Room 25, Block ‘B’, Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall
“Our Fears are our Demons;
The battles we fight daily,
And with every retreating step,
We lose a bit of us to them.”
“Mac, where is Tony?” Sola, Tony’s classmate residing in Block ‘C’ asked me as soon as he walked into my room.
“Tony?” I asked, looking up from my phone, “I don’t know where he is. He just left the room now.”
“Chai!” He exclaimed, stomping his right foot on the ground.
“What is it?” I asked him, concerned.
“He is with my lecture note nah!” He replied, “And I want to read it overnight…”
“Hmmmmm! Jackometer!” I teased.
“Actually, I’ve got a test tomorrow.”
“Oh…oh…” I said, remembering something, “I think you should check the reading room. He is likely to be there. I saw him carrying three books when he was leaving the room.”
“What do those books look like?”
“I think one of them is the AFAS package we received last session; another looks like a Higher Education notebook…”
“That’s mine!” He said, cutting me short.
“Ehn…Ehn…?” I asked, “Then, you can go to…”
Just then, my phone started to vibrate, stopping me in the midst of my statement. I glanced at the screen. It was a call. An unknown number.
“Errrrr… Sola”, I called him, not looking away from my phone’s screen, “Check him at the reading room like I said earlier. You should see him there. I want to pick a call.”
“Okay boss. Thanks!” He replied and started to walk towards the door.
He was already out of the room and was closing the door when I remembered that I should instruct him not to jam the door.
“Don’t jam the door! Don’t…” I said hurriedly, looking towards the door, but it was too late. The loud sound of the door banging against its frame coupled with the clicking sound of the door lock fitting into its place in the frame was what met my ears.
I sighed heavily.
I have been locked inside the room, without any hope of escaping, unless one of my roommates comes around. The door lock was a bad one. Once it is jammed, the only way to open it was to use the key. The lever on the lock itself was spoilt ever before the room was allocated to me. Because of this reason, everyone in the room took their personal key about; to avoid the situation I was in at that moment.
However, Tony had lost his own key and since then, had been sharing mine with me. To complicate my situation, he had taken the key with him, to wherever his never-resting feet had led him.
“But why in God’s sweet heaven does this boy have to carry this key around with him?” I frustratingly wondered aloud. “Blast those porters!” I continued.
I had gone to the porter’s lodge several times, with my roommates, to complain about the lock and two of the electrical sockets in the room that were not functioning well. And every time, all we get is “Don’t worry. Write it down in that complaints’ journal. We will attend to them soon.”
“Their ‘soon’ is never-ending.” I thought grimly.
The continuous vibration of my phone against my right thigh jolted me back to reality. Same unknown phone number. I had forgotten that someone was dialling my number.
I took my phone hurriedly and picked the call.
“Where have you been?” was the first statement I heard from a distantly familiar voice from the other end. I had a feeling I knew who was speaking but I could not place a face to the voice at that moment.
“Where have I been…” I repeated, unsure of the answer to give to the question.
“Yes. I have been calling your phone since. This is the third call.” The Voice said.
“Oh! I am sorry. I was attending to some things.” I apologized.
“No problem. How’re you?”
“Errrr… Fine. You?”
“Not bad. Do you know who you are speaking to?”
“No. I was just about to ask you that.”
“Precious…Precious…Precious…” I repeated continuously, trying to remember which of the ‘Preciouses’ I knew, was speaking to me.
“Precious, the lady you met at the pool last Saturday…”
“Oh! Precious… It’s you…” I exclaimed softly.
“Yeah. And I’m sure you don’t want me to complete the rest of the story …”
“Of course. You don’t have to”, I replied, laughing, “But how did you get my phone number?” I asked, wondering how she could have obtained it.
“Never mind”, She replied, “It doesn’t matter. All that do matter is that I am speaking to you right now and thanking you sincerely for saving my life on Saturday.”
“Oh! That?” I asked, “It’s no big deal. You’re most welcome…”
“It’s big deal to me. And you know the funniest thing?” She asked, pausing a bit, “It is that you seemed to disappear after the incident.”
I laughed softly.
“Yeah. Sorry about that. My clothes were wet and I had to go back to my hostel to change into dry clothes.”
“So, how’re you now?” I asked her.
We both laughed. Then, there was a brief pause of about five seconds.
“Please, what is your name?” She asked.
“Mac”, I replied, sighing.
“What kind of name is that?”
“Trust me, it’s a long story.”
“Oh! Okay. I’ll save it for another day then.”
Another brief pause.
“Look”, I started, “I know no one could have given you this number unless Tony did.” I persisted.
“Tony did give it to you, right?”
“Well…yeaaaah…” She replied reluctantly.
I made a mental note to give Tony a knock on his head for that.
“He did. Any problem with that?” She asked.
“Oh! None at all.” I replied, smiling and hoping the smile would reflect in my voice.
“Okay. Ehmmm…where are you presently?”
“Why? In my hall.”
“Are you busy?”
“Good. I was wondering if we could just hook up and hang around together.”
“Why?” I knew the question sounded improper, but I found myself asking all the same.
“You know…nothing much really… I’d just like to see the face of the guy who saved my life.”
“Oh. Actually… I kind of have something to do in like twenty minutes. I want to meet someone for a group assignment.” I lied.
“O-kay then…” She said.
I noticed that her voice dropped a bit.
“No problem. We can always hook up some other time, I think.” She concluded.
“Of course!” I replied, forcing a false eagerness into my voice.
“Okay Mac. Look, I am really grateful for what you did for me on Saturday. I cannot thank you enough.”
“It’s alright Precious. Don’t mention it.”
“Okay then. Take care of yourself.”
“Yeah. And you too.”
There was a brief silence before she ended the call. Just then, Tony opened the door and walked in. I simply rose from my bed, went over to him and gave him a hard knock right in the middle of his head.
“Ouch!” He exclaimed loudly, “What was that for?” He queried.
“That’s for giving my phone number to a stranger…”
“…that you saved.” He said, before bursting into hard laughter.
“It’s not funny, T.Y.! You know I don’t give out my phone number to people just anyhow.” I retorted, wondering why he was laughing.
He stopped laughing.
“I know and I’m sorry. But see, I could not resist it even though I tried. The lady is something else. You would have given her the phone number yourself if you were with me on that day.” He said apologetically.
“I know right…” I said, grimacing, “I just finished speaking with her on phone. She wants to meet me.”
“And I know you won’t meet her, under normal circumstances. I think, my friend, that you are the one who is something else.” He said, shaking his head slowly.
“Tony, you know we shouldn’t be discussing this.”
“Okay! Alright.” He said, shrugging.
Car Park, University of Ibadan Gate
“Dreams are Memories,
Memories are Dreams.
They invade us,
We invade them.
They dwell with us,
Every single day of our lives.”
“Kuti; Bello; Zik! Kuti; Bello; Zik!”
“Queens Hall! Tedder! Mellanby!”
“Abadina! Ajibode! Abadina!”
The mixed cries of the cab and bus drivers soliciting for passengers at the University gate car park had always been the soothing sound that welcomed me back to campus from the enduring boredom I fight at home.
Mother had called me on phone the previous night, to come home and get some foodstuff to supplement the rapidly depleting ones I had been trying to “manage”. Even though there was always the excitement of getting to see my parents and siblings again, these feelings wear off almost immediately I set my feet on the entrance to our home street. Home was a bungalow built in a supposed “developing” residential area, more like a village, at the outskirts of Ibadan, which had no regular electricity and had no hope of having it in years to come. So, it was always easy for me to feel depressed anytime I spend more than an hour at home, away from campus.
I breathed in the stuffed air as I walked through the cabs and buses lined-up, waiting for their turn, at the park. I carried two heavy sacks of foodstuff and I was sweating profusely in the hot sun.
“Brother, Drop!” A cab driver said to me, gesturing with his left hand, behind the steering wheel of his cab.
“No Sir”, I replied, shaking my head.
I made my way down to where the Zik cabs were waiting in turn and got into the one loading up passengers at that moment. I was too stressed up by the heavy sacks I carried, to look at the faces of the two passengers already occupying the backseat of the vehicle. I whispered a greeting, which I was quite sure they could not have heard and settled down into the seat by the left window. Before long, the car was full and the driver started the drive to the promised locations.
A feminine voice started to sing a popular song, softly, beside me. I knew the song quite well, so, I started to hum it alongside the voice, while I looked out the car window.
“Mac!” The Voice stopped singing and called my name.
I turned to my right side immediately. The face that met my sight was familiar but I could not remember where I had encountered it. I deliberately forced a questioning look on my face.
“Sorry…or are you not Mac?” The lady asked me, looking uncertain.
“I am…Mac”, I replied, “But I’m sorry, I can’t really remember where I met you.”
“It’s alright”, She said, scoffing, “I’m Rebecca. The friend of the lady whose life you saved at the pool…”
“Oh!” I exclaimed softly, “I am really sorry. I have a poor memory for faces.” I apologized.
“…and voices too, obviously.” She added.
“So, you were the person singing. I didn’t know.” I said.
“You didn’t look beside you.” She replied simply.
I smiled again.
“Alright, but you do have a good voice.”
“Yeah… People have told me that, several times.”
“And I’m telling you yet again.”
A brief pause.
“Where are you going?” I asked her.
“Balewa Hall. I want to meet my cousin who stays there.”
“Me?” I repeated.
“Yeah. Where are you going?”
“Oh! Zik. That’s my hall.” I replied.
“So, you’re one of those mischievous guys?” She questioned.
“Yes, I am.” I answered, smiling, “And I’m proud to be one.”
That moment, the cab negotiated the bend along Manuwa Drive, which led to Tafawa Balewa Post-Graduate Hall gate.
“Balewa!” The driver called.
“Ówà Sir.” She said.
The cab stopped and she started to alight from it.
“How did you know my name?” I asked her, suddenly wondering how she even recognized me.
“Precious called you on Thursday, remember?” She replied and walked off.
Room 25, Block ‘B’, Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall
That night, while I was laying my bed, to sleep, a text message came into my phone, from an unknown number, and it read:
“Becca said she met you today, in a cab.
How did your day go?”
“Precious”, I said to myself and I proceeded to add her phone number to my contact list as “Saved Life”.
“My day was fine.” I replied as I lay on my bed.