I got your letter.
I don't know when you will ever get to read this, but by the time you get it, I will be miles from here. I took your advice and gave Wesley College a trial. I guess I made such an impression on them during the interview, they offered me a full scholarship.
Right? (Total sarcasm).
My parents seem to think it's a good thing too. They were happy when I agreed to go for the interview; I think Mom even rolled on the ground a couple of times while praising God.
Anyways, I will be leaving for Wesley today. It's Saturday here and it's the first day of the new term. Dad is driving me there, and Victor is coming too. Seems like they intend to make it a road trip.
I was shocked when Victor actually volunteered. I didn’t think he would ever want to be five feet close to me, considering how I broke his nose during our last fight, but he said it didn't matter; we were brothers and siblings fight then make up.
He pulled me into a hug afterwards and as much as I hate to admit, it felt somewhat good.
Mom was overjoyed that we finally fixed our rift but we knew the bond we had shared could never be same again, and it was his entire fault. He never should have taken you to the......
“Alex, have you packed your old books from the store?" Alex stopped writing when he heard his mother's voice ask, as she pushed the knob and entered his room. She looked worried by the disordered state of his room; his books scattered on the floor, his clothes on the bed, and other random items littered everywhere. She wanted to reprimand him for the mess but stopped herself.
Thank God, he decided to go to Wesley. I can't imagine what he would do to himself next. She thought, holding her poor heart, dearly.
“No, Alex mumbled." Then chipped in, "I don't need them. Just throw them out."
He wanted her out of his room quickly so he could return to his letter, and maybe packing his stuffs.
“Won't you need them in your new.... ?”
“Mom, just throw them out!”
From his mother's sudden frown, he realised his outburst had crossed a line he shouldn't have.
"I’m sorry, Mom."
Christina Coker watched her son, as he grew nervous and uncomfortable at her presence. Her eyes went teary and her heart hurt because all she wanted was to be there for him, but it didn't look like he wanted her comfort. She knew he had suffered a great loss, they all had, but the fact he kept pushing his family away while he remained desolate, showed that he wasn't moving on.
And what loving mother would stand by while her precious son crumble in her presence?
“Dear, you haven't packed for school yet. If your father was here," she said. "he will be so furious."
Christina was trying her best to start up a conversation with him, but it was obvious from the scowl on his face that he wasn't interested. Alex knew it would take his Dad four hours to get to Abuja, which would still leave him an extra five hours to pack his stuffs for the trip; hence the foot-dragging. He could have easily thrown his stuffs into his bag and save himself the lectures but he couldn't .
Every time he had tried to pack, he could never bring himself to.
He noticed his mother was sorting out his school clothes from the pile of clothes on his bed, and a sad smile appeared on his face.
“Mom, I will do that later. You don't need to."
“It's nothing dear; I can manage. Your brother's room is worse than this. He leaves his balls everywhere, his dirty socks, and even his boxers. That boy is a definition of mess."
They shared a light laughter like mother and son would, and this gladdened Christiana's heart because it was the first time she was seeing her son laugh, in weeks, since the incident that distorted their lives.
She noticed the paper and pen on his desk; from the handwriting, she guessed that he had been writing something before she came in. Her eyes glanced around the room in an instant, taking note of the empty walls and shelves. She recalled the photos and paintings that used to be there, even the trophies and medals. They were all hers; and he had adorned them, until the dark storms came and he pulled his room apart.
Her eyes fell on the only photo frame he had left on the desk and lingered there.
Subconsciously, she reached for it only for him to snatch it in a swift move of his hand. They stared at each other for a second but his cold and fierce eyes made her look away. She braced herself then calmly mentioned how sad it was that Miriam was gone and wouldn't return, but it unnerved him.
“She is not dead!” He refuted, his voice filled with anguish. His face contorted with fury as he repeated the sentence continuously in a trancelike manner.
“But Alex, Miriam is gone. I know you truly cared about her but you need to forgive yourself and learn to move on.”
"Leave me, alone. Just go.”
Christina heard her son's mutter clearly but her feet wouldnt budge to her brains command. Her heart was holding her back. She wanted to tell him he was right but recalled the therapist's words.
His acceptance is the first step.
However, how could they convince the sixteen-year-old that despite his best friends death, his life must go on?
They had been so close.
"Alex, I know it's tough to accept....
A loud, throbbing sound downstairs interrupted her and Alex saw this as his chance to escape. He sprang up, unexpectedly, and ran out. So swiftly, it left her in a daze.
“Welcome to Wonder Park. Have a wondrous adventure." A robotic voice repeated and everyone in the park, including Alex heard the echo.
He wasn't in the mood for a ride but when he ran out of the house, he had found himself running towards the park, with bated breath. For some reason, he felt like she was waiting for him, and he needed to get the park on time.
This was our favourite park.
He heard Miriam's vibrant voice whisper in his ears, and he smiled.
"Not was, dummy. Is," he corrected.
Sure, you're the grammar guru.
He closed his eyes and pictured her rolling her bright eyes at him as she spoke, he couldn't help but chuckle lightly.
Since when as Miriam being so docile? She is always flipping her wig out when I call her a dummy, Alex wondered, as he opened his eyes.
He quickly looked around for her but there was no one familiar in sight except strangers. A crowd watching a play and two children playing spin the wheel. Feeling tensed and agitated, his eyes glanced over the park again, falling flat when they couldn't find whom he was searching for.
Alex suddenly felt lost, deflated and lonely.
His eyes fell on the two children by the spinning wheel, and memories of Miriam flooded him.
When they first met, her crazy laughter, and her defiant side.
Miriam Alli was brilliant, but too restive for a teenager her age. When others would back down and yield to a bully, she would speak up and point out reasons why he couldn't push her down. Miriam is too recalcitrant, Alex would always say, but she never listened to him. For two best friends who practically grew up together doing everything in unison, they were so different.
While Alex was calm, collected and sometimes prejudiced, she was stormy, messy and parrhesiastic.
Alex met Miriam at Wonder Park for the first time.
They were both six.
That day, he had been standing alone close to the pool, licking his lollypop when three boys came up to him; they were bigger and had scary faces. They asked if they could have his cotton candy but he shook his head. Wrong answer, they said in anger and began to push him. One shoved him so hard, he fell to the ground, hitting his butt and falling on his lollypop.
Alex was angry but he could do nothing as they snatched the cotton candy from his hand; they were bigger than he was and he was outnumbered. Moreover, there were no adults in sight he could report them. They were leaving when a tiny but firm voice rang out,
“You come back here this instant and say sorry to him!"
The voice spook them a bit but when they turned and saw it's owner glaring at them with fury, they shuddered in fear.
"Sorry, Miriam." They apologized, returned the candy then quickly ran off.
The six-year-old Miriam offered out a hand and helped Alex up. He was amazed when he saw that his savior was a girl, one who was obviously his age.
“Thank you, he said. "but, how did you do that? They looked so scared of you.”
“Oh, never mind. We always fight, she replied. “I don't like bullies. "
Alex's tiny eyes popped widely at this. Her words and expressions continued to make him admire her even more.
“Can we be friends?" He asked, shyly, as he handed her the other lollypop in his pocket.
“Sure, I don't have many, anyways." She replied, whilst cackling.
Her laughter sounded strange and silly to him, but by the end of the day, he soon got used to it.
The Allis were the strangest family in the area, which was perhaps why they had the most eccentric children.
Mr James Alli didn't go to work on weekdays; he was always at home watching football. He once told Alex, he was a sport writer but his daughter had rebutted his claim. She told him he was UL: unemployed and lazy. He was never out of the house on weekdays but was never in on weekends. According to Anita, Miriams younger sister, he was at the bar and that was where he worked best.
Unlike her husband, Mrs Funmi Alli was career driven, hotheaded and full of ardor. Although, she was impulsive, she was much better than her narcissistic husband who never stopped talking about himself. She was an accountant; she earned a lot and took care of the family's need. This made her absent at the house on weekdays but available on weekends.
Despite the fact, they never had time for each time; the couple was always at war whenever they met. They never saw eye-to-eye and even during neighbour parties, they would argue countless of times, only to end up snuggling later.
Hence, the no shock experienced when their first child, Ike, dyed his dreads orange and left for Lagos to become a singer.
And none, when Anita suddenly moved in with her boyfriend in Kuje.
It seemed like only Miriam was sensible amongst her siblings but she was a troublemaker. Always defying the laws that were meant to constrain her.
But who could blame her though; there were many laws in the country that needed changing.
“The protest is for a good cause. I really don’t get why the government refuse to just end the SARS and reform the police force."
That was Miriam's voice; Alex guessed then came out from his room.
He hadn't realise she was around until he heard her vibrant voice from his room upstairs. He called out to her but she didn't hear him; she was probably lost in the words of her chat buddy, Victor.
“They want to form a new unit instead." Victor said.
“If you two are so bent on this #Endpolicebrutality, why don't you join the protesters on the street? Instead of just sitting down at home and hash-tagging." Alex teased when he came downstairs.
"I'm not a twitter protester!"
Miriam protested, offended at the insult.
“We actually made this happen. This is the change we have all being waiting for. It wasn't the government to give, but we, to fight for."
Though Victor's words were trite because he had being tweeting them since the #EndSars trend started, they were the obvious truth. Even Alex couldn't deny the fact despite his insistence that the protest could be done in better ways than the youths taking to the streets to demonstrate.
But that was just Alex. Everyone knew he was the calm and coolheaded one.
“Mimi, guess what?" Victor took his face off his phone and asked excitedly, using his nickname for her.
She asked if the government had agreed to their terms, but he shook his head. She asked if the senate had passed the law to prohibit all forces from using violence against unharmed citizens, he shook his head again. Then when Alex asked if Anonymous had hacked into the CBN and distributed a million naira into everyone's account, they both eyed him in unison.
“Well, tell us." He grumbled.
"I read on twitter that there will be a protest here in Abuja on Saturday. Some celebrities will be joining the march to the Supreme Court. They are tagging it 'The walk to freedom'."
“Seriously!" Miriam screamed, with delight. "We have to join them. I will paint the banners we will use. Finally, a chance to be among the voice and make a change."
"I don't think we should go, Miriam. Victor can sort himself out if there is trouble, but we can't." Alex disagreed.
“Why can't we? We are sixteen, Alex. It's time we prove to the world we are not children. We are Africans and Africans never bow, give up or submit to defeat. We fight until our last breathe. You can stay back if you want, but I'm not."
“But, I'm worried about you."
"I will be fine. It's just a peaceful protest, Alex, not a war."
Alex wished he hadn't agreed that day.
He wished he had talked more sense into her. He had convinced her not to go. Not to spend hours making banners with cardboards and colour paints from her art collections. Not to stay up the whole night writing captions on the boards with permanent markers. He should have done something instead of letting her leave with Victor that inauspicious Saturday morning, and because he didn't, he blamed himself for the incident.
Not the touts who threw the stones at the police.
Not the police who shot the stray bullet that pierced her heart.
Not the government who sent the police.
He blamed himself.
And Victor too. He shared a bigger portion of the blame because he had taken her there but Alex knew deep down that she would have found her own way even without him. She would have scaled a fence, jumped over an ocean or climbed Mount Everest, if it meant speaking for her rights.
Now, she was gone.
Nevertheless, her death had meant something.
As she had always said, it was better to die touching lives than to live a long life of regrets.
The deaths due to the tumult at the protest ground made the government considered the terms of the protesters. Even the protesters were ready to reach a compromise too because of the loss. It looked like a win-win for both sides but a loss at the same time. Nigerians mourned the deaths of the hundred youths who lost their lives that day, just as Alex grieved over his best friend.
He was in shock for days and wouldn't believe she was dead. For a week, he relapsed in and out of reverie; his family were frightened and had to take him to see a doctor. He got better, and even stopped screaming in his sleep. But he locked himself in doors every day and stopped talking. Which was why they were relieved when he went for the interview and accepted the scholarship to Wesley College.
It meant he was moving on.
It didn't matter that he still keep most of her paintings and medals under his bed. He whispered her name sometimes in his sleep and was always distressed when anyone mentioned her death.
“Are you scared to ride the Monster wheel too? A timid voice asked from behind, bringing Alex back to the reality.
“W-what? He stammered.
The girl placed her hands on her waist, sighed then pointed to the ride in front of him. He looked agape when he sees it, he hadn't realised he had walked that far. She repeated her question again, loudly and he quickly shook his head. She blushed lightly, as she admitted she was scared too but still wanted to try it anyway.
This is the only ride we never went on. He thought.
That's because you were scared. I never rode it, for you. Miriam replied in his head.
Yes, Alex. But there is nothing to be afraid of anymore. You need to let go of my hand.
I don't want to. What if I fall? I'm scared.
Alex, it doesn't matter. You can always get back up and try again. I believe in you, Alex.
I'm sorry I didn't stop you from going. It's my fault.
No, it's not. I made the choice and don't regret it. You need to forgive yourself, Alex. This is goodbye.
Please don't go.
I have to go. You'll be fine. Goodbye, Alex.
“Do you still want to go on the ride? Alex asked, with a smile now and the girl smiled back.
They paid for the tickets, took a seat together then rode the dreaded ride of their lives, while holding hands.
Whenever he has the courage to read Miriam's letter to him, he will see she had written just three words to him.
PS: Alex, Be Happy.