“Sometimes, we are ignorant because we do not know. In some cases, we are ignorant because we are scared”-WOBB
Remember when he exhausted all the courage he could gather on Earth to confess how you filled his imagination with desires. He wanted somebody that could accept him as Tunji. Out of all the damsels who glowed with irresistible aura of love and beauty in your school, you were the only one he found worthy to hold his hand and call him “Smally.”
When he broke the secret of how he couldn’t do without you, although you promised to keep it a secret, you told Bisi and urged her to let it be between both of you until she made the confidential gist a breaking news. You knew he was saying the truth, nothing but the truth. But for days, his story trended on the tongues of everybody and different fingers were pointed at his body that reeked of weakness whenever he entered school compound.
You knew lie had no root on his tongue. The trust you had in him was unquantifiable. Unlike those other guys with sweet tongues and uncultured joystick they hide in their trousers, he was full of untapped kindness. But you played with his heart as if you were denied toys during childhood.
The day he came to sit beside you at the dining during launch, his mouth was too small to contain the weight of his pain. “Do you think it was fair?” He asked. You saw tears welling up in his eye sockets before Thomas yelled at him to leave his seat. Thank God Thomas came on time. How would you have managed the embarrassment his presence at your table would attract? When you got home in the evening, the tick of the clock was very slow that a minute passed like an hour. You wanted the family time to pass quickly so that you can have time to mourn your cowardice.
When you eventually lied down on your bed, you admitted that you were being unfair. Your dad told you everything is fair in two situations; that of love and war. He said for love, we should coverkilometers to claim, protect and love who we love. For war, he instructed you to employ any means possible to secure peace. You thought of writing a letter to give him the following day. What if he leaks the content of the letter? You closed your eyes and stared at the emptiness in your sight. Behind this emptiness is his blurry face. You prayed to God; “take this feeling away from me.” You didn’t want to think about why you have refused to admit his feelings towards you is mutual. Whenever you think of telling him, you remember what Bisi would say. A sicklier also deserves love. But you only have the choice of denying him and yourself this happiness to enjoy each other’s presence and interact with silent joy.
You didn’t like how his friends jokingly put him in his rightful place. But you smiled whenever they called him a weakling. The last time they called him a weakling before you, you acted along. You needed to laugh to avoid being left out of the fun. After all, Bisi and Tolu also laughed. Tunji left with his courage shattered. He grew up adapting to friends who mockingly called him weakling but never has someone whom he loves like you ever connived with them to sap what remained of his esteem.
All these time, you refused to treat the Follow Follow Syndrome (FFS) that was hurting you while you hurt the poor Tunji. Would you be proud of yourself at old age on your death bed when this memory invades your mind and whip your conscience with regret and drain tears from your eyes? The words of Bisi, that girl with red lips and peppered face, could not be truer than what he had to say about himself.
She told you her mother said he had AIDS, you believed. She also told you that her aunty said her boss contracted AIDS because he was too friendly with his secretary who also had AIDS. You didn’t ask her how friendliness became a carrier of AIDS. Since Tunji had AIDS, nothing could be forthcoming between both of you. She assured you she was saying the truth. Why didn’t you think of the possibility of this truth being filled with lies?
What went wrong with your brain that denied you of raising the question of how he contracted the disease at such an early stage of his life? At this stage, all what you were taught in Biology, Home Economics fled from your brain. If Bisi is saying that his parents are rich and don’t look like people with AIDS, how he contracted it should have been your question. Rather, you wore a black gown on a long sleeve white shirt neatly tucked in a black skirt and wig in company of your friends to constitute a panel of judges that sentenced him to eternal doom for being a victim of what he knew nothing about.
Your teacher announced yesterday that his parents have relocated to Abuja. It’s a very far distance from Ile-Ife. But you can easily travel to Abuja if your uncle who is privileged to be one of those guys whose convoy is led by a harem of armed men holding koboko to signal erring road drivers to give way. If only you could find his address. Those were your thoughts in the morning you heard that you won’t be seeing him till God says. It’s like his turn has finally come to unleash pain into your heart. Why did you suddenly become moody and refuse to share the feeling in your mind with Bisi?
I guess you didn’t want to go through what Tunji went through as a student of Winners International College. You became flexible and changed your wish. You didn’t want your friends to see you with him. But now, you wish you had showered him with the love he looked forward to from your end. Maybe your smile would have given him a miraculous healing. Didn’t we grow up learning how to love because we were told that love heals a sick heart? He was a sicklier. He was sick in the body and in mind. He should have better been diagnosed for chronic heart disease. I wonder if you would have offered your heart for him to get out of the sick bed and glow in sound health.
This morning, his empty seat reminds you of his empty face that needed to be filled with compassion. Out of respect for him or probably fear of becoming a weakling like him, nobody wants to approach his seat. You are expecting him to come and occupy it. But that will only happen in your dream. If only you were informed ahead that he had a limited time to make your heart skip of love for him. He struggled to live for you, but you had no oxygen to offer him.
He wanted a love he never felt at home. He dreamt of a world where nobody sees him as a sicklier but a victim. He thought as a victim, he would enjoy the sympathy of a world that would blame his parents for their blind love. If only you had given him time, he would have told you why love shouldn’t be blind. He would have introduced you to Dr. Tolu, his family doctor who explained to him that his parents were warned ahead of their union but replied saying love conquers all. They probably didn’t imagine how the fusion of their genotype could produce a sicklier like him whose moment of life would be spent expecting the golden opportunity to die.
Today, Tunji has called it a quit. He quietly opted for an eternal sleep in the confine of a simple house covered with sand, where his remain will benefit the soil. I hope this night, you won’t bury your mouth in your pillow when loneliness drops you in the pool of long night of reflection. Please, don’t hesitate to cry if you ever feel like. It is also good to cry for a love we took for granted.