POSTED 07/26/2018 13:19
Junior is sitting on the dining table with a bottle of "33" Export Lager Beer. He is saying something, some sort of a farewell speech. I stare at him from head to toe like I'm searching for something. My eyes settle on his swinging legs, the gentle hypnotic sways causes my mind to drift slowly through time, reminding me of my friendship with Junior.
The listless swinging of his legs reminds me of the swing we swung in primary school, riding carefree in the air, our lives left at the mercies of metal chains and the direction of the wind.
It reminds me of Junior – not the one who is lip-locking with a bottle of "33" Export Lager Beer – the small boy who lived few blocks away from our home. We would walk back from school with our dirty pink and white uniforms, bearing evidences of our reckless play in school.
It reminds me of our first fight. That day, we had returned from school and he was carrying my bag. He had insisted I go upstairs to their flat with him before he gave my school bag back. He was afraid of Ojuju Calabar. I had mocked him. I told him that he was okuko agric, a weakling afraid of imaginary monsters lurking around in their dark staircase. I continued jeering at him. But Junior did not budge; he stood there taking in everything I said. I moved to snatch my bag away from his hand and he ducked. I fell. Hard. I stood back up and saw my bruised arm letting off droplets of blood. Enraged, I tackled him, twisted his arm and took my bag and ran home. Junior would not talk to me the next day. He said our friendship was over. It was I.K, one of our mutual friends who forced us to reconcile. We apologized to each other after he threatened to tell our other friends that we were keeping malice like girls.
It reminds me of the Junior that came to visit me every day after my scalding hot water accident that ripped the skin off my thighs. I remember Junior saying he was going to get Aloe Vera juice so my Mother could apply it on me to heal faster, that his Mother once told him that it cured skin ailments. I begged him not to bring the Aloe Vera because he told me it would be painful and he agreed not to. I remember him bringing it the next day and giving it to my Mother. The betrayal of trust and friendship intensified the pain I felt as Mother applied copious amount of the juice on my wound. I screamed at Junior, telling him to leave our house and never return, telling him I hated him, that he was wicked. Mother ordered me to shut up and then told Junior that I didn’t mean what I said, that it was the pain that was messing with my mind. But true to his word, the Aloe Vera juice sped up my recovery and my skin was as good as new.
It reminds me that I began to see Junior only during holidays when we entered secondary school. We were drifting apart and it remained so till we were done with secondary school.
It reminds me of writing Jamb and getting admission Into Unizik, Awka. I remember Junior telling me congratulations, when he heard the news. I remember my soul falling apart the day I heard he was travelling abroad to study our dream course – Medicine. I had shaken his hands firmly, without attempting to smile, and wished him well. It reminds me of the first video call we made the day I visited their home using his Mother’s phone. I remember him crying and saying he missed home and me telling him to endure and not cry. I remember blinking severally to keep my own tears at bay.
It reminds me how my heart skipped for joy the day I heard he was coming back for the long vacation after 5 years abroad.
It reminds me of Junior and how light skinned he had become. I remember his smile, one thing that remained unchanged through the years. We talked the much we could over plates of noodles, candies, peppery goat meat, Suya and cans of "33" Export Lager Beer.
It reminds me of us taking few pictures at a mutual friend’s birthday party and him commenting on my big belly, beards and surprisingly smooth face.
It reminds me of the moment when I told him I wanted to get a job after NYSC and pay my bills for my Master’s Degree and not depend on my parents for that. I smacked his head when he replied, “Dubem, that’s the best thing I’ve ever heard you say in my life.”
It reminds me that his holiday is up and that he would be leaving in four days’ time.
It reminds me of…
“Dubem!”He calls out, bringing me back to the present. I look at him; his legs are still swinging.
“I have not forgotten us, our friendship, what we’ve been through, we may not talk always but you’re always in my heart, you are family. I want us to pray for each other always, I know our tomorrow would be better. Never forget one thing.” He says and then pauses. “I love you bro.”
I smile, look him in the eye and reply.
“I Love you too, Junior.”
He holds out his bottle of "33" Export Lager Beer and says, "To friendship".
"To friendship." I reply and we clink bottles.
I remember him going to the fridge to get more “33” Export Lager Beers.
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