Unilag Runs Girl – Episode 5

UnilagRunsGirl

Pero dialed the number, waiting patiently for it to be picked. At last a husky male voice answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi Joe,” Pero said, a fond smile on her face. “How are you doing?”

There was a low grunt and a cough before the man at the other end answered, “great, just waking up from sleep.”

Pero clicked her tongue in sympathy. “Sorry I woke you up.”

“No, it is fine.” The man told her, his voice clearer now.

“What’s up?”

Standing before the window with its blue curtain twisted up into the edge of the one of the many open louvers, Pero held on to the phone with her left hand, deftly applying eye shadow under her eyebrows with her right hand. Her face twisted in concentration,  she moved her attention between the small mirror propped against the window sill and the man on the other end of the phone. “I just called to say I missed you.”

Joe chuckled. “We were together only last night.”

Pero smiled, adjusted the mirror and pushed the drooping folds of the curtain deeper into the recess between the louvers and the window frame. Light from the mounted halogen lamp in the hostel compound rushed in to flood the room with brightness.

“I miss you all the same.”

“Thank you Pero. I miss you too.”

Pero dropped the small black brush into her open make up bag on the table where a high pile of books rested and picked up a small narrow tube from the small bag. She propped the phone against her shoulder and ear as she twisted the small silver cap of the tube.

“So, are you coming today?” She asked, pumping the wand that came out of the tube a few times before sweeping against her lips. There was a small hesitation before the man answered. “I am not too sure.”

Pero managed to make a face and pout prettily at the same time, leaning closer to the mirror as she did.

“Not too sure?”

“I have a few things to attend to on the Island.”

Pero turned her face to the side and smudged the black line that ran over the top of her eye with her left index finger. “Hmmm,” she said into the phone, repeating the action with the other eye. “So what are you up to?”

“Just about to sleep,” Pero turned from the window and picked up a black jean trouser from the bed. “I am so tired.” Her neck and shoulder held the phone in place as she struggled into the trouser. “I have been reading all day.”

“Glad to hear that.”

“My head hurts from reading so much,” Pero said again, winking at Onyinye who was shaking her head at her that moment.

“Sorry.” It was the man’s turn to sound sympathetic now.

“Get some rest. We will talk later.”

“Alright Joe,” Pero smiled triumphantly, beginning to reach for her gray and white cowl neck top on the bed. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Pero tossed the phone on the bed and pulled the top gingerly over her head, sucking in her mouth as she did. She reached for the high black wedge sandals by the side of the iron bunk and sat on Patricia’s bed. A small sigh escaped her lips as she struggled to buckle the sandals. She stood up with a smile.

“Good night roommates.” She said to Onyinye in particular as the latter sat crossed legged on her bed watching her. Eno was already asleep on her bed, her right hand flung protectively over a big text book that said Land Law in green and white letters.

“You just lied to your boyfriend.” Onyinye said in a disapproving voice. ‘What if he finds out?”

Pero slung her small bag over her shoulder. “He won’t,” she said with a smug smile, walking out of the room with confident steps. Downstairs, Pero was happy to find that the human traffic had reduced considerably. It was two weeks to the examination period and the usually jam packed road was almost deserted, save for a few students that laughed as they strolled with books in their hands. A red Toyota Camry began to flash its headlights at her as she took to the main road, balancing delicately on her wedges. The car rolled to a stop beside her. The glass on the passenger side of the car rolled down slowly to show a grinning young man with a glittering stone on the lobe of his right ear and a shirt collar that stood stiffly around his face.

“Where are you going?”

Pero gave him a smile of her own. “Ikeja.”

The man shook his head and smiled in regret. “Not going that way.”

“Ok,” Pero said, continuing her journey. The car followed closely on her heels.

“I can drop you off at the gate.

Pero stopped, shrugged and reached for the door on the passenger side.

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The squash bar of Ikeja country club was filled with loud laughter. Some of the older patrons shook hands and slapped each other’s back as bets were won. Two players tried to outdo themselves in the glass enclosed court, chasing after the lime green ball that bounced off the wall. Pero held on to small brown bottle Maltina bottle, ignoring the hand that groped her right knee. On the wide flat screen television on the wall, a news reporter stood before an agitated crowd, gesticulating wildly behind him. She watched the news in rapt attention even though she found herself constantly drifting from what the reporter was saying. After a few minutes of pretending to be interested in the news, she looked towards the door at the bar where a young man wearing a black bow tie over white shirt moved around, pouring light brown liquid from a plastic silver cocktail shaker into the two wine glasses that stood before him on the high black semi circular countertop.

“So,” the man beside Pero said, bringing his head closer to hers. “Where would you like us to go?”

Pero looked at the full crown of steel gray hair on the man’s head and tried to imagine that it was a cloud of jet black hair that stared her in the face.

“I don’t know,” she said, sipping from the straw that bobbed from the mouth of the Maltina bottle.

“I think you should,” the man pressed, his wet pink tongue darting out of his mouth to lick his thick bottom lip. Pero looked away from the blatant invitation, a coy expression on her face. In her mind, she thought,

I can’t wait to be done with him.

Three other women with neon bright make up and colourful jewelry sat at the secluded end of the bar with a group of rowdy patrons. One of the patrons, an elderly man with a full curly moustache was leaning towards one of the women as they engaged in deep conversation, his face so close to her ample chest that he appeared to be practically falling into it.

Pero was about to respond to what her date said when she heard her phone begin to ring in her bag.

“Sorry,” she said reaching for her bag. The number on her screen made her smile. “Sorry,” She told the man beside her again. “Excuse me.” She stood up and fled the noisy room to the dark stairwell next to it. She pulled the sliding glass that separated the bar from the stairwell shut before she picked the call.

“Hello sweetheart.” She said in a sweet voice, leaning on the white wall with rough gritty texture.

“Missing me already?”

“I guess I am.” Joe answered with a laugh, “I thought you would be asleep by now.”

Pero almost kicked herself for forgetting to put on an act.

She tried to remedy the situation with a slow drawl in a bid to sound sleepy.

“Actually, my roommate woke me up.” She waved at her older date across the glass door. The man smiled, bringing up the glass of beer with a foamy top to his lips.

“Sorry about that.”

Pero turned away from the bar and tried a convincing yawn. “It is fine.”

“So what are you doing now?”

Pero scratched her head thoughtfully. “Maybe try to sleep again.”

“I see.”

“Yeah,” Pero gave an enthusiastic nod as if he could see her. “I really should go back to sleep.”

“Well…” her boyfriend of one month said. “I hope there is light in school.”

“Yes.”

“Ok great.” There was a sound of feet climbing steps. “I am glad you are comfortable.”

“Yes, me too,” Pero did another yawn just for the fun of it.

“Okay babe.” Joe said in a cheerful voice. “Come and open your room door.”

Pero heard the request from another planet. Her heart froze to a solid block in her chest.

“Come and open my room door?” She asked, blinking stupidly and hoping she didn’t hear him correctly.

“I am in front of your room right now.” He informed her, his voice still cheerful. “Everywhere is completely dark. No light here at the moment, but maybe there is some light in your room.”

Pero knew that the lightness of his tone was just as false as her theatrical yawns.

“I…I…” She stumbled, at loss for words. “I don’t believe you.”

Joe’s voice grew sharp. “Why on earth should I lie to you?” He snapped. “I am right outside your room door.”

Pero felt her bladder grow full immediately. “Joe…” She whispered helplessly. “You are not joking, are you?”

Pero heard her new boyfriend sigh. “Pero, you are not in the room right now, are you?”

“Oh God!”

The admission was enough for her boyfriend and he hung up leaving Pero petrified and in shock. With shaky hands, she dialed his number.

“Hello?” His voice was curt when he came on this time.

“’I can explain.”

“What is the point?” Joe asked in a derisive tone. “I probably won’t believe anything you say again.”

“No…, I can explain.” Pero tried desperately. “I just need to see you.”

A cold silence greeted her but Pero knew he was still at the other end of the phone.

“I knew something was wrong the moment I hung up after that call from you, asking if I was coming to see you.” He picked his way slowly through his words. “You just proved me right.”

“Please give me another chance.” Pero begged, crossing her hand over her chest to support the other hand that held her phone. A feeling of weakness began to spread all over her. “It is complicated.” She turned towards the bar.

Her date was beginning to motion impatiently at her.

“Fine,” Joe said at last. “Come to the Island in nothing less than twenty minutes and we will talk.” His voice was stern. “Anything outside twenty minutes and our relationship is over.”

Pero looked at the silver wristwatch on her hand. It was almost ten in the night. She ran back into the bar without thinking.

“Please,” she said breathlessly to her befuddled date seconds later. “I need to go right now.” She grabbed her bag beside the man as he turned to the side and began to fumble with the folds of his white agbada. “It is an emergency.”

“I hope everything is alright.” The old man asked, his face screwing up in concern. A few of the other patrons turned to look at her in interest as she stood in the middle of the room but Pero was past caring.

“No,” Pero said looking at the floor as a tear squeezed past the corner of her left eye. “Everything is not alright.”

The man dug into the brown leather wallet he had retrieved from his flowing attire and handed her a few notes of five hundred. “I hope it is nothing serious.”

“It is,” Pero said sniffing. “My auntie just died.”

 

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The bus grunted and expelled one last dying breath with a loud blast. Pero couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She looked around the silhouetted faces in the bus, wondering why nobody was saying anything. The driver unhooked the crooked iron that held his door in place and jumped out of the bus.

“Wetin happen now?” The fat woman beside Pero asked, moving her mammoth size in the small space till there was barely breathing room for the three other people that shared the plank covered iron chair with her, “conductor why we stop for bridge?”

The conductor jumped away from the edge of the bus with a guilty look, mumbling incoherently as he hitched his sagging jean pants up. A slim woman wearing a bright yellow dress grabbed her heavy long braids and wove it into a ponytail. Her hands were still busy in her hair when she began to shift towards
the open door.

“Oya conductor, come give me my change.” She yelled in an oddly dismembered voice. “Night don reach, I no fit wait make una use person change tire on top bridge.”

Slowly, passengers began to alight from the bus. They soon found the conductor standing at the back of the bus with the driver, a look of confusion on his face as they spoke in low tones. Pero followed numbly, unable to believe her luck. Why was this happening to her? First, it was the motorcycle that broke down at Onipan when she left the taxi that got caught in traffic at Maryland. After struggling with the strong winds and the fear of being mugged by the scary looking touts that hung around the bus stop at Onipan, she had found another motorcycle to Yaba bus stop where she had taken the bus to Obalende as she could not find taxis at the bus stop in the late hour of eleven. Now she was stuck on third mainland bridge, almost two hours after the deadline her boyfriend gave her and closer to midnight with each stroke of the clock. A loud chorus had begun at the back of the bus.

“Conductor! My money!”

“Give me my money abeg!”

“E fun mi owo mi jare!”

Pero avoided the melee and walked to the front of the bus, hiding from the revealing glare of the headlamps of speeding cars. The bridge vibrating under her feet and the wild sea breeze whipping her hair forcefully against her face, Pero dialed Joe’s number with a prayer on her lips.

“Hello?” He asked after the third ring. “What do you want?”

Pero saw hope disappear before her eyes. “I am in the middle of the bridge.”

“Pero it is almost midnight and I want to sleep.”

“I am on the bridge!” She tried again, almost whimpering as curious faces in some cars spied past the hulking yellow and black metal that was the bus at her crouching figure.

“What bridge?”

“Third Mainland Bridge.”

“Go back to school Pero.”

“What?” Pero heard him. She was just finding it hard to believe him. She stared down the broken iron rail of the bridge at the forbidding mass of water several feet below.

“What do you mean go back to school?”

The line went dead in her hand. Pero stared at her phone with unblinking eyes. Other passengers soon joined her in front of the bus, complaining in loud voices about poorly maintained buses and dishonest drivers. Pero could barely interpret the sounds around her. She continued to hide behind the bus and the backs of passengers in a state of complete shock until help came.

“Sorry,” Eno said, hiding behind the long note in her hand.

“I can just imagine what you went through.”

The room was quiet as Patricia, Eno and Onyinye pondered Pero’s story.

“So when you got to Obalende, you took another bus to

Yaba.” Eno confirmed again, enjoying herself tremendously.

“Yes,” Pero said with a heavy sigh. “I still can’t believe it is over.”

“Just go to bed,” Patricia said, looking up with sad eyes from her phone. “It is already morning anyway.”

She picked the covers at the foot of her bed and began to spread it over her body. “You have a chance to start afresh when the day breaks.” She added philosophically.

Onyinye stirred the cup of coffee in her hand. “The good part of this situation is you woke me up to read,” she said to Pero with a small smile. “But don’t worry anyway, you are a survivor.” Her smile continued to grow till it touched each ear. “This too shall pass.”

Pero said nothing, scrubbing at her face viciously with a wet cotton ball. She paused to look at Patricia’s still form.

“Why is Patricia so quiet?” She asked Onyinye and Eno.

“Man problem.” Eno quipped without delay, “seems we are getting enough of them these days.”

“Shut up Eno.” Onyinye said with a frown. “Patricia has had a rough day.”

“I knew Ghana was a mistake.” Eno said undeterred by her bunk mate’s admonition. “That secretary of his knew what she was doing.”

With that, the roommates fell quiet again. The age old ceiling fan above them danced labouriously in loud squeaks, doing very little to dispel the hot air in the room. Minutes rolled into hours until the rustling of paper finally stopped and light stole into the room to reveal four roommates resting from the events of the previous day as they curled in deep sleep.

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Umari Ayim is the author of “Twilight At Terracotta Indigo” and “Inside my Head”. She blogs at www.umariayim.com/

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