Like I said last week this is the part I most enjoyed, the stuff that happened I never could have imagined or envisaged. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have, writing it.
Do you perhaps remember Clarion Call I? did you read it? If you didn’t, you should now. One little bit from that piece, of how I ran and joined the athletic team, comes in now.
On some day after the morning meditations, when most of the platoon was assembled in one place for the repetitive military drills, I was offered a welcome alternative. Instead of marching like there was no tomorrow, I was called upon to practice with the athletic team. In those days of camp, anything that saved you from endless marching was considered an indisputable blessing. I was elated, and joined up with Tanya as we moved in a small group to a long, secluded road just next to the female halls.
The female team was to run first. I took careful, analytical looks at the girls as they prepared to run, trying to predict likely winners. I think there were about four girls including Tanya, and some tall, fair-skinned girl with long, flowing hair. I was not the only guy who ‘codedly’ scoffed at the tall girl, especially her sheer mass of hair. It was amusing, ‘how did she intend to run like that?’ We watched until she gathered the straying locks away from her face and tied them in a ponytail. I smiled.
“On your mark!” The girls dropped to their knees on the rough tarred road.
A long pause. “Set? Go!”.
That race ended almost as soon as it started. She was a lone, undercover gazelle competing against brave…squirrels. There was no contest. While the other girls struggled and ‘worked hard’ at running, the tall girl was effortlessly, blazing away in a totally different class. It was beautiful to watch. When she stopped at the finish line I had no idea which of the other girls was second or third, for all I cared, they might as well have been holding hands as they ran. I was breathless and impressed.
“Congratulations! Wow, you were something else. We didn’t even know that…” and then of course, I found time to tease Tanya, “At least you exercised small. Well done” or something similar.
And now for the main event, the clash of the male otondos. I calmly watched and chatted till the first set was selected, and I was not in it. This race went differently. Stiff competition from the beginning, you could almost hear engine sounds as these dudes tirelessly pumped out horse-power in the tight struggle. Eventually a dark, well-built figure gained the advantage pressing on well past his peers and on the verge of claiming victory. We stared in intense interest and perfect silence, not wanting to miss any second till our curiosity gave way to horror. Contestant number 1 crashed into the ground without warning, one moment he was running the next, he was writhing in pain on the floor. The Sports Director and others nearby rushed to meet him, and soon two guys lent their strength to raise him up. They turned towards the rest of us waiting at the start line, and even though we were a couple hundred meters away, the blood was plain to see, covering all from his toes to knees. It was a gruesome, sobering sight. We were running on a road made for cars not a standard track, any fall would be devastating.
And then of course it was time for my set to run.
“You go still run? “ “I no sure o!” “You wan run?” “Ah…I no know o” “As track no dey, why we go we go risk ourselves…”
I tried to properly simulate the race to analyse my risk of injuries, the potential extent and compare the maximum expected pay-off from racing with the risks I would be taking. One thing was clear to me, I would find camp immensely inconvenient if I obtained injuries like the other guy had. Also, I was uncertain of the clinic’s ability to effectively treat and attend to me. My heart’s furious pounding informed me that it wasn’t all about logic, I felt some fear too.
“Anyone running, move over here please” Time was up.
I looked over the road one more time and made up my mind. I would run, because it was fun and take care not to fall.
I sent a short, urgent and profound message upwards, “God, please don’t let me fall, Amen” , picked a lane and waited for the signal.
The whistle blew and I leapt forward, willing my body to move as fast as I could push it. As I ran, I flattened out my palms as though I hoped to slice through the air. I briefly glanced around and saw it was a tight struggle. Pressure was building. While there was no one far in front of me and I was doing the fastest I could, the competition was very fierce. I like to think that about then, a bright light flashed at me, blinding me for less than a second, producing this fabulous shot.
My legs were about to fail me, my mind was screaming, and I wore a savage grimace on my face as I approached a bump on the road, beside which the remaining members of the group sat. I pushed on, prepared to scale it when I heard simulataneous, urgent warnings,
“Stop! Don’t try to! Stop! Stop!” from several voices and maybe Tanya’s too, calling my name.
I managed a difficult halt just as I reached the group and moments after, the other contestants swished past me. I moved over to seat beside Tanya.
“What happened?” I inquired in shock.
“You were about to fall down. You could not have gone over the bump in that way” She replied.
The tall girl spoke now, “The way you ran shows, you’re really good at this. Have you competed in several races before?” Competed? Really good? What was she talking about?
“What position was I? “ “You were first na” “Ehn? Are you sure” “Of course, can we all be lying to you?!” I looked around with perplexed but excited eyes at that news, I won! Wow! How had that happened? A photographer came over, to ask if I wanted a picture printed. You know what my answer was. I beamed with smiles , and I honestly don’t remember much except that it was the final meeting of the athletic team. Contrary to the Sport Director’s hope, no arrangements were made to prepare a proper track for racing.
When it ended, I took off with Tanya on this ‘day of destiny’. One thing led to another and soon she was asking me one critical, ultra-important question we had so far not discussed. I answered and asked a question of my own. Her reply was the turning point. Hope died. Tanya and I could be good friends, perhaps close friends but never anything more. ‘Us’ didn’t stand a chance. Resistance was pointless.
Sometime the next day, in my room as I conversed with my pal, Fiyi. “Girls” came up. I ended up talking a bit about Tanya, especially my sadness and disappointment.
“Don’t you like anyone else? “ Fiyi asked. “Haven’t you seen any other girl you like? Bro there are 2000 girls here. What’s the problem? ”
“Well I don’t really feel like…Wait! There was this girl I met” and I told him everything about the stunning, shy girl I’d seen on the second day of camp. “Do you have her number then?” I replied that I didn’t even know her name. “Tolu, why na…what were you thinking? You should have talked to her”
I fumbled with my chin in deep reflection for a minute before the daring idea came out of the blue, “Fiyi, I will find her”.
“What?!” he asked “You don’t know anything, how will you find her in this huge camp?. ”
“Give me seven days!” I declared. “Before Tuesday next week, Fiyi I will find this girl.”
The end. That’s it for Clarion Call V. I might take a break next week, from Clarion Call to write about a totally different thing. Depends. What do you think of that? If you want to subscribe to my blog, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org directly or using this link so I get your email address. Thank you.