I drove down the metro that night and looked around but, there wasn’t a trace of Timothee. Sophia asked about him late at night. When I told her I couldn’t find him, she became pretty frantic in the dead of the night.
“He isn’t picking up my calls either! Remy had tried calling him too but he’s unresponsive!”
“Don’t worry. He probably went somewhere. You’ll see him tomorrow.”
“I’m afraid,” she’d returned, “I hope he’s safe.”
“Yeah. . . but don’t worry too much, Sophia. I’m sure he’s alright. I saw him leave. He looked like he was in a hurry. Maybe he actually had some work. . .” I said in hope of alleviating her fear.
“I hope so. . .” she returned lowly. “Goodnight, August.”
“Goodnight, Sophia,” I replied a little reluctantly. If anything, I could talk to her the whole night, listen to her voice the whole night. . . but for all I knew, I was the last person she wanted on the list.
On Monday, I saw Timothee talking to Prof. Goode in the parking area. Goode was speaking and Timothee was listening with his eyes on the ground and nodding repeatedly as he watched his right foot graze about the floor. When Goode finally pat his back and left, he looked up and met my eyes. For a brief moment, he stared at me blankly before he dragged his eyes away and left.
The next time I saw him was in the session on Tuesday. When I stepped inside Kennedy Hall, he was already sitting next to Sophia with Remy on the other side. The other two were talking from either side of him with animated smiles on their faces while he offered a smile or two out of decency, nodding once in a while. And when he met my gaze, every bit of glow he had on his face dampened and his eyes dropped to the floor father stonily as his fingertips slowly ran over his forearms.
Two minutes later, we stood in a circle around Shirley at her instruction. Sophia, Tim, and Remy were right across me and Marlon.
“Everybody ready?” Shirley asked, looking around her with a vibrant smile eliminating from her face. “The game we’re gonna be playing now is called ‘fire on the mountain’. Ever heard of it?”
“Ohhh, yeah!!” Most of us laughed while Marlon took hold of my arm.
He was already booking me if ever he needs a partner or more.
“Great! Now you know what to expect.” Shirley smiled. “For those of you who haven’t heard of this game before, it goes like this. I’ll be here in the middle and you guys will move around me in a circle. Whenever I shout ′fire on the mountain‘, you will have to reply back ’run run run’. And when I say, for example, two by two, you will have to stand in pairs, the ones left out or standing more than two people are kicked out of the game. Same goes for three by three or other commands. Got it?”
“YES!!” we responded altogether.
The next moment, Shirley started to shout her line and we started to jog in circle as we chanted back. Five seconds later, we all started grabbing people around us as we tried to form groups of five. In no time, the hall was nearly exploding from all the screaming and laughing.
Sophia, Remy, and Timothee looked inseparable throughout the game. The three of them had truly become a team by now. At one point when Shirley commanded us to stand in a pair of two, we’d seen the three of them huddle together. Sophia at once realized the mistake so, she leaped away from the other two with a little shriek and frantically searched for people who were still standing alone. While at the moment, even Marlon had got a person to stand with, Sophia appeared in front of me and in the spur of the moment, she let out a delighted squeal at having found a partner to stand with and immediately ran into me.
I took her into my arms as she laughed in relief before she realized it was me whose arms were wrapped around her. She seemed a bit staggered when she finally looked up and saw my face. But there wasn’t much time for her to feel awkward since Shirley quickly began to shout her line for the next round and we started to run again.
A minute later, only Marlon, Sophia and I remained. By then, we had turned into a mess of laughter and gasping. Sophia’s face glowed like never before with tears pooling around her eyes from all the laughing. I had my own special fun watching her leap about and form groups and pairs. She was good at the game.
When Shirley finally said, “TWO BY TWO!!”
With a petrified scream, Sophia screamed and came for me. She had just run into my arms when from my other side, Marlon grabbed me by the collar and pulled me into a strong hug.
“You’re mine.” He chortled as he locked his arms around me.
“What?!” Sophia gasped in shock and she eyed us both while she stood in the middle of the floor alone without a partner.
Everyone else in the hall erupted at the sight of Marlon’s stunt.
“Not fair, Marlon.” Sophia eventually chuckled before everybody clapped for us.
Marlon and I won the game.
By the next moment, we settled down back to our places. The people looked energized and enthusiastic enough to talk. We cracked jokes and shared some stories, mostly what we’d been up to during the weekend, before we watched the short, illustrated video about life goals.
“Everybody has a life goal?” Goode asked.
A few of us answered positive with vigorous nodding. A few of us had entered the mood of staring up at the ceiling and wondering what.
“I won’t exactly ask you what your life goals are. I’m going to ask you what you understand by life goals. . .”
We all listened.
“Achievements in life?” Marlon spoke up. “Things that you wanna achieve in life?” He grinned broadly. “Like, suppose in soccer, you kick the ball to a target and if you hit the target, that’s. . . goal. So, it’s associated with a target.”
“So, you’re now studying mass media and let’s say you’re striving to become a photojournalist. Is that a life goal or a career goal?”
Marlon thought for a moment and answered somewhat like a question, “Career goal?”
Prof. Goode responded with a calm smile. “Yes. That’s a career goal. Never confuse your career with your life goal. Career is job oriented, life goal isn’t. Life goal is what you want to do with your life, what you want to do while you’re alive. It’s a vision. If you say becoming the President is your life goal, then you have nothing more to do after you become President. You’ve achieved your life goal. What’s more to do? Die.”
We all cracked up laughing.
With a bemused smile, he continued, “Life goal is – you become the President, then you want to change the lives of people, make a better world. It’s a process. It doesn’t end. It will give you the reason to live, to strive, to be a better person. You won’t have time to settle down. You wouldn’t want to settle down because you’re having fun doing what you love. If you think your career is your life goal, you will never be happy. It’s a dead end. So, start thinking. What’s your life goal?”
Not one person breathed a word as we stared at him. Prof. Goode seemed to have plunged us in an endless pit of introspection and reflection. Half the people had that faraway look on their faces as though for the first time in their life, they were starting to think what the hell they’d been living for? What the hell they’d been chasing after?
“Everybody okay?” Goode joked and we breathed out with light laughter seemingly as if for a while we’d all stopped breathing.
It had me thinking too. Truth be told, even I’d never really thought about my life goal. I’d been so consumed in earning and providing for my siblings, it finally felt as if the whole time I’ve been seeing only half the plate. Partly blind. I’d just been floating around with no target or direction.
Soon after, the usual questions came around – ”What do you want to be famous for?"
“God, I wanna be worshipped as a make-up god!!” Remy sighed passionately with a heavily ringed hand on his heart. “For centuries and centuries to come. For ETERNITY!”
Sophia watched his reaction and then laughed in amusement as her beautiful blue eyes sparkled like rare gems craved out straight from heaven.
She looked at Timothee expectantly but he passed. “Later.”
“Okay.” Sophia slightly adjusted her posture on her chair and said, “Many writers strive to be the next J.K Rowling, I just want to be the first Sophia Swann.”
“Cool.” Timothee nodded next to her.
Most of the people had something or the other to say. When it was my turn, I was still pretty blank. Marlon had said, he wanted to be famous for being The Best Bowler in the World. He wasn’t serious. That everyone knew for sure.
I thought for a moment before I answered what I wanted the most and what I knew people would find silly. I said, “I want to be famous for being the best brother in the world.”
And then there was complete silence. Every person I saw stared at me like I was already famous for being the dumbest idiot who couldn’t think of anything else that would make sense. Shirley usually always had something to say but, this time, she remained speechless with a confused smile on her face like she wasn’t sure whether she should cry or laugh.
Only when I saw Sophia’s face did I feel like there was someone in the room who actually understand what I said. Somehow. She just looked at me with the softest eyes.
“You know I kinda feel something like that.” Timothee finally spoke up for the first time, sitting up on his chair. “I’m a bad kid and I wanna be famous for being the best son any parent could ever have. I just wanna be good, you know. I just wanna show the world ′suck it up. I’m not as hopeless as you think. . . that I can change’. . . and. . . And I know that’s impossible. I just. . . I just wanna be worthwhile.”
For a moment there, he suddenly looked charged and passionate enough for something before all that enthusiasm burned off in matters of second.
“Tim, you’re awesome!” Sophia turned to him with the kindest, softest look on her heartfelt face. “And you deserve every good thing. You’re more than worthwhile. I love you.”
“Yes! You’re awesome, Tim!” Everybody chimed in with words of encouragement, love, and appreciation.
Timothee smiled back bashfully in return. “Ah, thanks, guys. Love you too.” He turned to Sophia and fist-bumped with her.
“I have an idea. The first day we met, we introduced ourselves with an adjective. How about we now introduce ourselves with what we’re famous for or what we want to be? Timothee The Good. How does that sound?”
Needless to say, everybody agreed. So we ended up having –
Timothee The Good
Sophia The First
Remy The God of Make-up
Marlon The Best Bowler
Augustine The Best Brother
Frederick The Garbage Terminator. . .
Frederick wanted to contribute to the cause of green and clean environment all around the world.