One thing about being poor is you learn to let go easily. The only thing you cling to is hope, not even your dreams. Would you even get any? Not even your goals; those species come as they go. You don’t cling to loved ones, except poverty if you want to. You don’t hold on to plans; these too come as they go. Poverty is a feeling, worn.
My grandfather was a poor man; not very poor, but he lived all his life from hand to mouth. At a time, his hands were short; they couldn’t reach the lips any longer. His son, my own father, took up the mace. He would spend plenty hours on the maize farm, trying hard to be like his neighbor who could send his own children to school, although not like the next neighbor who could send his own children to abroad.
My father had dreams; he kept having dreams. So much that we got used to change of dreams, like change of pants. I, myself, was a dreamer. I dreamed dreams. Perhaps, dad was tired too and I had to take it up.
Poverty can be sweet, but not penury. Otis and his family never had enough, but I saw it dance on their faces every dawn—happiness. I think I did see joy when they ate from same plate, worked on the farm together, received classes at home because there were no school fees.
In my own house we never had at all.
I was taught that hope, not faith, is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen. Morning and night, as we look forward to remnants from Mr. P’s house, Papa would sing his usual song. “When there is life, there is hope.”
My grandfather died with hope hugging him so soft. As for me, that guy never lived. Waste of dust.
My father tried his best. He ate remnants of the foods his mates worked for. Papa worked hard, he did work hard. He turned his wives and children into labourers. Labourers!
His purse was always slim, the one he stole from someone’s farm the other day. What a waste of virtue! The leather purse was so useless, it began to rotten like iron. My own father died on three stools put together— hardship, penury and foolishness.
So, I wanted to be so smart. Without education, I knew like the likes of Edison and Gates, I could work smart to walk smart into greatness.
I continued to dream dreams:
That I would employ my neighbor’s children, those who were taught to study hard to make it and those whose parents had prepared for their own children what to leave for their grandchildren.
My own parents and parents’ parents left something for me too: hardship and hope. But I didn’t take the two Hs.
Hope was such a motherf**ker; I learnt that when at seven my dad gave up the ghost. And like he would say “When there is life, there is hope”, so when he died, hope left him to himself.
So, I became a shadow of myself. What I used to be was what my parents taught me. I took a brand new leaf. I prepared plans and tried work smart for fifty years. For fifty years, I was still on plans: dreaming dreams, and hoping I would own what my neighbor’s children would come begging for.
Add twenty to fifty. At seventy, I was still dreaming and hoping. So, at the verge of giving up, I opened my eyes to things. My own parents left for me penury.
It was an advantage.
It takes something to bring something out of nothing. Yeah! With penury, I could only bring some more hardship. I was scammed. I could have kept the money I used in buying books to get advantages that would build advantages. What advantages?
Daniel neither studied nor worked hard. He did work smart with substances at the tips of his fingers. He had money; also did he have labour forces. With that, he invented solutions to problems. He wasn’t blind, saw problems and saw opportunities at his disposal.
I had nothing.
I was scammed. That too was part of the dreams.
So, at nineteen, twelve years after I had lost my dad, I opened my eyes and lifted my butts. So, I wouldn’t be a fool at seventy just wanting to be a business owner.
Well, I am Shadow, the boy at the next bus stop.
I walked up to a bus driver one day and offered to be his help. I learnt to jump off buses, to stab myself in the arm and break bottles on the head of another. I earn some pieces of notes, paper notes, that would one day become bundles. I am a bus conductor, an investor, an inventor. I do not build plans, neither do I dream dreams; I implement things.
Soon, I would be on TV telling a story, and showcasing my craps turned solutions.
You can call me Engineer Shadow.