I’ve been telling this chronologically (as it happened) but my sequential memories of the events are almost exhausted. It means after this one, I should be able to focus on my just favourite bits.
Do you remember where I ended two weeks ago? I told you that I tried to contact Tanya after I left the field but failed.
Now back to the story.
I had yet to complete my registration but had already begun to hear warnings, getting close to threats of what would happen to me if I didn’t finish ASAP.
So immediately the parade practice ended, I rushed down to the place where the registration was taking place. The queue there was quite extensive and curved in many places, easily occupying the entire space in front of the building. It took a leap of faith for me to walk to the very end of it and take a spot.
I soon saw that it was a special type of queue. Namely, over time instead of getting closer to the front as you would expect, I was moving backwards. Progression did not depend on how long you had patiently waited or when you joined the line. All that counted, was who you knew in front and your willingness to shunt.
Just so you know, now and many more times in camp, queues rapidly degenerated into unruly, chaotic crowds barely one step above violent mobs. Our combined higher education degrees did little good, were no use.
Eventually after a couple fruitless hours, I knew I had to leave. Threats of punishment or not, there was no way, I’d be attended to that day.
Tired, thirsty, frustrated and lonely, I slowly climbed up the sloping road, each step a conscious, tasking effort. I raised a hanky and tilted my face to dry up pools of sweat but it was futile. All of my body was drenched.
When I looked back up, my eyes for no particular reason darted to the right and fixed on the girl walking down towards me. She was dark, she was slender and she’d tied a white scarf over her hair. Even though the sun’s rays were heavy, merciless and unyielding on me, I saw no trace of heat or stress on her face as she gracefully approached.
She seemed to be staring at the ground as she walked and it made me wonder if she was shy. I like shy girls. Even though they can seem difficult and very hard to reach, if you manage to get through to them, earn their rare trust…it can be truly wonderful.
What I am about to say next is something you will not believe and I do not blame you.
Soon, I got close enough to peer into her pristinely sculpted face and that’s when I noticed it. She shone. As in, her skin visibly emitted a mild glow despite the brilliant five o’clock sun.
I know what you’re thinking but I wasn’t delusional, drunk or dreaming. Also my mind was weary not unconscious and I still know what make-up looks like.
Time was quickly running out, I was largely alone on some stretch of a road looking at a girl that seemed totally my type, who had exquisite facial features and if all those weren’t enough reasons for me, her skin was also literally glittering. Put yourself in my shoes, what would you do?
I know what I wanted to do, I could feel the chemistry, the connection but sadly, the maths…the logic didn’t add up. See, I could see that I was clearly attracted, yeah and I wanted to solve the ‘mystery’, like ask ‘omo, wetin dey make u shine?’ but, I was way too bored, sweaty and mentally exhausted (from my busy day) to think of the right words to say to her, or be willing spend any extra time under the sun talking, for that matter.
In addition, please remember that I had just met the cute (‘portable’ actually, according to her) and friendly Tanya a day before, who was also not bad-looking at all and I didn’t want to ‘complicate things’ so even though it was so hard to suppress my interest and curiosity, I decided not to let her go without saying a word. When she slipped past me, I couldn’t help frowning and even (unconsciously) clenched my fist, reflecting the intense struggle in my mind. I thought I had ‘done the right thing’ but looking back, it was a horrible mistake, one that I came to pay dearly for.
The next day was the swearing- in -ceremony and in some way, a baptism of fire. For a few hours, I was forced to stand in the ranks with my colleagues, under a heat that was so terrible, that many corpers, male and female looked up to heaven and beseeched the great God to let, rather make them faint. The only way our jailors…I mean soldiers, would let us leave before the ceremony’s end, was in a stretcher. I made arrangements with people nearby on how to handle me, if I fainted and then closed my eyes and prayed fervently…but unfortunately, I did not lose consciousness and my suffering continued. Eventually, the Guest belatedly arrived and the ceremony began. I don’t believe I heard a word of the NYSC oath or national anthem but I can hardly be blamed. By that time, I could no longer sweat for all my perspiration had long evaporated. But I did hear the last line of the national pledge,
“…so help me God”
With or without my assent, I had just become an official property of the Nigerian government and I would need the help of God.
*This continues next week…if you enjoyed this, you can follow my blog by email so you get notifications of new posts