BY ISRAEL USULOR
Indeed, the Ekiti NYSC camp was the melting pot of everything sexy, everything girlish, everything feminine, and everything yummy. There were more girls than boys and it seemed to me that I could never have enough of them. There were girls of all shapes, all sizes, and all colours. The most interesting thing was that everyone wore shorts with most girls deliberately exposing the most tempting parts of their laps. The NYSC shorts were a small piece of scarf-like material that barely covered a girl’s laps. Most of all, it was see-through. Most girls loved it. Many of them never wore bra in camp, leaving their milk factory to dangle freely. They sit anyhow they liked, throwing their legs wide apart as if to say “you are cordially invited to the part”. Coper Jay would sit somewhere and be peeping around girls who were not sitting properly. I never did that because it’s a sin. To me, looking at them made me think many many bad things.
The girls were there for the taking. There were three types of girls on camp. There were those who came to look for a husband. There were those who knew that camp relationship was just a game and they were also ready to play. There were the married ones. The game was therefore to impress as many girls as possible to gain their attention and then have a piece of the meat that was everywhere. But you must have money or must have gained attention in some way.
All this while, I was dating Halima, but not physically. I was dating her in my head. And she didn’t know I was dating her. Only I knew because I have neither asked her out nor openly told her of how I felt about her. I was just dating her secretly inside my mind without her knowledge. I was busy running around, pursuing other birds while the one at hand wanted to escape.
Making a commitment to a girl on camp or even during NYSC is somewhat tricky. If you are not careful, you will just carry another person pikin responsibility throughout the service year. You will be spending your alawee on her while she will be saving her own and sending it to her parents. I was fully conscious of this fact. But a time came when I had to make myself known to Halima for I truly loved that girl. Interestingly, the day I chose to go on a date with her was the last day of camp. The night before that day, we spoke on phone.
“Helo, Halima! How far now?” I asked when I called her that night.
“Fine o! How you dey?” She asked in her tender voice. She had a small Hausa accent that was sweet in some way I couldn’t explain.
“You no wan see me abi? You no wan make we see and camp don finish o! Na so we go de dey?” I accused her intentionally. It’s a strategy men use to know if the woman is interested.
“Na you no want now! Na today you remember?” She said and started laughing over the phone. I felt stupid.
“Ok! Make we see tomorrow now!” I said, feeling like an idiot. What was I waiting for all these while till the last day of camp? Kai! Inside life!
“Ok! No wahala. Mammy Market abi?” She asked.
“Yes” I answered as we both hung up. I slept that night feeling as if I should use my hand and tear the night into daybreak.
On the morning of the last day of camp, I was seated face to face with Halima, my Halima. I looked intently into her eyes, cherishing them from corner to corner and trying to read what was in them. Everyone on camp was preparing for the final ceremonies and collection of posting letters. So everyone wore their freshly ironed khaki. Halima wore hers too and she was so cute in it. I don’t drink alcohol, so I ordered soft drinks for the two of us. Well, the truth is, that was what I could afford. I also told the waitress to bring us two straws because when you sip soft drink with a straw, you drink it for a longer time and you and the girl will talk longer, and you will spend less too. I can’t kill myself.
“When I look at you, I wonder if you are real.” I started. I sure know how to scope a lady. It’s a special talent. I didn’t learn it and no human could have taught me that. It was the devil.
“I mean, you are so beautiful that I feel I should sit down and be looking at you all day” I said again. Halima smiled at me, sipping her Amstel Malt. I ordered white rice and stew for the both of us. But I had to ask the price first to be sure my pocket could carry two plates. If not, I would have ordered one for her and pretend that I wasn’t hungry. But the rice was cheap, so two plates then.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” She asked when her eyes caught mine.
“Noting! I’m just admiring you” I said.
“I want to start something serious with you. I really like you” I opened up.
“Well, that’s ok!” she said with a broad smile.
“Things are falling into right places” I said to myself. I was winning and I can now have my Halima.
“So do you like me too?” I asked her.
“Yes” She said. Everything don finish. I have won. I took long sip from the bottle of Coke in my hand, feeling like a five-star general.
“But there is a problem.” She said.
“What?” I asked.
“I’m relocating to Adamawa. My relocation papers have been signed. I’m leaving this morning.” She said, delivering the very sad news to me. It was a fatal blow, a deafening slap, a blinding head-boot, a paralising kick and a hair-raising sting.
Poor me! My heart sank into the deepest part of my belly. I was so sad and I felt so stupid. I left the Mammy Market feeling headless, feeling like a beheaded hen, like a castrated pig. My Halima is going. My Halima! She is relocating, not to Ondo, or Kwara but Adamawa in far North. “Kai! This is harsh” I said to myself.
I was angry all day, getting angry at people upon the slightest provocation. I queued up to submit my flat mattress from where I picked it on the first day of camp. As soon as I got to the door, I flung it inside. The anger also made me to forget my food flask, my spoon and my buckets.
I went to collect my posting letter and behold, I was posted to the College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti. Wow! It was twenty-one days already and I was leaving camp where I had so much fun. I started feeling nostalgic and even started missing camp. But I couldn’t stay back. Life is in phases and this phase had ended. Time to go. I entered the College Bus which had come to pick corps members posted to the school. I was posted to this school with other egg heads like Erudite Professor.
My stay in Ikere-Ekiti was in itself another thrilling adventure.
Read part six HERE
Note: This story is entirely a work of fiction and a product of the author’s creative imagination. Any resemblance in characters or occurrences is merely a coincidence.
Israel Usulor is a journalist and short story writer. You can reach him via @JonalistIsrael and [email protected]
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