One of the major ways to know the end of the month is here, is when you make a sound in your account and the sound bounces all over, fading away in receding echoes. This affects each and every other aspect of your life.
The bleating of a goat, and not the usual cock crow, hoists me up from sleep. Lectures start by nine a.m, so if you wake up by seven or even eight-thirty (if you are a guy) then you’re on the right track. Now, don’t trust the sun or the sounds of animals to tell you what time of the morning it is, because the sun here is unlike the lazy one in the South. This is why as the annoying goat wakes me up and the sky although bright, I still pull out my phone to check the time, eight-thirty six. My roommate must have left me for class.
I dive off my upper bunk and land forcefully on my feet; a shock runs up my waist, before the shock subsides, I limp to the bathroom to get a bucket. The short journey to the snail tap next.
Two weeks ago, the old tap, which always gushed faster than the speed of a beer-filled man’s urine, started to leak, so it had to be replaced. When the tap was finally replaced, it trickled slower than the tears of an amateur actor/actress forcing himself/herself to cry. Apart from the speed of the old tap, another thing I enjoyed was that, the tap curbed every form of awkward silence that may ensue after the usual exaggerated greetings. In the regime of the old tap, conversations went like this:
Me: Hey Chairman/Baba! How far?! (Chairman or Baba is used not because I pay them so much homage, but because I really do not know their names)
Chairman/Baba: Boss! (He too doesn’t know my name).
Before the awkward silence sets in, my bucket outpours, and I’m off to my room.
But now/this morning, conversation(s) goes thus:
Silence. The tap trickles. The trees whistle. There is a bird piping a popular tune? Two young boys chasing a herd of goats. Some students already hurrying to class.
Me: So you too dey fetch water for here?
Bro: Ha ha. Sure..
Silence. A bronze coloured millipede forges its path with its thousand legs. The smell of the leaky soak-away settles in our nostrils, we cringe. He glares at me, thinking it to be my fart. A lizard slithering blindly hits the millipede, the millipede coils in defence. The lizard flexes it muscles and goes on a spree of pressups. The sound of water trickling in plastic. The sound of water trickling in…and that’s when I remember my bucket of water. The bucket is half-filled, but I decide to take it that way.
Me: Ok bro, we go see now!
Now at the beginning of the month, I am usually a kind of Dangote, so I drink either bottled water—or pure water—and use same to brush. But now, I take out that large bowl I bought from Gamzaki, use its bottom to scrape the surface of the water from my bucket and scoop a full bowl from the scraped portion. The fact that I use the same bucket to have my bath and flush the toilet becomes long forgotten. I down it all in one gulp. I take another measured scoop to brush my teeth.
The month’s end is also that period when provisions usually finish, even things that do not finish monthly, choose this period to do so, I remember this while squeezing a tube of toothpaste with so much superhuman strength to twist iron bars; it spills out a small splat. At least, it would be enough to cleanse my mouth from yesternight’s meal at Mami.
Mami Market, as the place is hardly called, is where we students buy our meals. Mami is basically a two-lane-road-sized sandy aisle flanked with different-sized drab-looking bungalows. Among these bungalows are bukas, a shoe repair store, provision stores, a pharmacy store (where they have record sales of cough syrups) etc. At the dead of night all these become the den of lovers.
The bukas in Mami are kind of ethnic based without meaning to. Nkiru and Collins take their fair slice of the Ibo students. There is Akwa Best, for the Calabars, Akwa Iboms etc. (rumours are rife that the so called beef eaten there is actually dog meat, but that’s none of my business). There is also that Hausa place packed with the hausas, where it is so easy to get lost in the labyrinth of their language. Then finally there is Iya Yoruba. The advantage Iya Yoruba may seem to have is that she is fluent in both Yoruba and Hausa, so she gets her fair share of both ethnic groups. And did I also mention she got an award last year, from the Students Representative Council, as the Best Eatery of the year?
I usually eat in Iya Yoruba and yesternight was not an exception. There is nothing spectacular about the interior: four rectangular tables on both sides of the rooms, each with their own chairs and benches, creating a walking space in the middle. On the extreme end of the left side, we have the counter where food is usually served, and on the right side, there is a television permanently tuned to kiddies’ shows.
In all these bukas, for every plate of rice, you’re entitled to a piece of meat and a sachet of pure water which is just two hundred naira, but that night I was with just one hundred and fifty naira, my last cash, which is enough for just a plate of rice without meat or half plate with meat, and I was famished.
I entered Iya Yoruba around that time of night when I’d be the only one there and almost or all of the pieces of fish and meat would be finished. I began holding my cheek like I was down with toothache, and put on a matching expression. I told her to serve me a plate of rice, as she was about to put meat, I stopped her saying I have toothache and can only chew something soft, like fish. I was certain she didn’t have fish. She didn’t. That was how I ate yesterday.
Now back to the bathroom, I pack all the remainders of my used soaps, deep them in water for a few seconds. When they become a bit soft, I mould them into one.
Five minutes later, I’m out of the bathroom, with my blue towel wrapped around my waist. The last of my bodycream has gone with yesterday and I have to cream to prevent that whitish skin look. I look around, a bowl of margarine; the smell of butter may betray me, I skip. Then after a quick search for a cream-substitute, my eyes rest on the anointing oil my church gave me before going to Kano Law School…
To reduce the amount I will have to spend for ironing later in the week, (iron is contraband here) I settle down for the same white shirt I wore yesterday. But it is kind of dirty; it is in times like these, suits become useful. Don’t be fooled by guys in their suave suits, it is merely a cover for hiding ‘recycled’ whites. If you want to know those who wear recycled whites, just check the collars or the cuffs, you will find all the proof you need.
I step out of the room suited up, the scent of olive oil suppressed with my roommate’s perfume.
One good thing about the month’s end is that, it is then I remember I have a mum somewhere. I bring out my phone and flash her three times. Five minutes past nine. I speed-walk to class hoping she calls before I get there. And if she doesn’t, the half bag of garri in my Ghana-Must-Go should prepare to get off the reserve bench.