Dear Afolabi Philips,
I'm sorry. There are so many things to say sorry for especially from my place as your teacher.When I looked back on the so many pictures of Amara, it is yours that kept slamming me in the face. Why should I mourn for this long? It's everything I ask myself. I'm crazy.
I was the first person who was asked. They said you had dangled breathlessly from the ceiling that morning. And had left a note. A note that had the whole world in a few lines. A note that I wish now that I had the courage to hear for myself from your lips when you summoned me.
It's not everyday that a Nigerian student hugs his teacher. It's not everyday that a student sustains the stare of his teacher, and perhaps his curiousity too. The first time was when you submitted your assignment to me on the characterisation of Ugwu in Half of a Yellow Sun. You could have chosen any other character, why was it Ugwu, the one I most identified with. The most absorbent of the circumstance, the one who got most of action. The one who transitioned from an adult illiterate to an author. The most sexual. The one person who I think, really, that Half of a Yellow Sun is about. But then, as a youth corper assisting your Literature-in-English teacher, I was never allowed to mark outside the scheme. So in secret, I admired your audacity and hoped that one day I could sustain your stare outside the classroom.
That day came when you offered to fetch me water. I refused. I did not want the other corpers I staid with accuse me of pedophelia. They had already accused me of being gay because, I did not like soccer and I had no female friends. Though, they all joked. I secretly thought that I would never be able to help myself around you. I'd want to speak with you as an equal. Hear more about what you had to say about Ugwu. And perhaps I could have 'dashed' you my copy of J. Dibia's Walking with Shadows. Perhaps you were not ready for that yet. By all means, a part of me told me that you were.
But then being with you as your teacher gave me all the excitement that I needed to come to class. To look forward to stacks of assignment sheets knowing that yours was somewhere amongst them. And as usual, you had signed off with the word 'difficult'. I struck it out. But I was curious.
Every other corp member thought you were strange. Especially the way your dark hair glittered in the sun, and your eyes shone brightly behind 'tiro' lines.
Then you asked that I see you at the Abulu tree close to the stream. The day you hugged me. The day you come to class late. The day clothes were extraordinarily creased.
Afolabi Philips, there was nothing you could not have told me in the open.
There was nothing I could not have listened to. I did not, now it burns me. It burns me badly.