Cornelius walks ten miles from his abode to Ìta Ojà daily, you will never find him without his briefcase in his hand, he was a local celebrity. Cornelius had specific shirts he wore on different days but he wore only one tie for all these shirts, he had two pair of shoes, two pants and he was one hell of a genius. Corni Corni, the people will hail him anytime he walked past them, young, old, man, woman, he was loved equally, he never hid his smile from anyone, he had an answer to any and everything.
Cornelius walked ten miles daily to do what he loves before returning to his abode, to teach outside the gate of Ìta Ojá high school. The students were fond of him, from standard one to five, everyone had an ally in Cornelius, he was not an employee of the school but he was doing more for the children than their paid teachers. During breaks and after school hours, you will find students from different classes gathered around him, sometimes when the most senior students of Ìta Ojá have tests or exams around the corner, they chase the junior students away and gain the full attention of the genius. He could solve any equation in minutes, answer any question from a range of subjects, he was a walking encyclopedia, Ìta Ojá students were way ahead of the other schools in the region, even their teachers had less work to do, everyone was glad for the genius of Ìta Ojá .
Cornelius was born in Ìta Ojá town, he was the third child of his mother, his father was a popular man, a well known town drunk. Cornelius grew up watching his father being carried home in broad day light by different people at a young age, he would pass out, gourd after gourd, at any place available, even a piggery. His two older brothers had left the town out of the humiliation their father brought on the family, the rumour around town was that it was a family curse, they left for the big city before the humiliation or curse would catch up with them, leaving Cornelius with his mother and little sister to take care of their father’s liquid madness.
Cornelius vowed to never be his father.
Cornelius was gifted, his principal, Mr Adams had told his mother after his first term at Ìta Ojá high school. He led the school to many regional competitions which they all won, he represented the country in an international science competition, it was at the competition Cornelius was handed a scholarship to study physics at the Massachusetts institute of Technology, it changed his family’s story forever. Everyone forgot about the embarrassment of a life his father lived, he was the star of Ìta Ojá.
Massachusetts life was very hard for Cornelius, he moved from a town of less than 10,000 people to a full blown city, he couldn’t find his type of food, there was no Amala, neither could he find Lafun, he munched on burgers and chips just to survive, he was ahead of everyone in his class, apart from the food and cold problems, Cornelius was always in the library devouring anything and everything he could lay his hands on, he wanted to be an inventor, he wanted to create things that will place Ìta Ojá on the world map, he barely had friends, but everyone knew the genius from Nigeria.
When the news of his father’s death reached Massachusetts, Cornelius was preparing for his final exams, he read the letter from Nigeria and his ever smiling face became expressionless. A part of him was happy his father was another person’s problem now, the angels will either ban him from the palm-wine kiosk or be ready to carry him, it wasn’t his mother’s duty to look after him anymore, the other part of him was sad because he knew how much his mother loved his father, in everything, she remained loving towards him, she believed it was a curse.
Working as a research associate in one of Newyork’s top five companies took Cornelius to levels very few people from our side of the world had reached, everyone noticed his genius anywhere he was, he was liked from the ground floor of his office building to the 18th floor, everyone wanted to be friends with smart Nigerian guy, Cornelius was the guy that would help you out with hard work problems and he does it without condescension.
Susan was his boss, he reports to her daily and sometimes they are both out on the field together, she had a great body with an almost invisible collar bone, she always looked like she was stressed, Cornelius would take over projects from her so she could get some rest, she liked him & he liked her but work stood between them, Cornelius knew that one day the wall would be pulled down. This was the first woman he would really like, maybe because she’s the first woman he’s spending good time with that isn’t his mother.
The news of Susan’s death sipped through the office that cold Tuesday morning, it sent shivers down Cornelius’ spine, he cried for the wall that never got pulled down. He took his first glass of whiskey that evening.
He took another glass the week after.
It became a regular ritual for Cornelius to visit the pub and drink till the wee hours, he usually got to work late, looking scruffy. His new boss didn’t accept such behavior and he was sacked.
He had tasted the forbidden fruit, the spirit of his fathers had found him out in a distant country. He drank himself into madness, Cornelius was deported back home.
He left Ìta Ojá as a star but returned in the frame of his father. He had sworn he would never be like his father, even if they have similarities with the gourd now, he was determined to achieve more than he ever did.
He shared his genius by day, and hoarded his gourd to himself at night.