In Botwe, the night before Speech Day was homecoming night, when our seniors who had made it into the university, came in all their glory with their smartphones and cars.
They came to do outrageous things and tell us outrageous stories; there was one year I even heard a senior brought a prostitute to sleep over in the dorm. The seniors always left us with vim to come enjoy all the ridiculous freedom in university.
You can imagine how nice the idea of freedom was to us SHS students, who were chased by teachers with canes to class, chased with canes to assembly, chased everywhere, really, like we were in some Jet Li action movie that never ended.
So obviously, when I went to the faculty on Wednesday, I wasn’t expecting any stress. The only things in my bag were my china phone and an old exercise book that I’d used in Botwe.
I asked around – and that was a struggle, ’cause everyone was busy running in and out of labs to submit assignments on time – and I was told my class was on the 4th floor.
Fourth! So in the event that I was late (and I would by all means be late), I would have to do a mini-marathon just to get to class? My room was on the 5th floor and my class was at the fourth. Was the universe actively trying to keep me from gaining weight?
By the time I got to my floor, I was panting a little and my shirt was a bit soaked at the armpits. I could only hope that the deodorant I’d bought wasn’t fake. I suspected it was, though. It had been 2 cedis. I wiped my face, composed myself and prepared to enter my class for the next year.
The class size was huge: it was a lot more than the 150 or so students I’d been expecting. Ei. I knew there’d be some extra protocol students, but, wow. Amazing. I looked around for a while, deciding where to sit.
After a bit of walking around, I found an excellent seat at the far right of the class. It was at the far right, and it was behind a pillar, so I couldn’t be seen, but I could see the board. There were two boys next to my seat, talking animatedly.
In case you’re wondering why I didn’t go sit by a girl, well, pharmacy was hard, by all accounts. Why distract myself with someone’s daughter when the lecturer was already confusing me? No please. Boys were good.
Also, I didn’t want some girl to tell me something like,”I’m sorry, but this seat is reserved for the next thick tall fine boy who approaches. I can’t be sitting with broomstick like you,” and disgrace my life.
Just as I sat, a middle-aged man with a paunch, walked to the front of the class.
“Good morning…..Good morning. Can we have some silence in here? I said good morning!”
Ei. Why all this emotional shouting this early morning?
The class was quiet now, and he resumed.
“My name is..”
He turned and wrote “Dr. Osman Ankaful” in loopy handwriting on the board.
“You may call me Dr. Ankaful, or Osman. I am in charge of your class for this year.
“You’ll likely not have any class till Monday, although there might be labs. Other lecturers will be coming in to introduce themselves, so stay in class. You’re warmly welcome to this faculty. Here, we work hard and..”
I zoned out after I realised he wasn’t teaching. The man spoke with a lot of choppy motions with his hands when he got excited. “…so I’m in the old block. Any problems concerning you, you can come and see me. Except financial!” And the whole class laughed, like every teacher on this planet hadn’t already exhausted his joke. Then he left.
The rest of the day was much like that, introductions to lecturers and Association executives. The only thing of interest to do was stare at other people, so I did.
The boys in the class were fast o. About half of the girls in the class were occupied with one or two boys. Only the girls sitting in front were alone. They looked like they had no time for nonsense.
I’d heard rumors about Wesley Girls’ people in university, like they always got up and said, “thank you for the question,” when asked a question in class, (but what if after all that finery you went and gave a wrong answer? Hm.) and also that they sat in front, so I guessed they were the serious ones in glasses sitting in the first row.
I could guess where the people from Prempeh and Owass were; I could hear some violent Twi being spoken somewhere at the back by a group of boys, discussing football, one of those endless arguments that nobody ever wins.
After about 2 hours, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d woken up at 5’oclock and prepared myself just sit here and do nothing? What kind of nonsense was this?
I picked up my bag and slung it over my shoulder. I was getting up to leave when the bespectacled boy tapped me. I think his name was Morgan.
“Ah, you’re leaving?”
“Yeah. Abi there’s nothing going on. I’m going back to sleep.”
He thought about it briefly, then he took his bag. “You’re right. Chale let’s go erh?” He said to the guy he’d been arguing with. The guy just shook his head. Morgan shrugged and we left.
We took our time walking out, because there was no adult to be seen around anyway. We were almost at the stairs when we heard,
“Are you in second year?”
It was a very obviously adult male voice.
We froze. We looked at each other and I could tell we were both considering sprinting down the stairs and fleeing; the guy hadn’t seen our faces. After a second I just turned around.
It was an old man in a black shirt. “And why are you leaving?”
I decided honesty was NOT the best policy here.
“Well, sir, I was asked to come back today to complete my room registration, so I had to skip the last two periods.” I had already fixed on my innocent look before I turned around.
He looked at me for a few seconds, then, “Okay. But this is the last time you’ll do this. Understood?”
He strode off across the corridor.
I almost laughed with relief. My heart had been beating like I was being hunted. That was very very close.
I turned around to ask Morgan why he hasn’t said anything, and there was nobody there. While the man had been distracted with me, he’d fled. I started laughing. There was no loyalty nowadays o.
I took my time, after that. I had permission, after all. I hadn’t slept properly at all the previous night, because i had to wake early to prepare. I was in a hurry to get back to my bed; I had catching up to do. So when I heard a female voice calling out, I wasn’t very excited.
She was standing by the gutter in front of the faculty. When I got closer, I could tell it was definitely a student. Whatever she was, she wasn’t staff. She was in skinny jeans, a low top and pink sneakers. I doubted lecturers dressed like that here. She looked very hurried, like she’d run all the way from her room.
“Are you in pharmacy?”
“Yeah I am.” I injected some bass and quickly slipped my China phone into my bag.
“Ah, so the lecturer didn’t come?”
Ah wait. This girl was in pharmacy? All the girls in class were dressed like they were going for interviews, and here this girl was looking like she was late for a P.E. lesson.
“Oh lecturers came, but nothing happened. Introductions and all that.”
“Hoh. And they told me there was a lecture going on! This is the kind of silliness I don’t like o. I’ll come back next two weeks.”
A girl after my own heart! I laughed and said, “Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone will come to class tomorrow.”
She smiled at me. “So you, your parents have brought you to school, and 2 hours of class naa you’re running away. Is that how your life is?”
For a split second I got defensive at how brazen she was, then I realised she was just trying to be funny. I played along.
“Oh, me? I’m a serious student o. There’s a serious emergency-“
She laughed, “If you’re going to lie, you’ll have to do better than ’emergency.’ We’re not in high school anymore.” True, true.
“And why are you in suit and tie like you’re going to evangelize?”
Oh chale. The tie wasn’t even mine o. I borrowed it from Abdul.
“Ah, weren’t you here when the guy was blasted for being dressed informally?” I asked.
“No. When was this?”
“Aahnn registration. That’s why. I haven’t registered.” I was baffled. This was a whole new level.
“But registration is closed.” I said, my bafflement clear.
She smiled again. I would come to know that smile very well. “Is it? I’ll find a way to register. Those three days, the sun was too hot for walking.”
Friends, at this point I believe I was halfway in love. I liked to think of myself as someone who skimmed the rules a little bit, but missing registration? I did not possess the testicles for that, please.
“Wow okay. Good luck getting that done. Anyway, so the dean insists we dress like this everyday.”
“Ah, so I now have to go and look for skirt? Is this missionary school?”
There was a tiny bit of silence, and then I said, “I’m guessing you’re not going to the class, then?” She laughed and shook her head.
“Well I’m going back too. Which hall are you in?” She sized me up very quickly and then, “I’m in Repu.”
I was elated that the girl was in my hall, but honestly, even if she had said she lived 30km away, I would’ve said “Oh wow, me too! let’s walk back together.” Because where again would I find this chance? Me, that the only girl in my call log was my mother?
I composed myself. “I’m Otu, by the way.”
She smiled. “Jennifer, but I don’t like the name. Call me Naa.” Oh fine, fine.
She continued with “You don’t have any English name? Your parents did not try for you,” and I laughed. It was true. I’d argued with my father over this many times. All he said was,”Oh I can stop paying your school fees, then you can go and find your own name. It’s not a problem.” Obviously there was no way to win that.
We walked to Mecca Road, speaking all the way back. I could not believe my luck. Maybe things were beginning to turn around for me.