I’d been to Awka on different occasions, all of them while representing St. Charles College, my secondary school, in various science competitions. But I’d never gone past Arroma Junction. So there I was in the car we’d hired for the journey, huddled between my brother and Chibuike my friend, with anticipation and anxiety so perfectly blended within me, as I beheld the sea of people at the Ifite School Gate. I wasn’t the type that usually went out, and never been in such traffic jams as experienced by those in Lagos, so I was marveled at the sea of people that were at the gate. There were young people, old people, men, women, boys, girls, tall and short people, in fact, people of all categories. I kept moping like a monkey in a science lab.
We alighted at the gate and my dad promptly started calling Chidimma; she was the daughter of my mom’s friend who was already a student of Unizik. After about ten to fifteen minutes of calls and searching the sea of faces for her, we finally saw her. She was… beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen my share of beautiful girls, but there was something different about her beauty, she wasn’t like the girls I knew back in Onitsha, who were just normal beautiful girls. She was sophisticated. Yes, that’s the word, I’ve been looking for. Although she wore only a Liverpool jersey and a black jean trouser, with pink sandals, she was so cool.
The confusion at the gate was almost indescribable, we didn’t know where to begin with, and as more people trooped in, the confusion took another turn. Shortly, we were asked to stand in a straight line, and of course, students rushed in a mad frenzy to secure a space in the endless line. My father said, “Nna nọrọ ebe a. Ọ bụrọ gị ka ha ga-azọgbu” (“My son, stay here. It’s not you that they will kill in the stampede”). Of course, he need not to have told me, I knew that there was no way I could last a second in the line with the way they were pushing and cursing at each other.
We waited for an extra hour before it was the turn of those who had applied for Pharmacy to go in. Dad approached one of the people maintaining order and explained my situation to him. He gave me a once-over before beckoning that we should follow him. I bid my brother and friend goodbye while accepting their good wishes, and turned to Chidimma to accept her special good luck wish. When she said, “Good luck, Sommy,” I felt as though I’d passed the exam already and had gotten admission. She was my first in a countless number of Unizik crushes.
Dad and I boarded a keke, the popular name of the tricycle that was a major means of transport within the school. The man dad had met at the gate had told us that Pharmacy applicants were to write at Engineering Faculty. The keke man charged us N400 and we gladly agreed. Then he took us from the gate, through Science Village, to Management Faculty, to Admin, then to Engineering Faculty. All the while, I was amazed at the size of the school.
When we got to the hall, it was then time for Dad to leave. He said a few words of prayer for me and then bid me good luck. I stared at his receding form for five seconds before clambering into the hall. The hall was half-full, so I was met with the gazes of the people inside—students and lecturers alike. I was told to sit in the fourth row of the hall, beside a dark girl who wore a black top and faded blue jean trouser, she also had a low cut.
Twenty-five minutes later, the examination commenced in full force. At this juncture, I want you guys to thank God with me. The reason was that I hadn’t read or prepared myself in any way for this examination. Don’t ask me why—I had no reason, I don’t even know what gave me the courage to pull such a stunt. All I’d done was nonchalantly read one or two years of past questions to fulfil all righteousness.
But as I answered the objective questions, I thanked God that He hadn’t forsaken me. I was confident and smiling as I flew down the questions and was done in forty minutes. The scheduled time for the exam was an hour and half, so I had excess time to kill. I went through my answer three more times, yet the time wasn’t over. I started looking at the other students in the hall and tried to guess who was brilliant among them. After I’d gone through ten faces or so, I was bored. Then I decided to sleep.
The next thing I heard was, “This one you’re sleeping, are you done?”
I woke up to find myself staring into the face of a huge man with biceps the size of my head. But he had a kind face, and as I replied him, “I’m done, but I don’t want to submit my paper yet,” he smiled and moved on. I stretched myself, checked the time and discovered that it remained only ten minutes. I went through my answers again, and decided to change two answers and then got ready for submission.
After we’d handed in our sheets, we all ambled out and started heading back. Luckily, I met a friend of mine, Bobby, who had also written and was heading back. We decided to go back together, and inside the keke, we discussed about the exam and the various answers to the questions. He also asked me how I’d come in, and when I told him how I’d come to the venue with my dad and the price of the conveyance, he let out an uncontrollable guffaw. After he was done laughing, I inquired about the reason for the laughter, and he told me that the man had cheated us. According to him, the normal price from school gate to Engineering was N150.
When we got back, I discovered that there were about four other friends of mine from St. Charles who had also written, and we decided to go back together. That was around four in the evening. We got into a restaurant in front of the gate for some light refreshments before leaving. I don’t know the spirit that possessed Bobby, but he took four Gala sausage rolls, two meat pies, and downed them with a bottle of Teem Soda. Then ad we were about to leave, he told us to give him ten minutes to meet a female friend of his who had also written the exam.
The ten minutes metamorphosed into an hour of waiting for a guy who went to meet a girl. We’d dialled his number countless times and he kept ending the calls. When he eventually came back, we were so furious with him, but we later laughed it off and boarded a bus.
As we were approaching Miracle Junction, a few distance from where we boarded the bus, Bobby whispered to me that he was pressed. Not urine-pressed, but shit-pressed. I couldn’t contain the laughter and immediately, and I told my friends. We all laughed our heads off and said that if we’d gone home since, he would have been enjoying himself in his toilet. My brother added to the insult by asking him if he wanted extra sausage rolls and drinks.
Within ten minutes of our journey, he started complaining and disturbing everyone in the bus. He asked the driver to stop him, but he quieted him down and asked the driver to ignore him, that there was nothing wrong with him. We knew the pains he was in, but we wanted him to pay for delaying us because he wanted to meet a girl.
Things got funnier when we got to the express where there were bushes by our left and right hands. One of us, Kenneth commented, “Bobby, welcome to toilet estate.” We all laughed uproariously and Bobby kept suffering.
Then as we got to Awkuzu Junction, some passengers alighted and as the driver was about to leave, Bobby shouted, “Driver, if you like your bus, stop this car now!” That was when we knew that he’d reached his elastic limit and couldn’t hold it any longer. We all joined him in telling the driver to stop. Immediately the driver stopped, Bobby gave me his phone, took his wallet and jumped into the nearest bush, while we laughed and continued on our journey
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