Like every other Sunday in school, today was a major temptation. I’ll spare you the details and go straight to the point to say that I ended up holding BSM (bed side ministry). The time is 4:57pm and I am lying on the bed, answering a call from Bienta when I hear a tap on the door. I look up and see Ally. She looks great in her ankle-length black skirt on top of which she wears a peach coloured peplone blouse. Her dreads are held in a doughnut high above her head, with the sides covered in a multicoloured scarf.
‘Be my mirror,’ she says, ‘does my dressing go with these shoes?’
I look down to her shoes. It’s a pink coloured pair of sneakers with white edges. I am about to condemn a combination of black, peach and pink when I remember that the dominant colour in her scarf is pink. On a second look, she doesn’t look so bad…she doesn’t look bad at all. So I look up with a smile on my face and nod my approval. Satisfied, she leaves.
I am back to my call with Bienta. She is telling me that she is back from her trip to Kaduna for the weekend. She might come on to Campus to see me later. By the way, she hopes there is no class tomorrow? I don’t know. How won’t I know, shebi tomorrow is a public holiday? There should be no class now. I still don’t know. Anyhow sha, she might still….
I turn around to my open door. It’s a girl. She is tall and pretty. She has on a funny combination of denim on denim which seems kind of cool.
‘Hi,’ I respond.
‘I was wondering if you could help me.’
‘How? Come in, please.’
‘Please, I need a place to stay. Just from now till Thursday. I was asked to vacate my room.’
‘Ah ahn…vacate your room? Why?’
‘I was squatting somebody in my room. A few days ago she got involved in a misunderstanding with another occupant of the room which resulted in us going to the Security Office. Once they found out that she was a squatter, they ceased the room from me as punishment. I left and was staying in one room in the other hostel but the occupants of that room are complaining about my stay there. All my friends are also squatters because we are all not entitled to accommodation in the hostels this year. I beg you, please, just let me stay here till Thursday. Please….’
I listened with attention. All the time browsing my brain for excuses: reasons I will give her for not being able to render any form of assistance. It’s not that I did not believe her. Things like this happened all the time here in school. And, yes, her story was quite in place: according to the school authorities, squatting was not allowed in the hostels and it was assumed that all 300 level students were on IT and so were not entitled to accommodation. But how could I take in someone, a random stranger, someone I’d never seen or heard of before, into my room…just like that? Memories of the experience I had in my second year came rushing back like a huge tornado.
I had once stayed with someone when I was in 200 level. At that time, she was a year ahead of me and was not entitled to accommodation. She was in search of someone with whom to buy a bed-space and I was in search of space to buy as all my attempts to click a room for myself proved abortive. She brought up the idea of staying together and it sounded ok to me. So we bought a room for an amount that we both paid half for. Throughout that year I was to keep wishing I had never agreed to it and had bought a space of my own. I was in for an experience with my space-mate that would teach me major lessons of life. One time, Bienta had given me plantains from the one she had bought for the fasting period. At that point I was in a broke state. I could hardly afford #5 to buy pure water but relied on when my roommates bought water. I did not even have oil with which to fry my plantains so I asked my beloved space-mate if she would not mind frying the plantain so we’d eat. She agreed. She was a lover of sweet potatoes which she fried along with the plantains. When she was done, she put them all on a plate, came and sat on the floor of the room, invited everyone in the room to join her, minus me. I just laid on the bed, waiting for her to say something. I don’t know, anything. But she did not. So I asked her, where is mine? She did not reply. She just sat there, eating what I had considered lunch without saying anything. And that was how she finished it, and I starved for the afternoon. My roommates had been mad at me. Why had I not done anything? I only smiled.
Another time, I had been, as usual, broke. I wanted to cook but did not have kerosene in my stove. So I took the electric stove of my beloved space-mate and started my cooking. A few minutes later, she came in. She did not talk much: she wanted me to remove my food from her stove immediately. Haba! The food is not done, please just let me finish cooking.
‘No! The last time this stove developed a fault, nobody thought it well to repair it, but now that it’s in good condition, you want to spoil it again!’
Hmm… I will forever be grateful to Matu, another roommate of mine, for allowing me to use her stove to finish my half-done, undone rice. It was electric stove o, and we don’t even pay for NEPA o. Again, I smiled. Shebi I still chop the food?
Once, she wasn’t talking to me for days. I mean, she was keeping malice with me. She would not contribute if a roommate and I were talking or if the whole room was in a discussion and I was among. She would not answer me well if I spoke to her and would rather not have anything to do with me. It just got too much. I thought she would stop after a few days but when she did not, I Had to ask her if I had done anything to annoy her. Of course she said no. But I asked again, just to be sure. When, for the second time she said I had done nothing, I forgot the issue. We all have freedom of speech and you get to choose who to or not to talk to. A few days after that, she began to talk to me. I still smiled.
These are just three instances of what I had to go through with someone I thought I knew. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I was a complete saint and had no shortcomings of mine. I am sure she would have a few complaints also, but I doubt that I had the mind to do the things she had the mind to do. These things are rank high in evil, biko. You can never imagine what a person is capable of doing, just like you would never know that on days when I have nowhere to go, I don’t take my bath till evening…lol.
When you begin to live with someone, you begin to see aspects of that person that you would never imagine. Surprises would spring up and you would find yourself asking yourself where you got this person from. Sometimes, someone you are trying to help would turn around to do some ridiculous things that you cannot just understand. Princess, a friend of mine, once told me how a girl she was squatting, someone who practically begged to be allowed to stay with her, was going around telling people that she was in fact the real owner of the space and was squatting Princess. Another friend told me how she squatted this lady who would never go down to fetch water but would use the one fetched by my friend. She also never cooked or washed plates or even bought foodstuff. Haba! Why should a person become a parasite for goodness’ sake?
I am not saying that every squatting story goes the same way. There are some people who are able to balance the scales in their staying together, and I find that really plucky. I know a few people who stayed together once, enjoyed the experience and decided to continue to stay together even after changing rooms. But I found out that for someone I did not know well, that arrangement was not for me. No!
So here I was. Faced with the plight of a ‘helpless’ girl. I could help. But I really did not feel led to. Plus, this was a total stranger! Nigeria is not a place where one easily and readily offers such help these days. I could never tell if she was really a Boa who would swallow me at night. Or if she was going to cut off my head at night for ritual purposes. Or if we would sleep and I would become a pile of money…..or I’ll awaken to see that she was a pile of money. Or if she was an angel who would save me from my perpetual brokeness. Or if she was on a mission to find a nice wife for one rich Yoruba prince…..I thought a million things in a matter of seconds. But my mind was made up. I could not take the risk. If she was an angel, then let a worthier girl, a genuinely nice one, enjoy the goodness she would bring. But I? I am not that nice. Sorry.
I am a Nigerian graduate documenting the perks and pains of being a graduate without long leg in Nigeria while also contributing her quota to make the world a better place. Lets be friends on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You'll find me there as Naijafreshgraduate.