Remember Every Road Leads Somewhere; Part (III) – By Emmanuel Takyi-Appiah

A loud clanging sound from a bell woke me up the next morning; the room was still dark for a moment. The fluorescent tubes that hang from the ceiling gave a humming sound for a second or two and then gave a blinding blast of light, my first day at boarding school had began. I watched my wrist watch and realized it was only 5am, where did my cock crows go and why must the day start with fluorescent tubes instead of sunrise?

I was no longer home; I was in a new place all together. I got down from the top bed and the guy lying beneath was quick to get up and introduce himself, he mentioned his name as Richard and I told him mine. We exchanged pleasantries and for a moment stood there trying to give some meaning to the madness that surrounded us; people moving to and fro, buckets making their own noises, people heading out in towels and holding sponge bags and pales.

It was bath time we guessed, we followed suit and found our way around. There was another bell call and we were told that was for morning assembly, the rhythmical madness followed, we followed again and were standing in a large space where students gathered in year groups. The gathering was short and all freshmen marched to the assembly hall.

In a couple of days orientations ended, we were broken down into different class groups. In our halls of residence we had our chore duties and the routine was wake up, hall chores, bath, assembly, classroom, breakfast, classroom again, lunch, siesta, supper, prep and lights out. This routine continued for the full school term amidst adding on new friends, slowly exam approached and passed.

The day of vacation arrived and I was quick to jump on the “organized” bus amidst goodbyes to my new found friends and as the bus sped towards Accra I enjoyed the sunset this time round and knew I was going to see mum and hear the stories of my three friends. Mummy came out to meet with two expressions on her face; a happy face for the return of her only son from school and then a sad one upon seeing how lean I had grown.

We sat down and she wanted to know about all that had happened, she wanted to know about my new friends, school work and my studies. Dinner was served; I was eating from a breakable plate and drinking from glassware again. I didn’t have time for TV, I just went straight to bed on my queen size mattress. Home sweet home. I woke up the next morning to cock crows and a beautiful rising sun on the distant horizon, I watched the sunrise and listened to the cock crows as if they came together in a beautiful theatrical piece.

For the first time I realized how much I had missed these two events in the past few months. I headed out after breakfast in my school branded polo shirt, we gathered at Oko’s place. We shared our varying experiences and went on about almost everything we had experienced. We talked about our new friends, classmates and our studies. We talked about the food, entertainment of course and congregational church service.

Our daytime became a routine; we rotated meeting places and hardly ate lunch at home since we suddenly came to prefer something from the streets. It went between roasted plantain and groundnuts to boiled black eye peas and fried plantain. We sometimes went for the boiled black eye peas and rice with hot fried pepper. Lest I forget, the occasional and as time passed frequent chatter about girls was also on our lunch menu.

Sunrise was here again and the roosters were at their best announcing a new day, it was reopening day for secondary schools. I didn’t enjoy the theatrical piece that the roosters and the sun came together to produce anymore, I stared into the immediate future, I could see just the routine I had eloped from a couple of weeks back. The road trip back to school was a rather short but lonely one with the sun playing its usual hide and seek behind the trees and thicket that lined the road.

At school everybody looked brand new and like well fed cows, its shame what twelve weeks of school will bring us all to. Boarding house offered a slimming regiment that you didn’t have to pay for nor even put in a calorie of energy as in exercise to reach. We finished packing our food items and all that we brought with us and gathered around in small groups of friends and talked about anything that came to mind.

I don’t really remember how the day ended but I know I fell asleep in my little tiny space of a bunk bed where all my friends had gathered. The dreaded clanging sound came, the humming and then the blast of daylight from the fluorescent tubes followed, I felt homesick suddenly. What was to follow was the rhythmical madness that I had come to be part of; house chores, bathing, getting ready for school, assembly call and the rest that followed.

My routine of a life had just begun again several miles away from home. I kept on making friends in and out of the classroom. Some of these friends were in other dormitories so we often exchanged visits. The number of visits vice versa reduced as school work started becoming more and more. I had my laboratory work to do, class assignments and notes to copy and all that.

I never forgot about my three friends, we kept writing to each other though the frequency of that took a down slide too. School vacations came so did reopening days, soon we were seniors. School terms now seemed relatively shorter as compared to when we were juniors and had all those chores and bullying to live with, these were the best days of our lives.

My fashion trend had changed a little which I came to realize was same with Amartey too Tight school shorts and shirts, you could always see me spotting a pair of trainers except on Sundays. Sundays saw my Navy style “mirror” shoes doing some dance moves with me in them at congregational church service. My new lifestyle took its toll on my academic work heavily.

Oko and Kweku were the not so sober type who wanted to have fun too except they had careful fun that did not hit hard at their academic work. The school term was over and it was time to go for vacation, strange how school terms had become shorter and vacations seemed like they will never end. We still did a lot of outing as friends even though Amartey and I were more often together.

Kweku spent more of his time at his mum’s shop now, practicing the accounting he was studying at school. Oko was still the video game type, he could go a whole day without food just by sitting behind his video game. Once in a while we went out to trade fairs and school outing programs together. I realized Amartey had started drinking alcohol just as I had too at one of such outings and it felt like I had a partner in crime after all.

One evening mummy called me into the living and sat me down gently, she handed my end of term report sheet to me and asked me to go through it myself. I sat there shocked and disturbed as I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had fallen from an excellent to something I can’t even mention. What had happened to me? I raised my head and my eyes met with my mother’s, her eyes were filled with tears, I have broken her heart.

She spoke amidst sobs telling me how much of her life she has put on the line that I may have a better life, how could I have forgotten so soon how hard it was to put me through a good basic school? How difficult it is taking care of me at the Senior Secondary School level? I sat there with a heavy heart, mummy walked away amidst tears now and I felt the weight of the whole world come down my shoulders, it was heavy.

I asked myself staring at my results; where did I go wrong? I had made many wrong turns, ignored many road signs, stop signs and broke all speed limits, I had run many red lights. I have been traveling at top speed in the wrong lane on the wrong road all this while. My road was definitely leading me somewhere just as Amartey’s, Oko’s and Kweku’s roads were all leading them too.

I had left the road I initially pictured myself traveling and was on a road to total destruction. It was time to find my way back to the tarred road I started on, it was time to obey road signs, speed limits and traffic signals. I had strayed far enough, it was time to switch on the headlights even at daytime and keep my eyes on the road and stick to the road map I had in my heart.