IT'S WHAT I THINK.
I was going on 7 (or was i going on 8 at that time????, the memories get more and more hazy)
A few years earlier, we'd just moved to a more secure neigbhourhood. Everyone (i mean my sister and brother) liked their new schools, except me. The kids were mean, the lunch was terrible and the toilet was an eyesore. I was a smart kid, and they hated me even more.
I had no friends, i always thought it was because i hadn't gotten my school uniform yet so they didn't see me as one of them...yet. Not long after i started this new school, we had a 'newer'-comer in our class. I remember vividly how she looked on her first day, just like me, she had one of those aunty-give-me-cake gowns, church shoes and her hair was tied up in rubber thread.
'Class this is 'Anthonia', welcome her' then the bunch of mean kids mumbled something and she got the empty seat on my bench...misery loves company. I remember this day vividly, i don't care how many pranks my mind plays on me. I made a friend that day. She was born in July, just like me. We were the same size, same height, same complexion. We only had different faces. We'd sometimes lie that we were sisters. The kids at school weren't so mean anymore, and if they were, we didn't care.
It didn't take long for me to discover how incredibly smart Anthonia was. Together, we'd decide who we wanted to come first and second on the tests and exams. We never really competed for first and second positions in our class, my parents didn't mind when i came second and she came first (and neither did her's) , better her than someone else. I remember she didn't have a father. I remember telling her we could share mine, and we did.
We were funny kids, stars of the teaching-staff room. I remember there was a fish tank in that office. Every afternoon at lunch break, we'd go in there and feed the fish, it was a goldfish. We'd crack jokes everytime about how we wanted to taste the fish and all. Anthonia knew how to laugh. I remember her laughter, it was deep, shrill, intense, always with tears in her eyes. We had no worries, never threw tantrums. We had fun.
Everyday after school, we'd walk down a few blocks to my house where her mum usually picked her up after work. While we waited for four o'clock for NTA to come up, we'd play all sorts of games, I remember it was she who taught me how to skip, and she was my hero when it came to 'ten-ten', she always won when we played 'catcher' and whenever we got tired, we'd sit in the house and watch VOLTRON- defender of the universe or Power Rangers till her mother came, sometimes, she'd sleep over.
I remember we loved to drink garri. We did it everyday, with groundnut. They called us Woomie-Epa and Toni-Epa.
Joker-Jellies were in vouge. My mother got us each a pair, one blue pair and one pink pair. (We pioneered that foot wear in my neighbourhood.) It was hard for us to choose, they were both beautiful. I took the blue anyways but when we ran errands, we'd exchange right legs so we'd each have a blue leg and a pink leg. It pissed my mother off all the time, but we'd still do it when she wasn't looking.
It was the end of the school year and her mother told me they were moving again. I had no idea what it meant at that time so i remember NOT remembering.
We'd tied at first position that term. I remember we weren't too excited, we'd already gotten used to it. I remember the walk home that friday afternoon, the Jumat service going on in the mosque about two blocks away. We always stopped for a while to watch them bow and chant, this day was no different, i recall. There were always arabs and other 'onyibos' there on fridays, Anthonia and i liked to stare at them.
We got home that afternoon and decided on a game of 'catcher'. I was a lazy child, i always turned the game of 'catcher' into another game of 'hide-and-seek' whenever it was my turn to be chased, I remember that was why she'd never let me catch her. I got tired of chasing and i wanted garri and groundnut as usual. We walked towards the gate together, i remember the shop where the groundnut was sold, right opposite my house. I remember shoving her that day, and'i've caught you!', 'i've caught you', 'go and buy the groundnut and come and catch me back'. Mad at my sudden victory, she raced towards the shop, backing the road and screaming at me. I remember that road, it wasn't a busy one.
As i closed my eyes and stood there thinking of which 'hole' to go and hide this time,i heard the tires sreeching (i still hear them now). I opened my eyes and stood there paralysed, i couldn't see Anthonia, people had gathered around the front of uncle Jimi's car, i keep thinking that if there had been less people there that day, i'd still have Anthonia. I heard the shouts and screams of the women (i still hear them now), still i couldn't move. I remember Uncle Jimi lifting her to the car, then i saw her face, she looked strange, there were tears in hey eyes, almost as if she was laughing. I knew it took the last bit of strength in her, but Anthonia kicked off my blue foot of Joker-Jelly, like she knew i'd get in trouble for it. Still, i couldn't move, i didn't care about it or any other thing at that moment. I just stood there, still, minutes after the Uncle Jimi drove off.
I remember it was my Aunt who came and picked me up from the gate. I remember i didn't talk for days. I remember not drinking garri or eating groundnut for a while.
I remember nobody talked about Anthonia ever again. I know they all think i can't remember. But i see that day everyday. I see her everyday. And sometimes, i talk to her, i know it's only me in the dialouge, but still, it feels good.
I have NEVER opened my mouth to talk about Anthonia to my mum or anyone (maybe i never will), I always write about it and then tear up the paper. I can't tear this up, I know she deserves to be remembered.
I don't know if she survived, if they moved or if i'll ever see her again. A part of me tells me I am me today because she happened to me ( i never would have mastered my 13-15 times table if it wasn't for her)
I never played 'catcher' or 'hide-and-seek' ever ever again. I hate those games.
I love my friend Anthonia, she's like my super-ego now,
I love the memory of her,
and the Joker-jellies.