Photo: Oko Owi Ocho

I discover my phone’s battery is too weak when I wake up; my phone can’t stay alive for at least two minutes after I boot it. Today is a girl’s birthday. And I want to be the first person to call or text her. I think of a poem for her but the lines I get do not sound right to me or they are devoid of the romance I aspire to.

This birthday girl and me, we knew each other in secondary school. I was in my last year and she, in her fourth year. It’s been eight years since I saw her. I began losing the fraction of my memory that beheld her: her surname, the innocence in her face, and so on, but her first name, Vivian. And, her eyes. I remember those eyes, how they shone. Devoid of the questionable, full with promises and carnal calculations. Thanks to social media, now we chat, call, text and, hopefully, I shall see her again. I decide I will call her when my dead phone plays Jesus and resurrects.

Father’s voice brings me out of my room; though he is not talking to me. I am going back to school after the semester break. I imagine he wants to see me. He isn’t. After idling with what I get from the kitchen as breakfast, I reassure myself to escape the errands my mother stockpile for me every morning.

I pass by my sister’s door. ‘Suur, how far?’ I say. ‘I dey,’ she replies.

I take a few more steps as she calls me. But I go on, calculating if I should answer her or not. I owe her money I am yet to pay. My heart, jumps, kicks and tells me she is about to ask for it. The way she has called my name tugs at me. ‘J. Boy.’

I stand by her door. She tells me her friend who did his NYSC here in Korinya is late, knocked down by a vehicle.

I take her phone and look at three photos on the screen. One was taken when the guy had life in him, while the other two were taken after life had left him, his body bloodied on the asphalt. I read the caption as it appeared on Facebook. With grief, we announce the demise of our colleague Richard, who was killed by a vehicle yesterday evening. May his soul rest in peace. May the driver of that vehicle never find peace in his life in Jesus name.

Richard played football in a small field close to my house.

I give Suur her phone and go to my room. Death withdraws one from the world. Incapacities you momentarily as the mockery of your existence flashes before your eyes.

I used to see him, I remind myself, but I never knew his name was Richard. We only exchanged greetings when he and his NYSC friends came to play football at the field. The caption on my sister’s phone appears before me as I converse with myself. Hesitant to believe the photos I saw were the same person. I say ‘Amen’ to May his soul rest in peace. To the part that reads, ‘May the driver of that vehicle never find peace in his life in Jesus name’, I think of MLK Jr: ‘The old philosophy of an eye for an eye ends up leaving everybody blind’. My mind snaps. Hadn’t the driver done a wrong thing? Dilemmatic, I let out the words: Lord, have mercy.

I quit being Socratic and step out of my room, with no more fear of my mother’s errands. I need to resuscitate my phone. Someone is expecting a call or a text, at least, for her birthday.

Filip Ikyegh is completing a degree in ELS at Benue State University, Makurdi. He is a member of the university’s writers club Writers’ League and a regular attendee of the Sevhage Evening of Poetry and Spoken Word. He likes nonfiction and Malcolm X’s speeches.

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