By Awwal Yasin Agono

Do you know the value of being welcomed in the environment you stay in? Perhaps you might not because you have never felt dejected before. You are always excited to see the end of everyday and bored to see the beginning of another. It feels like all your resources are scarce. Like you are being charged for the very air you inhale. You have to chew your words properly before letting them out for you have NO idea what your boss will accept or reject.

As the first child of my parents in a small village called Alagidi, I am used to airing my views which are hardly abandoned by my sibling. As a matter of fact, I am accorded Papa’s respect since his demise while Ada, my younger sister was just a toddler. I felt like the head of the family.

I neither had to wash my own clothes nor clean my room. I am only called upon when food is ready and served. Whenever there is an issue, my bank of knowledge is the last resort; nobody argued with me on issues relating to the family. Not but those village council elders. They always considered me a local champion. They never took me seriously. They respected Emeka who went to learn trade in the city more than me. Why is this? Why is my zone of comfort drawn around the four walls of the family house? Do they not also see what mama sees and respects in me? These questions bother me a lot. I had great appetite to acquire the respect papa had in the community. I had to know why I was a king in my home and an armature in the external world.

Few years earlier, my childhood friend, Steven left for the city, leaving me behind. I couldn’t help but think that when he returns to the village, he will become peers with Emeka and co and I will, once again, be left behind. Steven was a very close friend. While we were growing up, his mom trusted me as much as mine trusted him. He eats his breakfast at my place and I eat supper at his. Strangers called us “ejima” meaning twins because we were roughly same height and complexion.

I tried to deter him from going to the city banking on the claim that we had all we ever needed in the village. He seemed so persistent and impossible. I thought he was losing his mind. But now I think I understand the rationale behind his decision. It is humane to always ask for more. Although I had all I needed but I desperately needed community recognition. Quarter-nightly, I had this dream in which I saw Steven coming back with huge cars and denying me. I considered this dream a revelation because of its intermittent recurrence. I had two options; either I waited for the dream to come true or make moves to avert it.

I considered joining Steven in the city. I thought this would excite him as he also tried to convince me to come with him when he left to no avail. Six years on; would we recognize each other? How would he react on seeing me? How has he changed? These questions I had in my mind as I set out for the journey that would change my life forever.

I met him in one ghetto after weeks of tireless search. I was so excited. Although I had expected to see him in a more exalted state; I was not disappointed because I felt like I have being given an opportunity to share in his struggle to success as he in mine. I camped in his room.

Barely a week later, the questions running through my mind have changed fiendishly. So people do change? Can Steven treat me like his enemy? Why am I always wrong when I am with him? Why has my child hood friend turned into a blood-sucking boss?

No wonder the day I met him, he was not as excited as I was. He frequently reminds me that he bought the mattress, that I didn’t come with any foodstuffs, that I am no more than a local champion, that my ideas were shabby and naive. He does not even introduce me to his friends as his friend. He counts his favors on me.

How much of this maltreatment from my best friend can I bear? From the life of a king in the village to the life of a slave in the city; is community respect really worth this stress?