That day, the noon sun shone brilliantly across the skies as I boarded a bus home after collecting my mid-term result at school. As I sat on the hard seat, random thoughts began circling in my mind. I was cut off in mid-thought when a young boy came into the bus and sat near me.
Judging from his looks, he was probably a five or six year old boy that had been forced to take responsibility at such a young age. His faded school uniform and sorrowful face made me feel pitiful almost instantly. There was this air of depression surrounding him. I could sense child buse. I could feel the pains of a young boy who had probably never seen his father or mother show any love to him.
He was not the normal young child with a lot of toys or friends to play with. He was not a little boy with loving parents that overprotected him or showered love on him. He was not a boy with parents who were willing to carry many responsibilities on their heads. Instead, responsibilities were dumped on his head and he probably could not push them away even if they were too weighty for him.
This little boy walked several kilometers to get to this bus stop and had squeezed stained naira notes into one of his little but hardworking hands. His little hands told tales of a young boy who had been forced to work if he had any hope of eating. I could see scars that showed that he was forced to think for himself and do so many things all alone.
His little bag had no zip. I saw old and torn but manageable notebooks covered with dust clearly showing that they lacked attention. Maybe he had lost his father and had a mother who worked so hard to send him to the public school. Maybe he had been taught the lessons of life only through beatings and scolding. Maybe he was in a family that shot arrows at his self-esteem. I kept looking at him and imagining all sorts of things. Our eyes eventually met and unintentionally locked. I felt frozen by the dejection I found glowing in his eyes. His dark pupils were a sorrowful burnt hue and his eyelashes seemed wet with gloom. It was obvious that the fire within him – the light he once carried – had been irreversibly snuffed out.
He was getting ready to stop. His eyes went dim and his dry lips formed an awful grin. I could feel his hot breath – the breath of a boy full of sorrows.
Suddenly, the bus came to a halt. The driver asked the little boy” Aren’t you stopping here?” His little throat forced a loud shrill “Yes! It’s here.” He gave the driver two stained fifty-naira notes.
I had to say bye to this young boy. Immediately, I felt guilt biting my stomach. Why didn’t I talk to him? Why didn’t I try to show some concern? Why didn’t I try asking a few questions? I had been imagining his situation but I never said anything to him.
Instead of allowing myself to feel more regretful, I took my pen and wrote my feelings about this poor child.