I’d been sitting on my mattress for about an hour, when my first university roommate entered for the first time.
Now, I’d tried to give up on the school and have no expectations (because KNUST had proven a total disappointment in every sense), but come on; I couldn’t help it. From 2 hours ago when I found out I was going to have 3 roommates, I’d been thinking. The ideal mix of roommates would be:
1. An intensely Christian boy who was doing a serious course and wouldn’t have time for aimlessness, and would wake up every Sunday and drag me to church with him.
You see eh, my heart was in the right place, but my Saturday evenings were spent watching series late into dawn, so I usually woke up by midday, at which point any thought of going to church was far gone. A Christian boy to guilt me into (occasionally) going to church would be appreciated. I’d taken one upper bunk. Hopefully he would be the one below me. Below, not above, so I could roll out of his reach on the Sundays I didn’t want to go.
2. A pampered prostitute who brought about six nice girls to the room every week.
Rich because, well, money makes everything better. Hopefully it would make me look better too, from his kindness. The prostitute part was purely for survival reasons. Back in high school I’d (wrongly) assumed I would have something of an attractive body by now, or at least a nice phone or something to make me socially appealing, but no no. I spent the first 2 months of my WASSCE vac gaining weight and watching series, and the last month and half losing the weight I’d gained from worrying about my results. By the time I arrived in university I looked like I was straight out of high school. The way I saw it, the only way to get girls was that one would keep turning up to look for my roommate and eventually have pity on me and talk to me. Pretty solid plan, eh?
3. The third person could be anyone as long as he didn’t steal. or do ridiculous things like fart loudly at random. It really didn’t matter as long as the first two came through.
So when I heard a knock and an attempted opening of the door, I was pretty hopeful. In stepped a skinny ( skinnier than me) boy with glasses, carrying a light brown bag at his back. He just strolled into the room and set down his bag on the bed below mine, before looking up to me.
“Yo, what’s up. I’m Abdul.” A Muslim. Well, this one would obviously not be sending me to church anytime soon.
“Yo, chale. I’m Otu.”
“Alright, alright,” he rubbed his palms together. He had a very mischievous air about him. “You just came?”
“Oh yeah. My father dropped me off.”
“Aye saa,” he laughed, “Pampered boy eh? Your father brought you.”
I could already tell I wouldn’t like this one.
“Oh naa. School fees and those things,” That sounded limp even in my own ears. It wasn’t a valid excuse; I could’ve paid myself. Although the day my dad would let me handle 13000 cedis of his money would be in his will, after he was dead, maybe. Even then I wasn’t sure.
He nodded and stood for a while, staring about the room (he didn’t seem as horrified as I had been), then turned back to me.
“Yo, so what course are you doing?”
“Pharmacy o.” At least pharmacy made me sound serious in life.
“Eish saa. You’re a shark eh. I applied for pharmacy but I didn’t get an A in English, so they bounced me. Gave me nursing.”
The boy had 7 As. Well. This was awkward. I didn’t even get 6.
“Are..are you sure? I heard they even gave it to some boy who had 5 As o.” I said hopefully.
“Ei saa? Abi that faculty dier it’s money they want. But you got pharmacy, that means some solid 8 As bi, anaa?”
Awkwarder and awkwarder. I made some noncommittal noises in my throat that sounded like “yes” and smiled modestly. In court I could always say I never opened my mouth to say yes.
He pointed to the laid bed. “So someone is already here?” I nodded. “Ei and look at how he’s laid his bed. Me, I didn’t even bring bed sheet o.” Maybe I would like this guy after all. This was my type of person.
I’m what I call “charmingly untidy.” I came to SHS with a trunk and chop box and a bag for extra clothes. When I left 3 years later, I had just a chopbox half filled with books and the uniform I was wearing. Last I saw my trunk, the tailor was using it as a tabletop. My mother came to pick me up, and she wasn’t even very surprised.
Abdul nodded like he was thinking about something, then he abruptly said “Chale, I dey go register ehn,” and took off. He left the bag he’d brought. He’d come up 5 sets of stairs, didn’t seem worn out, and had just taken off again. Was he on steroids?
Judging from the accent in his english and the size of his bag , I guessed he lived in Kumasi.
So, not a crife boy, and not likely to be a prostitute. That was one slot gone.
I didn’t have to wait very long for the next one. A few minutes after Abdul left, there was a huge clamour of noises on the corridor outside; snatches of conversation and groaning and sounds of an obviously heavy bag being dragged.
The door opened and a middle aged woman stepped through. I was confused for a second, and then a man followed, dragging the heavy bag behind him. The woman was carrying a polythene bag, and a handbag. The guy was thickset with a slightly receding hairline. These were not exciting candidates for a roommate. The woman stepped slightly aside to allow the guy to drag the bag inside, and smiled kindly at me. “Good afternoon, my son.”
“Good afternoon, Ma.” I was still puzzled, but I wasn’t raised to be rude.
“We have brought you a new roommate,” she continued, still smiling.
The man? You brought me a man?
The guy was apparently done with the bag. He turned and sat on a bed, and panting slightly, said, “He’s on his way eh-” Oh so it wasn’t him, “-he’s bringing a suitcase. Ei boy, six floors is not a joke o.” I couldn’t disagree. Even carrying just my skinny body up the stairs would be a problem.
The door opened slightly, and someone more age appropriate entered. His face looked vaguely familiar. He stopped just inside the room and said, “Yo.” I nodded, still taking all of this in. The boy came with his personal entourage. I jumped down from the bed and offered the woman the only chair in the room.
She was talking as she sat. “This is my son, Jeffrey. He’s your new roommate,” with obvious pride. A doting mother; that was nice. From across the room, I looked about the same height as him. He was a lot thicker, although considering my size, that’s not saying much. He either gymmed or he was blessed with that deceptive fat. I glanced again at the humongous bag he’d brought, then the suitcase and the expensive looking watch.
A rich boy! Hallelujah! And he was good-looking too, so hopefully he was a prostitute too. Things were looking up.
“Jeffery, so what course are you doing?”
“It’s Jeff. And I’m doing QS.”
“Quantity Surveying.” Well. I didn’t know that was a course.
“Ahn okay. Me, pharmacy,” I said.
“Ayt, cool cool. Ah, were you in Botwe? You look familiar.”
Oh, so that was it; we were in the same SHS.
“You’re Otu, right? You used to walk with the dining hall prefect?”
Yes, yes, I liked extra food at dining so I went to attach myself to the D’ Hall prefect. It happens. Let’s move on.
His mother had lit up at hearing I went to Botwe. “Oh, so you have a brother here!” she said, looking at Jeff and then at me like she was seeing a previously unnoticed resemblance between us. It struck us both as amusing, and we laughed, and she laughed and everybody was amused. The older guy from earlier was still resting, breathing normally now.
“Well, we’ll take our leave now eh? Jeffrey, come out with us.” And he left, probably to collect money or teary-eyed advice on focusing on studies and not bringing girls to his room. Don’t listen to your mother, Jeff. I’m counting on you.
They didn’t come back for a while. The neatly laid out bed guy still hadn’t turned up, and I didn’t think he was going to for a while.
Oh, but this wasn’t a bad result for a day, at all. There was a possible prostitute in the room! My social life might just be looking up.