He could say he knew the future, seeing as the same things happened every day. But Kosi had found to his increasing agony, that repetition did not make misery any more bearable. His bucket filled and he bent to turn the tap off and lift it. Drawing his towel tighter across his shoulders, he carried the bucket and followed the traffic.
As he did every morning, Kosi thought about how much his life had changed as he entered into the open space that passed for a bathroom here at St. Dominic’s Nat. High (‘for boys’ was silent). His bathroom at the house in Manchester popped into his mind, with its glass cubicle, gleaming tiles and holders for everything from toothbrush to bathrobe. It was not right that this place bore the same title. He found it funny that he had never given much thought to things like hot water and personal space before coming here…now he thought mostly of their absence.
He dodged the other guys splashing water and shouting to each other as he made his way to his usual spot at a corner. There were shouts of ‘Jando’ as he passed. He threw his towel and underwear over the water-soaked cement wall partition separating the bathroom into 2 halves and placed his bucket between himself and the shallow gutter that went through the middle of each half of the bathroom.
He felt the wind on his naked body more acutely now as if it had sensed an easier prey. He opened his soap can and took his sponge and bar of soap in his left hand, with the bigger part of the can (now his bath bowl) in his right.
The first pail of water was the thing to overcome. Once you got that over with, you had finished bathing. But the water was ice-cold on an equally cold morning and the ‘bathroom’ was open to the cold wind coming through the space between the walls and the ceiling.
Now as always, he wondered if he really had to take his bath, to pour that deadly pail of water on his already shivering body. How much dirt had his body accumulated since yesterday morning?
Now as always, he cursed his father for sending him back to Nigeria, he cursed his Uncle Lawrence for recommending St. Dominic’s, he cursed himself for not having enough guts to run away as Ojo had. Alas, there wasn’t time to continue the litany of curses as the warning bell pealed. Lateness was not condoned; he still had bruises from 2 days ago…another pain the water would resurrect.
He was not a weakling. He was determined to prove his mettle as he poured a little water on the sponge before soaping it up. He would not be called an ‘Aje Butter’…and with that thought, he dipped his bowl into the bucket, gritted his teeth and tipped the contents over his head.