David Johnson maintained a firm expression as he faced the university council seated across him. Despite the calm and concerned look on the counselor’s face, he knew it would do nothing to stop his heart from racing so much, contrary to his outward composure.
“Are you sure about your decision, David? It’s not too late to change your mind, we’ll understand. We know how challenging your first year was but that doesn’t mean you can’t set things straight and get back on your feet in this new session.” The Vice Chancellor said, looking him straight in the eye.
David took in a deep breath before responding.
“I’ve made up my mind, sir. This is what I want.”
The members of the university council exchanged glances among themselves and the Vice Chancellor nodded briefly before speaking.
“It’s a shame but we respect your decision to terminate your studies at the University of Lagos. We wish you best of luck.”
As David walked out of the office, it felt as if the reality of what he just did hit him in the face. There he was at the age of 20, a university drop-out in what was supposed to be his second year at the university. His father had threatened him not to return home if he went ahead with what he felt was a stupid decision he would live to regret. His mother had barely shown any interest in his life for the past two years ever since the accident. He wasn’t able to explain to anyone about how school no longer held any interest for him and how it seemed like there was a heavy weight on his chest that kept him from caring about life, let alone his academics. He was scared to even admit to himself what was happening to him, not even when the university counselor had pulled him aside the previous week, to discuss the issue.
David stepped out into the bright Monday afternoon sun and stopped an Okada rider, giving him directions. It was time to face whatever life had in store for him.
“I thought I said you shouldn’t show your face here.” Mr Johnson’s baritone voice rumbled through the room the minute his son stepped in.
David turned reluctantly to look at his father. Slowly, his eyes wandered over to where his little sister Dara sat in the corner of the room. She had a book open before her but it went ignored as her gaze was fixed silently on her brother. If there was one thing he hated the most, it was when their father scolded and ridiculed him in her presence.
“I know,” David said quietly, looking him in the eye. “I came to pack my things.”
“I assume that means you went ahead with your decision.” Mr Johnson got to his feet, anger burning in his eyes. “No son of mine would be known as a university drop-out. As from today, you cease to bear my name.”
David was unable to restrain the frustration bubbling up within him. For a strange reason, he was glad he could feel any emotion at all, even if it almost drove him crazy.
“Then I am no longer your son, you never treated me like one anyway! When did you ever care about what I wanted for my life? You forced me into everything. I never had a say when you were around. If this is the only way I get to control my life then so be it.”
His father’s face twisted in anger and a trace of shock but he quickly forced it back into a cold expression.
“I give you till tonight to leave. I don’t want to see you when I return.” He said before walking out of the house.
David didn’t move a muscle until he heard the door slam shut, followed by the roar of their father’s car engine as it left the compound. Only then, did he turn to look at his sister. He felt a sharp and piercing pain when he saw the tears running down her face. Quickly, he knelt down beside her and pulled her towards him in a tight hug. If there was a soul that he hoped would remain untouched by the suffocating tension that was in the Johnson household, it was Dara. She was still too young to make sense of everything around her.
“Shh, don’t cry. I’m only leaving for a little while.”
“When will you be back?” She whispered, looking up into his eyes with her tear-filled ones.
He had no reply for that.
Before he left that day, he knocked quietly on his mother’s room door and waited. Her reply was barely audible through the thick wooden door. He pushed it open to find her lying on the bed with her back to the doorway. She was bedridden ever since the accident that left her paralyzed from waist down two years ago. It not only affected her physical body but seemed to have drained away every bit of the joyful and bubbly spirit his mother once possessed. Now, she had become distant to everyone, including her family and more like a stranger each day.
“Mom, how are you feeling?” David asked.
There was no reply, she only shifted around slightly on the bed but it didn’t deter him because he continued speaking.
“I went to see the university council today and it’s been finalized. Dad finally sent me packing but we both know that was bound to happen soon either way.” David gave a small sarcastic chuckle as he walked around the bed to face his mother.
“I know you both think I’m a disappointment and quite frankly, I’m starting to think so myself but if I can’t live up to your expectations then I’m going to make some for myself. Goodbye mother.” He bent to kiss her forehead.
Mrs Johnson’s gaze was fixed upon her son’s eyes with an unreadable look in them as she watched him walk away. For the first time in a long while, she felt a flicker of emotion deep within her but it was quickly snuffed out by the dark waters of depression. She had tried to kill herself at least twice. The first time it was by a failed drug overdose and the second was by trying to wheel herself down a flight of steps. David had been horrified to discover that she was trying to break her neck. Ever since then, they’d all kept a close watch on her in fear of her making another attempt at her life. When the door closed, she sighed softly and turned to face the opposite wall. They couldn’t understand. In fact, she herself didn’t understand but she would try. Just try to hold on; If not for her sake, then for theirs.
Three Months Later…
If there was anything David hated the most about his job, it was how he had to endure the strange, sterile smell of St. Augustine’s Hospital. He yawned widely as he glanced at the time, 9pm on a Monday evening. He nodded in form of greeting to a group of nurses he saw walking past him, on their way home.
How lucky, he thought wistfully, looking over his shoulder at them. His shift was just beginning and he was already tired. Nothing truly exciting ever happened during his shifts. David sighed and adjusted his blue security guard uniform as he took his post by the doors to the reception. His partner wasn’t around and he could tell that it was going to be a very quiet night. He got out his baton and flashlight before patrolling the grounds near the reception doors. The only sound that could be heard was that of vehicles speeding down the expressway nearby. The time was approaching 11:30pm when the commotion started. Near the doors of the hospital, he noticed two men carrying what seemed to be a heavy object between them. He squinted in focus and pointed his flashlight in their direction.
“Hey you two, stop there!” He shouted in a firm tone.
Instead, they just kept on walking more urgently as if they didn’t hear him.
“Are you deaf? I said stop!” David yelled, walking closer to them.
Suddenly, a group of people rushed in behind the men, urging them on in panic. David paused in confusion as people started wailing at the top of their voices. Then he noticed what the men were carrying was an unconscious female body covered in an unbelievable amount of blood. Quickly, he let them through the doors and called the attention of the nurses who immediately took her to the ICU. Two other security guards left their post to help him control the crowd until they trickled out one by one. It wasn’t until the last person had left that he felt his adrenaline decrease a bit as his heart rate reduced. He glanced once more towards the hallway where the lady disappeared and shook his head, hoping for her and her family’s sake that she made it out alive.