I know it was in the year 1968. But I can’t really remember the month when it started. I can remember vividly how Kamsi and I hawked satchet water under the scorching sun of the afternoon before the day it started. I also remember it rained heavily that day we hawked satchet water because I joined the street boys in playing football under the rain, and I ended up breaking my arm as I fell, which gave my left hand an everlasting ‘C’ shape. But still, I can’t tell if it was during the rainy or dry season. Perhaps, one was gradually giving way for the other.
We were in school the day it started, because Mama forced me to go with my broken arm since she has warned me against playing football under the rain. I know that wasn’t Mama’s reason for forcing me to go with my arm like that. I know she wanted me to maintain the record I am about to break. The record of being the first person from my community who has maintained the first position from the first term of the admission to the very last term of the graduation.
I was in my class riveting my eyes on the wall, and reading the nick names some of them my classmates wrote on it:FORGET NOT DENNYBLAZE, HB LIVETH, FK SHALL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN, ELLA and KUTTY WAS HERE.
It was then a well designed caligraphy captivated my eyes:THINKER LOVES VANNY. I read the words over and over again trying to convince myself that the statement might be right. Trying to convince myself to love Vanessa. It was Kamsi who lied to Vanessa that I love her. She told Vanessa whom I suspected carried around the rumour that I am a gay, that I love her just to show the class it was a rumour. She also told her that I am a shy type, so she shouldn’t mind if I didn’t reply back some of her questions. I never liked Vanessa. I can’t denial the fact that I love how my name was beautifully written, but for the one who wrote it, she disgusts me so much: The way she gossips,how short her skirts were, the way she makes noise. And even sometimes, I ask myself if she is a prostitute because I notice how she stares beneath my stomach whenever we are together, which makes me uncomfortable.
I was still thinking about Vanessa and her troubles when the noise broke my thought. Everybody was running helter skelter like rats, and i heard someone shouting ”The war, its the war, the civil war”. The words ‘civil war’ kept ringing bells in my heart like the christmas jingle bells. Despite the runnings and shoutings, my spirit left me. I sat like a moulded object, staring blankly at the wall. The war found its way into my thoughts.
Papa told us stories about the world war. And last month when aunty Nkem told Mama that the war has started in some states. I can still remember how afraid aunty Nkem was, as if the war wiil start immediately. I hadn’t heard Kamsi’s calls until she came and dragged me out of the class like a drunk school boy. I watched how she slowly dragged me home with my wounded arm on her shoulder. She didn’t mind everyone has ran. It was then I know Papa was right when he said Kamsi took after him in bravery and fearlessness and not me.