By Chukwuemerie Udekwe
I am Tim. And I am the only eye with which my mother sees. I am her definition of a hopeful world. A future with bliss. I am handsome, tall, straight and fair of complexion. I know. I have a mirror. And people are want to telling me too. I am also an academic firebrand and intellectual guru. I am supposed to make my mother proud, to fulfil her hopes and give her joy. And I trod carefully the paths of excellence, high moral code and intellectual ingenuity until I met Steve. Steve and I were in the same class and he started sitting next to me during most of the lectures, in my second year. He was of the same height as I, but dark with a brilliant glow all over him. He was handsome too. And judging by his physical qualities, he was the kind of son Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher would fight for. As at my second year, I already had a GPA of 4.82. I was going to graduate with first class honours and become one of the best in the field of medicine. That was my goal, and I was going to make it. I had learnt that success was 99 percent perspiration and only 1 percent inspiration, and that the heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night; or however Longfellow had said it.
On one of the eves of our second semester examinations, Steve came to me to help him out with the course of the next day. The ease and expertise with which I had explained the difficult areas to him marveled him that he sought to sit close to me in the examination hall the next day. Though things did not turn out the way he planned since I would neither ask nor respond to any of the questions he surreptitiously asked me while the teacher was looking away, he still had the luck of making C rather than the usual F or D he was opt to having.
The series of events that happened the following weeks brought Steve and I closer. I was a helper who loved to do my best in aiding others. So, I saw Steve as one of those who needed help and Steve was apt to take good use of the opportunity. As I taught Steve the things he needed to know in his studies, Steve on the other hand was apt to introduce me into a lot of things.
“Don't you go clubbing?” Steve had asked me, one day. He was not supposed to ask. He knew I had never been to a club. But he had purposely asked the question to bring up and nurture the thought in my mind.
“But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Now, you are so intelligent, imagine the heights you could reach if you relax a bit and have some time for play. Don't take life too seriously.” Words of these kind did not move me. I had heard more appealing ones and withstood them. However, like little stream flowing against a rock, they kept piercing my heart and forming crevices. So, when the urge and surges of adolescent began to push too hard, I began to consider the idea of having a girlfriend. It was a thought that never really surfaced, yet I could feel its effects. Then, for the first time, I gave in to the idea of going to the departmental night party organized by the executives of our class. “It's only a get-together. You do get to meet and know your peers, see new people and then relax your mind a bit from academic stress,” Steve said to me on the night of the party. Those words were not enough to convince any sane man, especially one of very high IQ like I was, but the salient piercing of continuous thoughts was already doing its work. I gave in, and Steve assured me I was never going to regret it.
Like an alien bundled and dropped in the very heart of precolonial Africa, I was so much befuddled. The red lights. The crowd. The frenzy. The girls. The passion. It was a new world to me. One with lots of unexplored boundaries, to be harnessed. It was inviting. Engrossed in such ecstasy, I caught sight of a pair of blue hazy eyes. Then, the slim eyelid, the pointed nose, pinky lips and endearing smile that culminated perfection. It was a sight I had never beheld before. Angels on earth. Aesthetic, ethereal. Instinctively, I went towards Steve and pointed at the beautiful figure, without saying a word. “Oh, it's the new girl,” Steve said. “She is so pretty. You have an eye for beauty, man. I will get her for you, don't worry.”
Later that night, with the help of Steve, I met with Cecil behind the bar. “It was one of my hardest moments. I who could answer whatever question in the examination hall, was dumbfounded. All the lines Steve had helped me memorize flew to the moon. My head went blank.
“Sorry, I am so sorry for keeping you here. But I must be sincere to you. I don't know either what to say or how to say the right things to a girl. Please, forgive me.” I stuttered. It was actually such marvelous simplicity and sincerity that wooed Cecil. Yes, that was her name. She was also a new girl in the club. She had come, under the pressure of her roommate, and never had a boyfriend. It felt so right to begin with someone of her kind.
“Can we stay here for a while?” Cecil inquired, saving me from the deadlock I just got myself into. We exchanged pleasantries. Then within the length of few minutes, our hearts began to click so splendidly. It was like we had known each other for years. We fell into the ocean of love and drowned so quickly like the tragedy of a three year old along the Lagos beach. That was how our love story began. Our first kiss felt so good. And like Steve had told me, it prepared us for our first sex. Then, it continued. But none of these affected my studies. If I was going to create an empire with the girl who now owned my heart, then I was going to study harder. So, while our relationship grew stronger, I intensified my studies.
The first problem began when Cecil reported she was pregnant. I felt so happy to have a child with the girl who understood me better than anyone else, the love of my life. But it was going to affect my studies. Cecil had to abort the baby. Steve said it was okay. Then like the growth of every other vice, sex, pregnancy and abortion became so normal for the two of us who could no longer wait to get through with university, get good jobs and marry.
With the love of each other's life, always available, days quickly transformed into years. I graduated with first class honours. Then, on recommendation, I was easily co-opted to work with the Federal Health Agency. Steve on his part did not graduate. Having failed lots of courses and missed lots of examinations, the university did not award him any result. Steve had planned sorting the lecturers and threatening those who refused to be sorted. But days to our final examinations, a student was reported dead following some cult groups' clash, so the school authorities improved security and foiled the plans of Steve.
Steve realized his four years had been a waste. He had nothing to show for them. His future was in shambles. In a twinkle of an eye, everything dawned on him. Seeing that Steve no longer cared about his studies, I had started avoiding him during the end of our university days. After all, academic pursuit was the string that formed the knot of our friendship. Left alone to contemplate the wastefulness of his years, Steve committed suicide. He had betrayed all those who believed in him. The shame was something he could not bear.
I felt so sorry for Steve. I could have helped my prodigal friend. But I had my own life to live. I got married to Cecil a year later. Life was so sweet. In addition to my lofty pay, I also engaged in the abortion business. With my intelligence, I was secretly working on a project that would help young ladies terminate a three-month old pregnancy with ease. It was lucrative, so I didn't mind going into it.
Trouble came when one of my patients mistakenly died during the abortion process. It was not actually my fault. I was well at home with my job. The nurse I had told to get a drug had brought an expired one. The incident went viral and the police was at my neck. That was how I got myself into prison. They charged me with murder. It was a capital punishment, but with the help of my lawyer, it stopped at life imprisonment. I cannot understand how the person of my kind would have degenerated so low morally. How did it all happen? How? For one, I could not even kill a fly, not until I met Steve, then Cecil. Now, my much talented future has been cut short because I had lost my moral probity during my university days.
Looking at the other prisoners in the same prison with me, I hesitated at the face of the boy who kept staring at me with glee. For some reasons, the boy's face led me to thoughts of Cecil. My love whose arms I would never feel again. But even if things were to miraculously change, where would I garner the guts to face her again? Cecil, my wife whom I had only just discovered had a damaged womb on the account of the numerous abortions I had led her into. Cecil is still unaware of it. I myself had only known just two days to the abortion that had brought me here. I had hidden it from her. Now, my only feeling is pity, laden with regret and guilt.
My mother is so disappointed at me. I had raised her from grass to grace, then dumped her into a pit, again.
“But how did this all happen? Why? How did I even change?
Why did I ever meet Steve in the first place?”
Valueless education is failure
While intelligence devoid of morals is disaster
They lead us to a practical jungle
And at best only make us intelligent devils
Reserved to be judged by posterity
But that's only when we've clubbed ourselves to death