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Caleb was waiting in Kelvin’s room at Herbert Macaulay Hostels.
It was Sunday night when Kelvin returned to campus from home. He’d taken a trip home for a recess since Wednesday, and now he was back.
Kelvin wasn’t in his room now; and Caleb had been waiting for him for about fifteen minutes already.
He took a mental note his friend had only recently returned from home and didn’t go somewhere far off.
His backpack lying carelessly on his partly rumpled bed was the first testimony Caleb’s searching eyes found.
Along with his still moist bathroom towel spread neatly over the bed rails.
Kelvin’s pair of blue sneakers still felt warm to the touch where he laid them out bare to the night’s breeze somewhere across the window view.
He mightn’t have gone far away and could be back anytime.
Caleb also took note of something about Kelvin’s study desk.
Kelvin had an empty but moist mug sitting accomplished at a corner, and a quarter-way full jar of iced cold water manned its terrain like a sentry.
An empty sachet of the iced kolanut beverage Kolffity lay used beside its deluxe leather-cased 24-sachet pack.
Kelvin had just taken a refreshing cup of the instant iced kolanut tea. Particularly the Platinum edition, with sachets cased in an exclusive leather jacket.
The desk was littered all over with rough sheets of paper.
The papers were marked all over with scribbles of unfinished poem lines and a completed draft elsewhere.
And an uncapped, nearly exhausted pen lied idly over the loose, rumpled sheets.
Kelvin for certain had been experiencing a writer’s block, Caleb thought. He certainly had been trying all in vain to reach at his muse.
He must’ve been trying to find emotional succor with some lines because of the hurt he caused Yemi the previous week.
So, he could’ve probably gone for a walk that late night as soon as he returned from his trip home. He must’ve been desperately trying to clear his head.
If there was something Kelvin was guilty of with poetry—as noble as poetry is as an art form—Kelvin was guilty of ‘Obsession.’
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Poetry was more to Kelvin than an art inspired by his creative muse.
It was itself the Muse.
It was a god that craved all of his attention and interest. All of his devotion and worship. All of his breath and life.
Caleb had always reminded Kelvin the popular Yoruba saying: ‘Whoever chooses to not worship God must worship a lesser-than-God.’
Well, for Kelvin, sets of lines and stanzas on phone and laptop screens were GOD.
They were all he lived for. They were all he could die for.
Poetry inspired Kelvin’s every day like a virgin paper page meant to be conquered inspired creative writing.
It controlled his inclinations, motivations and everyday actions. So much his ordinary day was more like a poetry stage leaping out from the poetry page.
He was like a recluse amid a crowd. A wanderer with a home. A bookish nerd with all fun vibes only plugged into his ears.
Only that Kelvin dubbed it ‘the writer life.’
◙ ◙ ◙
It was three years ago.
Kelvin started to have strong doubts about God. So sadly, his loving, caring dad had just died of jaundice.
The bright promising teenage kid was just admitted into the University when his little family lost its precious breadwinner.
It was a sad, sad year.
Kelvin had prayed every single day of his dad’s sickness, with tears worth an ocean of pleas and pledges.
He’d dearly prayed for God to heal the once vibrant middle aged breadwinner, husband and father helplessly dying in their very eyes.
He asked God to show pity on his poor family and save his dad’s life.
He hoped for a change for the better with each passing day.
But everything only grew worse.
When Kelvin’s dad eventually passed away, the hurting young adult had several many questions sprouting up in the crevices of his troubled mind.
Like the tough blades of wild grass surviving a prolonged draught.
‘God!’ he groaned where he sat on his dad’s empty bed one quiet, lonely night. ‘I’ve totally believed in you since I was little. And I’m only about twenty now. Dad didn’t just believe in you; he trusted and served you his entirely life! Why, God?’
His reddened eyes were moist with warm tears.
‘Why did you kill him then? Why?! Why the hell did you take him, God?! What did he freaking do wrong?! What did we ever do wrong? Oh no, why did you take my dad?! Why? Why, God! Why?’
He moaned with a long drawn out sob, wiping his face once and again with the back of his hand.
There was no answer.
Everything was dead silent. And he could only hear himself sob.
But what he never knew was that the soothing, healing response was on its way.
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Waiting for that beautiful quiet night his broken, hurting soul would’ve been able fully comprehend things entirely beyond him.
And now, that beautiful night was close already.
And it’d be after another big win of a poetry contest.
◙ ◙ ◙
Caleb looked at it his wristwatch. It was five past ten.
He’d been waiting in vain for Kelvin to return.
He made for the door just about now and was met by his returning friend.
He couldn’t hold back his frustration. ‘Where the heck have you gone, Mr Man?’
Kelvin strode in lazily and made for his bedside, his pair of sneakers hanging down from his right hand.
He busied his left hand with zipping open his hoodie and unbuckling his wristwatch. ‘I’m sorry I kept you waiting; I’ve forgotten you called me in the afternoon that you’d come by night when I’d have arrived.’
He sat down and dropped his sneakers, the pair of smart midnight ash grey footwear thudding against the floor rug.
He pulled off his hoodie altogether, and hanged it on a wall.
He unbuckled his pair of sandals with his right hand, took it off and slid his feet into a warm, comfy pair of cotton slippers.
He took the same time to unbutton his shirt with his left hand, pushed his backpack to a side and sat on the bed, altogether exhausted.
Done with unbuttoning his shirt, he leaned forward and buried his head in his hands.
He breathed an exhausted sigh.
Caleb walked up to him, raised his chin with a finger and looked at him squarely.
‘You went for your walks again this ungodly hour, didn’t you? Since the University got that notice from the notorious terrorist group Dragonfire, every sane person had been on guard. But never Kelvin Babalola!’
‘There’s nothing to be so worried about,’ Kelvin moaned; ‘have I ever been cornered by sudden events since you know me?’
‘But that doesn’t make walking to places people rarely go at night safe at all, does it? You went all the way to Azikwe again tonight, right?’
Kelvin didn’t reply; he couldn’t bring himself to. He wanted this done with already.
Caleb shot on. ‘Oh, you’ll get yourself into trouble one day, Kelvin. Stop walking around lonely places at night like a ghost, huh?’
Kelvin slid his slippers off his feet and leaned fully back, his backside rested on the hard bed. ‘That’s not what you’ve come to talk to me about, is it?’
Caleb pulled out a seat from the reading desk, sat, and then, drew himself close to the bedside. ‘Tolu told me about the things you said to Yemi yesterday morning at the Department,’ he began.
Kelvin sat up, his ears attentive to every word down to the littlest thing said.
Caleb spat his words. ‘You’re callous and freaking insensitive, man! You hurt Yemi with your words on Wednesday. D’ you know that at all?!
‘You hurt her so much she was crying when she told Tolu about it this later that day. You know Tolu would tell me that kind of thing so I can talk to you.
‘By the way, how on earth would you tell a lady you’re scared to look at her because of her makeover?
‘Why on earth should you say she must’ve taken a fancy on some other person other than you?
‘Who the freaking heck d’ you take yourself to be by the way? Prince Charles or Prince Charming!’
Caleb’s eyes were glowing red hot by now.
‘Or, d’ you by any means have prince syndrome, man?! Like, you feel the whole wide world must certainly revolve around you, or something! Huh!’
Kelvin swallowed hard. The words were a hot moist towel pressed to an aching wound; it hurt him and yet soothed him.
‘Must you show admiration for her dress when you knew you’d eventually rubbish the fact you were appreciating her.
‘And I’m sure you chose your words on purpose. Must you be that callous? That freaking callous? Must you, Mr Stone Cold? Answer me, huh?!’
Kelvin rubbed his hands together absentmindedly. ‘She looked particularly lovely yesterday morning. Er… so much I don’t know how to tell her, really.
‘I don’t want to appear too emotional and weak. I don’t want to feel so vulnerable with what I have for her, really.’
He had a husky, quivery voice weakened by emotion.
Caleb scoffed. He paused awhile, not knowing what to say to his excuse. He scoffed again.
And then, he decided to wave his lame, silly excuse. ‘You really messed up and this time I don’t know how to clean up your mess!’
Caleb had scarcely been this angry with Kelvin. Perhaps the only time he was like this was when Kelvin called Tolu a bimbo.
Caleb was so furious to hear Kelvin refer to his girlfriend as a young woman with beauty and little brains.
He was angry even though Tolu wasn’t there to hear Kelvin talk such gibberish.
He couldn’t hold in his anger that day. He suddenly began punching Kelvin so hard.
Kelvin didn’t exchange blows with him. Somewhere at the seabed of his bottomless bosom, he knew he’d messed up with that remark. Like he often did.
He just stood blocking off Caleb’s punches from every angle, until the fire of his friend’s fury burned out.
Caleb cleaned up his mess that day: he never let Kelvin’s balderdash pass on from him to Tolu’s ears up until then.
Kelvin’s nonsense talk died in-between him and Caleb with the round of scores settling punches Caleb dazed him with.
Caleb was still angry. ‘Gosh! What is so difficult in telling a girl that you love her, dude? What’s so hard in expressing exactly what you feel for her?
‘Heck, what’s so very bad in being real and vulnerable with a girl that’s this much into you?!
‘You won’t ever understand how much she was hurting to see you treat her that way, goodness knows! Tolu told me she cried all night!’
Kelvin was staring at Caleb. He was reading his lips; he was taking in every word.
Caleb gave up. ‘I only wish to God you’re not going to lose her!’
Kelvin buried his lead-heavy head in his hands spread upon his bent knees. A worry laden sigh escaped his throat in a quiet, hushed breath.
Caleb watched him lower his head. He finished his lines in the peak of the moment’s irritation. ‘Silly boy!’
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Kelvin sighed again. Rather than protest, he let Caleb’s words hit him like his score settling punches had sometime done.
Caleb wasn’t satisfied; he wanted the words to stay with Kelvin long after he had left. He wanted something Kelvin would remember for a long time.
‘I learnt a guy in her class is asking her out,’ he put in; ‘and the guy is good in every respect—that I’m sure of.’
Kelvin raised his head a little. He stuttered. ‘A—a guy in… her class.’
Caleb scoffed. ‘You don’t know him—save your head some headache!’
Kelvin lowered his head into his spread hands again. ‘I will not lose her,’ he muttered. ‘I know she likes me too; she won’t want to leave me for some other guy, you know?’
Caleb scoffed again. ‘No, I don’t. Perhaps only you know that.’
Defeated, Kelvin stammered. ‘Ok-ay.’
Caleb stood up to leave. ‘Just don’t make her cry again, guy! If you can’t keep her the happy girl she is, just step away!’
Kelvin didn’t say anything; he just buried his head there.
Caleb turned out without a good night. When Kelvin didn’t hear him speak he raised his head.
Caleb had left.
But he left an echo in Kelvin’s head.
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Copyright © 2019 by Kayode Olla