I didn’t know I had a funny back until I got into Ikoji High School.
My first day in class was terrible and confusing. It was terrible because the moment I hobbled in, a human-repellant came in. All of a sudden, I transformed into a powerful fan that blew everyone away, no one was going to have me near. When I finally got a seat, it had taken the intervention of miss Jennifer to fill up the little crater my presence had blasted into the classroom. She had to scream the sniggering boys and girls back to their seats around me.
It was confusing because mum and dad had told me it was going to be a wonderful time in school; they said everyone was going to like me, that I was handsome. They lied. Why would mum lie to me and send me here? Do beautiful people have students run away from them? What did I do? These thoughts fought in my head that morning as I sat like a weary stray dog.
The following days came tougher. I stopped being a repellent and turned an attractant, I started attracting accidental punches and frequent bumps on the playground and corridor. The ‘mistakes’ always had a way of getting done to me. Just me, and a few other losers.
Mummy regularly told me my back was different, but I didn’t know it was funny too until crumpled papers began coming for me from various points in class. Suppressed laughs would then follow the papers which later became pieces of chalk and tiny stones. Whenever my muffled tears wasn’t preventing me, I’d hear their whispers,
“Ugly-ugly boy! Hehehe”
“What will this foolish Frank even be, if he cannot make a simple walk?”
Oluwatobi was their leader. He was huge and the most active in bullying me. Soon, he and his thugs stopped acting behind my back and brought the game before me. Whenever miss Jennifer wasn’t around, they would yell my nickname,
Oluwatobi would then force me to say or cry back the reply,
If I didn’t, I got a slap or a kick. During the break, they would parade themselves in front of the class, having funny walks. They were mimicking my gait.
Miss Jennifer, unlike most teachers was kind. She always stood up and punished them for me. I had asked her one time, if they really were right?
“Aunty Jennifer, do I look funny, aunty?”
Other teachers just didn’t care about the bullying sessions. We were just kids, there were more important things to attend to; lessons to prepare and examinations to set. They didn’t know about the damage, the fear of coming to school, the poor performances, the mental and physical scar, the depression, the wish to die, the urge to kill, the tendency of an unstopped bully to become a criminal. They didn’t know.
Whenever miss Jennifer wasn’t around, Oluwatobi would have me bend in front of the class, he and his little gang would then begin targeting my back with chalks. The girls would squeal with delight while the boys argued on who the best marksman was. These were the days I waddled back to my mother, adorned in white.
The years were slow, but they passed.
I didn’t know where the strength to withstand Oluwatobi for those years came from; I finished high school and got into the university. The bullying reduced, the scoliosis didn’t get worse. Mummy didn’t allow me suicide. Though damaged mentally, I didn’t quit. I got better at life. I healed.
I became a lawyer.
Tomorrow, I’ll be taking up a special case pro bono. I’ll be seeing Agbaje Oluwatobi. He’s among the three suspects arrested for the lynching of a market woman. I want to go boldly. I need to stand and tell Oluwatobi that I’m not an ugly-ugly boy or a caricature. I want to tell him that I have a beautiful wife and a kid, that my back isn’t me, I want to show him I’m now a big man. Most importantly, I want to tell him that I have forgiven him and that I have the power to help him. My late mother always said the greatest way to revenge is not to revenge.
I want to save Oluwatobi.
About the writer
Soogun thinks washing plates is harder than juggling chainsaws. A young man currently studying to become a medical doctor, he started writing as a hobby, which has now grown to be what it is today.
Soogun is a Christian. He considers God his biggest inspiration. An ardent lover of pancakes and anything readable, when he’s not studying, check carefully; he may be somewhere, writing or thinking on what to write