The only vivid memory I have of my time in secondary school isn’t exactly picturesque. It’s of me with my hand out-stretched, blank facial-expression and tight-lipped. I attended a public(ex-missionary)secondary school, and with it came responsibilities I wanted no parts of. Sweeping was one I detested, and I always found a way to disappear when it was my team’s turn. ‘Chesting’ was a thing of pride and teachers caught on that student padded their buttocks so our palms became their favourite body part to butcher. “How would you like it served?” their eyes seemed always to ask, “Medium rare or rare.” I escaped sweeping but not the skinning.

*****

Coping mechanisms are inbred. I’ve often thought it’s the body’s way of mutating; finding escape rooms within the confines of piled up trauma. We were in my house when the topic came round to university and the course we studied. “If you knew you’d be doing something entirely different, would you do it over again?” In answering that question, I may have unknowingly unlocked one trauma room. My life’s goal/career path kept changing like a chameleon. One time, I wanted to be an aeronautic engineer, the next second, a lawyer, and the list would go on even as I filled Jamb, my first choice wasn’t exactly my first choice. I’d go on to fail and was enrolled in a pre-degree programme.

*****

Five, six, seven… my classmates counted along as the fat cane landed on my palm. My eye had begun to water so I raised my head, trying to cajole them back in, I could never live down the humiliation if a single tear rolled down. I searched for eyes I knew were sending encouragements, faces that winced on my behalf. They, these friends were the reason I was in SS1 B.

“You’ll tick science, right” one of my friends had asked when we were handed forms to indicate the path we wanted to choose after our Junior WAEC exams. I had reached my T-junction with a signpost pointing the way to the different departments. I stood at the intersection, contemplating which way to go. I love to read, wanted to read more and that meant choosing Arts but all my friends had ticked science. I guess the fear of being alone, friendless was greater than my desire.

*****

“erm… yes, I’ll do it again,” I say to my friends. Even though the path took unique twists and turns, I’ll choose it again; my friends, science. I’ve come to realize no one really knows that they want, desires change as we evolve. I’ll choose to stand in SS1 B with my hand stretched out. I’ll choose to ‘chest’ the pain. English teacher: 0, Nancy: 100.

I’m a writer who wishes ideas could be saved in a bank. So when the block hits, one could simply walk in and withdraw. I love the smell of books and coffee.