THE GOOD AND THE BAD
By Kenechukwu Obi
Friday, May 8, 2009.
Raindrops were now reducing their earlier poundings on the thatched roof of the mud house in which Ekene was studying, but still breaking into his concentration. They eventually forced Ekene to take a break. He then peered out of the window and caught sight of his late father’s grave as raindrops were hitting it. His mind got filled with living memories of a father who was also the greatest mentor ever known to him. He was about to continue with his studies, when some words his late father used to say to him and Ada his twin sister, occurred to him. He could remember them very well now as they buzzed like mosquito around his ears.
“My children, take your education seriously as it prepares one for a secure and liberated future.” Then tears came off Ekene’s eyes, which he wiped off. A deep appreciation of his late father’s admonition struck him at once, got him to nod his head twice, very gently as he acknowledged it further.
“I am bent on obeying you, father.”
Ekene was already deep into his studies again, when his mother’s barged in. He got distracted and looked up at his mother who stood by, looking impressed.
“I must say this to you, son. You fill my heart with joy each time I see you this way.”
“I can’t help but work hard.”
“I like that.”
“Thank you, mother.”
“You excite me, son.”
Ekene chuckled and then noticed at once that his mother’s face no longer had a smile on it.
“Mother, you look disturbed.”
“Yes … you are right.”
“What is wrong?”
“Your sister is not just studying, but wasting her time. She aught to be paying attention to her studies, and not roaming the streets in aimless manner.”
“Don’t worry, I will talk to her.”
“Please do. That will please me.”
The twins lived in Emene, a suburb of Enugu, Nigeria, and had to write their exams in a month’s time. Ekene burned further with the enthusiasm to read and excel, while Ada concentrated so much on her quest.
“Who says I am not good enough to wear the latest clothing designs, shoes, perfumes and jewelry? I have to own them, use them. And… that will make me a sophisticated young woman. Don’t I deserve to be one? Sure I do.”
Ada was lying down and staring at the mud walls of her room the next day when Ekene entered to talk with her. Her books were all lying around, begging to be read, with plenty of dust and cobweb on them. Ada was startled as if Ekene was a known rapist that had come so close. There was something so aggressive about her stare.
“Please, Ada don’t look at me that way. Relax… We have to talk.”
“You of course.”
“Well, as you can see, I just want to be alone.”
“Ada, have you forgotten you will be writing an exam soon?”
“I don’t entertain such a question.”
“You listen to me, Ekene! When did you become my mentor? So our father died and did a good job of handing over to you the baton of pestering me before that. Isn’t it? I need no preaching!”
“I am worried that you don’t study. Mother is also worried.”
“Do me a favour please. Lose that kind of concern you have for me.”
“I can help.”
“Thank you so much and keep that help to yourself. And how will that fill my pocket with money for my immediate needs?”
“Your education is important.”
“Please leave me alone!”
That ended the twins’ discussion. And to worsen matters, a relationship ignited between Ada and Ebele. Ebele was a girl, three years older, only twenty-two.
“My mission is to make quick money. I don’t care what it takes. And the good life will come. What do you think, Ada?”
“Oh… sure. I need quick money. Not all these education rubbish my brother tried to preach to me the other day.”
“And I know just one place that we can make quick money.”
Words brought the existence of the relationship to Ada’s mother’s attention.
“Please, Ada stay away from Ebele.”
“She is a bad influence.”
“She is not.”
“Mother, please don’t make me angry.”
“Ebele, you are walking out on me?”
The examination day eventually arrived. Ekene received it with a lot of confidence. His hopes were quite high. It was clear to him as crystal that he had prepared well.
“Oh, God, please help me to excel.”
Ada on her part left Emene for Lagos with Ebele who offered to accommodate her in a friend’s house there. Ada’s mother never supported her decision to abandon her exams, but advising Ada then was even more futile than pouring water into a basket. Only talks of prospects of making quick money Lagos could bring appealed to her. Ekene’s attempts to stop her too could achieve nothing. Not even Tochi, another female friend of hers, she intimated of her plans could get her mind changed.
“What your mother and brother are saying is for your own good. You can finish with your education and still make money.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
“I will always tell you the truth as a friend.”
“I am bent on leaving for Lagos.”
“It would be most unwise to do it at the expense of your education.”
“Listen, Tochi, I thought I had a friend in you. Now I know better.” Ada walked out on Tochi very angry.
Ekene learnt without much surprise that he did excellently well when results of the exam got published.
“Oh… This is great! At last I have an admission to read accountancy at the University of Lagos. Great… Added to it is a scholarship for me because my result is exceptional. Great! Great! This is something I never even imagined would come my way. Oh… I just can’t believe this! Oh…. This is happening to me…..?”
Ekene who had long longed to study in Lagos, was thrilled beyond words. He was full of mental pictures of what he heard about it. The hustle and bustle of the city. High-rise buildings, bridges stretching miles above the Atlantic Ocean, and curved to different directions, the third mainland bridge and other construction masterpieces that dot the geographical entity called Lagos. Ekene later left for Lagos with the ambition to excel in his studies.
While in Lagos, Ada exploited the dark sides of youth for quick money, which included prostitution.
“Now… men can’t seem to be able to take their lustful eyes away from me. And I make the money. Wow… who can look me in the eye now and say I am not accomplished?”
Ekene graduated with a first class degree on the other hand, got an offer of employment from a bank. He was glad at last that his hard work and education had begun to yield fruits. He particularly relished the moment he walked majestically, resplendent in his academic gown, to mount the podium of academic excellence, to collect his certificate from the Vice Chancellor, amidst thunderous applause.
“Mr. Ekene, we are proud to associate with your remarkable academic brilliance on this convocation ceremony of our renowned institution.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Ekene’s brilliance on the job as well, left him a wealthy and fulfilled young man. “This is how far I have come? Oh… this is great. A couple of promotions in two years is just amazing. What more can I say?”
Ada came down sick with time.
“What is wrong with me? Could my life style be responsible?” Oh… my God. I am not even confident enough to read what the result of my test is myself. Ebele, what does it say?”
“I am afraid the test has a bad report.”
“It says HIV positive.”
“I am finished.”
“No you are not. There are drugs to manage it.”
“Yes I know, but I should not have got myself into this condition in the first place. Oh… I am finished and deflated. Now how can I turn back the hands of time? Just as hard as smashing a mountain with bare hands.”
Kenechukwu Obi is a Nigerian writer and poet. He is the author of the novel A Bond That Crumbled Tradition.