Thoughts Lead To Appreciation
On the morning of the first paper Mathematics, I entered the examination hall, hardly myself.
I wrote the paper, while battling with consciousness.
My determination to respond well and thoroughly to each question inspired me to keep writing.
Hurriedly, I scanned the answer sheet, when I finished my work.
I could no longer stay in the venue.
I stood, submitted my work to my Onyenkuzi Mathematics, who was our Invigilator, and staggered out of the room.
I went to the dormitory, grabbed a couple of items, and fled to the dispensary.
That was the last time I set foot in the dormitory, for the rest of the examination.
The attendant was stunned and escalated the health crisis to the Proprietress.
My Ndenkuzi were horrified at what was unfolding.
In shock, my School Handler remarked: You know your examination has commenced.
I was admitted in hospital in the town, later that day.
The morning after my hospitalisation, a nurse brought a unit of blood on a stand for me.
I was to receive the transfusion of red blood cells ~RBCs.
As soon as the nurse departed the ward to procure some resources, the woman who shared the room with me advised me against taking the blood.
Your Mum will pay through the nose for it, she reckoned.
She, herself, was receiving some blood transfusion.
I appreciated she spoke from personal experience.
I thanked her, as I valued her insight.
I had greater concerns.
The thought of being transfused with another person’s blood was not palatable.
The blood resembled some coagulated coloured vomit.
The nurse returned and I informed her I did not want the blood.
She insisted, expressing the physician’s prescription for me to have the transfusion.
I, emphatically, replied:
Tell the doctor I said he should have it.
The nurse withdrew with the blood.
Thus, was initiated my abhorrence of blood transfusion.
Moreover, barely a year later, I discovered one can contract the human immunodeficiency virus ~HIV through an unscreened blood transfusion.
I congratulated myself for my stubbornness.
At that time, I was already aware of HIV and AIDS, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
Years earlier, I read the pleas of then Minister Of Health, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti for Nigerians to be more health conscious in their sexual life.
Adults did not believe him; I did.
Through Newswatch and Ikebe Super, I learnt of the various modes of transmission of HIV and the corresponding preventive measures.
The Newswatch and several other magazines were brought home by my Mum.
Ikebe Super was my Dad’s entertainment magazine.
Each night, I monitored the intravenous fluid and pulled the needle as soon as I observed the pack was exhausted.
The nurse would arrive at dawn and sigh on seeing the needle inserted elsewhere.
I wrote the rest of the examination in hospital.
Each day of the examination, one of my Ndenkuzi brought my paper to my hospital bed.
I sat the paper going in and out of a coma.
Hardly, was I able to complete each paper.
When I could no longer bear the drifts between comatose and consciousness, I submitted my paper.
Months earlier, I argued against reincarnation as a belief system.
During the ill-health, I pondered further the philosophy of life.
Upon the termination of the examination, I was discharged from hospital.
The doctors could not diagnose what was wrong.
Dazed and weak, I dragged myself into the dormitory, packed my belongings and travelled to Port Harcourt.
On my arrival for the first leg of the three-month postJunior WAEC holidays, my late maternal Uncle assured me there was nothing wrong with me, barring severe malnutrition and a wrong environment.
I returned to Enugu, for some days, and proceeded to Aba, for the last leg of my holiday.
In Aba with my paternal Uncle and his family, I spent the bulk of my break.
The day after my welcome, I was woken, abruptly, by my Uncle.
My offence: I was asleep at sunrise.
He jerked my foot, interrupting my beauty sleep.
I thought I was on a holiday.
Certainly, I was not allowed some well-deserved rest.
I had to restrain myself from screaming.
The holiday was lovely and eventful.
Once, my Uncle sent me on an errand to purchase some drinks.
At the bar, I placed my order as instructed.
One of the customers began practising his smooth tongue on me.
He would take me to America. He would marry me. He would maintain me. As gorgeous as I was, he would keep me for himself.
I did not utter a word in response.
I received my order, paid for the products, and embarked on my way to my Uncle’s home.
In front of my Uncle and his wife, I narrated what transpired at the bar.
Reticent, my Uncle stood and left the house.
I can think he paid the bar a visit, brandishing a sharp machete to buttress the point, lucidly.
The barkeepers and their randy customers ought to stay away from his niece.
There were no such outbursts from any ọchụnwanyị in the bar, thenceforth.
We travelled to Isuikwuatọ to spend the last days of December.
My Uncle relayed the bar incident to his elder brother.
My Dad’s response was to blame me for attracting men.
With my face contorted, I vibrated my head, rigorously, and scoffed at my Dad in protest.
A new academic year rolled into perspective and I resumed at the boarding school.
On my return journey to school, I missed the directions in Port Harcourt and ended in the lair of more ọchụnwanyị.
[For more on that, please read Strangers | Stranded 2 – No Sanctuary!.
A report reached the body of students that only one student scored a Distinction in Mathematics, at Junior WAEC.
Many of my classmates opined my closest rival was likely the candidate.
A couple of students suggested I was the candidate.
They sought my remarks.
I shall wait for the results to be released. I do not engage in guesses.
The suspense prolonged.
I was cognizant of two young ladies in another class who were intelligent and hardworking.
I turned my mind to other matters.
At morning assembly, the school Proprietress addressed us.
She was incensed, as she paced along the walk in front of students.
Her indignation was due to the fact that only one of her students attained a Distinction in Mathematics.
She cautioned us on nemesis catching up with us.
Nemesis, kwa!, I was alarmed.
Oh, she was furious that morning.
She glanced in the direction of some students and her eyes locked with mine.
In deference, I lowered my gaze and head, promptly.
Later in the classroom, our results were released to us.
I scored a Distinction in Mathematics.
My internal jubilation went through the skies.
I made that mark, despite my poor health.
The Distinction sealed my love affair with Mathematics.
Other students can obtain a Distinction in other subjects, but Mathematics is mine, I promised myself.
The pompous young lady has every right to be even more pompous.
One day, my Onyenkuzi Mathematics went by our classroom, invited by the noise emanating from my classmates.
The entire class were penalised.
We were led into the staffroom and directed to kneel, facing the wall.
Then came the flogging, delivered according to our grades.
My Onyenkuzi Mathematics would go student to student enquiring the number of Distinctions a student had.
I received a solitary stroke for that.
Then, came the round of lashes for the Credit grade.
My Credits were eleven, so I took 11 strokes of the cane on my back, without flinching or exhibiting pain.
When he was done on that round, he started the Pass cycle.
My Pass mark was in Physical Education.
Once the last whip was received, the student was free to leave.
I stood, head high, and walked confidently out of the staffroom.
As I stepped outside, I saw a colleague I admired.
Some two years earlier when I registered at the school after the midterm break, I observed a student who, on removing her blouse, had whip scars all over her back.
I was cruelly punished by my Mum, but this was something else.
Immediately, I liked the girl and commenced paying attention to her.
We never talked; seldom did I talk with anyone.
Whenever I passed by her bed, I paused, met her eyes, and smiled.
She reciprocated the smile.
There, she was, stooped with her hands on her knees, as she fought back tears.
I went to her and put my left palm on her right shoulder.
She was comforted.
She raised her head and nodded, in appreciation of the solidarity from one stubborn girl to another.
Dedicated to my primary and junior secondary school Teachers.