It was a steamy hot afternoon. When I turned ten. The sun was shining like on a revenge mission. There were no birds flying as they all had to take shelter. Everything was all quiet. I always knew I was special . The flies were buzzing around and trying to eat out of the sore on my leg. Right on my ankle. I chased them away with the broomstick lying on the floor beside me. Later on I just let them eat away sensing that one of them was probably celebrating its birthday too and needed some nice meal.
I was sitting on the balcony of my parents’ two-room bungalow on that hot afternoon in January. The harmattan haze was still in the air as I sat looking at the major road leading to the town. The tarred road looked glassy from where I sat. Heat slowly rose out of the tar into the atmosphere. I sat watching the majestic dogonyaro trees as they swayed in the wind shedding their leaves. I wanted to run into the house to escape from the buzzing hungry flies but I couldn’t. The door was locked tight. I had come home too early that day. I had been expelled from school!
I had left home earlier with so much joy and gladness. It was my birthday. One’s birthday is supposed to be a special day. It is a day to be happy and merry and glad and thankful. So was I on my birthday. I got to school early enough for assembly and prayers. I had high hopes. For a tenth birthday, what was more desirable than to go home to cut your cake? I had all that and more in mind. Class started as usual and I got down to work along with my noisy classmates.
At break time, I went to buy potato with the fifty kobo note Mami had given me when I left home. I usually got twenty-five kobo but today was special. I had started eating my potato and was about purchasing a kankara when Isa and his group walked up to me. I tried moving away as I sensed trouble but was stopped in my tracks by the loud-mouthed Mustafa.
“We heard it’s your birthday today, Pharis. And you didn’t tell us,” he said jeeringly.
I looked away intending to ignore him. I moved one step away and I got a push from behind me. Falling, I dropped my potato on the sand. I looked back and saw Isa, with a contented look on his face, laughing like a hyena. Suddenly, anger took hold of my whole being. I reached for him and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. Pulled him forward and wrestled him to the ground. Struggling under me, I stuffed his mouth full with dry hot sand. Mustafa and Yaro tried pulling me off him. I pushed them away. Continuing, I rained punches on Isa. He was screaming but I wouldn’t let him go. The whole playground took notice and encompassed round about us. I was oblivious of their screams. I wanted to beat my fallen potato out of him.
Suddenly, I found myself in the air, arms flailing and feet kicking wildly. Strong hands held me from behind. I was being lifted far away from Isa but was still stretching out to hit him. I came down moments later, back on my feet but was a little too far from him. Looking up, I saw the face of Mr. Hanani, the social studies teacher. He pulled me by the ear and dragged me towards the headmaster’s office while calling out to Isa to follow him. Getting there, he made me kneel down at the secretary’s post while he went into the headmaster’s office. Miss Aisha, the secretary, came towards me. She examined my shirt which was torn and shook her head scornfully.
“What happened to you?” she asked.
I looked on without saying a word. Isa was sitting on the chair five metres away from me looking sullen with a bloodied nose.
“Why did you get into a fight, boy?” she asked again. I didn’t respond. She was beginning to get worked up when Isa quipped in.
“He can’t talk, miss. He’s dumb”. She stopped and looked at me with a look betraying her surprise. There was pity in her eyes. I have always evoked pity in people. I was young and good looking and couldn’t talk. The sort of chap that was pitied.
The headmaster, Mr Yusuff, came out of his office with Mr Hanani and examined Isa and I. He spoke to Mr Hanani in a hushed voice.
“We cannot allow this sort of thing to happen here anymore. I’ll have to inform the ministry of Education to transfer him to a special school. I cannot look on while this boy bloodies the noses of my pupils all the time”. Mr Hanani shook his head approvingly.
He looked at Miss Aisha, “How many times this week?” he asked.
“Third time, sir”, she replied.
“You see this must stop. Give him the ticket”, he said and went back inside.
The ticket meant a one- way ride and I was out of school again. My third school in one term.
I sat outside, patiently waiting for Mami to come. I knew Mami was going to be exasperated. She was going to scream her head off at me. She was going to shout the whole house down. And I knew I was going to be looking at her without saying a word. I think this is what gets to her the most. She probably expects me to put up a defence for myself by crying out. To at least say a word! She always ends up being frustrated and then she starts mumbling some things like I am a spirit child.
That set me thinking. Where did I come from? I do not think I come from here. I couldn’t have. If Mami could talk why couldn’t I? If Mami gave birth to me, where did Mami come from? But of course, from Mama in the village. Then where did Mama come from? I don’t know. Probably her own mami too. Where do the dogonyaros and the birds and the bleating goats and the sheep and cows originate? They always say God. Where did he come from? They say they don’t know. I think the police should arrest and question him like they did to Papa when he got drunk and crashed his okada into a kiosk in town. But who would listen to me? I’m just a dumb ten-year-old boy expelled from school for the umpteenth time because of my quick temper.
Up in the sky, the sun was still shining so hard. I think he is angry with me for shedding blood on my birthday.