It was one of the emotional series of events that has unfolded till date in my life. One of the things that has made me feel a tug deep in my heart.

Now, there is this girl, we will call her Oma (not her real name). She was my classmate through primary school from nursery one to primary four where I got a double promotion. Elsewhere, I have told a number of stories of the memories I have of a few of my classmates as early as when I was just four years old. I had memories of myself and Oma too. She used to be my seatmate in kindergarten. We would play a lot and you know that kind of play between the male and female dog, where the male allows the female to win so that she could lie on his body? That was how I played with Oma. She was smaller and softer than me. She would wrap her legs around one of my leg and say she was punishing me (for no apparent reason) and I on the other hand will pretend to writhe in pain and beg for pardon. Then many other memories are there but I think this one is more significant to my story.

I knew her parents too, her father was a teacher in some government school inside town but he sent them to private schools throughout because he wanted to protect them from the brutality of going to government schools (there is a justified reason for this but for some reasons, I won’t disclose it). Her mother sold provisions in front of where they lived, a house in the street adjacent to mine, just 150metres away.

So time flied, we left primary school and went to secondary school, I relocated with my family from Benin in 2011. Years went on and on. Then I came back to Benin for my internship training which I did for the most of last year. I was in my Cousin’s shop in front of the house when I heard somebody call my name. I looked up, it was Oma. She was smiling as though so elated to see me after many years. She was well dressed, had practically grown into a young woman. I smiled back, we greeted. She had come to drag her younger brother home. So they both left. There were other times we met and went to different places together including when we went to get our temporary voters card in Payne Primary school, Upper mission. What shook me about all these was this; there is always this veil of distance that has grown between me and many of my primary school classmates especially the female ones. When I see them on the road or anywhere, there seems to be this ego that makes each person just nothing more than somebody I used to know. Many of the times, they would have grown so big and mature. So, most times, we walk past each other without even as much as a "Hi". If that had happened with Oma, it would have felt normal and it got me surprised how she turned out different. It just felt so natural for her to call my name and the greeting. It was just like two friends in a reunion.

As the months went by, Oma and her family packed out from the place where they had been living for about twenty years. They packed to a much more better place at the other end of the town. Her father had been promoted. Things were getting better. Then one of those days, news came that Oma’s father had died. His food was poisoned. That was how much I got to know about his death. It sank my heart, I can’t begin to talk about the traffic of thoughts that went through my brain that period. Of how somebody’s spirit of jealousy could have caused him to take the life of a fellow human and by extension take the spoon away from the mouth of the children, perhaps putting their future in jeopardy. It was so painful and I wasn’t getting to see them again since they had packer out of the area where we stayed.

Then, a few days before I left Benin, after I was done with my training. I was walking from Obazee street to Obazee junction and passing through our alma mater, I saw Oma sitting in front of the store opposite the school. She was so quiet that her quietness spoke to me. I walked past her, not sure if she saw me. I do not really know how to sympathise with people being a kind of person who did not like being sympathised with. But I turned back and went straight to her, touched her shoulders and told her I heard what happened. She nodded as though to confirm that what I had heard was true. I saw her eyes were red. Very red like eyes that have cried so much that they had no tears again. I sympathized with her and she tried to force a smile, a drop of tear escaped her eyes and betrayed her smile. My eyes became watery too. Then I sat down on the chair with her and we stayed together for about a half hour, saying nothing to each other. I didn’t possibly have anything to say. But perhaps sometimes, our silence could be more comforting than any word we could say.

Photo credit: Thunder v-are Go.