I bobbed to the music bursting in my ears as I walked to Miss Grace’s office. I thought of different excuses to give for missing her quiz. All the excuses I had thought up were not credible enough to let her give me a make-up test. In my four years in the university, I had never missed a class. But the first time I happened to miss one, I also missed a quiz.
I wondered if she would listen to me. Once or twice, there had been complaints about her being the most difficult lecturer to deal with in the department. It was suspected that it was her single status that was eating her up.
I greeted some students that were standing in front of Doctor Nweke’s office. There were always students clustered there, like they were guarding him. I believed that he derived some kind of sick pleasure from seeing students standing there.
There were rules guiding the staff offices. The first one said “Do not linger around the offices.” Of course, that rule was totally disregarded by the students, not because they loved breaking school rules, no one loved standing by corridors wasting precious time that would have been used to do something more important. Rather it was because there was always a need to linger around. If you didn’t, you may have to wait for another time before you meet the lecturer you were in search of. If all lecturers kept to the timetable, it would have been easier for all the students. At least, you were sure that if you go at this particular time, you would surely meet the lecturer. But, one had to go through a series of questionnaires with the course representatives of different classes before deciding when to go and wait for the lecturer.
“Did Mr. Nweke say he is going to teach you today?”
The answer was usually, “No.”
“When did he say he would teach you?”
And the answer usually bordered along the lines of, “He said he might come next week Tuesday,” or “He didn’t say anything.”
Next week Tuesday, you were waiting in front of his office, with the hope that he would come to school. If you were lucky, he would be in school that day. But the bigger chance that you wouldn’t see him that Tuesday or the next Tuesday.
Miss Grace’s office was beside that of Mr. Nweke. Unlike the weary soldiers standing in front of Mr. Nweke’s office, there was nobody standing in front of her office. I knocked on the door and opened the door.
“Good afternoon ma.” I stood by the door and waited for her invitation to go in. She looked up from what she was doing and waved me in. I closed the door behind and went in.
“Good afternoon ma,” I repeated.
“You can sit down,” she said.
“Thank you ma.” I sat down carefully.
“So, any problem?” She closed the book she had been reading and looked up at me, “Oh, Gideon? You missed my quiz last week?”
Yes ma,” I said unsure of which excuse to give her. She looked at me expectantly. “Ma, uhm… I had to …erm… I had to travel to—”
“—your village because your grandfather died. Or is it your granduncle?” she cut in.
“No ma, it’s not like that.” I hadn’t even finished talking and she knew what I was about to say.
“I see students like you everyday. It’s either their grandparents that died or their uncle, some even go as far as cursing their parents. That lie is redundant, it cannot fool me,” she said.
My heart sank with trepidation. I could only resort to begging. “Ma, I am very sorry. It wasn’t my intention to miss the class.”
“Yes, I know that. You are one of the most intelligent students in your class. I was really surprised when I checked the attendance and saw that you were among the students that missed that class. And to think it was when I decided to give a surprise quiz.” She shook her head in disappointment.
“Ma.” I couldn’t give up. Although it had been a surprise quiz, it had also been an open one. It was part of our continuous assessment taking up about 20 marks. I couldn’t miss that opportunity to increase my GPA. If I missed 20 marks, that was equivalent to losing my chance at getting an A or a B in the course, because of course the exams were about 70 marks and no matter how intelligent I was, it was almost impossible for me to get 70 or even 69, even 68 would be a blessing to me in this regard.
She opened her drawer and brought out some documents. “Take this documents for me to the secretary’s office. When you come back, I will see what I can do about your case.”
Relieved, I took the papers from her. I was sure that when I came back she would give me the make-up quiz. Thank God I read, I thought as I almost jogged to the department office.
In no time, I was back in front of her office. Imagine my surprise, when I knocked on her door and got no reply.
“She has gone,” a student standing near the office told me.
“Eh?” I looked at him with a frown. “But she was here a few moments ago.”
“She just left now,” he said as though it was a normal thing. No, it was indeed normal. This was no new occurrence.
“She sent me on an errand. Are you sure she has gone? Like, you saw her leaving with her bag and her car keys?” I looked at him.
“Ah, guy, they tell you say person no dey and you no wan believe. If you like stay there and keep waiting,” another person cut in.
I found it really hard to believe. This was someone who promised to review my case when I come back, why would she disappear all of a sudden? What was I supposed to do. I had always heard of it, but this was the first time that I was experiencing it. This was something no student wanted to experience. Once you got into this kind of yawa with lecturers, it was difficult to extricate yourself out of it.
The next day as early as 8am, I was already standing in front of her office. I was not ready to miss any chance. Well, if only things worked out the way my simple mind had imagined. 9am passed and there was no sign of the slim-bodied fair teacher. 10am, my legs were already getting tired but my ‘will’ was strong enough to keep me waiting. 11am, still no sign of Miss Grace.
By 12am, my stomach had joined my legs in the protest against waiting for Miss Grace. Well, my ‘will’ was still strong, and so I stood for another one hour. My ‘will’ soon gave up. She wasn’t going to come. I dragged my tired and hungry self to the faculty canteen.
We had another class by 2pm and I wasn’t sure if my poor brain could stand a two-hour lecture after the stress of standing in front of an empty office. For the first time, I wished a lecturer would miss his class. I was always among the students who complained whenever a lecturer missed his class and sometimes even threatened to write a letter to the school board reporting the lecturer. Funny how situations can change our opinions.
After a satisfying meal of jollof rice which I had downed with a chilled bottle of Sprite, I went to the class.
When the course rep announced that class had been shifted to the next day, I could hardly conceal that feeling of joy that filled my mind. That was until the thought of Miss Grace crept into my mind. I debated between going home and waiting for Miss Grace. Of course the good student in me won, and I found myself right back in front of her office.
This time, I didn’t have to wait for a long. Some minutes past three, I saw her, leather bag clutched in one hand as she answered a call. She moved carefully, placing one leg in front of the other. I willed her to move fast, to realize that someone was waiting for her. After ages, she finally got to her office.
“Good afternoon ma,” I greeted, hiding my dissatisfaction.
“Oh!” She looked surprised to see me. “Gideon? Why are you waiting in front of my office? I hope there is nothing wrong?”
I blinked. What was going on? Had she forgotten that I met her yesterday?
“Ma, it’s about the quiz.”
“I’m so sorry. I totally forgot. Something came up, so I had to leave school early,” she apologized. If I was new to Nigerian lecturers, I would have believed her. She opened her office. I followed her in.
“You don’t have a lecture today?” she said as she opened up the curtains and switched on the AC.
“We were supposed to have Mr. Matthew today, but he shifted his class till next week,” I said drily and sat down without waiting for her invitation.
She noticed my action, but said nothing. I took in a deep breath of the cold air coming from the AC, a reprieve from the heat I had endured standing outside.
“Can you help me buy something from the canteen?” she had settled down opposite me on her leather chair.
I wanted to say no on instinct, but I remembered that I was at her mercy now, and so I grudgingly stood up, taking the money from her. I made it a point to leave my bag in her office, with the hope that she wouldn’t disappear on me again. I was tired, but I made it back to her office in record time.
“Thank you,” she muttered taking the chilled bottled water from my hand. I sat down. And waited for her to address the problem that brought me to her office. “I’m going to give you the chance at the makeup test,” she said. “But, not without you giving me something.”
The excitement that her first statement brought, was doused by her second sentence. How much did I have to give? I had never had to pay for my grades, not even when I had gotten E in French when we were in Year One. A lot of my coursemates had paid to get A and B, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But this was different, this was a departmental course, a 3-credit load course. French, not only had it been an elective, it had only carried a credit load.
I brought out the four thousand naira I had withdrawn on my way to school. The money I had wanted to use to buy a pair of new shoes. I stretched my hand to give her the money. “Ma, is this enough?”
She looked at the money, and then shook her head. “I don’t need your money. Do I look like I need that?” She stood up from her table, and walked around it to the door. She locked the door, and closed the curtains. Then walked towards me.
I froze as she sat on my legs and put her hands round my neck. I could feel my chest swell from the feelings that assailed me.
“Ma,” I pushed her away. “This is wrong.”
“Don’t you want to take the makeup quiz?” She raised her brows, and pulled me up.
She kissed me, blocking out what I wanted to say. “Just kiss me,” she said grinding her waist against mine.
I didn’t want to. I honestly didn’t, but with all her twining and touching, I couldn’t control the lust that overcame me. And so, I did as she said. I kissed her. I took her in the office, the AC blowing against us, her skirt bunched at her waist. And when we were done, the smell of our act filled the office. I was filled with a sense of shame when I finally realized what I had done. I had sex with my lecturer so that she could give me a makeup quiz. I couldn’t even lift up my face to meet her.
I felt her hand on my shoulder. “I didn’t do this for the quiz.”
I stilled. Then why? I thought. Why let me do this?
She put her hands round my waist and rested her head on my back. “I will let you write the quiz. But you have to… this thing between us, I want it to continue.”
“What difference does it make? Isn’t it the same? I had sex with you to get a better grade.” My mouth was dry. I just wanted to go home, and wipe out the evidence of this sin.
“This is the first time that I am sleeping with a student. I am not like other lecturers. It’s just that… this time, I… I just felt really desperate. And when you came yesterday, I just had this thought. I’m single, I’m lonely. Forget about sleeping with me for grades, I just need a male companion now,” she explained. She had let go of me and returned to her seat.
“I am your student,” I reminded her.
“Next year you wouldn’t be,” she countered.
“You are older than me. And I may have my own girlfriend. What makes you so certain that I would listen to what you say?”
“But you will, won’t you?” she smirked at me. “I can make it so that I will be your supervisor for your final year project. I am the course adviser for this department, in case you forgot.” She was smirking at me.
“I can report you,” I tried weakly. I knew she already had me. We had already done it, what more did I expect? She sure wasn’t going to play nice. She only smiled at me.
“Are you in or not?”
“Do I have any other option?” I said drily.
I watched as a smile spread on her face and she stood up again, this time pulling off her blouse.
I was aware of the wrongness of it, but I was at a point of no return.