What Surviving a Lunatic Asylum Taught Me About Fear and the Less Trodden Path
Pause. Then Act
Sometime in 1996, while in secondary school, I experienced what would become a constant reference point for me later in life, on how to assess risk and remain objective in taking life decisions; or reacting under extremely tense or unpredictable circumstances. As a quick background, I attended Federal Government College, Idoani in Ondo State — one of those secondary schools where young boys lived out the story of Lord of the Flies on a daily basis, going through often extremely harsh conditions, while their parents reveled in bliss back at home sure their children were safe and sound studying in a good school environment. While the scholarly activities and academic achievements of the school at the time was commendable, social life outside the classroom was a constant struggle for survival. Idoani was a walled-off arena where disturbed teenagers discovering power for the first time role-played their fantasies in the meanest, most gruesome and most disturbing of ways. It was a constant line up of power play performances in a mad house one couldn’t break free from until vacation.
Not too far from where I was sitting, one stray pane hit a boy on the head. He fell mid-run, and is head began to bleed.
That day in ’96, we were all seated in the dining hall — a large hall that sprawled around a walled-off courtyard that was never opened. There were yawning gaps in the ceilings where students had destroyed all the asbestos panels, and there were almost no windows, or frames in the window openings. It was a decrepit, sad-looking building with faded lime green walls covered in grime from a thousand meals, and the shine of sweaty palms of the thousand hands that had polished the wooden tables and benches over many generations. It was the gathering hub for almost all of the school’s activities — from feeding, to assemblies, to church, to speech and prize giving days. On this particular day, we were having evening prep (self-study periods before bedtime) and we were all seated in constrained silence, tautly kept in place by roving prefects that were armed with leather belts, or wooden planks to keep the peace. I can’t remember which I was doing that night, reading or silently pranking, when I heard the sound of shattering glass on the…