Story by WarWardPikin
I’m of the opinion that sleep is sweetest from 4am-6am. The exact period that life sometimes demand for most of us to wake up.
So it was with tears in my eyes that I woke up the following morning. I was always the last person to get up from bed, myself and one guy named Ramsey (named so after Ramsey Nouah, for his good looks). I noticed Ramsey because we both stayed on the top bunk, and any time I woke up I’d observe him fiddling through his things like he was looking for something, but I noticed that he wasn’t really doing anything – more like biding his time. Long after I was conscious I would still remain in bed with my eyes closed, aware of everybody else preparing to leave the hostel, cursing both the sound of the bugle and the person speaking on the PA system.
I would eventually get up and prepare in record time to join everybody else. But in my mind, this had to stop. I had to come up with a plan to start skipping these morning drills, for my own sanity at least. I took another route to join the others at the parade ground because the soldiers were strategically positioned at the entrance of the hostel, punishing those who were joining the rest of the group late. I could see them from afar being made to frog jump, and I just felt more weary of the whole NYSC process.
As I joined up with my platoon, Nife immediately came to mind and I started scanning the area but saw no sign of her. I was a bit disappointed, the thought of seeing her always got me so excited. But at the same time I was beginning to feel this slight trepidation at my over excitement. I was half-awake/half-dozing throughout the morning drill, and the fact that I did it while standing was an even more impressive feat. After the exercises, we were split into groups for lectures. My group was made to sit on the ground as NDLEA officials came around to enlighten us on the dangers of drug abuse. Wetin consign me na? Perfect opportunity to sleep. The pot-bellied official spoke passionately on the dangers of substance abuse. He said he knew of someone who smoked MJ which drove him insane, and that his family members had been searching for a cure for him since then. I woke up for a few seconds to eye the man angrily.
‘Why was he talking anyhow about my darling MJ na? Why was he lying?’ I thought to myself. Anyway sha, that wasn’t going to make me quit my relationship with her. If I like make I run mad. But I knew MJ would never do that to me. We love each other way too much.
After the whole thing I got back to my hostel room to see Maintenance lying comfortably on his bed with all the confidence of a Lagos landlord. I was the first person to get to the room, which made me wonder how he got there.
‘Maintenance, you no go morning drill?’
‘Omo I talk say make I sleep jare. I followed those muslims then branched into the hostel,’ he said.
‘If sojo catch you nko?’
‘Ehn if sojo stop me I go show am my ID card na,’ he retorted, flashing an ID card hanging around his neck proudly.
At the start of camp they announced the need for representatives from each platoon for categories such as; debate, health, welfare, education, food & nutrition, maintenance and socials. Unsurprisingly, most people wanted to represent their platoon in the socials category, especially the ladies. The people representing in each of the categories mentioned are more like prefects, as Maintenance soon showed to me. He elected to be the Maintenance representative for his platoon, since it was a role that most people resented. The duties of those in Maintenance included checking round all the rooms in the hostels and reporting any incidence such as a flooded toilet, a creaking fan, or a burnt-out bulb. Somehow, my bunkie ended up having a lot of clout and influence in camp. He could enter in and out of anywhere within the premises, including the girls hostel. And if anyone dared to stop him, all he had to do was flash his ‘badge’ at them like an FBI agent and say ‘Maintenance’, and they would free him with much reverence. The tin be like say na jazz. That was how he got his name. Till today, none of us remember his real name.
I frowned as he told me this, angry at the fact that he had all these powers and special abilities, yet our fan was not working. Every morning I woke up drenched in sweat as my bunk was directly under the only working bulb in the room and somehow, the lights were almost always on, causing me undue discomfort. He laughed and told me he was working on it, that I should trust him, after all his name is Maintenance.
He was working on it till the day we left camp…
As I was talking with him, I saw someone else materialise from under a bed at the far end of the room. It was Ramsey, fine, light skinned, tall & muscular. My mouth hung open in shock.
‘Ramsey, you sef no go morning drill? How you take dey do am?’ I asked desperately.
He laughed heartily and said ‘Don’t worry, I have my ways.’
Is that the answer to the question I asked?
‘Don’t worry, I will soon have my ways too.’
Afternoon drill came and I saw my sweetheart Nife. I asked her where she was in the morning and she said she was in the hostel.
‘What? You too? How do you do it?’ I desperately asked.
She looked at me and smiled, ‘I have my ways.’
‘You have your ways abi? You have started joining bad gang.’
‘Go jor,’ she said, tapping my shoulder and smiling shyly.
We spent most of that afternoon learning the marching drills, and assigned to our platoon was this terrifying hulking man. He must have been about 7 feet tall, shoulders so broad he probably has to fit through a doorway sideways, with a face black like death. Needless to say, he terrified the sh!t out of all of us. After the torturous experience which was subtly becoming a routine to most of us, Nife and I agreed to hang out that night. Unfortunately, it was dejavu all over again – I was at Mami market with a frown on my face staring at my phone, I’d given her a few missed calls but she wasn’t picking; I’d sent her messages on whatsapp but she never replied, and I was being hailed by Teejay for smoking for a second night in a row.
Hanging out with my roomies every night was becoming a ritual. They were mostly kids from Private Universities, with a pinch of guys from federal and state universities. So our table was always full to the brim, because before you buy something, someone else is offering to buy, and another is vouching for the next round after that. I was on my fourth bottle of Orijin and feeling sufficiently stoned, when I suddenly had this urge to go for a walk. I told my guys that I was coming back and I began to take a leisurely stroll, enjoying the cool evening breeze. I was lost in thought as usual, thinking about my life as I always do, when something just ahead caught my eyes.
I saw Nife walking with this other dude from our platoon with his hand across her shoulders.