It had taken a while to get into a routine, but my life had finally assumed a pattern. I woke up around 5 am, tried and failed to exercise, read over previous handouts, finished up on lab reports, raced to the faculty and got there usually around 7:56, panting.
Occasionally I would be halfway there and realise there was no point going to class at 8:40, so I’d turn back and go to sleep till it was 10:30 or something, but most days I made it.
Then I’d sit through 4 hours of staring at lecturers saying miraculous things I did not understand, then 4 more hours of lab, after which I’d walk back to my room to faint on the bed, wake up hours later to learn, continue doing whatever lab manual I had to write, and so on.
Somewhere about 11 pm, I’d wonder what exactly had possessed me to choose this demonic course. At about midnight I’d fall asleep. Wake up, repeat.
And this was the fun part! It doesn’t seem possible, but my weekends were actually worse!
So let’s say I’d gotten used to my life here, walking through it like a zombie, doing what I was supposed to do.
So when I woke up one morning to find a strange face peering at me, you can imagine my distress. What new problem was this? I almost shouted and jumped, but honestly I was just too tired. So I just shifted a bit to the side and sat up against the wall.
“Yo. Who are you?”
The face smiled. “I’m Ezekiel, your roommate.”
Oh, so this was the guy. The rest of us in the room had gained respect for this guy who had shown up to school to lay his bed on the first day and then taken off for two weeks. We’d placed bets as to when and if he’d return. And now here he was, too soon. Now I wouldn’t get my 10 cedis each from Abdul and Jeff. Tsw.
“Ahn oh welcome chale.”
(Why were you standing there staring at me while I slept? Are we married?)
“Ah so why are you now coming? You don’t live near here?” Maybe it was a tactless question to ask, but his coming at this time meant I’d lost a bet. My ten cedis and I were very upset, I had to ask.
“Oh nah,” His smile widened, “I’ve been around o. I’ve been coming to lectures and all. Occasionally I pass by, but no one is in the room.”
Ei. How was that possible? Abdul skipped class like the school was for his father. How could he not have met him in the room? I looked over at Jeff’s bed and then stretched my neck down to ask Abdul. They were both asleep.
Wait a minute.
I swung my head back to this boy very quickly. “How did you get in?”
“What do you mean?” He looked very surprised.
“I mean, the two people there are asleep, and I didn’t let you in either, unless I was sleepwalking. I’m sure the door was locked. So how did you get in?”
“Ahn oh. One time when you guys weren’t here I came in and took the key and went to make a spare.” He said this so casually.
Like, oh, no big deal. I’ve just been noiselessly coming to your room with a spare key to sit about while none of you are around. For a month.
“Andul! Jeff! Wake up!” I stretched over and hit Jeff’s leg. This weirdness was too much to process by one person who’d just woken up. Jeff sat up groggily stared at the bed for a while and rubbed his eyes, then “Ehn? Ah it’s 5. Why are you waking me up?”
“This is our roommate. The guy who hadn’t come yet.” His eyes shifted to the guy with interest and he seemed to be thinking about something. Then he suddenly smiled and said, “So I win the bet, right? It’s been a month. Where is my 10 cedis?” I was really hoping he’d forgotten.
I pointed at Ezekiel and changed the subject. “He has a spare key. And apparently he’s been coming here for a month.” It was only after I’d said it that I realised it sounded like an accusation.
To my surprise, Jeff didn’t even blink when I said that. “Oh, okay,” was all he said.
Then he followed it up with, “Ah, but is Ezekiel your only name? The sign-in book says our last roommate is someone called Dennis Awotwe.” I hadn’t even checked. I turned back to Ezekiel/Dennis. He looked slightly abashed at this point.
“Yeah, Dennis is my friend. The room is actually for him.”
Eh? What was this one too? Had I woken up too early? This was probably a bad dream.
He continued, “He signed in once and gave me a duplicate of the key. He won’t really be sleeping here a lot, so I’ll be sharing his bed.” I almost laughed when he said “share his bed.”
Perching was actually pretty common on campus. Your friend gains admission, but doesn’t come in time to get a room, so he’s basically homeless. You offer to let him sleep on your bed with you and hope he doesn’t have homosexual fantasies. When you’re bringing a girl over to spend the night, he finds somewhere else to sleep.
I’d even heard of some people who were career perchers. They could do 6 year courses and never pay hostel fees; just bouncing from one room to another. It sounded like an adventurous (but unsanitary) life.
I could understand people who perched in hostels; the rooms were quite large. But in the hall? This tiny room? This place that you couldn’t even slip and fall properly because there wasn’t enough free floor space?
I turned to Jeff again, but once again he just said, “Oh okay, welcome chale.” and went back to sleep. Was I being too paranoid? Ah well. It was out of my hands anyway. He’d been coming here for a month. If he was a thief he would’ve taken out things already.
I turned to him and said, “I’m Otu. The one there is Abdul. He won’t wake up right now, so you’ll meet him later.” He nodded and said, “Okay, okay. I was just passing by to drop off some things,” I looked down and realised there was a small duffel bag by his bed,”So I’ll come by later today to settle in. I dey go.” Then he opened the door and just left.
So ideally I’d been hoping for a crife boy who would succeed in dragging me to church like once a month, and instead I’d gotten a James Bond percher with a spare key. Tech and surprises. They were new every morning.
Just before I went back to sleep, though, it clicked.
“Yo, Jeff. This means our roommate has technically not arrived o. This guy is just a percher. In a month, you and Abdul will owe me 10 cedis each. You people should prepare o!”