About three weeks or so after lectures had started, serious lab work was underway, which meant that on most nights I was preoccupied with lab manuals.

But what are lab manuals, you ask?
Allow me.

The average KNUST student finishes lectures and goes back to their room, free to sleep, wake up and (maybe) learn something small and still have enough time over to pursue some extracurricular activity (or an extracurricular someone), and have something of a social life. You know, the expected university routine.

But, no. Our leaders at our prestigious faculty sat down and asked, “Is there any way we can further waste the time of our students? Make sure they only have about 3 hours of sleep every night?”

And someone else said, “I have an idea! Lab manuals!”

So everyday, when we’re done with (long, tedious) lectures and about 3 hours of lab sessions, we have one or more lab manuals to fill in our rooms, a process that takes up about an hour to 3 hours, depending on how well you want to do, and also depending on how you’re doing the work.

I used to actually trek all the way to the library, then spend hours looking for chemical equations or some similar nonsense, but after a while, some of us couldn’t stress ourselves anymore. We started copying from other lab groups. By “we,” I mean, like, 80% of our class.

So in the faculty, about 40 students actually did the work, and the rest of the entire class just wrote diluted versions of the same thing. The Teaching Assistants marking our work didn’t even have the energy to protest anymore.

I know it seems like copying made our workload easier, but skillful copying could be just as time consuming as research.

It wasn’t all bad, though, I had to admit. If it was nothing else, it was an excuse to go talk to Naa.

I would say Naa and I had gotten close enough by this point, but I couldn’t really tell. She was one of those people who was friendly with literally everyone. You’d think you were making headway when in reality you were firmly stuck in the friendzone.

It was risky, but I suppose it was even part of why I liked her. You couldn’t get too complacent around her. I liked how her risqué attitude complemented my cynical laid back outlook on things.

Maybe you’re wondering why I had been in school just two months and my attention was focused on getting a girl. In spite of all my talking, I didn’t really have the time, energy or money for a girl right now, but Naa was special. She made me want to make it work.

So everyday after class I went with Morrison, the guy I sat in class with, to Katanga, and finished my manuals there before coming back to my room. At around 8, after I’d slept and woken up, she would come to my room for us to do her labs and learn together, or I’d go to her room.

We would talk for over an hour about anything; recent books we’d both read, which movies were overrated, weird thought trends going on outside the country, ourselves, everything.

Some of you might say she was only using me because she wanted to dab my lab manuals. To those people, I say; is it your problem?

At least I was getting to vibe the girl. Some boys use guitars, some use lab manuals. Not all heroes wear capes. And to be honest, with the excited way we spoke, it was a bit difficult to believe it was all so she could use my lab manuals.

One particular evening we were trying (and failing) to learn anatomy. That subject was so boring, my goodness. Even the old man who taught us always looked bored. I mean, how much interest can there be in telling me, “Oh, and the carotid artery is relatively small in diameter..” It is small and so what would I do?

Anyway, so after a while, Naa tapped my knee.

“Hey. Let’s go out.”

My heart jumped into my throat. I opened my mouth to test if my voice would work. Ei, what was this girl asking me? Wasn’t it the boys who usually asked girls out? I was left with only 100 cedis in the school o. I didn’t have money for KFC dates, Lord.

“G-go out?”

“Yes, out. Let’s go and learn at the parade grounds, the room is stuffy.”

Hoh. Tsw. Was that how to ask a question?
I composed my face. “Sure, sure.” I needed the fresh air anyway. This girl, scaring me like this.

The weather was cold outside, and we spent half the time looking for a decent place to sit. It was like every group on campus was having a meeting that day. We gave up after about 20 minutes of searching, and just roamed, chatting.

A part of my brain kept tapping me on my shoulder like, “Ei boss, mid semester exams are next three weeks o,” but I ignored it.
Everything was heady and nice, like in those movies, and then I heard Katanga boys from a distance.

If you’ve been in a boys’ school (and even some girls’ schools) you’re familiar with the concept of “gyama.” It’s basically intense, violent cheering that boys used to do at sport programs, shouting songs, mostly profane, and a lot of common chants. Every school had a few people who were a bit too enthusiastic about gyama.

Now imagine a whole hall full of these people. Sometimes, out of nowhere, a huge group of them would set off from their hall and parade through the whole school half naked, chanting, shouting. Occasionally they would run into a group from Konti (another boys only hall) and there would be a lot of posturing and shouting and drama. Even violence, sometimes. It was all fun and interesting to watch when you were at a safe distance, but not something you’d want to be too close to.

I was saying something about a Johnny Depp movie, “Oh he’s good-” and I heard a loud blast, like a shotgun. I knew it was Kat people, but if you weren’t used to the sound, it could be very scary if Naa shouted and held my arm tightly.

Brethren, all my fear at that point simply disappeared. Young love is a heady drug eh.

I started crossing the road with Naa on my arm while the Kat boys were still in a long line, stomping their feet, shouting. Halfway across the road, I walked in front of one thick tall Kat boy, and he almost bumped into me. I looked up to face. I hoped I had sufficiently hidden my terror from my face, and it must’ve been convincing, because he didn’t do anything, and we just passed him by. When we got to the other side, I slowly let out my breath and checked to be sure I was alive.

“Oh my God, Otu! That was so brave!” She unclenched her hands from my arms, and she hugged me. My head swelled to twice its size. “But if that Kat boy had attacked us because of you ehn, the way I would’ve kicked you,” she laughed. Sometimes she laughed at weird things.

I laughed and said, “Ah, it was nothing. We’ve seen worse,” in what I hoped was a glib tone. The rush I was still feeling was pounding in my head like a high. The shouts of the Katanga boys were still ringing in my ears like background. A bit of a crowd had gathered in front of “Repu” to watch them.

She locked eyes with me for a second, and smiled. “Mm. Maybe you have. I’m impressed.”

The Lord is good! All the time!

I don’t know about you, but at that moment I felt like I was practically out of the friendzone. And if that wasn’t enough confirmation, when I walked her to her room, she hugged me for a few seconds before going in.

I floated all the way back to my room.