“Who’s that Ayoma of a scholar par-excellence?” One parent shouted out jealously?
“Not that black boy?” She asked with a guttural voice.

The father of my closest friend, Fred, answered.This drew a snigger from the back of the hall.

“Yes. I did meet a student who was so dark at the entrance when coming into the school. Is that him?” Another parent inquired.

“Yes.” Mrs. Ashiagbor interrupted.

“He’s the darkest and the brightest.” She asserted proudly.

According to Mama’s account, the headmistress then instructed one of the teachers to go look for me. I had already left the school premises with Fred. He had invited me to lunch. He had more than enough to spend since his parents were well-to-do. I had less than required to spend since I was being raised by a single mother—who had been forced to borrow money from a night watchman in order to attend a PTA meeting.

He lived in a plush residential area—the airport residential area. I lived in a neighborhood where poverty, drugs and crime competed fiercely against one another to gain recognition from its besieged residents. Fred was lighter in complexion and I was unusually dark. He was sometimes embarrassed to admit I was his friend. He would ask me to stay away for a while when he had to meet some particular friends or invite them over to his home for a weekend.

All these were taking place in Africa—the landscape of my youth—the place from which I woke up to the world, and the place that stays with me.

To be continued…