Trial is war and second place is death. Not the words of my professor, I confess. I picked up the line from one of those fast-paced legal drama series they show on cable TV nowadays, the ones which we only get to watch several months in arrears when they are piratically put on VCDs and vended in the video shops on the street corners. I just happen to like the ring of it, and I have since adopted it as my mantra.
I am not even preparing for a courtroom showdown. It is just my first semester 100 Levels Law exam, Introduction to Legal Methods & Skills – the only Law examination I have to sit for this year. Still, this is not GSS English. It is Law. It’s an important examination.
I haven’t slept at all since I got back from school yesterday. I figured that sleep is not a good strategy in wartime, and coffee is my able Lieutenant. I review my strategy for answering whatever question I will be tested with: Honesty in examination is rare, but where found, is always refreshing. Discus completely what you know about the subject and where you are not sure what the position of the Law is, do not be afraid to say so. I read that, too, once in a book about writing examinations, a book called Examination Without Tears; or something like that.
My mother is awake now. I can hear her moving about opening the windows. She will soon start the kerosene stove. The smoke will seep under the kitchen door and fill the house with what I like to call “Morning smells of House 5, Beckley Davis Street”. It’s so embarrassing when we have early morning visitors; second only to the noise my brother makes at the back of his throat while cleaning his ears with a thinned feather.
Although the water tank in the bathroom is empty, we have a ring coil which serves just fine – when the electricity is on. But Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is withholding the power. As usual. So, we mostly use the smoky stove to boil bathing water.
I shut my eyes and go over the names of the cases: Heydon’s Case; Grey v. Pearson; Wade v. Simeon . . .
The Professor is in front of the class; we are talking about Law and Morality today. “Neglecting to pull your neighbour away from danger is a sin and not a crime; you’ll miss heaven but you’ll also miss goal.”
His speech evokes sporadic laughter around me, but I am too nervous to join in.
“Miss Owan, care to debunk that assertion?” The Professor is suddenly by my desk.
“Not really, sir. I quite agree with the principle against legislating on private morality,” I stutter.
“Then you care to support the principle with case law?”
“Wade v. Roe?” I venture tentatively.
Another round of laughter. Louder.
“Roe v. Wade?” My voice comes out in a muted squeak.
“I believe you have just run out of possible ways to rearrange the words, Miss Owan!”
The class goes berserk, laughing and leering at me, their red tongues hanging out of their mouths, which keep expanding like they were made of rubber until I can see their esophaguses. They jump on the desks and begin to stomp so loudly that it is as though they were drumming on my eardrums . . .
My mother shakes me awake, “I knocked, dear, but you did not hear me. What time is your examination this morning?”
4th March, 2010