Have the old scars in your life completely healed? Still healing, or far from healing? Do you see yourself getting worked up when the thought of a particular incident rears its obnoxious head?
The truth is, unless you take action, there will always be a negative or positive reaction. Many times, it is therapeutic to delve into the archives of your life and excavate one or more torturous experiences for the purpose of re-examination and permanent closure. This is why, after more than 34 years, I am riding back to my high school days to open an incredible can of stinky worms.
In Form 4 (high school), I was the treasurer of my school’s Literary and Debating Society. Our annual party was held on a Saturday, and it was a huge success. I was scheduled to meet with the president, vice president, and secretary of the Literary and Debating Society the following Sunday to go over finances and other matters. It was supposed to be a brief meeting. A popular student, G. E., was the president. A.A. was most likely the vice president, or the third guy, whose name and face I cannot recall. They were all senior male students.
The following Sunday at about 8pm, I climbed the staircase to their Upper Six classroom. I didn’t know I was climbing up to a life-changing event. There were students reading in the classroom, and one particular guy sat behind the teacher’s table with his eyes and ears supposedly buried in his books. In the corner of the classroom, a few feet from the teacher’s desk, was a small storage room called a cubicle. It existed in certain classrooms in the school. This particular one was transformed into a reading oasis with two desks and chairs. It was here that one of the officials ushered me for our meeting so we wouldn’t distract those who were reading. I sat on a chair by the door. The guys sat behind the desks. Our meeting was over in less than 20 minutes. I showed them the financial log, we discussed a thing or two, and it was time for me to go back to my hostel before lights out. I walked out of the cubicle into the classroom and caught the sneaky eyes of that same student behind the teacher’s desk. I dismissed his gaze and went my way.
Five days later, on a beautiful Friday morning, I was greeted by warnings from some students about my name gracing a very damaging headline on the Press Club notice board. (Back then, Press Club was a group of faceless students who wrote about disorderly students. They backed their tales with despicable caricatures and stories of their subject. Sometimes, they used their cowardly pens to fabricate and settle personal vendettas against other students. They didn’t report to a higher authority, hence the occasional abuse of their freedom of written expression.)
I was wondering what they were talking about until I stood face to face with the notice board and saw in bold letters: “Did Esohe Oyairo taste the Forbidden Fruit? Check for full details on Monday morning.” I was frozen in shock. What? How? Who? Why? Is this a bad dream? What is going on? “Forbidden Fruit?” These questions kept echoing in my mind. I was dizzy with confusion. Unrestrained tears began flowing. I knew my life in school would never be the same again. Throughout that weekend, I begged the ground to open and swallow me. It declined. At the same time, I kept looking for anyone who knew at least one of the faceless members of the Press Club. My efforts proved futile.
On Monday morning, the article came out as promised. It was dripping with gory details accompanied by vulgar cartoons that still provoke shivers today. My good name was dipped and stained with cruel lies written by a faceless monster. I wondered why. Who did this to me? Who?
The article detailed how G.E., A.A., the other guy, and I were engaged in consensual intercourse in the cubicle. All of them were taking turns with me, and the writer could hear me saying, “I am tired, I am tired,” but G.E. kept saying, “Just one more round, just one more round.” The writer talked of how, when they were done with me, I dressed up like nothing had happened and walked out of the classroom like a peacock.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Can you imagine what I was going through, considering how painfully shy I was back then? The principal, Mr. Udofia, called me to his office and told me I was going to be expelled from school if the article was true. I remember the terror in my eyes as I told him with tears rushing from my eye sockets: “Sir, I have never been with a boy before, and I am ready to go to any hospital to take a virginity test.” I was fighting for my life. He said he had already talked to the boys in question, and they disputed the article. He promised to ask the Press Club to investigate and take it down. The sad thing is, though he never called me back to his office, he did not order them to take the story down.
In fact, it remained on the notice board for more than a week. I wondered then and still wonder what was fueling this shenanigan. Out of pity, two members of the Press Club broke their code of silence and revealed some of their confidential discussions as well as the brain behind the article.
Remember the guy seated behind the teacher’s desk in the Upper Six classroom pretending to be buried in his books? Yes, it was him–Justice Jonusa. A tall, skinny, dark guy with a funny haircut, disturbing cough, and a very weird aura. I still cannot fathom why Justice slapped me with such injustice by inventing something out of nothing.
Indicted For Someone’s Flawed Imagination
My reputation was shredded to pieces. Some junior students and classmates whispered “Forbidden Fruit” to me. Life in school became unbearable. I withdrew into a very traumatic shell, and at the same time became a shell of my old self. My academic performance was marred as well. It seemed like no one cared. The principal failed me! Press Club members failed me! The system failed me! I couldn’t even tell my parents what was going on. Where would I start? Second, I was 261 miles away in boarding school.
This stigma followed me till I left for university a year later. I was too happy to start a new life free from false accusations. In my second year, I went back to my high school for an event. Guess what? Someone in the boys’ hostel shouted at the top of his voice: “Forbidden fruit.” I walked on like I didn’t hear him, but my heart skipped several beats, and showers of shame drenched me.
I think it was during second semester in my second year in the university that I began taking a shortcut after classes through the teaching hospital. From the window facing the narrow path, I could see patients on admission in a particular ward in the hospital. I always looked at the patients any time I walked by. Most of them seemed lost in space. One day, my eye caught the eye of a new patient whose bed was directly beside the window. I stopped in disbelief. My heart started racing. Our eyes locked briefly, and then I ran as fast as I could. Guess who it was? Justice Jonusa! I didn’t know it then, but that ward was called B1. It was for psychiatric patients. Jonusa was mentally ill.
The next day I looked at him properly. He was lying down on the bed staring into space. His eyes were blank. He was in another realm. Frankly speaking, I had zero compassion for him. How could I not? I was angry, very angry! The arrows his malicious act lodged in my heart resurrected and started pricking me ruthlessly. If I had the courage, I would have flung open the door of my mouth and rained many “forbidden” words on him. Luckily, I settled for a stare that I hoped spoke volumes.
I kept seeing Jonusa most times I took the shortcut. Our eyes locked on some occasions followed by prickly silence till I walked past. One day, I noticed his bed was empty. The next three times, it was still empty. I wondered if he had recovered or been transferred. It was later I learned the sad truth: Jonusa was dead.
As strange as this sounds, my heart was heavy with sympathy this time. The disdain melted almost immediately. I realized Jonusa was a victim like me. All the while his pen declared Armageddon on me, he was wrestling a mental monster in his personal life. No one recognized it. Like me, the principal failed him. The Press Club failed him. The system failed him big-time.
It is only recently that I began to marvel at this story. Who would have thought I’d end up in the same university with Jonusa? Why is it that when I decided to take a shortcut, I noticed him in the psychiatric ward? What of the silent encounters? Did he want to say something to me? Should I have at least extended an olive branch with a smile? How come I saw his last days? How and why? Only God knows. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
I am grateful to God that I am healed of this bad experience. Who knows, maybe Jonusa was hearing voices and simply hallucinating back then in high school. Whatever the case, I thank God it is over and life continues. May all those suffering from mental illness get the help and healing needed, in Jesus’ name.
I urge those nursing one hurt or the other to look at their pain from another angle. What if the perpetrator has unimaginable issues going on? After all, hurt people hurt others. Right? As painful as it sounds, forgiveness is the best option. It frees one from the cell of bitterness, anger and hatred. It is not easy. Once a decision is taken and implemented, the relief is golden. I pray by God’s grace we find it in our hearts to truly forgive those that caused us pain.
To God be the glory for the great things he has done.
Esohe, I remember when this happened in school. Although vaguely. You were three years ahead of me. Thank you for sharing this powerful experience. It goes to show there is a consequence for every action be it good or bad. Thank God you are past this.
My dear Esohe, i just read your article ” forbidden fruit” and I want to say thank you and let you know that those of us that know you know that was not you. You are a kind and pure soul. Our Teenage life were filled with all sorts, thank God for healing that only He has made possible. Love you Sis.
Esohe, my dear buddy, I didn’t read that press board much. This fallacy could not and did not besmirch in any shape or form your good reputation as a decent, well raised young lady. We were both in the same arm and years after school, reconnecting both online and off, your essence has remained the same from our teenage years. You are an amazing human being with a good heart.
I hope that writing this has helped you to heal and achieve closure.
Lots of love, Sis. Lots of love and God’s blessings. We go through a lot that others don’t see but God is always a pillar of strength and solace. I salute your courage.
Well done coz.. Thank God for healing you completely and giving you the grace to bring closure to this..
Thank too for being transparent enough to share and allow God use this to heal others
God bless you richly
Wow. Esohe . I had no idea this happened to you but I can only imagine the cost. In FGC ones reputation was everything!
Dr Lolly! Hope all’s good with you and family
Esohe, what an experience!! The best part of, and lesson from your article though, is the last paragraph about forgiveness.
All I can say is hmmmmm. To be accused falsely can send you to an early grave. Unfortunately, mine came from the church. From people you loved and cared for. The disappointing thing is that people who knows you deep down can buy into it. Like you said, only forgiveness heals the wound and the hurt. God is faithful through it all.
Wow! Esohe, I don’t remember this at all. Poor you back then. What you must have gone through! I’m glad you are completely healed. You bring up a very important point that we often overlook; when people exhibit such cruelty/meanness we have no idea what demons they are struggling with themselves. Hmmm
Esohe sorry to hear your ordeal at the hands of press club…
Thank God you have healed well and alive to tell the story.
I am surprised the article in question was allowed to be published in graphic detail. Could not have happened during Papa’s time. Press club had checks and balances and demanded authentication before publications.
Wow-wow-wow! Esohe, my sister with a heart of gold, sharing the same classroom with you during high school I vividly remember this incident. Only teenagers then we your classmates did not have the maturity to provide a shoulder for you as you weathered the heavy storm all alone, neither did we actually imagine the extent to which the incident weighed heavily on you. Justus Jonusa was in the same dormitory with me and knowing him very well sort of makes me feel as though I was a participant in the incident itself. Several years later when I was in Lower Sixth form I found myself in a similar situation. During a preparatory class one evening I had gone inside a similar cubicle to tuck in my shirt that was flying out of my trousers, or pants, only to see myself on the press club notice board a couple of days later! A member of the club had assumed that I had gone into the cubicle to use it as a urinal! I protested my innocence vehemently to one of the vice-principals, Mr Sam Balogun, demanding that the cartoon be taken down and apology rendered to me This was granted as a result of my persistent. True, the press club was terribly abused by members in settling personal vendetta against fellow students because my investigations revealed that the brain behind the cartoon was a classmate with whom I had some misunderstanding!
All in all, I am glad that you have forgiven my fellow Unitarian and that you are fully healed. A great sister you are!
Wow..such raw vulnerability…very well written. I could feel the build up of anxiety and I appreciate the way you tied things up in the end. Keep it up
May, I Just read the true life story. Very touchy.
Honestly you have a big ministry to heal broken hearts .
We thank God for your life journey.
May this is Awesome.
Thank God for healing and forgiveness.
It’s easier to forgive when we know and understand the rationale behind the action.
God probably allowed you to see the boy in his final days to understand y and be able to find closure. If not u may still wonder till this day.
And the stares? Maybe he was trying to reach out to you but didn’t know how. Who knows?
Great testimony May. May God touch the hurting through it and grant grace to look the other way and see as He sees, beyond what seem obvious, so that we can easily believe Him for help, not only for ourselves but for those who do evil which they would not have done, but for the captivity in which they are in which is stronger then them…
Great Testimony. Our Almighty God always reveals the truth no matter how long it takes. May u did the right thing by forgiving him. As I always say, FORGIVENESS is truly the key to Heaven. God bless u.
One of the rare failings of FGCW at the time …
Esohe my dear Sister….i can imagine what you went through at that time. Yes i clearly remembered the incident and the so called article. The false story was too harsh on a young innocent girl like u. i saw you slowly withdraw into your shell, and you remained so for most part of your stay in school till you left. most people that were not too close to you would think you cared less about mixing with people. Little did the know that the false hood of miscreants had cjhanged your world.
We were classmates and you were like a sister, so i saw the pain in you. I’m so happy to see that you have let out the fish bone. you have let out the pain……..and i tell you, letting it out has given you the freedom you desire, the freedom to say…..yes i am free of that pain. Esohe my sister….please ride on jare. remain happy. God bless you.
Esohe…Michael Echekoba and my humble self where in the press club as cartoonists at that time..Lol
That IS truly disgusting: the unjust public slander. At times we think it is banter or fun but it’s downright unkind and hurtful.
The problem with such things is we’re often blinded by the thrill we think we’ll get from eating the fruit of the tree we know we shouldn’t eat from that we think we know what we’re doing. Indeed it’s the press officer who tasted the forbidden fruit here: falsified and untrue account published as true perhaps for the thrill of recognition or fame.
Your sympathy of Him is well and rightly placed. It brings these words back to my ears “forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.
Thanks Sis. This is both encouraging and would help others, who might be wondering how, to heal old hurts too.
Wow! I love this piece and your style of writing. Sharp, fluid, absorbing, revealing, and straight to the point, Thank God for healing you emotionally, and for using you to preach forgiveness to others. Thank you so much and more grease to your elbows. God bless.
My beloved Sister.God is good.I Identify with your Story..flash back of what happened to me at FGC warri. floods my heart as I write now .Coming from a Catholic school (Marymount college) Agbor .with strict regulations,nothing like Outing day. Good Morals were taught to prepare young girls for leadership roles / good mothers in future..FGC was new Haven for me..trying to settle down for my A Levels . My new home National house.(Great Nato).with wonderful roommates like Sophia OJo.,Essielokun Rewane.and.Irene Akpata…soon became a nightmare to me. Lo and behold. Someone’s money gets missing I guess it was Sojo’s money.and all fingers pointed to( Mercy esoheOkungbowa ).me .Oh I remember how I wept .misfeelings about my new academic Environment. Stories about how I was the last person to leave the hostel filled the Air.,doubts about my personality as a friendly person was discussed openly to my hearing. The only thing I remembered doing was to PRAY..
.I guessed I cried more during these dark days.for God to disgrace the person that has brought this Misery /stigma to my life.And to God be the glory one junior student who I was so good to was the culprit. She stole from another person.and like a dream I found myself interrogating her.and before I knew it she broke down begging me and confessing that she stole the money I was accused of .I can remember tears running down my cheeks. Praising God for disgracing my enemy. My dear it’s well with you.See how God has been so good to you.we give him praise..much love Sister.
Thank God for His mercies Esohe! I am really glad for you. More of God’s grace and lots of love from your teenage,friend,Dayo! The good memories of our teenage days in FGCW NATO House girls hostel feels me such nostalgia! God bless you richly!
Awwww. Thank you so much Dayo! I have such fond memories of our time in NATO House. I just can’t stop thanking God for His eternal faithfulness.