He couldn’t believe it. This is the fourth time he was sending a list with the item in it and each time, other things in the list will be bought except that one item. He sighed loudly while perusing the items and the letter handed over to him by the master in charge.
“ what is wrong with these people, don’t they want to buy the thing or what?”
We chuckled at this obvious anger. It has become a kind of norm to laugh at anyone because any item on the list he sent home was not bought by his parents.
“ Maybe it is because you kept getting the spelling wrong and the sellers kept telling your parents that they don’t have the item” I quipped. He eyed me with an amused glance and sighed loudly. It was a kind of culture among us boarding house students than in the middle ‘80s to toe the line of the popular way of doing things by others. At times, we just know that the capabilities of our parents did not equal what we are listing, and at times, it’s useless items but it was what was in vogue then. Trends, vogue, and viruses usually looked like siblings to me at times. All are useless with time.
The complainer John had been my classmate from our primary school days. Coincidentally, we found ourselves in the same secondary school and the same class and ends up in the same dormitory again and doing the same listing others do then too. Buying irrelevant things because our mates do. He is a smart guy. We used to wonder if there is any question he doesn’t know the answer to. If any, we concluded that no one will know it then but as years go by, you found out that those questions aren’t that difficult, even the teachers weren’t that smart too. We are just plain stupid then. “I suspect it must be the spelling problem that is the cause of the rejection” I continued on the missing item. “ you mean you haven’t checked the spelling of pajamas in the dictionary for four months now? American and British spelling isn't the same you know?- try American selling next time”
He was suspecting that the illiterate dealers has their own name for the item but I had a feeling that the parents knew that night attire wasn’t important and wasn’t a must in the school and was cutting their budget according to their pockets. “I have looked up the spelling in the dictionary for two months now and why they have refused to buy the item is what I don’t know”
I continued dissing him. “maybe, your size isn't even in stock in the first place”
That my comment elicited laughter from others and John joined in his characteristic way to laugh at himself. He is a short guy. I am not even sure that he is up to 4 feet 5. After the round of laughter from that comment, another person followed up from that angle too.
“ Maybe, you should tell your people to just focus on the waist size and that they shouldn't worry about the length. We have scissors here”
Another round of laughter followed. He is what I call the bridge between introverts and extroverts. Neither here nor there. Born and brought up in the city. Our secondary school is located in a rural area and that made the composition of the school that of; city and village brought ups. Maybe, that must have been the reason why John's first placing continued into our final year there.
That was the image of John that stuck in my memory almost thirty years after our secondary days. We had all scattered after our secondary days. The system of education then was that of once you fail, you fail out, pass, you pass out. Nothing like repeating in the same school. I am not even sure anyone wanted to do that in the same school due to shame.
Some went on to colleges, some died, some kept trying to get their papers to find admission into college, and some into the business world. We lost contact with almost all as we face the reality of earth. It took me about another four years to get my papers for college admission.
One day in my final year In college, I was entering the bus station opposite the school, I heard a voice that I could not miss from anywhere or age coming from the canteen inside there. I went in search of the owner of that voice. No one in the class of 90 and 91 would not recognize that voice. I entered the canteen and John was spinning a girl that is almost two and half his height and weight. It was a funny sight. I stood there chuckling to myself, wondering when the guy would stop entertaining people. You need to see the way the girl was eyeing him like something from another planet.
I must have been moping for John that was backing me followed the girl's gaze and saw me. He was surprised and turned his attention to me. “So you are on this campus?”
After a few minutes of getting reacquainted again, I learned that he is in a medical school that has a satellite campus in a rural area not far from ours. He gave me directions on how to visit him. I think he needed friends to visit him there or something. Ten years of hiatus that were temporally broken after that accidental meeting stretched to another twenty after that. I never paid that visit.
Two months ago, I saw John again on Facebook and it took me two minutes to realize it was him. He is spotting Bears and looked as if he is shorter. I guess his adding weight made him look shorter. In one image on Facebook, he was posing with his mother, and observing the background of that image, I believed that the place it was taken was his residential area.
John is now a doctor, practicing in Canada. You needed to see how the woman was gleaning from ear to ear. Hum, that woman?- her happiness was oozing out from the picture I noticed from the date was uploaded four years ago. I couldn’t but feel the happiness the woman was emitting. I never saw once his father's picture there. I suspected that the man is no more. That had always been the way of males. You pay school fees, pay hospitals, but food, and clothes, spent years training and praying to heaven that your wards should amount to something and when that time comes, death will sneak in from no way to claim you as price.
The instant message I sent two months ago has not been answered. I suspect that he is not eager to make acquaintance with classmates for I never heard his name mentioned on the WhatsApp group page some former classmates opened since last year. Yet, I saw some of them sending comments on his pictures.
Life is a funny thing. It repays those that are short-changed from birth I suspect. I suspect that when you are persistent like John, then it has no excuse but to deliver all you asked of him and more. From interior secondary school and university to exterior Canada. What else can a man ask of the world? That saying of “you can if you believe” doesn’t work as we believe at times. Many of us thought that we can but we did not and am betting that John never thought he could but he did.
I guess that he got all his spelling correct this time around in his forms and exams. We are the ones that needed to marry our dictionaries now.