“Nothing is quite ever as you dreamed it.”
Black women never have pink-tinged cheeks when embarrassed or so the lie goes. Because what else would I call the colour of my cheeks when I discovered that the new face of mortiﬁed was me?
My ﬁrst dose of mortiﬁcation came in form of a short, Igbo man with a loud voice. He drove a keke with the school’s name printed in small letters at the back, a means that I hoped would take me to the Science Village where fresh-year science students were supposed to be having classes.. The lingering taste of ﬁrst freedom was still on my tongue and my smile could have blinded the sun. I was ﬁnally in the school of my choice after two years of continuous writing of exams, away from my parents. I had stars in my eyes and an overload of conﬁdence.
I boarded the keke and sat on the left, wanting to ﬁll my eyes with the scenery. I told the short, Igbo man in what I thought to be clear, precise tones my destination and relaxed to enjoy the view. This was probably why I didn’t notice at ﬁrst that he had stopped me at the Art Faculty and was waiting for me to alight.
“Is this Science Village, sir?” I had asked.
“You said Faculty of Arts, that’s where you are.”
But I had said Science Village. Hadn’t I told him I was going to Science Village?
“Madam, bring money. You don’t know road? We passed Science Village on the way here. Your mouth, it couldn’t open to talk?”
His loud voice attracted attention and embarrassed, I quickly paid, alighting as fast as I could, not wanting to be subjected to what I had heard was ‘fresher’s disgrace’.
You couldn’t afford to not know, Gbenro, my best friend had told me in Lagos. He was in year two at the University of Lagos and had appointed himself my adviser on etiquette in school, however irritating that was.
Standing by the roadside, I asked a passing student how I could get to the Science Village and was directed to walk the way I’d come or simply take another keke. With 200 naira in my purse to last me two days but the hope of my father sending more money before then, I ﬂagged down another keke and this time, arrived the right place.
Using my timetable as a guide, I went to the lecture hall where I was supposed to be having my ﬁrst class, with its long, more-rectangular-than-square suffocating walls and proceeded to have the rest of my class.
It would be a week later before I realised that wasn’t where my department had classes and I had been copying the wrong notes all along.
To say I was embarrassed would be mild. I had failed Gbenro and his nuggets with a bunch of useless notes to even show for it.
But this is not the version I tell Gbenro. The version I give him was laced with perfume. I am the hero in that one.