When The End Is Near
When the end is near, you will know. The question of knowing is not one of the many questions you will grapple with. The end will not catch you by surprise. It will not sneak up on you like a thief in the night. It will walk towards you like a wilding giant, strutting lazily with a wicked grin etched in its face, its own way of telling you there is no escape from this coming reality.
Perhaps this is where the problem lies. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that the end is not shy of announcing its presence. It tells you before it comes so you can be prepared, so you can be ready even though the truth still remains: there is no way you can be prepared for the end, for what is coming. No matter how hard you try and how much you hustle so you can evade the common stories of doom, they always have their way in the end. And they make sure you look like a fool. People will see you and ask, How come? Didn’t you know the end was coming? And it would have been better if you could say, I didn’t know. It would have been better. Some people would have pitied you and said things like, It’s not your fault. There was no way you could have known. And that would have been some sort of consolation.
But then, the end is a monster and so even that little consolation that you seek as a failure, it does not give you. Hence, when the end is near, you will know. You always know.
Just the same way I knew that the end was near. Last week, I wrote my final exam as an undergraduate student of History and International Relations at Obafemi Awolowo University.
It is Friday and the sun is out. There is harmattan in the air and outside this place, outside this university, people are asking for the price of chicken and turkey and the bold ones are dragging a stubborn and rebellious cow home. But in here, you are slaving over your book. You have a final paper to write on International Institutions. You are not exactly sure you are prepared for the exam. You have been reading for the exam for about two days now but it still feels like you don’t know anything. You don’t know why this is.
Your exam is set for 4pm and by 3pm, you are in a small coffee shop revising your notes with a classmate whom you do not exactly know. Her name is Chinonye. Until about four weeks ago, Chinonye was nonexistent in your world. You did not know her and she did not know you. but then, you and her happened to be in the same group fror a particular assignment and so, contacts were exchanged and just like that, you started viewing each other WhatsApp’s status. You became, what do they call it, WhatsApp friends?
The time is 3.30pm now and Chinonye gives you her note in exchange for your jotter. You check through her note and realized that the note you read must have been the summary of this. Her note was detailed whereas yours, which you got from a friend, was empty. As you skim through the note, you both talk. It is a brief conversation, the type that would not have mattered if not that you both were having it minutes to your last exam in the university. You talk about movies and about your exam finally. Minutes to the exam, you both enter and write what you know. Thank God for Chinonye’s note.
The exam is set for three hours but you spend about two hours and forty minutes and then you submit. It is an unbelievable feeling. You submit and the lecturer nods.
“I wish you luck in your future endeavors,” he says.
“Thank you, sir,” you say and bow out.
Outside, the air is different. It is as though all the gods of success and achievements and excellences have vacated their heavens to celebrate with you. You do not know how you feel. You feel light, weightless. You feel like you’ve been to Mars and back. You feel like you’ve sat on the Iron Throne. You feel like you’ve mounted Drogon. You feel like you just destroyed all of Tom Riddle’s horcruxes. You feel like those slaves in the 1800s must have felt when slavery was abolished and they became free men – just like that, their status changed.
You do not know if you should cry or laugh or smile. You do not know what to do. Downstairs, some girls are twerking to some loud music blaring from a speaker. You do not see them. In the distance, some other finalists are walking around the school with a band, drumming and singing and screaming and yelling. You do not see them. Finally, your classmates come out and invade the streets and start dancing on the street, putting traffic on hold. Still you do not see them.
Instead, you see four years evaporate and turn to a wisp of smoke. You see four years fold up like a millipede and turn to twerking. You see four years and eight semesters curl up like Baby Yoda. You see four years, you see four years.
So you pick up your phone and call your mother. Her hello from the other side wants to make you cry.
‘Mummy, I’m done. Your son is a graduate!’ you say.
‘Ah, Oluwa seun, ‘ your mother says and you can feel the joy on her tongue, the life in her lips, the happiness in her bones as she says those words. She wants to sob but she doesn’t. She keeps thanking God and then she tells you to pack all your things, she’s coming to pick you in two days’ time.
You call your father too. He does not know what to say and so he says something and you smile. You understand. Even you do not know what to say.
But you know that before now, before you can call dad, before you can call mum, before you can dance on the streets, before you can see the twerking graduates, before you hear your lecturer wish you luck in your future endeavors, before you read with Chinonye in a coffee shop, many things have happened, many events that told you the end was near. And now, look at it, the end is here.
PS. This is the first of ten posts on my final moments in Obafemi Awolowo University.