I was at the bus stop. It was a bit sunny and I was not sweating yet. Then I saw her, a kid strapped to her back, another one holding her hand. She was sweating profusely. Her face looked familiar, I looked closer. Yes, she is the one, I know I have a thing for faces and places. She looked older, who would have thought, we are age mates. She had added a lot too, as a result of baby making I guessed. This lady used to look anorexic. I remember that incident. My mind flashed back, just like a typical Yoruba movie.
Some years ago, I was in the polytechnic. It was our last semester as ND students. As with most courses then, this lecturer had ‘ordered’ us to buy his book, review any chapter of our choice and submit with the receipt of the book attached. That was going to be our C.A.
I was one of the last people to submit the assignment. Not because I couldn’t do the review but because I couldn’t afford the N750 textbook early enough. I eventually did the week before exams started. As I was going to his office, one of my classmates walked up to me and told me she was not feeling too good, I should help submit hers too. I collected it and proceeded, till today, I wonder how come I didn’t catch that lie then.
I knocked on his door and opened, ‘Good morning sir,’ I greeted. ‘I came to submit my assignment,’ I added.
His office was neat and cozy, I also caught a whiff of the fragrance. ‘Is he expecting a visitor? Or he is just naturally neat,’ I wondered.
‘Why are you just coming? I thought everyone had submitted,’ he asked.
‘I just got the textbook sir,’ I replied.
‘Good for you. I hope you are the last person? Because I will stop collecting today,’ he said. He pointed to the far end of his table, ‘Drop it on the pile and write your Matric number on the paper beside it.’
I did as he said. I dropped the two papers and proceeded to write the matric number on the paper. I wrote hers first after copying from her assignment.
‘What do you think you are doing?,’ he barked at me as I was trying to write my own number.
‘I’m writing my number sir. I’m submitting for a friend too.’ I replied.
‘Let me see the two assignments, he asked, looking suspiciously. I showed him. He saw mine and then hers. Alas! He recognised the name and number. His mood changed.
‘You are very stupid, infact you’re mad,’ he snapped. ‘Don’t you know this is impersonation? He ranted on and on.
‘I never knew it’s wrong to submit for someone, I am sorry sir,’ I managed to say. I was completely shocked.
‘Sorry for yourself,’ he blasted. He got up, took the paper and crossed our numbers. ‘Young man, you and your girlfriend have failed this course,’ he said as he threw the papers at me. ‘Get out of my office,’ he barked.
I stood dejected. What have I done. Is it really wrong? Is there something else to this matter? What is the way out now?
As I walked out of the building, I saw her standing, waiting for me. She was restless. I get it now.
He was expecting her to come with her assignment, that explains the neat and scented office. He would have had sex with her right there and then. And everything would have been fine.
She told me the whole story, the man had been on her case since the beginning of the semester. And she being a virgin had always turned him down which made him angry. He started using force, after all her fate is in his hands. He threatened he won’t collect her assignment and would fail the course eventually. She had tried all means to turn down his advances but to no avail. Also, all attempts to submit the assignment failed. She resigned to fate and decided to go see him in his office that morning, whatever will happen should happen, then she saw me and decided to try another trick. It had also failed.
I felt for her, but I felt for myself too. I kept thinking, there has to be a way out. I got back to class and informed the Class Rep. He was just as shocked as I was.
‘That girl doesn’t even have the things to make a man go crazy,’ he said aloud.
‘You will be surprised the kind of things some men settle for. But guy, you have to get me out of this web,’ I replied.
He followed me to his office and we exhausted all the begging in the store. In his depraved mind, he thought I was her boyfriend and the major hinderance to him getting the cookie he so much desired. After enough begging, he allowed me submit my assignment and told me I was free. I was relieved.
I never got to see her again until the day of his paper. She coincidentally was sitting right behind me. I only realised when he blurted out, ‘see husband and wife, you two are even sitting together. E ma ba mi nbe.’ I looked back to see her smiling calmly. I was shocked. That paper remains one of the most difficult I have written in my entire student life. After the paper, I wanted to go meet him and explain myself but she said I shouldn’t worry. ‘He won’t do anything,’ she said.
I believed her but I was scared still. Any carry-over will mean paying another school fees next year, plus the shame that comes with it. I held on to her words though, she sounded confident, probably she had given him what he wanted.
The man didn’t do anything. I got a C in his course and I made up my mind never to go back to that school. I never knew her fate.
She saw me too and tried to hide. I greeted her, she felt ashamed, I could read it. She asked how I have been, work and family. I explained to her, I had gone to another school to get a degree, just started working, no family of mine yet. When I asked how she had fared, I could see her trying to hide the pain and shame as she explained to me.
She wasn’t so lucky. The man took her virginity and still failed her. She also decided not to go back after all he will be the one to take the course the next year and she will still be at his mercy. All attempts to start all over again proved abortive as she couldn’t get admission to another school. She decided to jettison school entirely, did some vocational training, now she does petty trading and married with 2 kids. ‘Life isn’t that bad but for that man, it could have been better,’ she ended her story.
I couldn’t stop thinking of her last words. How one man can totally alter someone’s life because of his fetish. Will he get away with this? As I continued my journey, I said to myself, those that are supposed to help build your dreams might be the ones that will kill them.