My Heros and Heroines are from all walks of life. All those who have touched my life in one way or the other. I know I can’t do a post of them all, but I take great pleasure in doing posts especially of those who aren’t obvious to the ‘conventional’ eye.
One of such people who touched my life and thaught me further how to look beyond appearance and listen beyond ‘Hearsay’, is Billy the Bully!I didn’t give him that name, he got it from the wardens in the jail where I met him.
In my search for more ‘meaning and purpose’, I volunteered to work in the central prison of my city for 6 months. Yes, that was one big episode of my life I’ll never forget. I went there often twice a week or even more, as the circumstances warranted. I was already a lawyer, and I took on several pro bono cases especially of those awaiting trial, even if only to help speed or unblock administrative procedures so they could finally be tried. I recall the very first case I won as a pupil lawyer was one of these. On weekends, I visited there and equally attended Sunday mass with the inmates when I could.
It was on one such Sundays that a guy burst into the small cramped and tight air something turned chapel for the occasion. He had a dagger and was hyper furious. I mean he had the ‘ready to kill’ redness and everybody was scared.
Billy ranted and thundered, and then he threatened and dared anyone to look him in the eye. I didn’t understand much of what he said, but I dared after ‘praying and meditating’, ‘dare to look him in the eye’. I was sitting in his direct view and you could tell I was from the ‘outside’. I not only dared to look him in the eye, I dared to stand up and take a step ahead while keeping eye contact. Mass went on and people were starring at me like I sure had gone ‘lun’. Billy was taken by so much surprise that he just dropped the dagger and ran out. I picked it up, turned around and gave it to some warden who was also there attending that mass!
After mass, I had the opportunity to meet Billy again in some corner of the prison yard where he normally took refuge and kept to himself and his ‘likes’. Weekends are also ‘visiting’ days in our jails and so the main yards are always very busy. Despite the warnings from the wardens and the plea from the ‘pastoral team’ I had come there with, I went to sit down next to Billy. I kept my head down in ‘submissiveness’ but I refused to leave when he didn’t even look at me for the next 10 minutes.
And then Billy started to talk – oh rather rant. He told me the world was against him, proof is that even his own family had abandoned him in there. He told me of what he was accused of and yes told me he’d done pretty much of those stuffs. He added that not only was he under so much influence then, but he belonged to a gang masterminded by some big shot in the army. I remember that period when there was a national curfew and the era was coined “commandement operatrionnel” seemingly to dish out and wipe out the alarming insecurity in the city. Billy must have ‘done much more than was expected’ and now he was serving a 15 year sentence.
Friends with Rascals
Billy wasn’t the first of such rascals I was becoming friends with. I am one in the sense that others could easily qualify me as such depending on when they meet me. Yet I always say that it is not only those behind those physical bars who are rascals and bandits and all. I became Billy’s friend and he would mise and call me even if only to rant or check on my boys. I visited him some Saturdays and brought him a bar of soap or whatever I could afford. When I showed up and asked to see Billy, the wardens would chorus who? the Bully? You see his label had another star. A rascal/monster and now a bully. Well, Billy told me didn’t care because being all that even provided ‘protection’ in that jungle.
I did become friends with several others there too during that period and did help many with my time, their case files and materially to my ability. Often times, I left there drained and in tears. There is so much pain, suffering, rejection, shame, stigma and all in that place. Even the air in there is different.
I say to this date that two categories of people I think are abandoned most by either their families and society, are the mentally ill/challenged and the prison inmates. Especially back home, this can be proven to beyond reasonable doubt.
Why is Billy my Hero?
As I earlier said, I further learnt to look beyond appearance, especially in a place as notorious as the ‘New Bell Central Prison’ in Douala – Cameroon. You tube this prison or google it and you’ll get more info. I learnt and could listen beyond ‘Hear Say’. Yes I risked a lot and put in so much.
To tell you some more, my ex husband even claimed that I had an affair with Billy! Oh Ayo had I suffered!
Dear gentle readers and followers, I would forever be grateful for that ‘internship’. I don’t know about you but I guess there is so much wrong in our world today than all the labels and categories we hear and see, as well as all those people ‘acting’ right?