisons. Just like my guardian, who was also my father’s caretaker, Mr. Akalugwu, an Igbo man from Owerri. Mr. Akalugwu, a gentle, easy going, unassuming man, had the absolute trust and confidence of my father. He never had any reason to report me to my father, not because I was always a good boy, but because he knew how to handle a troublesome boy like me, along with Rose, Charles and Stella, his children.
Friday’s mother lived back in Benin. So, he was vested with the responsibility of performing the “wifely”roles for his father and supervised his younger brother. He cleaned the house, went to the market, washed and ironed his clothes and cooked the meals. Friday could cook the most delicious food in the world. I know because I ate of his cooking several times. He was very organized. He was very efficient, and neat to a fault. His school uniform, if it could verbalize, would have complained about excessive ironing.
We did almost everything together. We seldom read outside the school. We spent our evenings, mostly, to play soccer on the Police Barracks field. A three story apartment building now grace that field where our raw talents were guileessly and delightfully showcased. Friday, who spoke splintered Yoruba, sterilized with raw Edo dialect was always boastful of the fact that he got more marks in Yoruba Language studies than me. Though, this happened only once, he never let me forgot it. His efforts to speak Ijesa dialect could make anyone break his ribs with laughter.
One of the most memorable experiences was going to and coming from school, everyday. Every morning, Friday and myself, (his brother, Augustine, did not stay long. He went back to Benin after a year and was in KERUBU briefly), would meet Joachim Oki, another classmate of ours, at his Ayeso home. At times, Samson, another classmate who lived two streets away from me, would join us. But he seemed to prefer the company of Senior Famose, who also lived around Oke – Iyin, more times than ours.
Our daily journey to school often started via Biladu road. At times we went through the street of Mr. Ajagunna, one of our teachers and passed by his house. Ajagunna taught us History in Form Three. We would go through Commonwealth High School’s grounds and navigate what looked like a dense forest then, threading the snaky path to school. Usually, it took us about 15 – 20 minutes to get to school.
From the grounds of Commonwealth High School, as we took on the fairly beaten path, we would walk into an amazing puddle of the freshest air on the planet. In the dry season, even with the heat of the sun and high humidity, this alluring environment through which our path crawled, guaranteed natural and uncontaminated air. Often very soothing, it aggressively reduced the impact of furnacious heat that could have been our lot, if we were walking on open streets.
In the raining season or what is referred to as Spring in Europe and America, the coolness of the breeze blowing through this forest, with a degree of subtle and disarming bellicosity, often seared into our skin, permeating us with a modicum of comfort. Its aftertaste in the palate of our bodies left a tasteless sweetness that we all savoured happily. It imbued us all with a kind of satisfaction that could not be fathomed except when experienced.
As we traversed this small forest on our way to and from school, unconsciously, with our light-hearted attitude, we reveled in the beauty, comfort and richness of nature. We playfully, especially on our way back from school, savoured the scent of the leaves, relished the beautiful ugliness of the peeling shrubs, the rhythmic flapping of the tree branches and the helpless leaves on the ground, that groan with cracking cries when stepped upon, as if mourning the imminence of their decadence into becoming manure.
Then, there was the badinage of the birds. The birds, excitedly chatted away, always endlessly. Unrestrainedly, they exuded effervescence at their fortunes, cheery at their freedom, ecstatic at their flipping prowess as they marinated in the revelry of nature’s beauty. We never attempted any form of hunting, no matter how mundane. Even, if others had wanted, yours truly would have opted out because of his mortal fear of snakes.
Everytime we came to school through this forest, we would come out often about a stone throw from the school’s gate. The short cut was helpful and interesting to boot. I am not able to remember if we were ever late for school once. It never happened. Not just because we took that path through the small forest, but because of our sense of responsibility. Moreso, who would want to be whipped by Mr. Oki, the French teacher who took joy in caning recalcitrant students to order?
By Remi Oyeyemi
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)