I had just finished one of the most herculean tasks any student of a Nigerian university could engage in. Sorting files at the faculty’s office had demanded not only my time but my back and legs were saying the story of how much stress I was put through.
“A bottle of water would save me right now,” I thought, briskly making my way to the long queue, stuffiness and brouhaha that complimented the faculty’s cafeteria. My throat was as dry as the desert sands and a minute longer without water, all that would be left of me would be memories of me etched in the sands of time.
“A bottle of water for you, My Lady,” a short light-skinned guy offered. I hesitated for a nanosecond before emptying the contents of the bottle down my dry throat. Two sighs of relief and ten words of appreciation followed my satisfaction.
“Thank you! You just saved me! How did you know I was so thirsty?” I inquired, walking by his side as we moved out of the rowdy cafeteria. I wasn’t shocked or surprised that a stranger had offered me water. He definitely was a fellow student and gestures as this were common amongst students especially in my faculty.
“Well, I could tell. It was written all over your face that a moment longer without water, you’ll find yourself on the floor,” he laughed teasingly. I nodded my head and appreciated him once more, “Thank you. I am Omotara Kelechi-Igwe, 300level, Petroleum Engineering; and you are?”
“Everything and Nothing.” He answered, both hands in his pocket and a smile well plastered on his face. “I mean, can I meet you?” I reiterated, suggesting that he must have not heard me right. “Yea, I know. I am Everything and Nothing.” he confirmed.
“How? Is that your name or an identity or something?” I probed. We seemed to be heading in the same direction as he took a turning towards the quatrangle.
“An identity works best.” He accompanied his answer with a wink. “Interesting, tell me about it.” I asked, hoping he would oblige my inquisitiveness.
“Well, I love to see myself as an embodiment of many things but none of these things actually count or let’s say, I am a jack of all trades, master of all but none that matters,” he explained, rather vaguely. I guess he could tell that he had done a successful job in confusing me further.
“Okay, this is it. I can do so many things but they are regular stuffs, nothing special about me.” he clarified. He gave another smile and one would think he was not willing to say more. But, I could see through the façade; he clearly had a lot to say, else he would have just told me his name and moved on.
So, I sat and engaged him further, “Interesting, I think it’s special that someone thinks he is not special. Anyway, tell me these many things.”
He turned his face away and then shot me a “Are you sure you are ready for this talk?” kind of look. I urged him on with a nod, although, I should be meeting my course rep for details on course registration but I was bent on knowing this special “not-special” young man.
“Well, I have quite a bag of talents. I can beat the bata drum, play the saxophone, guitar and keyboard. I do fictional painting, speak five different global languages and yea, I understand the sign language too. I also do a bit of coding and the most generic, I write,” he concluded like he had not just said one of the most jaw dropping things ever.
“Ex…cuseeeee meeeee!” I said in a near scream, leaning towards him, “You do all of these things?” I double checked, batting my eye lids as he passed his phone, showing me pictures of paintings he had done.
“ya sdelal vse eto,” he said and I arched a brow in confusion, “I didn’t get that.”
“J’ai fair tout ça,” he said amidst laughter but I didn’t find it amusing. “Are you trying to show off your linguistic talents?” I knew he was.
“Something like that. I was saying that I did all of that, I just decided to say it in Russian and French,” he explained.
“So viel stolz,” I remarked and saw his face lit up!
“Nein, ist es nicht! I’m not being proud! You speak German?” he said so loud the people around looked in our direction.
“Ja!” I replied laughingly. “Wowwww, that’s impressive,” he commended.
“Yea, I know, thanks to Duolingo. Back to you now, you are such a bundle of many things and I am super awed. I mean, you have a lot on your hands and I wonder why you think it’s not a big deal.” I went on to say.
“I might not know how much work must have gone into acquiring those skills and learning the languages but you see that one you called ‘Most generic’, writing, I know it’s a HUGE deal!” I said, making emphasis with my hands.
“Nahhhh, I don’t think it’s that deep, I have a collection of articles and poems and my friends think they are extraordinary but I think they are what anyone could conceive. Have you read the latest publication by the faculty press?” I nodded enthusiastically, I had read the e-copy just two nights ago and the contents were still fresh in my memory. Especially a flash fiction on suicide, it almost brought me to tears.
“Yea, I wrote a short story about an undergraduate who drank…” he started to say but I cut him short, “You were the one who wrote that? Whattttt??? I’m done with you!” I couldn’t hold down the scream building up in my stomach. That suicide story was everything and this guy who called himself “Everything and nothing” had written it!
“Hello? I just wrote it off my head when I heard about the death of that polytechnic student who drank her death. My roommate came across it and pushed me to forward it to the press, no serious work went into it. There are more beautiful writers out there and …”
“..and it’s nothing special, right?” I sarcastically interrupted. “See, if publishing articles weekly on two different platforms counts, then you could call me a writer. Asides being a gift, writing is a whole lot of brain work and only a very intelligent person can birth that fiction story,” I let him take in my genuine compliments before saying more.
“Like I said earlier, I might not be able to tell how much you must have invested into learning other things you do and I am sincerely choosing to see them all as gifts. But, I know what it means to write and I won’t let you downplay yourself.
I see alot of brilliant writers do these and I often wonder why we can’t value our writing ability like other skilled people do. I am addressing a general issue now, I will come back to hit you hard for calling yourself “Nothing” despite owning all of these covetable gifts. I strongly opine that every talent should be appreciated and maximised to full potential. Not everyone can write, or a better way to put it, not everyone can write creatively,” I took a break to look him in the eye.
“Even if writing is all you have, it is everything and you should own and hone it! I might just have known you for few minutes but with all you’ve told me and what I have seen, I know your mind is so profound and can conceive beautiful things. You need to understand that all you have are the desires of many, so place a value on yourself,” his eyes were on me for a while, then he looked away.
“You should know how many lives you could impact with your writing prowess and other gifts combined. Stop being an ungrateful bird and put yourself to good use.” I scoffed and rose to take my leave. He watched me carry my bag and walk away, I knew my words must have hit him.
I paused half way in my tracks to give a post remark, “And hey, when next our paths cross, I’ll call you ‘Everything’ and nothing else.” I gave a flirty wink to close the conversation.
“My name is Adefemi Alesinloye-Peters,” he shot back.