I had just taken my truancy a notch higher. This latest act sealed my fate as a budding outlaw. Big Cousin had instructed me to torch the school building. Apparently, it reminded him of his failings. I started from the chemistry lab; setting fire to a jar of unknown chemicals. The commotion thereafter pumped my adrenaline into overdrive. The guards were on my tail but their motivation was no match for mine and I left them in the dust.
Within minutes, I was done with it. I felt a sense of accomplishment as I dusted off my shoulder. Big Cousin would be proud of me. Outside the burning building, I heard approaching footsteps- non-aggressive ones. Turning, her red lipstick was the first feature I noticed. Then, her white pleated shirt which accentuated her chest region became clearer. She was petite and fair complexioned. I’d never seen her before. She talked first- wanting to know why I had committed this arson. She said she worked in a media house in one of the office spaces in the school building. A slight feeling of remorse dawned on me, but not enough to douse the adrenaline still in effect.
“I’m Funmi… Funmi Atunbi”, she said, introducing herself.
“You’ll have to find out yourself”, I quipped, before leaving her there.
The brevity nevertheless, our meeting was a sort of balm I needed. We met days later at an enclosed market, like Watts. Sobriety had kicked in now. She sneaked up behind me and with a grin, inquired to know me more. She believed I was a diamond in dirt. Joined by an old friend, we headed to a school down the road, willing to become an atunbi. I warned Funmi of the risk of being seen with an arsonist. I wouldn’t hold it upon her if she doesn’t want to go but she insisted on going.
With a reputation like mine nonetheless, I made a positive impression on the proprietress. An old guard sighted me and tried to make a serious case before the owner not to admit me. No, I won’t let this pass. I returned to defend myself like Jessica’s defence of Leonard Bailey. I would totally understand if she doesn’t admit me though. I’ll just keep on searching.
The woman sighed and reached a verdict.
“Hakeem …Hakeem, it’s time for Zuhr.”, I woke from my siesta to hear.
“Dreams feel real when we’re in them; it’s only when we wake up that we realise something was actually strange”
-Leo DiCaprio, Inception.