Good morning to you all. No plenty words today. We’ll be having Campus Tales straightaway. But before that, you should like to know when exactly my electronic chapbook is coming out. Should I tell you? Yay, it is tomorrow! Watch out!
Remember this series ends tomorrow too (shebi na forerunner? Ehn-ehn, hin work don finish be that). Don’t worry, the chapbook contains the best collection of campus tales. Don’t tell anybody, but I’m actually posting the least interesting of my stories as this Campus Tales series. The most juicy ones, as a matter of fact, are tucked away in the chapbook. Common sense. Do you see why the chapbook is the real bomb now?
Enough said, enjoy Campus Tales 3!
On campus, night is always a period to anticipate. But for some months now, I have mandated myself to return to my room before 9.00 pm every day, unless I want to read overnight in some place. I was compelled to make that decision after a particular unsavoury experience.
On one of those days when I still attended church services very often, I stayed back in church because the pastor had earlier called out a list of conceivedly bright students, who he would like to see ‘briefly’. I was more than happy to be included. I would later discover that the essence of the meeting was to help organise tutorial classes for the newly admitted students on behalf of the fellowship. It was a most unwelcome assignment, considering my tight schedule as a medical student, but I had to oblige him at that moment. When the meeting was over, the pastor suggested that Brother Stephen escort me halfway home.
“Haba! Pastor, I’m a big boy na. There’s no need for that,” I declined.
It was a starless night, but the road was not so deserted as I sauntered into the streets by 10.06 pm. In fact, the make-shift cafeteria at the T-junction in Satellite Phase 2 was still teeming with students, as they jostled with one another to buy plates of rice for dinner. I could even perceive the mouth-watering whiff of suya, as the mallam turned it on the grill. Soon, the lively street was behind me.
Gbi! Gbi! Gbi! My chest thumped as I reached the notorious dark corner. Then I heard it.
“Heez! Guy, jog down here!” an intimidating baritone boomed from nowhere. I ignored the summon and hastened my steps.
“Chai! Omo, e be like say the guy deaf sha,” a hoarse voice piped.
“Mr. Pastor! I say get your fucking ass down here!” The voice had now become firmer and louder. I perceived I was the said Mr. Pastor because of the bible I held. With my head bowed, reciting Psalm 91 to myself, I turned in the direction of the voice.
“Go-od ev-ening,” I stammered.
“Pull ya cloth, Mr. Pastor! Make you pray for us naked. Shebi na dat kain prayer dey get fast-fast answer, hun?” the hoarse voice interrupted, tongue-in-cheek.
They were five altogether. Two of them were of average size, while the other three had well-built biceps and barrel-chests that were more pronounced in the tight black vests they donned.
“Please, sir…” I started pleading, almost at the verge of weeping.
Two of them burst into laughter. One had a handkerchief wound around his head, and I sensed he was the ringleader. He walked over to my side and used his index finger to raise my jaw. Our eyes locked. Then he brought his other hand that bore a stick of cigarette to his lips, drew in the smoke and puffed it in my face. A violent cough seized me. There was more laughter. He worked his way down to my belt, and attempted to loosen it. He paused, giving me a mischievous smile.
“Which one you like: make you pray for the boys naked or make you settle the boys?” he asked.
My shoulders dropped in despair. The message was clear. It was either I gave them money to buy more cigarettes and alcohol or they stripped me naked! I wanted to remind them that I was coming from the house of God, and so would not encourage anything that would progress the kingdom of darkness, but I thought better of it. Their menacing faces were enough to make me understand this was no joke, neither was it a time to assert my piety. I dipped my hand into my pocket and did the only wise thing. A crisp note of one thousand naira exchanged hands, and I became a free man again.
“Baba o! Pastor sef dey give boys shayo money these days. O boy, we all dey go heaven,” one of them shouted. They jeered at me. I bit my lower lip as I scampered away.
Back in the safety of my room that very night, I resolved nothing would ever make me walk on the campus streets any time later than nine. I had remained faithful to that resolution until last night.
Ade, my roommate, had been feeling feverish for some days. I had advised him to go to the school clinic, but he would not hear of it. When his condition became critical and he could bear it no more, he tapped me awake last night and requested I take him to the clinic immediately.
10.41 pm, my phone screen read. I could not turn down his request, for it was a matter of life and death. So, I mustered courage and prepared my mind for the worst, as I helped him into the thick night. Ade’s left arm was around my neck, and I supported him with my right hand propping up his back.
On our way, I had my ears pricked up and turned at every slight sound. But I didn’t need to be so tensed and alert, because nothing seemed to be outside the ordinary on our way to the clinic.
Ade was admitted at the clinic for intensive medication, and I had to make my way back to the hostel all alone. Perhaps because I had long restrained myself from late movements on campus, I had forgotten that, although the night could be filled with terror, it could also be a moment to stir up and express the innermost feelings that define us as humans. The first sight that caught my eyes reminded me of that.
Obscured by the darkness that reigned at night was the silhouette of a young guy and a lady facing each other. Though I could not make out their faces, their body frames were definitive enough. The young man’s head bobbed up and down and his hands cut awkward patterns in the air. Twice, I saw him cross his hands and place them on his chest. The lady had an aura of calmness around her, one that suggested a foreknowledge of what the young man was driving at, one that caught all his words and attempted to weigh their sincerity.
More of such spectacles greeted my eyes as I made my way back to the hostel. I wondered if that was the first time the young man was professing such, or whether it would be the last. I wondered whether the lady believed or dismissed them as the empty words of another cunning man. The coziness of that atmosphere had done something to me ; thoughts of Bolade, like electric current, coursed through my veins. I longed for her.
“Heez! Guy, jog down here!” A baritone voice that sounded distant but familiar jolted me out of my reverie. I turned. Five guys in black vests- the fifth with a handkerchief wound around his head and a lit cigarette stuck between his lips- stood behind me. I was at the notorious corner!
Not again today! My brain signalled to my legs. My hands fanned out like wings. I broke into a mad run. Dust trailed my steps.
***The series continues (abi shey na ‘ends’) tomorrow. Aww! But chapbook go dey sha. Hooray! ***
First published on Levitatenaija.com.
Written by: Omoya Yinka Simult
Twitter handle: @omoyayinka