by Ekeziem Hamilton
The lecture room is filled to the brim, but I still manage to secure a standing spot close to the board, or so I thought; because shortly after the lecture begins I have to strain my eyes to see the biochemical pathways the lecturer keeps doodling on the board. After few more attempts I give up, I conclude I had obviously misjudged my distance from the board, I decide to content myself with listening to his aged fading voice, this is possible because I also have to read his lips at the same time. Midway into the lecture, I notice I am the only person not taking down the biochemical pathways and notes being scribbled across the board on my note pad. I quietly nudge the person next to me. He tells me he can see the board clearly, for confirmation I do same to the person behind me; I get the same response, she also whispers back, asking if I can’t see the board but I pretend not to hear her because I have just made a mood muddling discovery on the effect my poor nutrition is having on my eye sight. In all of this I still remain determined to ignore the hunger gnawing at my insides and keep my concentration on the lecture intact.
Thankfully, the class ends soon, but as everyone scrambles for the only available exit, I settle into a just vacated lab stool to regain whatever energies I have used up while standing for the entire duration of the class and also wait for the crowd to thin. Considering I have just few friends, none of whom are in my department nobody seems to take notice of me, this I am glad about. I let my thoughts drift to the previous day I had joined the rush; I barely had enough strength to resist the thronging crowd as it swung me in different directions till it deposited me outside the laboratory. My thoughts are interrupted by that of the phone call I have to make on my way back to the room. I quickly rehearse everything I would have to say again in my head within the one minute my last twenty naira will afford me .
The look on my face must have surely betrayed my emotions because the payphone operator enquires if everything is all right, I quickly wear a smile and assure her I am fine. Behind the smile my mind is a whirlpool of thoughts on how I would survive the next two days. In almost four years this was this first time she would tell me she had no money. I wince in a pain only my heart could feel. ‘’Just hang in there Mummy its almost over’’, I say just under my breath but I realize the phone operator heard me because she quickly turns to look at me. Slightly embarrassed I stand up and trudge to my hostel.
What does not kill you leaves you weaker. This I discovered during the next two days, which were probably the longest two days I ever lived; I was forced to buy some light food supplies: eight cups of Garri (cassava flakes) and eight wraps of groundnut on credit from the grounds keeper’s store. Each meal would comprise of a cup of soaked garri and a wrap of groundnut I plan; immediately after each meal I practically feel my starved system fighting for the meagre nutrient the pathetic food source had to offer, each organ fuelled by greed trying to sap as much nutrient as it could for itself. Within the next half hour I begin to notice my fingers trembling slightly of their own accord because of the resurging hunger.
Before midway on Monday I receive a text message for a credit transaction from the bank, my heart sinks when I see the figures, I do the math and my heart sinks even further when I realise how much I will be left with after settling my debts; I already feel broke again. When I call her to say thank you I am careful not to let my voice sound as heavy as my heart. Later In the evening I visit the salon, I ask the barber to make it as low to my scalp as possible, he obliges me; then I notice there is a slight depression on the crown of my head which snakes down to where my front hairline stops. I pretend as if it has always been there but thoughts of what other damages my pitiable nutrition was doing to my body clouds my mind.
That night I cry as I lay down to sleep, I am tired of the suffering, If I could wish all this away, I feel like giving up. Then I remember how far I have come and as always this thought grants me access to my unending source of motivation and energy reserves.
I am certain I will never forget these experiences or at least that is what I thought then. But right now as I sit over my computer I struggle to recreate those moments. My memories of those days might have been slightly eroded by time but the personality traits acquired will always remain evergreen.
The best lessons I realize are not thought in class rooms, lecture halls or laboratories, lessons on brute determination, perseverance, patience and persistence. The best lessons are taught in life.
This entry was submitted as part of the Nigerian Voices competition organized by YNaija.com.
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