Could it have been because of my age or shyness that made me shrink back when I saw the bully? The bullying senior called to me and I went to her with a bubble gum in my mouth. She said a few things that I did not understand; I still chewed my bubble gum. Then she said:
“I am talking to you and you are chewing gum? What an impudent junior student! She is just in year one and she is doing this?”
Before I knew it, I heard ‘Gbosa!’ A few seconds had passed before I knew it was my face that was being slapped yet I maintained an indifferent, quiet and defiant pose. She told me to go. Fine! My feet were already moving towards my class.
It is hard to be a quiet new student in a public secondary school where touts, apprentice prostitutes, full blown professional prostitutes, heavy weight boxers, hemp smokers and poverty stricken children over-populated.
This was during the late General Sani Abacha’s military regime. What did my 10-year-old mind know about politics or government?
Government to me, then, was a faceless entity represented by the head of state which made this crazy school available for me. It was during this period that I first became aware of the existence of stray bullets from armed robbers and careless policemen flying about Nigeria.
I was always afraid of that. Why shouldn’t I be when the street I lived in was rumoured to be a hideout for robbers?
It was rare for policemen to catch those illegal bread-winners since I heard from my neighbours that some bad eggs in the police force helped those robbers get ammunitions, safe business and even police uniforms in some cases. Other policemen had a culture of green card (that is, collection of N20 bribe from all commercial motorists at numerous unnecessary police checkpoints.
“Gbangaun! Gbangaun!! Gbangaun!!!” The bell for closing time rang.
Before the bell rang, the students had already clustered like bees at the gate in order to rush out of the school as soon as the bell rang. There was always tossing, pushing, screaming and even stealing at this time.
Why we were always in a hurry to get out then is unknown to me. While we jostled and pushed, we still hung on to our bags and friends. My best friend was a saucy dark-skinned girl called Biola. She always had something to say about an incident.
Once we were out of the hullaballoo, we slowed our pace and gossiped along the way till we reached the crossroad from which we would part from each other to get to our respective homes.
The house my family lived in was a two -story building consisting of two room and one room apartment rented by families ranging from six and above. My family of seven stayed in a one-room apartment on the first floor.
As I climbed up the stairs, I sang the Yoruba folk song: “Eiye meta tolongo w’aye/ Tolongo/ Okan dudu aro/ Tolongo/ Okan sese mowe/ Tolongo…” meaning “Three birds came to the world. One was black; the other was blue…”
I was almost on the first floor when I saw the blood on our doorsteps; I heard a scream and I saw him.
“Why can’t you just listen to me for once? See, I have a class by 10am and here u are in a female hostel at 8am! Oh God!” I screamed at Tony.
“Mabel, this is not a female hostel. It is a mixed one. Even if it is a female hostel, you and your roommates have always welcomed me here at any time. Please let me explain what happened that day,” Tony said.
I was on my room’s doorstep with Tony and I turned round into the room to signal to my three roommates to wear something before I let him enter.
They made faces at me while dressing up and Laura my bunk mate said: “See, lover girl, we don’t even have time to stay inside this room today. Abi you don forget say nine go soon knack and we get exams to write. We don already dey go. I get Chemistry 157 to write. You want make I write am again? After two times! I know you want to do human chemistry after we don go.”