It had been three weeks since lectures commenced for the new students and I still walked home alone. A lot of other people were already walking in groups. I never find it difficult making friends but this time I couldn’t just fit myself in. There was still a longing that made things different.
Then one afternoon, I met Emeka. I was returning home from school on a Saturday evening and the sole of my shoe cut off. I needed to repair it but knew no shoe mender. It hadn’t even occurred to me the existence of shoe menders till that moment. Emeka stumbled on me dragging my feet along with the spoilt shoe, took me to a shoe mender within the school premises, haggled out a reasonable price and paid for me. We went home together and from that day on, we became friends.
We returned from school together every day and he kept me informed. He took me to places I didn’t know how to get to. Helped me get things I didn’t know how to get. He was always helpful. One day, after school, on the way to my hostel, we got talking as usual about whatever came to mind. Then half way he changed the topic.
“What’s your story?” He blurted out suddenly with a tone of interest. I looked at him confused. “Story? How do you mean?” He shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“Why are you reading law is what i mean. Everyone has a story, a reason why they are here, what’s yours?”
“Hmmm, I don’t know why this question is coming up or where it came from but how about you answer it, then I’ll follow right behind."
He eyed me before he shrugged in agreement. We entered the hostel and headed for my room.
“Well, I come from a very poor village, he started, but we have lots of land, fertile land if I might add. It’s a close knit village and almost everyone have or rather had at least two plots of land. But then people were coming in from the capital to strip us off our lands.”
We entered my room, he slumped on the bed, yawned, stretched, placed his palms behind his head and continued.
“It was just so unfair. No compensation, no replacement, no nothing. This continued and lots of us were losing lands. It was unfair but we were helpless and had no means of defending ourselves. He sat up, well, as the saying goes, you never get too concerned till you are involved.”
“I don’t think that’s how the sayin- “
“You know what I mean for pete's sakes” he frowned cutting me off.
“As I was saying - my family became a victim. Our only land was taken and the land happened to be a major source of income. I met my secondary school teacher then, Mr. Nteshi, he smiled in remembrance. A very nice man and a lot of people loved him. He said that a lawyer, a very good one would help not just in the land cases but many other helpless cases I mentioned to him. There and then I decided to study the law, not just for my family, though that was the force behind it but also for my town that had been unduly deprived of their properties and various others out there going through similar situations with no viable help in view. However, I don’t plan to depend solely on my law career because I’ll be doing a lot of pro bono work with it, my life is pro bono anyways, he shrugged I’ll have a business by the side”
“Now, over to you.” He gestured resting on the wall. “Let’s hear it”
I made to get up waving him off “Leave my case, there’s nothing there. I’m here because that’s where I landed. Nothing special, nothing motivating, no story, nothing but that doesn’t mean I’ll love to leave, I mean wherever I go, it’s going to be the same.” He looked genuinely shocked.
“Seriously?” I nodded.
“Not even because it was a dream you had as a child or you saw something about it that you liked?”
I shook my head and said, “nothing.”
“Wow”, He sounded almost disappointed which made me uneasy.
“So how did you end up here then?”
“My dad. He picked the course and the school, though he and my mum had a little squabble over the school but can we just forget about it for now please, I’m tired and hungry.” I made to get up again and he drew me back to the bed.
“You don’t shrug off such things. I’ll let it be for now but we are going to have to talk about this. Who just reads, marry, and works with no drive for anything in life? Even panel beaters have desire to either end up owning their own shop or save enough to start up a better business. We will talk about this” he stressed letting me go.
I didn’t appreciate the query but as I warmed the left over rice from the previous night, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was right. Maybe that is what causing the longing I thought. Maybe that’s the longing. Maybe that’s what makes this place feel so different, everyone is aiming at something, everyone seems to have it all figured out, life and purpose and I’m just passing by. No ambitions. No goal.
That night I couldn’t sleep so I called my sister. She was young but well-read and intelligent.
“I’m happy you are coming out of the push and pull lifestyle. I do tell you these things but you just act like all those rich white kids in our previous school who go around like robots with programmed functions.” she breathed into the phone. I said nothing and she continued
“When the purpose of a thing is not known, not only is abuse inevitable, it becomes useless. Maybe this is why dad sent you there, to get this longing, to have something to like, something that drives you, something you want to do, to get something out of life and not just do what you are told. They have given us an opening to choose a path and the fact that you have no choice nor interested much in the one chosen bothers him, i think”
“So how do I get around it, how do I do that? What’s the purpose? What’s the path? How do i find it?” i replied getting angry
“I’ll send you some books when this call ends that have helped me answer that question but most importantly, pray too, who best to ask why a thing was made if not the maker?”
“Don’t! She said shutting me up before the protest was out of my mouth - argue that with me. You asked how? I’m telling you how, prayer doesn’t bite, it works”
“Okay dear, Thanks, good night.”
I dropped the call and pondered on her words.