I apologise for taking you through the saddening details of my past life. But it was necessary to give you the background to this cheerful never-frowning boy like me. Behind every glory, there lies a story!
I tried to fight my self-esteem issues. I knew I couldn’t fit in the way I was…I mean, everybody around me was trying to be all gangster and here I was. Mr Goody-two-shoes. They wanted to be lil’ wayne, chingy, T.I, souljaboy redman, beenieman. Birdman, apeman, and all such funnily named musicians. I wanted to be Kenneth Hagin or Benny Hinn! It was so obvious that I would never fit in with such a mentality. I mean, it’s like a fingerling trying to swim against the ocean tide.
There was friction between me and my classmates. They loved doing things that were wrong. Anything contraband, from radios to cereals snuck in ingeniously (for some reason they called the food “grubs”…now I wonder if they actually knew they were referring to their food as worms and bugs…eeewww!). But here I was, a stickler for the rules. If we were to have two cubes of sugar with our cornflakes on Sunday morning, I’d take exactly two cubes no matter who was serving. I remember, even staff were positively amazed that a senior student would obey. One Saturday I had my breakfast late because I was working with the Chaplain. I walked into the Kitchen and meekly requested my breakfast. Sure enough, Aunty Ibukun (the head cook, I think) served me hot pap and then pointed me to a pack of St. Louise’s Sugar. When I was leaving the Kitchen, she called;
“y-yes..?” I stuttered. You have to understand that Aunty Ibukun was a tough young lady, lithe as a cat and ready to pounce on any offender. So I was naturally afraid of her anger.
“How many cubes of sugar did you take?”
She gave me a good looking-over, from head to toe) like she was trying to judge the veracity of my assertion by bodily composition. And then she calmly asked me what my position in School was. Well, I needed no prophet to tell me that she was amazed. I mean- how many senior boys would ignore a full packet of sugar when no one was looking? They’d have taken everything and left like a quarter of the packet!
It was for acts like these that my classmates saw me as a potential spy, a ‘caster (our very own home-grown synonym for whistleblower). They could never be comfortable doing anything they knew was illegal while I was around. One day I walked into class and met two of my classmates making out in class, and without any lookout! If you went to Tricol, you know what the school stood for. You could get suspended if you got caught! But these guys went ahead like a breeze just blew. And then they stopped and settled for a hand job. In loving memory of the guy (who was an arsenal fan), I will not mention their names.
But I’ll give you a clue. He wore glasses and was in Blue house. She…oh, never mind. That’s not important anyways. Now, this dude walked up to me and said, “don’t tell anyone what you saw…not even NONSO”. I was still reeling at the scene which obviously contradicted My Christian and moral values of sexual purity! (of course they didn’t go all-the-way…but they were pretty close)
Wait a minute…did he just ask me to keep a secret? Was he taking me into confidence? Me…? Wow! I felt super cool that one of the big boys could entrust me with such a secret! I felt new…accepted…like I’d just been initiated into a secret cult! A part of me was horrified at the very act which I’d just witnessed and wanted to talk about it, but a greater part accepted it.
And so, I began my gradual slide into dishonesty. I began to seek the approval of these guys. I would run their errands, I would lookout for any teachers or security guards who might stumble onto them in the act. The same with every other couple- I desperately tried to show them I wasn’t some Jew guy, but a Soji guy (I’m sorry if you don’t know what Soji means in Nigerian English). I began to copy their way of life.
Slowly, I lost my personality and started allowing myself to believe I was a part of the life I saw around me. Slowly, I started cussing and swearing. Slowly, I started trying to learn rap songs. I never actually knew more than three lines at a time, but as it is with guys, if you raised a song, they’d be sure to follow…we were so into that stuff, you know what I’m saying? I even went to a cybercafé one day with the sole aim of researching the popular artistes my “friends” were listening to. I remember I got the lyrics of G-Unit’s “If you don’t know who I be” or whatever it was. I even printed it out during the holidays. Then the next term, I let it “accidentally” fall out of my books when I was arranging my locker. Seun Osunsan found it and started singing the song. Soon everybody joined in, and I gathered a few points to my reputation.
Slowly, I rejected the life I’d been raised in, and began embracing the things God said he hated. Lying. Cheating in exams. Dirty talking. I even began to make public displays of anger even when it wasn’t necessary. I must apologise to Omagha Oduniyi at this time. I remember throwing a chair in an unnecessary fit of anger, just to look cool. Just about anything that’d make me cooler in the sight of my colleagues.
You see, there’s something with pretending to be who you’re not. You’re in constant danger of being found out. How do you even go to sleep knowing that the entire day was a fraud? Eseosa Ighodaro was my roommate for three terms, and both of us hardly went to sleep immediately after lights out. We would lie awake in our bunks and reflect on the day’s activities. He probably had no clue, but the day’s activities weren’t really all IALL was thinking of. I was thinking of how long I could keep this up. My teachers still believed I was a good boy; my classmates now believed I was just like them and had been pretending all along. But Eseosa knew the truth. One day, when I tried to tell him about Jesus Christ, he called me a pretender…he told me I was merely pretending to be a Christian. If he only knew the truth!
Do you know the worst part of the whole charade? Acting and talking bad did not get me more acceptance. Instead, it made my classmates despise me the more. They saw me as a cheap imitation and invented even more names for me. I was called holier-than-thou, Pastor’s Child…all very annoying names for someone who was desperately trying to be bad. I had denied my beliefs to get accepted into some cool, hip, “happening” group, yet it seemed to drop my approval ratings. Like anyone was paying attention to me anyways.
I once read Morontodun and some review of the play. She was regarded to have committed class suicide when she left her bourgeois family and took up with the proletariat. Well, I felt just that way! I felt something die within me. I knew it was only a matter of time before the fraud I was would exposed to the whole world.
You know the Vice-Principal’s Assembly on Fridays? Remember when He (mr. Odetola) brought his new black book titled…well, BLACK BOOK (written in Gold letters) to the assembly? He announced that whoever committed a grievous offence would have his name entered into the dreaded black book. Even the bad guys in my school wouldn’t want to get a bad record…we all wanted to go to college/University in Canada, England or as a last resort…America (Malaysia wasn’t a known option back then. But thank you Wanma Yaro, Nazeer Abdullahi and Ashwak for showing us the way).
Exactly What Kind of offences would get you in the book? When we were accepted as students in the school, we signed an undertaking to obey every rule in the rulebook. And yes, our school was that legalistic! The rules ranged from reasonable (like promising to obey all instructions) to downright ridiculous (like promising not to start a secret society or bring hard drugs and firearms into the school compound. I mean, rules for ten year olds?). But we did promise not to engage in anything sexual…peeking, pornography, dark corners, kissing and so on…and definitely “organising” (our very own slang for making out) was DEFINITELY part of sexual activity. As you know, aiding and abetting a felony is as good as committing it yourself.
You may think I was carrying another man’s cross, but I tell you, growing up with a lawyer mum makes you understand the implications of disobeying a law. How much longer did I have before I would eventually get caught?
And then there was Tolu. Tolu Ariyibi. I thought she was some kind of goddess of the sea or alien. Because whenever I looked at her, my usually functional, scientific brainwaves would become automatically scrambled. My auditory signal would leak through my neurons leading to a psycho-emotional malfunction with physical symptoms such as staring, hyperventilation and spontaneous speechlessness. I mean, I liked this girl. I wanted to know just a little of what made this girl tick…I mean- if I could get her to smile, maybe the sting of being the rejected one would be lessened? Initially, it felt just like a nursery school crush (Why are y’all staring like I said something strange? You crushed on people in your nursery school too, ADMIT IT!) then it grew into a raging inferno that stole my waking moments and crept into my dreams.
But you see, I could never talk to her for more than ten seconds at a time because of my reputation as a dull guy. No girl, I mean, NO GIRL wanted to be seen with me. And worse, she (Tolu) laughed when anyone insulted me. But I don’t understand why I still liked her…was it because she had such a disarming smile? The cutest dimples? The whitest teeth? The perfect skin? The most engaging eyes? Come to think of it, I never saw a single zit on her face (**up till date…you can look her up, she’s on facebook too! Hahaha!**) I guess it was the mystery of not knowing who she was…even though she sat just a row behind me…I had no rep, no rep, no game, no flows, no nothing. It’s like the hunchback of Notre Dame trying to get a date with snow white. It was hopeless.
Until this dude came to our school, all the way from the land of freedom. Hecareth. Hecareth Adefila.
Listen to “The Original” By Uchman. Awesome stuff, people!
And if you missed part one of the HIGH SCHOOL series, get it HERE