12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
ON THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, TNC GAVE TO ME…
In and Out
The prayer summons were being sung, the city’s personal cock-crow. It was time to get up. Key Afolabi rubbed his eyes as he stumbled out of bed. He had only a little while before he would surely be late for school. He couldn’t let that happen. It was the last day before Christmas break. The school day usually ended early on the last day so that people could spend the afternoon exchanging presents during the class Christmas party. He was happy that his assigned person was going to be Fadeke Omoniyi, the prettiest girl in school and he had the perfect gift.
He hopped out of bed. Great. No light. Thank God he’d ironed his clothes the night before. Nothing worse than being the class scruff. Key was never particularly well dressed, but as much as his family could afford to, he tried to stay well kempt. He dumped two scoops into his cup, one of Milo, the other Peak, filling it with water. He hated the cold tea but it was all he had. He grabbed a handful of Cabin biscuits. They were stale, tasting something like the love child of sandpaper and soggy cardboard. His stomach rebelled against the sad morsel it was presented with. He hummed silently to ease his belly.
As he scarfed down the last his biscuits by the fading beams of the only working torch in the house, he thought of happier times. Life hadn’t always been terrible for him. His father had once been a successful businessman. He never wanted for anything and he lived what he now understood to be a dream. But a deal had gone very wrong and cost his father a large portion of the family’s funds. Mr. Afolabi struggled after that. He tried to get another job but who would hire a businessman with a reputation for bankruptcy? As if that wasn’t enough, a year later, Key’s mother took ill and died soon after. Finding it hard to cope alone, Mr. Afolabi remarried his longtime concubine, whiskey.
Key raced out the door, his back pack flopping hopelessly behind him. Next stop, Mrs. Olatunji’s shop. He arrived at the store just time to meet the veritable chorus line of Mrs. Olatunji’s son, Kunle, and his posse of pampered sycophants known to all as the Ajebutter Crew as they sang “Donkey, o de! Donkey, o see am go! Donkey, o de! Donkey, o see am go!” There was no time to fight with them. There were floors to be swept and wares to be put out before he could run off to school. The chorus line continued as he hurried to make sure that she wouldn’t see, but it was too late. Fadeke Omoniyi was walking by and she heard it all.
In that moment, he was certain of two things: 1) He would have given anything to be anywhere else at that moment and 2) He hated his father for giving him such foolish name as Quixote. There was something about the combination riches and alcohol that made otherwise sane men do stupid things – such as naming his only son after a fictional character who can only be described as suffering from delusions of grandeur.
The warning bell rang and Key wasn’t quite done with his morning work. Mrs. Olatunji never let him leave until his work was all done. Meanwhile, the Crew piled into the Mercedes-Benz GLK that pulled up to take the boys to the school. Thirty minutes later, he arrived at the school gate only to be greeted by the excessive scoldings of his hot-headed headmaster. A wave of relief washed over him. Any day his unwanted fanfare didn’t announce his arrival was a good day in his book.
The rest of the day inched by slowly and just when he was beginning to think the day would never end, the teacher announced that it was time for the party and gift exchange. He watched patiently as half the class exchanged gifts, hugged and sat back down. “Next up, we are going to have Kwee-zo-tay Afolabi and Fadeke Omoniyi.”
The students laughed. It was hard to decipher whether the laughter came from the teacher’s mispronunciation or the look of bewilderment that was on Key’s face as he searched the pockets of his school uniform. He couldn’t find his perfect gift. Just as soon as he began to run to check his back pack, Kunle’s voice filled the room with his now infamous chant. The rest of the Ajebutters followed suit and soon enough, the whole class was chanting. Teary-eyed, Key ran out of the classroom and went home.
Two days later, Key was sitting on verandah in front of his house, when Fadeke showed up. “Key,” she said softly, “I want to talk to you.”
“About what?” he said incredulously
“Key, why did run off like that?”
“I lost it”
“No kidding, everybody saw that,” she said wryly
He shook his head, “No, I mean I lost it. The thing I wanted to give you. I lost it. It was a gold pendant that my mother used to wear. I found it in a box of her old things. My father must have had it made for her before they got married. On the back, it said ‘For someone special.’ I wanted to give it to you.”
“Oh wow, I had no idea. I’m so sorry. You must her a lot.”
“Yeah, every day. I think about her all the time. Sometimes I remember everything about her perfectly and other times, I can barely remember what she looks like.”
“I know what you mean. It’s been 8 years since my dad died and I still feel the same way.”
“It’s hard to deal with it all when you feel alone.”
“Yeah, I remember crying myself to sleep every night for weeks. My mom once told me that she used to do the same thing. She said that one morning, she woke up and realized that you can’t control who comes in and out of your life, but while they are here, you can make the most of the time you have.”
Pensively, he said, “Yeah. It makes sense, I guess.”
“Hey listen, I know you’ve had a rough time at school lately and I figured you could use a break. My mom and I are going to watch The Best Man Holiday this weekend. Do you want to come?”
“Hmmmm….. Maybe. What’s it about?”
“I don’t know. I think it’s one of those cheesy American holiday movies.”
“LOL, It sounds girly sha, but OK. I’ll come.”
My gift to you all this joyous season is in the wisdom of Fadeke’s mother. Life is unpredictable. We don’t get to chose how we come in or out of it. But while we still have time, we can chose how we spend it and with whom. In keeping with that spirit, I would like to take this opportunity to present “The Best Man Holiday” movie and original soundtrack to our dearest Debloww. Merry Christmas darling. I hope the season gives you many joys with the people you love.