He was a nightmare – this boy who is now a man.
He loved the pain he inflicted and the grief he left in his wake. And we feared him.
Years have passed since I last saw him. But the morning came at Spar in Lekki when I ran into him. He wasn’t as tall as I remembered him. He wasn’t as muscular as I remembered him. His mean face was supple with an abundance of smiles. And his cold eyes had warmed.
He recognised me even before I recognised him.
His voice hadn’t changed. That voice that was a source of nightmares was now vibing with the humane. He walked over to me, with a demure looking woman in white tagging along.
“See this boy o. Your face hasn’t changed at all!” he announced before he hugged me.
I didn’t expect the hug, and it took me a moment to return it.
Then we broke the hug, and he turned to the woman, who had turned out to be his wife. “I showed him in secondary school o.”
He could still remember what I could remember.
“I was evil sha.” Then he turned to me. “Shebi Jude, remember how you all feared me?”
I did not know if to nod or to remain silent, but there was an honesty to him that was endearing, so I spoke instead. “I remember.”
He laughed. “I was just fifteen o.”
That statement from him was revealing. It took me a moment to actually realise that he was actually a fifteen-year-old who was capable of such evil and not the thirty-year-old monster we had thought him to be.
It was a boarding school, and he ruled it with an iron fist. His punishments were legendary. His whipping session left you raw and bleeding. He had actually made some students eat a part of the faeces that someone had deposited in the bathroom one day. He was innovatively wicked.
“I tell you. I was a terror. Now see how this my darling is just ordering me around like her house boy. Follow me here, do this, buy this, say this, don’t say this, stand there, move there and me l will be obeying like a mumu.”
The woman beside him simply smiled.
He turned back to me. “We all change, don’t we?”
I looked at his smiling face and nodded.
He reached out and put his right hand on my left shoulder. “I am sorry for all I did to you. I was young and didn’t know better. Please forgive me.”
I stared at him.
His wife spoke before I could. “He does this to every one of his juniors he runs into. It comes from a good place. Please forgive him.”
I kept staring at him.
“We lost our son to bullying at school five years ago…” His eyes misted over as he talked and his hand on my shoulder trembled slightly with the severity of his pain. “…the boy that caused him to take his life was fifteen years old like I was…”
For a moment, my eyes cleared and I saw him for who he now was… A man daily reliving his past and straining under the weight of condemnation and a belief that he is being punished for what he was. A man trying to make restitution in his own way to lessen his pain and perchance put an end to the punishments that might still await him in his future.
“… My boy would still be alive now if I was a better boy in my past. Please forgive me, Jude, and plead with your mates who suffered under me to forgive me to and help me pray that God forgives me for what I was… “
His wife held onto his left hand that was hanging by his side and looked up at him with love and concern.
“… I have two other children, and I don’t want to lose them.”
My heart broke.
Written by JudeIdada