I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the essence of life.
We live to die and we die to live? How many lives do we get?
Aunty died of cancer three years ago. The doctors did not know what was eating her up. I knew, her children also knew, but everyone was scared to say the word. It was forbidden to say it as that would mean we were faithless. The small boil on her head soon multiplied and gave rise to big lumps on every part of her body. Her health deteriorated every time I saw her, until she breathed her last. She was very friendly, she left too early. To aunty, I shall dedicate a book. Her death brought back memories of Alaba.

Photo by Aidee Erhime

I walked into school 12 years ago, ready to learn something new. I did learn something, for right before the whole school gathered on the assembly ground, I was hit with the news of Alaba’s death. At the time, I was too young to understand what it meant to die. Perhaps not too young, too naive. Alaba was no close friend of mine. He was a gentle man, I never saw him fight despite that he had the right build to pick on small boys. I cried for Alaba. Rumour had it that his spirit still wandered that morning. Bimpe said she saw Alaba while she was on her way to school. She said Alaba greeted her. Seun said the same thing. I believed Seun more because she looked like she was genuinely shocked as she had seen a ghost; Alaba’s ghost. Because Alaba used to be in my class, we decided to pay his elder sister, whom he stayed with, a visit. After closing hours, more than half of the class walked to Alaba’s house. From the moment I heard of his demise to the moment I accompanied my classmates to and away from his house, I spent most of the time watching, listening and thinking. I barely spoke. Alaba’s sister lived in a small house. Outside the house was a reservoir; a wide well, built to reserve water. The water in it was not much at all, it was clear water and the reservoir wasn’t deep. Until that visit, I had never seen a reservoir. I heard people die in it. A little girl once died in a reservoir in Adigbe so mummy made sure we fetched water only from Iya aladura’s tap. From the balcony, I noticed the sitting room was in need of a thorough makeover. There was a heap of sand that formed a mound outside, just beside the reservoir. This heap, i  would later realize was Alaba’s grave.

Alaba’s sister told a touching story of Alaba, amidst tears and gasps. I didn’t believe her story but every other person did. She spoke in Yoruba. Alaba had, in the middle of the night, gone out to buy food for his hungry sister. He was such a good boy, she said. She wiped her tears at intervals while everyone joined in her grief. “If I had known”, she continued, “I would not have sent him out any such an hour as 11pm”. Alaba had offered to help his hungry, elder sister get food but when he had not returned after over an hour, his sister went out, leaving her little child at home, to look for him. Details of her story come to me in bits but she did say she found Alaba’s body in the reservoir. He was floating, she said.
Everyone felt sympathy for Alaba’s sister, who had by now, led us to the killer reservoir. They arrived at the conclusion that 21 year old Alaba must have decided to take a swim soon as he returned because his clothes were hanging on the wall of the reservoir. They were sure he took his clothes off by himself. I never believed the story. Only Alaba can tell us what happened to him. There, Titi saw Alaba’s ghost and screamed. Titi was a dramatic seer. I never believed her convulsions but I mourned throughout that day, for Alaba was no more.


Its 2:46 am and I’m wondering now, how did Michael Jackson learn to stop existing and start living? I’m afraid I’m existing. Pride has taken over humanity. Jealousy over empathy. Hatred over unending love. What life is can be defined around one word-Nothing. Life is nothing. Am I now beginning to understand Foundation School’s definition of ‘man’? A spirit with a soul that lives in a body? How has it just hit me that I should love without end? How have I just realized that life should not be all about ME, but about people around me who I can help? How is it I just learnt that I should not expect repayment for an act of kindness? However I realized, its important we all know this too, that living is fulfilling. Living means there’s hope. Living means there’s a chance. Living means there’s a future.


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