Bravery or Foolishness… Episode 1

He joined us on the way and asked about our JAMB class; and although he looked like one who packs dirts for Waste Management Authority, my friend still answered his questions.
We were preparing for the JAMB UME, 2008; and we just finished a class for the day, walking home after a tiring class. Half of the journey had already been completed; and we would soon arrive at the junction where we will take a cab home when we saw this rough guy hail us to halt.
He staggered like one drunk with 7UP and asked about where we were coming from.
Sensing that he was looking suspicious, I didn’t answer him, but my friend insisted on ‘forming’ Mr Nice Guy. He told the rough guy we were coming from JAMB lesson.
Those years, I was different from the way I am now although most of my character stayed with me till now. I was thin and tall then; and I bounced when I walk. Seeing me from afar off, one will easily conclude I was one of the twelve disciples- my face was gentle and I dressed like a fisherman.
But my friend was opposite. He was taller and with his big eyeballs, he could scare the hell out of a frog- just by looking. He grew up in the Niger-Delta and had travelled almost half of the country by that time.
So, when the strange and shabby guy walked up to us, I thought he would know better than to engage him. But I guess he wanted to like biblical Philip, join the chariot.
The guy continued asking different needless questions that I have forgotten now.
Questions like ‘Is this your book?’ when he could see me holding the book.
‘No, no be my book, na book of Life’ would be the best response for most of his questions, but I was too careful to give any answers. For all I know, he was trying to win my friend over and will soon ask for some money to travel home or buy his own JAMB form.
Anyway, my friend still went on to discuss with him despite my eye signals which my mother had taught me before now- eye signals that will be followed up with black red slaps if one fails to understand them.
Well, before one could say ‘YAYA’, the guy offered to give my friend his phone number. And before my friend could say ‘080’, Roughboy quickly told him he would type the number himself.
It was then I changed my demeanour from the gentle Victor to the suspicious and angry Wahab.
But before I could act, ThankGod, my friend- for so is his name called- had handed his phone to a dirty-looking stranger.
I do not know how he could trust a stranger as much as that. Maybe it was bcos of all those stories he’d heard where an angel where dirty clothes to visit people with blessings.
Anyway, Roughboy collected the phone and held on to it. We continued moving and since he was assured his prize is safe in his grasp, he revealed his true self.
‘Please, return my phone’, my friend always speaks good English- even in emergencies.
‘I will still give you’. The guy said over and over again anytime my friend asked him.
I was soon fed up with their lovers’ fight and then intervened.
Looking back, I now realize it has been a long time I have been brave in the face of fear.
The guy was obviously older than both of us and he was a street rugged boy- testament to this was his taste in clothes. His teeth would only be good for kolanut advert. And his hands were the hands of a Local Government farmer; covered with calluses all around. He wore a big baggy shorts- those kinds that reaches halfway line between the knee and the foot- three quarters. But this was not like the ones worn by Jim Iyke or Korede Bello. They were visibly dirty, and Jik or Harpic will do wonders on the shorts.
To say the least, he was a guy no lady will pray to see in her dream after praying for husband in a special singles’ vigil.
However rugged he looked, I told him with all my pent up anger to return my friend’s phone.
When he saw my tone of voice was threatening, he gave me a blow on my chest. I was still trying to engage him when My friend jumped in and tried to calm me down.
I guess he had realized by then the type of guy he gave his phone to. But my anger was not abated.
I grumbled my customary grumbling- the one I do anytime my mom sends me on a long errand when Nigeria wants to play a football match.
Like a stubborn but beaten goat, I marched ahead of them, visibly angry and irritated that my friend was taking the matter lightly.
When I saw that I was leaving the two of them behind, I stopped in my strides and told the guy again, this time with a very angry tone.
‘Oga, give him his phone back na. Ah!’.
He hit me on my chest the second time, this time harder.
I must tell you now, I have never been popular as a fighter. In fact, I only fought two times throughout my six years in a boys’-only school. And I was beaten till tears came from my eyes on both occasions. It was the same classmate too.
Well, knowing fully well I was not created for Mortal Kombat or in the image of Huck Horgan, I resigned and kept my anger in my belly.
‘It is not my phone sef’, I told myself.
At this time, I did not even have a phone. My father operated the ‘No University Admission, No Phone’ Rule in our house- and I was no exception.
My friend continued walking with the guy, bargaining and haggling about his own phone. He was still maintaing his gentle christian face when I was hoping the Militant spirit in him would have woken up.
I shake my head now as I recall all these.
The two of them walked behind me that way until we reached the junction where we take taxi to our house at the outskirt of town.
The guy stopped then, and though I couldn’t hear what the two of them said, he would have been asking my friend for his transport fare for all I know. Or maybe he was asking him to give him money to buy credit on the phone.
He turned and mounted an okada and as he was about riding off into the unknown, I couldn’t help but suddenly realize that we had been walking in a market all along and my friend didn’t think to shout and call people’s attention.
With anger boiling like okro soup in my belly, I watched the guy’s back disappear with the okada like Van Damme into the horizon and my friend’s phone steadfastly held within his palm.
And till today, he has not finished typing the number.
(Bravery and Fools, episoide 1)
True Life Story


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