Jerry had cut the call before George could say anything.
“What’s it?” Shola asked from the hospital bed. George turned to look at her and placed his hand on her hair.
“Nothing, Shola. It’s Jerry,” he said but his voice and appearance betrayed him. Gloom was written all over his face.
“George, what is it you’re not telling me? We both know Jerry doesn’t call unless it’s important. He’d rather go to WhatsApp.”
George sighed. She was right. She was damn right! She knew it all. She understood them all. She was sure that Peter was not going to last in the HOD’s class and she was right. And now she was sure something was wrong and she was right again. George did not know how to deal with this, how to deal with grief. How was he supposed to tell Shola that Peter was no longer part of them and Jerry was scared he would something stupid. And what exactly did Jerry mean by something stupid? What exactly could Peter do? George knew he was too spiritual to attack the HOD. The worst he could do was to beg and beg until the old man chased him out of the large room. Why then in God’s name did Jerry want him to be around? He sighed. Life was a maze, a mysterious maze with no way out.
He looked at his phone again and dropped his head in frustration. The only thing he wanted now was to spend the rest of his life in that hospital room, beholding what Shola had become.
“See, I understand if you need to go. There’s really nothing you can do for me here,” Shola said. Her eyes were fixed on him. His eyes were fixed on her lifeless legs.
“It’s Peter. The HOD has dismissed him.”
She did not say anything so he continued. “Jerry thinks he might want to do something stupid.”
“What could he possibly do? He sure can’t go into the man’s office and slap him.”
“I don’t know but Jerry wants me to come, to see him.”
She was quiet for a while, as though she was considering all the horrible things that Peter could do before she spoke. Finally she said, “Go. Go and see him. I can’t think of anything stupid he might do but, go.”
George sighed. He picked himself up, gave Shola a peck and made for the door. He was almost out when Shola called him.
“George,” she began, her voice calm and heavy with emotions, “the therapy – it won’t work. Don’t expect a miracle. I’ll be out of here in no time, in a wheelchair,” she finished and looked at her wheelchair by the bed. George wanted to say something but he saw that there was no need, so he swallowed his own grief and let it devour him within, and walked out of the hospital room.
With anger and frustration, George dialed Peter’s number. Anger because he had to babysit the poor guy and make him happy. Frustration because George was tired of life. Peter did not pick up his calls the four times he called him and George called Jerry then. It was the latter who told him Peter said he was going to the Amphitheatre the last time they saw. George was at SUB carpark then. He crossed over and walked towards the biggest and most complex structure in Obafemi Awolowo University.
On his way, his roommate called.
“Stephen, what’s up?”
“Hey, G, howfar?”
“I’m good. I’m in school now. One of us have been dismissed by the HOD. Wanna go see him.”
“Oh…so bad. How’s Shola?”
“She’s okay. You were right,” he said, not knowing any easier way to say it.
“Shit! I’m sorry about that man!”
“Anyway, if this makes you feel any better, I cooked Amala with Gbegiri and Chicken.”
George smiled. Life was so simple for Stephen. “Thanks, man. Keep my share. Gotta go now ”
He cut the call. George was now in front of Oduduwa Lecture Theatre 2. He called Peter again. No answer. Then, he sighted him in the crowd in front of the Zobo seller opposite the hall.
“Peter! Peter!!” George cried. He did not care that people were looking at him. The only thing he cared about was Peter whom he could see was not fine. “Peter!”
Peter looked back and George ran to meet him. George looked over and sighed. It was funny how emotions revealed themselves in our countenance and our dressing. Peter was wearing a jean trousers, a black vest and a red cap. He looked so strange in his clothes. This was the same Peter who would always put on baggy trousers with shirt and tie. This was the same guy dressing like Jerry, buying Zobo.
“What’s up, man?” George asked when he got to him. Peter nodded, paid the Zobo seller and turned back towards Amphitheater. George followed him silently. He did not know what to say. He was not the right man for this. He, who had just come back from visiting his forever immobile lover. He, who had lost all hope that she would ever walk again immediately she told him that the therapy would not work. He was incapable of making anyone feel happy right now. But he had to. Obviously, Peter was sinking into depression.
The got to the concrete seats outside ODLT 2 and sat down. And then Peter spoke.
“George, have you ever dreamt before?”
“Well, I don’t believe so much in dreams. Dreamt about LAUTECH some weeks ago sha.”
Peter allowed him to finish before he said, “I meant aspirations, goals and the likes.”
“Oh that…well…dunno, I guess I have.”
Peter sighed, picked a pebble on the floor and began playing with it as he spoke.
“You know, I have always dreamt of making my parents happy. I have always imagined the smile that will stretch across their face on that last day when I graduate with a First Class. I have always imagined the family party that’s going to happen. I have always imagined the joy in my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, and every other person in our extended family. I have always dreamt of that day. Until today,” he sniffed. The pebble fell from his hand and George focused on it. He watched as it fell from Peter’s hand and hit the ground. George focused on the pebble because it reminded him of how the person in his dream was falling. He focused on the pebble because doing so meant he did not have to focus on Peter who was now crying silently.
Tears streamed down his face slowly and soundlessly. He never made a single sound and the tears never rushed. They flowed patiently, as though they were being controlled.
“I begged him, George,” Peter said as he cried. He held George’s hand and cried. “I begged HOD. I told him I would learn, that I was already learning but he wouldn’t listen. He said I was a disgrace to education and a shame to the utilisation of the brain. He then said he would give me a D and I could join every other students to continue next semester. He was going to give me a ‘D’
George swallowed. He knew what that meant. A ‘D’ in a 5 unit course meant a 2nd Class Lower. And there was no how Peter was going to recover from that in the three semesters he had left. It meant he would never graduate with a First Class and the family party he had always dreamt of would never happen.
“Perhaps I should never have joined this class.”
“No, Peter. Don’t say that. You were picked because you are brilliant, you passed the entry exam. We’re gonna sort this out. Jerry will speak with the HOD.”
But Peter was not listening. He was shaking his head and crying bitterly. George was not sure what he was shaking his head to and he did not ask. He did not need to. Peter was talking already.
“I am not. I am not brilliant. We both know you all know that I could not have passed the entry exam without help. I could not have passed. I was helped George. It was Dr. Afilu. He was the one who told me the questions that were going to come out. I cheated my way in.”
George was shocked. He could not believe this. They had always known that Peter was not meant for the class and that something had gotten him in but this was beyond their imagination. George had never for once thought that Peter would go to that length. Why would someone go to that length? For what, a 5.0 CGPA? No, it could not be true.
“It’s a lie, Peter. It’s impossible,” he said but Peter did not bother to convince him. He simply stood up and dried his face. He straightened his trousers, adjusted his cap and sniffed. “Need to go pee. Will you wait for me here, please?”
“Sure,” George said
When fifteen minutes passed and Peter did not return, George began to feel strange. He dialed his phone and was surprised; the phone was ringing beside him. Peter had left his phone with him. George picked up the phone and opened it; there was no password.
Peter had seven missed calls. George checked and saw that five of them were from a number saved as Father and two were from one Brother Kayode. George thought of calling Father back and then he decided against it and checked the messages. The latest one was from Father. It read:
You better tell me that your message is a joke. I am not paying your school fee so you can come home with 2nd Class Upper. First Class is not for two heads. Go back and beg that HOD to allow you back or I don’t ever want to see your face in my house again, you failure. Get back to me as soon as you rectify this issue.
Quickly, George read the previous message. It was sent by Peter. It read:
Father, good morning sir. I am writing to inform you that our HOD dismissed me from his class today and gave me a D. I don’t know what to do, Father. I think I’m going to fail. Please pray for me.
In a flash, it all made sense to George but it was too late. From above, someone was calling his name. He looked up and there was Peter, standing on the tip of the tallest structure in Obafemi Awolowo University.
“Peter! I know what is happening!” George screamed. Already, he could see what would happen in the next few seconds.
Above, Peter was shaking his head. His mouth was moving but George could not hear a word. He did not know what to do. Should he go up and risk losing sight of Peter? Or should he wait here and try to bet help in case things went out of hand? George was helpless.
“Peter!” He screamed again. Now, people were gathered behind him, watching the man on top of the world. “Peter, please! You don’t have to do this. It’s just one course.”
For some hopeful moments, Peter was not moving. It was as though he was considering his own intention. George watched, hoping that Peter would see reason. And then, like a tiger in agony would scream, Peter screamed. George closed his eyes immediately and when he opened them, it had happened: a man had fallen from the sky.
“Our dreams, they say, have a way of coming back to haunt us if we don’t pay attention to them.”