By Chukwuemerie Udekwe
And I sat on an arm-chair, with legs crossed, sipping from a chilled filled glass as I relaxed my nerves. The atmosphere was friendly, the sun dim and the gentle breeze swayed the inner peace within me. I was exceptionally happy. For the umpteenth time I had experienced a story which seemed not to have ended with – and they lived happily ever after. But I was exceptionally happy. I was always exceptionally happy. I reminisced the circumstances which now made me to owe him one. One justice which I would still have and try to show him since one good turn deserves another. I sipped again from my glass and the scrummy juice made me remember vividly that experience – and how it all happened. And I laughed.
Mezie was few years older than I. Back then, he was eighteen and I was four years behind him. And our friendship just happened. You know? Friendship comes with responsibilities and we gladly carried ours, watching each other’s back and sharing each other’s pains. He was older, I was younger; we knew, but our friendship did not tell. We did naughty things; and we did better things too but we did not allow the naughty ones define our identity – what we stood for. You could never know too but one day, he stole. He said it was for me. He had run out of gifts – gifts we normally gave to each other and he was proud to steal for me. I never suggested that to him, and I knew it was wrong for him to do that, but I gladdened at the love shown to me. And very soon, not so much later, I had to show how appreciative I was.
Mezie did not know that a junior student had seen him when he stole the watch from our dormitory prefect’s untidy black echo-lag. So that not long after he gave the watch to me, he was summoned by our Administrative Dean. Mezie lied about the watch. There was no way he could have told the truth. He would obviously be expelled and I do not think that that was what he wanted, I wanted or any of the students wanted; including the guy whose watch he “collected”. Of course, except the scrupulous guy who reported him rather than confronting him or telling another student who would do so. Therefore he actually had to lie. He said he had picked the watch on our toilet’s corridor and given it to me to take to the senior prefect since he himself was in a haste to meet up with some other thing. And that the scrupulous guy blackmailed him because he had scolded him the other day for wetting his bed. Mezie requested that I was called upon to testify and I did, telling the invented story so accurately the same way Mezie had done since we actually fabricated the story together. Mezie was set free, with the scrupulous guy scorned for character assassination. And I was happy, he was happy, we were happy – Our little world.
Our little world was not specifically bad. Even though Mezie, the other day, beat up a younger student and I covered him, it was not specifically a bad one. The tiny guy with very large confused eyes had been persistent in dishing out grossly unequal amount of food to the nine plates on their table according to his disposition and Mezie had severally warned him against it. So that day, after he had virtually denied Mezie breakfast by putting only a half piece of yam in Mezie’s plate against his(the tiny guy with large confused eyes) which had four big yams, Mezie vowed to deal with him. Mezie had told me about his plan but I did not know he was serious; after all he had once told me of his intention to ambush one of our external teachers, but never did. So I did not know he was serious this time until the next morning, during assembly. Just before the closing prayer, the Administrative Dean drove by and the atmosphere grew tensed as every student wondered what the other student had done. Then he walked to the front and called Mezie. It was then that the tiny guy with very large confused eyes came out and narrated his own story. His own story because Mezie would still have to say his. And Mezie’s stand was that he did not beat up anybody. The Dean at first thought it was a mere defensive mechanism by Mezie and proceeded to flog him but was shocked at Mezie’s insistence of being innocent. Consequently, he invited Mezie to his office. Over there, Mezie though did not try to prove that the tiny guy with very large confused eyes had not been beaten the previous night, claimed that it was not him who did the bullying neither did he know who did. After all, the tiny guy had very large confused eyes. And because he also insisted that at that very time of the night, he was with me in the chapel, I was called upon. As always, I concurred to Mezie’s claims and tactfully narrated our story since we actually made it up together. And Mezie was left again. Everybody wondered why Mezie was left; of course our story was not so convincing this time. Perhaps, even our Administrative Dean knew the tiny guy had very large confused eyes.
We progressed to higher classes notwithstanding we were not very bright students until Mezie entered Senior Secondary III. And even then, our friendship did not cease. It was rather going as though it were going to be for life; and we loved it.
The function list came out and Mezie was made the Senior Prefect. His classmates had not voted for him. No one actually did; for even though Mezie was not officially bad, he was not officially good either. He was controversial. So everybody surprisingly concluded that the school authority just decided to give him the post. But what nobody could tell was whether it was done to calm him down or merely a trap to lure him into an act that would merit his expulsion. However, I was very happy since Mezie and I would very soon be putting heads together to decipher how our school would be run. It was just like nature’s gift to our friendship and I anticipated a lot. I hoped we both anticipated a lot.
But events did not go as anticipated. And everything unfolded one Tuesday afternoon. That afternoon, Mezie stood in front of the students and commanded me towards the stage where the shortest student could see the centre of my hair. There I stood, while he highly embarrassed me and also dedicated to me a whole lot of grass at the back of our dormitory to cut, just because I failed to wipe my refectory table. I was blue all through that day and beyond, for I had never faced such humiliation before; and I grieved even more because it had come not from an enemy, but an assumed friend. I wondered why he preferred to call me to the stage rather than just call my name and give me the punishment. For God’s sake I did not bully anybody; I did not steal. I inquired and my other friends told me it was Mezie’s own way of proving to be just to the students. But this was somebody whose back I had been watching for so long. I felt so much betrayed and I kept mute. And I marveled at how just Mezie had become, but I kept mute.
Nonetheless, I did not fail to remember our untold stories. How I had scolded Mezie for stealing that watch on my behalf. How I had refused to talk to him for a few days to show my disappointment in him for beating up that junior student. Yes! I did not actually succeed in changing him but the frequency with which he committed crimes knew change.
So today, as I sat on an arm-chair sipping my drink as we had vacated a week ago, I felt relieved from the responsibility of watching Mezie’s back. Lying could be difficult you know? Also, I would not have to cover him again. If tomorrow I was called to testify, I would definitely speak the truth. And I would have to be just about him too. Of course, I owe him that justice; even if once. Just once.