“Simisola Badmus, will you sit up and keep your eyes open!”
Iya Leke, the substitute literature teacher yelled, startling the class into attention. Despite the fact that she was portly, i mean, very fat, very overweight, she was feared all over the school that no one dared call her by her real name, which could be Eniola or something i don’t really recall, but then, there’s that.
Back to simisola,
“I’m introducing you to the intricacies of the arts and you have the guts to sleep in my class? ”
Er, and i must have forgotten to mention Iya Leke’s love for big-big grammar,especially the ones she can’t spell or pronounce properly, but then, as always.
Back to simisola.
” Em.. Sorry ma, it won’t happen again ”
Simi’s intimidated squeak came on low, barely heard by the class. Now i have warned her about her timidity and her annoying voice that left you wondering if she was silent or talking but she never took me seriously – ever!
Remind me again how we became best friends.
” well, it had better not… ”
Iya Leke said with an exaggerated flourish and fake British accent that didn’t cover the original Ijebu one. Which teacher didn’t love an intimidated student?
” Before you interrupted us with your slumber, we were talking about literary devices, onomatopoeia exactly,(she pronounced this tomatopia) and don’t ask me what it means, i said it in my previous class too, so what you’ll do is give us an example of an onomatopoeia or face my very special cane, ata le pupa”
I don’t know what disgusted me more, Simisola’s whimper of fear or Iya Leke’s brown teeth she shone in a vicious grin. She knew Simisola would not know how to answer the question and was preparing herself to use the cane,but just seeking to embarrass the girl a little more.
As i scribbled into my book, i imagined the laughter that would follow when Simisola screws up and her yelps of pain as the cane descends on her. Very familiar.
So, we waited for full two minutes for Simisola’s answer which would as always, be funny and very incorrect… and it came.
The class erupted into laughter, i never got to find out if it was for the answer, which for the first time was correct or that a class window shattered in the process. Iya Leke shook her head,we all knew she wanted to laugh.
” Boom! ”
” Boom! ”
The sound came again, this time, repeatedly and accompanied by more sounds of breaking glass and thuds of running feet.
They had come.
The once laughing class scurried into activity, and confusion. I saw some jumping, rather flying through the window because as a senior class, we were on the second floor, some other students were rushing round the class trying to recover books they had lent to friends, i could swear i heard a boy say he could not leave his chemistry textbook behind as his father would kill him if anything happened to it. I looked across the class at Simisola and saw in her scared eyes, the move i should make, she was always scared anyways, if that was any help.
The running feet were getting closer, the sounds were all around us, guessing what direction it was coming from was proving difficult and the hail of bullets had become incessant now, only they weren’t shattering Windows but actually hitting people, my classmates.
Iya Leke had scampered out of the class immediately the fracas turned scary.
I signaled to Simisola and we made for the door which was very crowded by now with kids trying to get past, all at once, screaming at the same time. The boy with the Chemistry textbook was sprawled on the ground in front of the chalkboard, his eyes wide and unseeing, his bullet exit wound dripping blood rapidly from the side of his head and mixing with sand of the dirty cement floor.
Trying my best not to vomit, i raced as fast as my made in ojuelegba shoes could carry me, Simisola hot on my heels and a pack of girls behind us in pursuit. We were on the landing of the last staircase leading to the ground floor and school grounds when we heard the shouts.
“Zo ma na! Stop there! Don’t move! ”
Just like in the movies, i froze, cursing myself for being in the lead. The girls behind me followed suit, quietly raising their hands above their head and sinking slowly to their knees.
” Simisola! Dont! ”
I heard myself screaming, muscles straining against my jaw with the effort.
I heard her sobs as she ran crying past me.
I saw the men aim.
I tasted my own tears.
” Simisola! Please! Don’t! D-dont, d.. ont run, please..”
I heard my own weak shout and the girls behind me picking up the chorus. I remember thinking they were so dumb they had to repeat after me.
But she ran, without looking back, she ran, past the bodies strewn across the assembly ground and the football pitch, on she ran.
It was exactly two minutes later that she crumpled under a hail of bullets, just when we thought she had made it, and they had finally let her escape.
My stomach gave and i retched on the steps, yellow matter splashing on the sandals of the nearest man to me. The world went blank when he swung his rifle at my face, the crack of bone against metal… and the loud shouts went up.
“Allah Akbar! ”
I opened and closed my eyes.
I was either blind or stuck in a very dark cell.
The door swung open suddenly and the bright sunlight hit me, stinging my face. My eyes were very swollen that the images of the men dragging me out of the room were a blur.
Outside, i could make out a few of my classmates with sullen expressions and dead eyes doing and odd job or the other, mostly fetching water.
We were in a wide clearing in the middle of a bush or forest or something and 300 miles away, the whole world was looking for us, we had sparked media controversy, we made front page, world news.
Nine months later, i am carrying my son, for Ibrahim or whatever he said his name was, and reality has hit me, we would never be found, our parents will die in pain, not knowing what happened to us, the world had moved on. They had forgotten. I see it in the eyes of the handful of my classmates left, as they fetched water, or cooked, or washed or answered the night call of their ‘masters’.
Simisola has stopped running.
I should have run with her.
Author’s Note: “You never know how pain feels until it happens to you”. In honor of the Chibok girls and every person affected in the aftermath of the insurgence, to those left permanently traumatized, scarred and emotionally damaged, somebody cares, somebody has not forgotten.
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