“You have been assigned to MTH,” the porter said to me. Hostel porters are among the most powerful figures in the university system. They are not always very educated. But when you are assigned to a hostel, it is them that know where to put you.
Madam Tinubu Hall housed the ladies called ‘Ladies of Gold.’ I was sixteen but you would need be a soothsayer to predict my age. It was at the University of Lagos that I began to understand some slangs men used on ladies. I have a very attractive body which I never really knew until I entered UNIILAG.
I was embarrassed at first but when I talked to mother, she encouraged me to embrace my body and make sure I was confident in it.
I wasn’t given to nudity and I dressed moderately at all times. Room 202 was the crazy room. It had a reputation that preceded my admission into the room. It had been named ‘the crazy room’ and I soon got to know why it retained that name.
I was surprised to discover that Jamila was my roommate. Remember Jamila? The pinkish Cinderella? The same one. How nature plans itself is definitely beyond our understanding. I never knew that a day would come when I will meet Jamila again.
Catching up on about eight years of events isn’t an easy feat. Literally, it should take more than eight years to describe events of eight years in detail. She had a lot to say and I had the same too. We struggled to catch our breaths and our other two roommates wondered in amazement, what drove our excitement.
Jamila was admitted to study Business Management, while I was admitted
to study Economics. I had given up on my medical dreams and I guess, daddy succeeded in convincing me that the social sciences were the way forward. You need to understand that it wasn’t because of Economics that I gave up on studying medicine. I had already decided against studying medicine after I realized that I couldn’t stare at blood nor wounds for the
slightest amount of time. I shudder at the sight of injuries and would weep
uncontrollably when I see people bleeding profusely. I knew that being present at hospitals would expose me to these things I hated to see.
Economics it was. Jamila was in the same faculty with me and we were doing same courses for this period.
Jamila was no longer the pinkish Cinderella I knew. She was an upgrade. She sought attention like it fed her ego, obsessive and constantly on her phone. Most times boys came to our room, they were visiting Jamila.
Sometimes, I wondered if she was uncomfortable around girls or she coveted the attention of boys.
Jamila would brag endlessly about this cute senior colleague of hers. She wanted desperately for him to ask her out and has done a lot to grab his attention, but he would not look her way. Rayon, they called him and he was the smooth and perfect guy. Jamila believed he was playing hard to get and it was about time and he will fall into her trap.
I was new to this system and though I looked mature than my age, this definitely wasn’t part of the bargain yet. There was never a time I missed any lecture and I came to realize that this system was nothing like I have ever seen. It was a system where people lived dual lives. A system where you could be poor at home and live in affluence on campus. People whose ability to pay the next fee rolled with people whose parents could buy Nigeria; such stupidity in the attempt to belong. Most people lived in perpetual borrowing, just to be able to roll with the group of people they felt they belonged in.
There was this hostel they called Queen Moremi Hall. Girls in that hostel will always feel that they were the campus queens. They always had the best phones, wore the costliest outfits and rolled in cartels as I preferred to call them. It was in that hostel that you see all the expensive cars pack
in front of by weekends. It became a known fact that you can hardly count half the occupants of that hostel by weekends; where they went, no one knew. It wasn’t my business to ask either. Whatever they did with their lives and wherever they chose to go was none of my business.
A case went viral when one of those Queen Moremi Hall cartels had an internal in-room crisis. One of them was accused of snatching the boyfriend of another, and we got a free inside information about what each other’s family was. I realized indeed that life wasn’t as we often see it.
Jamila felt an affinity towards this group of girls. They attracted the bad boys in school and their cliques looked sophisticated. She had a few friends in Queen Moremi. She travelled most weekends and when she returned, she always had things I knew she couldn’t afford. Such was her attempt to belong to the powerful group of girls she admired.
“Pam, I got Rayon to tutor me on Introductory Econometrics, he will be
here by 2:00 pm to take me to the library,” Jam said, rather too excitedly.
“Hmmm, congratulations Queen Fisher, you are about to land a big fish in your net,” I responded sarcastically.
“Calm down mother Pamela, I haven’t asked him to be my boyfriend yet,” she replied, seemingly vexed by my sarcasm.
“Oh, Lady Gaga, I didn’t say you asked him out, or do you intend to?” She took her time and then responded calmly in pidgin,
“No be say I no go fit ask am out sha, na make we see as this class go dey.” Jamila was just two years older than I was and already taking steps some adults wouldn’t.
Her Rayon kept to time. It was as if he was the inventor of the timepiece. I was raised to the belief that timekeeping is a part of being responsible. I don’t know why people show up late for events. I can never find out because I am generally disinterested.
Let’s take an analytical approach to this time issue. Doesn’t everyone have the same amount of time daily? Even in Lagos where people have to be constrained by traffic, serious people will find a way around it.
Time management is about sacrifice. For you to have an abundant quantity of time, or have some to spare, you must sacrifice an amount of comfort. Say, for instance, mother would wake up by three in the morning to prepare for work so she could beat the traffic that would start as early as past six. People whose homes were closer than hers would also complain about traffic and it would drive mother crazy. People turn up early at any event that coming late would be detrimental. Late coming is a vice. We have to call it what it is. It is this unfortunate approach of suga-rcoating this menace that has made it nigh impossible to eradicate it.
When Rayon turned up, he was immaculately dressed. He looked like a better version of the Raymond I knew. He wore a blue jean, a red t-shirt, a black cap and wore a black sneaker.
“Oh my God” he exclaimed.
“Are you not that girl who refused to be my girlfriend in high school?” Ray asked.
“Are you not that boy that decided to embarrass me in front of the whole school?”
His attempt to hug me was bluffed. He was surprised and added that I hadn’t changed an inch.
“Come on, knock it off, smart boy, you don’t want to leave your purpose of coming here to chyke another girl, would you?”
“You will always be a smart girl.”
Here Ray stood, flesh and blood. Tall as a tree, fresh as new wine; he looked
freshly polished. His afro hair appeared sparkly and the sun did him justice because it brought a radiant flare to impress upon us the glitter of his hair cream.
All the while we conversed, Jam was amazed; mouth agape. She must have
wondered how we knew ourselves so well. When we calmed down, she asked,
“Don’t tell me you two know each other.”
“Fisherwoman, what does it look like?” I asked her.
Quick introductions and they set on their way. However, that encounter placed Ray on my path once again. A plot twist; here, a long-lost friend who is now my back into my life as a roommate and a long-time admirer whom my long-lost friend is seriously into.
Ray had another friend, Duke.
Duke wasn’t anything like Ray. He, however, was unique in his own rights. Sassy and always hyperactive. He was a joker who finds every opportunity to share a joke welcoming. He wasn’t dull academically, but he wasn’t the type that spent a lot of time studying. In a short time, we formed a formidable group; Ray and Duke, Jamila and I. It was an exciting group. Ray the all-around good guy, Duke the funny joker, Jamila the attention seeker and Pamela the straightforward badass babe who knows how to get what she wants.
Things went on smoothly and Ray made it clear to me that he was much interested in the relationship he had wanted since over a year ago.
By 2011 January, Jamila was nineteen and I was seventeen. Nothing about me looked like a seventeen-year-old. I got more attention than I needed. There was a time I got an unwanted attention from the head of a cult group that ended in scaring us to death.
Samba-X was what they called him. I had come to know that UNIILAG cult leaders looked smooth and clean. But this one was different. Samba-X was a definition of ruggedness. His clothes were mostly rough and street inspired, his team was all dark, scruffy hairs and he was always smoking.
I was having my brunch in the café. I fed on sandwich and a cup of coffee. This was a time in my life when I was almost having an addiction to coffee.
“Hey you there, come with us.” I recognized the dressing. The same unkempt mad dogs that followed Samba-X around.
“Why would I follow you?” I asked with a mixture of fear and wonder.
“You want to be dragged?”
“Dragged to where and by whom?”
“You be asking the question sweet talker, we be dragging you on the floor, you fool.”
“I think you need to keep going before I kick you ass,” I responded, seeming confident.
Tension was flying and it wasn’t necessary. I was waiting for my friends to show up and in the nick of time, they showed up.
Duke recognized their leader and asked what the problem was. They flowed in a language I wondered if it was English at all. Ray tried to interfere and received a slap that sent him crashing to the ground. He was squatted in that position for the whole period; hand on the cheek, head bowed in a stead guess on the ground.
Jam sat quietly, shaking like an ostrich that was saved from the sub-zero Antarctica cold. I could see that Duke’s diplomacy wasn’t working and getting pissed off, I thundered;
“Enough of this. I will not be cowed into following you anywhere. If anyone wants to see me, he or she should come here and see me. Anything other than that is completely impossible.”
The leader whom Duke called Banger-P was vexed. Trying to lay his hands on me, I gave him a shove that sent him the same way Ray went. He crashed on top of Ray, who gave out a sharp cry. He got up surprised. His gang was also in shock. We were drawing an attention they didn’t want either. When the security stationed at the café approached our position, they made a hasty exit with a promise to be back.
It was funny how their names had an alphabet suffix; whatever it meant. ‘Samba-X, Banger-P, Bragger-Z’ , their names often sounded belligerent.
I never knew that Duke was a cultist and that added to my shock. Confronting Duke, he made it clear that he wasn’t in for the evil they perpetrated, but had to do what he had to do for situations like the one we just experienced. I made an official complaint to the school security and I was assured that I was overreacting. They promised to look into my complaint and I never got a feedback.
That brush with danger made me wary of those groups of boys. They were troublemakers and would beat up boys who dated girls they were interested in. Rumours had it that some students were missing just because they refused to stop seeing girls these cultists had interest in.
To compensate for my non-involvement in most social activities, I made sure that my grade point averages never came second to any. The least I had was a 4.72 and though I was sad, mother was proud of me and father too. Though he seldom stayed at home, he called as much as he could. Father had gotten busier than I have ever known.
The 2011 general elections were coming up and they had succeeded in convincing father to contest for the governorship position of Abia State. Though mother wasn’t happy, she wouldn’t stop praying about it. Mother would tell me “I pray to God every day to change HB’s mind; his mind seems fixated on this.”
Father was of the breed that see politics as a means to an end. While people saw political offices as a means to enrich themselves, father saw it as a means of getting into positions that would empower him to carry out social emancipation of the people. He rued the great void that stood between the elite class and the lower class. Mother saw everything about politics as evil. People entered politics and became devilish. They murdered oppositions, stole money and their lies had not limit.
To be continued…
- Emmanuella John, the Christmas Princess is the third child of seven children. She is a writer, who writes poems, prose (fiction and non fiction etc) and a little of drama. She also writes articles on different topics.