THE OVERCOMER

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On a particular spring weekend shortly after the new semester had begun, I decided to travel to the city to visit a friend of mine  who had just come from Nigeria. Kanayo was of Igbo descent and I  had known him briefly while still in secondary school back in Lagos. Our friendship however faded after the ever adventurous young man dropped out of school and began  crisscrossing continents in search of the good life. He finally made it to England (his dream destination) and had contacted me to come for visitation.

 
As the train stopped over at a train station to drop off some passengers and pick up new ones, I kept my gaze fixed on the new passengers (for no reason) when I recognized one of them. He was Mr. Orji, my former employer at a private secondary school in Lagos. My eyes trailed him as he found a seat and the train began to move, and throughout the commute I kept my eyes on him just to really make sure he was actually the one. I had lots of things to tell him. As we got to the next train station and Mr. Orji began to leave, I stood up and followed him at a distance. He walked briskly across a busy street, hugging himself as though he was cold. He was well-dressed in an overflowing coat and a hat; looking every inch the English man he was not. I ran after him, and soon we were both inside a cozy restaurant with a cool ambiance;  a nice music playing in the background with the diners chattering quietly as they ate their meals. Mr. Orji  walked over to the bar sectiob and took off his fancy coat, ordering a drink in the process. I then sat right beside him and ordered for a drink too, saying hello to the man.
“You are Nigerian” Mr. Orji remarked after responding.
“Yes I am. And you must be Mr. Orji, right?” I asked, causing the man to stare at me suspiciously while taking a sip of scotch. He then reluctantly nodded his head, seemingly trying to figure out where I knew him from.
“Who are you?” he finally asked.
“I am Samson Emenike, one of the boys that worked for you at Brainchild Academy in Lagos. You probably don’t remember me.”
“No I really don’t.”
“I once submitted a referee form to you for a scholarship so that you could attest for me. But instead of doing that you wrote in it that you didn’t know me.”
“Did I?” the man asked me. He had an incredulously fine accent. He was indeed a very brilliant, Oxford-educated man and I was sure he remembered who I was but was trying to be smart about it all. “So what are you doing in Britain?”
“I am studying at a university  here .”
“Of course I knew it! I knew you would end up doing great things. Anybody who had ever passed through Merchant of Light ended up doing very well in life; that’s the pride of that school” the man eulogized even as I just felt like shouting him down. But instead I smiled and listened to him speak pompously about his school for a while before I finally cut in.
“Are you serious you do not recall what you did to me in 2006, sir? You wrote in my scholarship form that you didn’t know anything about me even though you were my employer and had employed me through my father’s recommendation. You should know that I never submitted that form and because of that I failed to get that scholarship even though I could have easily gotten it with your recommendation. You practically denied me that opportunity by not signing that form and it was unfair.”
“I sincerely don’t remember this incident you are talking about” the man continued to lie.
“Of course you don’t remember it. But I do remember it because I was the underdog whom you cared less about simply because I wasn’t your child!”
“Young man-”
“You see, I once held you in very high esteem back then. The fact that you have a degree from Oxford and were running that successful school made me look up to and wanted to be just like you. But all that respect and admiration vanished that very day you treated my case like trash!”
At this point the man had become very uncomfortable with the entire conversation. He gulped down his scotch and ordered more while I kept on talking, ignoring the slight frown on  the man’s face.
“I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable, sir. I don’t even mean to say something bad. All I want to tell you is to be nicer to people no matter who they are. You can never tell what that so called nonentity today can turn out to become tomorrow. And let me give some pointers on how to deal with young people- when next someone like me brings a form to you and you know deep down within you do not wish to sign it, please tell the person up front to get lost with the form instead of keeping it for days and later writing trash in it.”
“Calm down young man-”
“Don’t worry I’m not upset. But I will just round off by saying that God makes everything work together for good so that people like me can laugh last. I mean look at me… that same boy you thought didn’t deserve to study abroad on a scholarship is finally here after all doing exactly that thing you thought he didn’t deserve to do. Think about it” I said as I gulped down my own glass of scotch, stood and shook the man’s hand. “Nice meeting you again. And thanks for the drink; I hope you’d pay.”

~Emmanuel Benson

(Part of a manuscript)

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