I sighed as I got closer. I had played the scenario countless times in my head but still couldn’t deal with the reality of how it would play out. My galloping heart still refused to get itself under control as I approached my classroom.
I hesitated as I stood right next to the door.
Get yourself together, I muttered under my breath and stepped in.
The awful part about missing school for almost a month was – yep, all eyes were on me as I walked in, including the biology teacher’s who had beat me to the classroom. Not the best way to resume.
“Good morning, Sir.”
“Mr Chinaedum.” Mr Francis piercing eyes considered me over the top of his wire-frame glasses. “You’re back. Are you good enough to finally join us?”
I nodded with my eyes down, avoiding his gaze and very much aware of the silent murmuring that took over the class since I appeared. Mr Francis waved me towards my seat and turned back to his yellowed notes.
Ignoring the speculative muttering from my classmatesas I made my way to my desk at the back was quite atask. I beat the dust off my seat with hanky until the hanky was brown and sat quietly, trying my best not to drag more attention to myself. I didn’t know why I bothered, because almost all my classmates kept stealing glances at me during the course of the biology class.
“Welcome,” my neighbor was very casual about the greeting, like was too cool to be caught showing curiousity towards my return.
It was strange in a sad way: a month ago this classroom was much more warmer and comfortable to be in; it was like home away from home. Today, it didn’t feellike anything of that sort – I felt like a square peg being jammed relentlessly into a round hole.
There was no possible way to truly pay attention to MrFrancis and even feigning it was hard. My mind keptleaving the class, drifting far away and focusing on nothing in particular. Maybe that’s why it was called spacing out. It was probably what floating through the black void of –
“- Mr Chinaedum, will you?”
Mr Francis was looking at me expectantly as he packedup his notes, clearly awaiting a response from me.
“. . . Yes, sir?”
He nodded and strode out of the classroom.
Uh . . . What?
I leaned to my desk neighbor. “Er, Kelechi. Why did he say my name?”
The guy blinked at me like he was confused, but still replied.
“He wants you to come see him in the staff room during the first break.”
I withdrew without a word before he could try to drag me into any sort of conversation and slumped into my chair. Most of the class was probably itching to milk me dry for gossip.
Class Rep Akachi returned from notifying the next teacher of her class with us. “Geography will be here in 15 minutes!” he declared over the buzzing of the class and a general groan replied him.
I sank deeper in my chair, closed my eyes. The buzz ofconversations around me slowly became white noise as I focused on counting my breathing, paying less and less attention to anything or person—
I pushed off from my desk and there was a startled break in my neighbors’ chatter. I could almost physically feel the many eyes trained on me as Iquickly got up and hurried out of the class, heading almost desperately in the direction of the lavatory.
Coming back to school now was a bad idea.
I had said as much to Mum, but she clearly didn’tunderstand that I could never have a normal teen life, not anymore. Not after what Lucky and I had seen last month.
He was still out cold.
A coma, the doctors’ said. And somewhere in my distorted mind, I kind of wished I was in a coma too. At least to be spared from the reality I’ve been facing; the increasingly grotesque nightmares and the equally disorienting daydreams and spells of sleep like the one that had nearly caught me in class. I would never have lived it down if I’d come up screaming from it in the middle of Geography. I concluded I was better offsomewhere else than in the geography class. I needed time to compose myself for the rest of a daunting day.
Maybe I’m the luckier one; what if lucky has been stuck in an endless nightmare all these while? I mused as I reached the lav. I pushed open the door for the male section, clicked it shut behind me and paused.
I didn’t really need to come here but I needed to be away from everyone else. There was no telling if I would be lucky enough to fight off my next mental crisis.
I sat down on one of the toilets and leaned forward while supporting my head with my hands. And my brain took it as permission to recount that day.
The day my world changed, the day it all began . . .