Today I remember all of them.
Well, some. The ones that I knew of.
Bede was the 1st one. He had been in my class since Primary one. Orangey and lanky, it’s been so long that I can’t confirm the picture in my head which gives him a buck teeth to be true. I remember he gesticulated as a habit. His mother was a nurse at the health centre close by , which caused Bede to always be one of the first pupils on the grounds on a school day. Restlessness in children and carelessness of the shool authorities cost us this one on a school morning.
Ezinne was the next to go. She was tall and ebony and wore her hair short. I don’t think we spoke much, but I think if we did, we would have gotten along well. We had just returned from school holidays, back to boarding house, and Ezinne was yet to show up. Times like this, we relied on information from family friends and relatives who attended our school. I don’t remember if word came, but when it eventually did, this strange life had been cut short in her.
Then came Nneka, one of the bulkiest girls in my set. I have a picture in my head of her school sandals, because they had heavy soles as if boots, and I concluded the shoes needed to support her size. Broad shoulders and a growth on her neck. The growth had been there for the longest but sometime in our SS 2 (or was it 3?), she disappeared from boarding school to have it surgically removed. We met again in University, but she didn’t stay long enough. It’s amazing how these stories come and spread.
The next one was Chinenye. Coursemate, which means we didn’t quite say a word to each other until 3rd year or maybe final year (I was a certain kind of student). She was lightskinned and as I later found out bubbly spirited. We had same project supervisor for the final year project and became acquainted. In this time, I complimented her weightloss and her rehydration habit (she drank a lot of water, I called her mmiriaku). She once shared a video of her sister dancing to Timaya’s Yankulu ya, and now every time I hear that song I remember her. It was a morning during NYSC, I was in my apartment contemplating Lokoja’s sun(as was a habit) when I got the call telling me. Now that I think about it, maybe she didn’t conciously lose weight, maybe she didn’t drink all that water because she wanted to, she had to.
I notice how as I got older the details of each passing grew. Maybe it says something about how painful/significant each death was. I may never get a grasp of death, but I have decided that I will not be afraid of it anymore.