If you’ve watched Indian movies, I’m sure you’re familiar with that annoying part where the main character and his/her love interest dance around the forest and sing strange songs for about half an hour, like they don’t have jobs to do.
After the Katanga incident, friends, that was me o. Somebody that my father had paid almost 10000 cedis for education, I sat at lectures staring at the ceiling with an idiotic grin on my face, thinking about Naa, while the lecturer droned on about sodium ions and other strange things.
Back in my room, I’d attempt to read over what we’d been taught that day, but confusion would set in, so I’d skip over to this girl’s room. We would try learning for a few minutes, then put the books somewhere and talk, or just walk around for hours.
Oh, I was very aware of the stupidity that was going on, trust me. I was wasting valuable time on a girl, while mid-semester tests approached.
On the other hand: me, with my oversized head and malnourished body, I was getting attention from a gorgeous girl! I could be forgiven for enjoying this miracle.
That Friday, we were having math tutorials when Morgan tapped me.
“Ah. Are you okay? This whole week, you’ve been smiling like a fool. which girl has done you juju?”
He meant it as a joke, but he must’ve seen it on my face.
“Are you serious? It’s a girl?” He turned to Stephen, the guy on his left.
“Look at your boy o. He hasn’t heard that midsems are coming. He’s looking for a girl to chop.” Stephen laughed. He wasn’t really a talkative person.
“So, which girl is it? Let me see if you’re wasting your time.”
At this point I paused and considered. Morgan could spread it, and next thing I knew, it would’ve gotten to Ewura, some skinny girl who sat by Naa. That girl did not like me, at all. She felt I was distracting her friend, so i knew she wouldn’t spare me.
“Have you heard? That malnourished boy you’ve been walking with, I heard he’s trying to make moves on you. Can you imagine?” That would not end well.
On the other hand, Morgan and I were pretty close. We talked in class a lot, and we did all our assignments together. I didn’t think he would yawa me like that. So I told him.
“Eh? Ei brother, but can you carry that load? Do you have the wallet for that girl? Have you even been to club before?”
These were, sadly, all valid questions, and even more sadly, the answers were all a big no. I did not have the energy or bank account to keep up with her wild lifestyle. But I had vim, so I laughed his questions off.
“Oh fine, fine. At least come to the gym with me today. Try and get body small to improve your chances.” Morgan had been gymming for about a year now, so he was quite built. Maybe gymming wasn’t a bad idea.
He continued mercilessly, “Because with this body dier, oh no. If you’re out and she gets hurt, can you carry her? If the two of you get into a lovers’ quarrel, I’m sure she’ll accidentally beat you up and apologize later.”
And that is how I ended up at Queen’s hall gym.
“I know you’re thinking of those gyms you see in the movies,” Morgan had said back in class. “But this is KNUST. So calm your expectations.”
Morgan said he’d come later, and that I should look for the guy in charge, so I wandered around for a while, searching. It was hard: everyone looked brawny and old. I eventually found a guy who looked too old to be a student there, and he was in charge.
“Oh, so you want to keep fit? Welcome, welcome. Registration is 100 cedis for the semester.“
I almost laughed. I should pay 100 cedis to lift metals? Couldn’t I just find a car mechanic and become an apprentice to lift engines?
The guy noticed my hesitation and added, “But you can pay in installments. We will get you a trainer to help you out.” He paused and looked around. “That’s him over there.”
For the last time, I thought about just walking away. Didn’t I already have enough stress in my life, without worrying about gym?
But i remembered Naa, and I sighed. “Alright. I’ll pay it monthly.”
“Good, good. Come and see me after you’re done for today and let’s discuss details.”
The trainer was apparently not a very talkative man. When he started talking, I realised why. His English was very, er, unique.
“Okay, so you want body? Okay okay. We start with weight. You lift?”
I wanted to say, Lift what? Do I look like I lift? Instead I just shook my head.
“Okay okay. We start small one first. Pick that one.” He pointed to some tiny weights at the corner, stacked with some other weights. I went and picked those two. Hoh. They were light. This wouldn’t be hard at all.
He got me in position. “Give me 20.” I casually lifted the weights, then added an extra 10 reps. He smiled approvingly. “Okay, Okay, I see. Now, thigh building. Give me 30.” I sat behind some leg pushing contraption and started.
Chale, by the time I was done I was slightly winded, but man couldn’t look weak. I stepped off and waited.
“Oh, good, good! I see you are fit! Good boy! You are tired?”
I shook my head no, although my body was beginning to disagree.
“Okay! Pushups! Go down like this..”
After about 30 minutes of this, I was dying. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d just finished my third round of leg exercises, and I opened my mouth to tell him it was enough, but he interrupted me. “Now I think we move to medium size weights, eh? You are strong, you can do it. You don’t think he can do it?”
The last question was directed at a girl bent over, stretching her limbs. Apparently he already knew her, because she looked over and smiled.
“Oh yeah, sure.” She had a Nigerian accent. “You look pretty strong o. You don’t think you can lift 10 of those?”
I shook my head sorrowfully.
“Oh, Gyimah will motivate you, don’t worry sha. I’ve been coming here for weeks now, he’s good.” So his name was Gyimah. “Wait, are you in pharmacy? I think you’re in my class.”
Wow. What sin had I committed to deserve this? Someone from my class was here, today of all days, to see me sweating and panting like a woman in labour?
“I don’t think Gyimah will let you go o. You have to do it, or else you’re stuck here.”
“Eh?” I glanced back at the trainer.
His grin confirmed what she was saying.
Lord, why? Why me? Was this the price for being a prostitute?
I resigned myself to my fate and staggered to the back. I dragged the weights and got into position.
“Good, good! Now, thirty!”
Eh? Thirty what? Was he serious in life at all?
“Oh, Bra, I beg-“
“I said thirty! Start!” He clapped his hands twice in quick succession.
I bent down and lifted the weights up. After two lifts, the vim the girl had given me was long gone. By the time I got to twelve, I was openly panting and gasping for air.
“Don’t stop, don’t stop!” Gyimah had raised his voice in excitement, and now people were turning to watch. Obviously I could never set foot in here ever again.
I got to 19, and I couldn’t feel my arms anymore, but this man kept shouting, “Yes, 21! 9 left!”
At 25, my legs started wobbling. My throat had started making weird sounds with every lift, like someone was punching me in the stomach. I tried opening my mouth to beg, but my lungs weren’t working properly. What came out was a whisper.
“Pl-please…mummy help me…”
“5 left! You can do it!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed people had pulled out their phones to take videos. I didn’t even have energy to pretend to be angry.
By 28, I knew I wouldn’t survive this ordeal conscious. My vision had become blurry, and my legs were threatening to give out.
“29! Yes! Okay! One!”
At 30, I dropped the weights with a groan. I mustered a tiny victorious smile. I was turning to the girl when everything went black.
Later on, Jeff showed me what had happened, on his phone. Apparently the video had spread all around campus, and every detail had been captured.
Even the part where I was calling out to my mother to come save me.
After I’d blacked out, they’d roused me and I’d been escorted, half conscious across the entire hall, back to my room.
My life had ended.
Jeff kept tapping Abdul to look at the video. “Look! Look at his face here! He said ‘mummy, help!’” Then they would collapse with laughter. They did this the entire evening.
As at 9pm, I still couldn’t feel my legs or arms. I went to sleep with my shame. I didn’t intend to step outside my room for the next week at least.