….and she died. It is one event in my life, I will never forget.
I believe I don’t like looking back because there are memories that I would rather want to suppress. I think that is the reason why I find it difficult to remember some names and people when they come up in conversation, or I get to meet them. At a point, I pretend to remember and go ‘okay, yes. I remember.’ Then when I am told of something that happened, I quickly nod my head so there will be peace.
Some memories from secondary school can NEVER be forgotten. The first is the death of my cousin’s school daughter – we were in the same dormitory. The second is my sixteenth birthday, cos I almost lost my life. Kidding.
Anglican Girls Grammer School Ughelli, was fun after school hours, because we run relays everyday. Immediately after lunch or during dinner or prep or even when we are sleeping, someone might scream, ‘BOYS’ and the race begins because on girl wants to be caught by the BOYS. Who knows what they will do.
Behind the school is this thick wood that I never ventured into. And there were lots of shortcuts to and from town, so the town boys and some Government College Boys, used to come and have fun, trying to see if they will see some naked girls. They saw plenty.
Usually when we hear boys, whether at night or during the day, there is only one place we run to, the closest house mistress place.
On this afternoon in December, while the state schools were contemplating going on strike, we were in the dorm when the shout came. But it wasn’t the usual shout of boys that we run from. It was an excitement because the boys were caught by the guard. They were two.
From every corner, we ran and poked to get a better look. We picked whatever from the floor and threw at them. The security man kept telling us to move back. I was standing between Onome and Ufuoma.
“God don catch them,’ I remember Onome saying excitedly. She was a class my junior and thus calls me whom she was bigger than, Sister Uzezi.
I think there were talks about taking the boys to the house mistress place while we were warned to stop throwing things at them. We refused to stop because it wasn’t everyday we get to catch these people who make us run from our prep and hostels and dinning hall. They gave us hell, so we wanted to give the scapegoats, hell.
Something happened, I can’t really remember. We all had different version of what happened next, then the security man’s gun went off.
There were screams, then everyone was quiet. I thought I was shot because I felt stuff on the back of my hands so I looked closely. I later realized it was gun powder. At the same time I was looking at my hands, I saw Onome jump up and scream ‘My God, I am dead.’ Then she hit the floor. Then the commotion started. The bullet passed my front and entered Onome’s side – beneath her ribs.
People were at her side. She was being carried to the house mistress place, when my cousin, who was her school mother, also called Onome, came around. She was coming from town and passing to go home (her family lived in the premises cos my aunt her mum, was one of the teachers and house mistresses).
She quickly took over her school daughter, crying like the rest of us who had surplus fluid in our eyes. Outside the school gate, the bike man was scared when he saw all the blood.
So there was a picture of Onome, carrying Onome, that dead weight and running to get to a hospital, the rest of us, following behind. Eventually a bike took them. At that hospital, they had no equipment to operate the girl who was fast losing consciousness, so their ambulance took her to another hospital.
Back at school, we were all aloof. Will she make it or will she not? The other girl that was standing by my side, Ufuoma, was called by one of the house mistresses and sent to Warri to bring Onome’s parents, since Ufuoma knew her place. She and Onome’s mother came back together that night. By that time, Onome was in the operation room.
We later heard from people who were there that immediately the doctor came out and Mama Onome saw him, she started crying that her daughter was dead. And she was dead. They couldn’t even find the bullet in her!
The news got to school and we cried and gossiped and whatever else we could do.
Then the stories began.
One said, “she saw it coming. Onome knew she was going to die today which is why she arranged all her stuff today. She had gone to the house mistress for an exit note to pass the gate and go home, but was refused.’ Then they were like, assuming she got the note, she might have had an accident on the way, or gotten home, slept and exit the world that way.
Another gist said, her mother had been dreaming of it, that she kept saying something was wrong with Onome, that she was actually preparing to come to school to visit when she saw Ufuoma coming from afar and recognized the uniform. The news was that she had grabbed Ufuoma and screamed what has happened to my daughter?
Then we heard that Onome who was actually the first born child, was born after thirteen years of marriage, that her parents had done some native things with you know who, to get her, and that she wasn’t supposed to live long, which was why they had about five more kids after her. Bullshit.
That night, we all dreamt of Onome. I saw her running around the field.
A day later, the much talked about strike happened and we were asked to go home. Two days later, they came for her things on their way to bury her. The things which Onome took her time to arrange. We could only stare at the coffin, knowing she was in it. How did she get there?
I remember her hair to be really bushy then, and she said she was keeping it for Christmas, so she could braid. She never saw that Christmas.
She was very beautiful and could make people laugh.
The one consolation we all had was knowing she went straight to heaven, because after the bullet entered her and after her scream of ‘My God, I am dead’, immediately she hit the floor, Onome started praying. While my cousin carried her, all through the way, she was praying and asking for forgiveness. She kept praying till she lost consciousness.