BY ISRAEL USULOR
“How far na? Una don see where to sleep this night?” A corper who was about rounding up his service year asked. He was part of those who came to pick us up at the camp on behalf of College Ikere-Ekiti. His question was directed at Erudite Professor. All of us were standing in front of the College Guest House, a sprawling facility.
“Has there been any arrangement for you guys? Any place for you to pass the night?” he asked again in a concerned tone.
“No! We are still here languishing” Answered Erudite Professor. His answer attracted wild laughter among us all. I still wonder how we found the strength to laugh given that it wasn’t a laughing matter. We were almost stranded in a strange land and night was falling and everything indicating that we may have to sleep outside.
“We are still languishing my brother” Said Erudite Prof, repeating himself to be sure the message sank. I still wonder why the school sent a bus to pick us up on camp, but failed to make arrangements for our accommodation. This is one of the downsides of NYSC. Once you are out of camp, you are on your own. There were so many of us, roaming around the guest house with our bags. Soon, we became hungry.
“Let’s go and find something to eat,” said Ayo. Ayo was a tall black corper who was always on glasses. He seemed the most distressed among us all.
“That’s true! At least, if we are going to sleep outside, let’s have food in our bellies” I said. We stepped out of the guest house, crossed the tarred road, and walked into a restaurant which by our estimation, we could fairly afford to eat in. The name was Prince and Princess Restaurant.
“How much is a plate of food,” I asked the young lady serving as a waitress. It was crucial to ask because the pocket was no longer deep. One thing one must learn during NYSC is financial prudence, else, you would always get stuck.
“A plate of rice is N700,” said the waitress.
“Let’s go,” said Erudite Professor. All of us flocked out of the restaurant almost as soon as we entered it. Nobody sat down since we thought the food was too expensive. It was so hilarious that we laughed about it all through the night.
“Let’s look for mama put”, Erudite Prof suggested.
“Yes, that’s right!” I said in agreement.
We walked a long distance. As we walked, we encountered young children who greeted us “corper! Corper!”. Finally, we arrived at a mama put that suited our pockets. I ordered rice which I munched with a sizeable head of fish. I love head of fish a lot, it’s my favourite part. Erudite professor was a swallow person, downing several wraps of akpu. Soon, we were done and we walked back to the college guest house to continue languishing.
At about 8pm that night, there was still no hope of were to pass the night. Just a single night. We quickly held a meeting among ourselves to find a way out.
“It is better we take our destinies into our hands” someone suggested.
“Yes, let us pay for one room here and pass the night,” I said. The College Guest House offered lodging and accommodation services. We quickly found out how much a room was and arranged for payment. Within few minutes, we were given a room.
But just as we were about to move our belongings into the apartment, the Corps Liason Officer, Mr Mathew arrived. He was respected among the staffers of the facility. He seemed unhappy that we had paid money just to pass a single night. He quickly went to the cashier and retrieved the money. We were most grateful. He ushered us into the College Gym, a spacious facility which had a red rug carpet. The place was well lit and I wondered how I would sleep since I don’t sleep under any form of light. I love sleeping in darkness. There was no bed for us to sleep, but Mr Mathew relinquished his bed for us. He dragged the big, wide mattress out of his room and placed it in the middle of the gym. There, all of us lay down and passed out.
I can’t remember if I had a shower that night. But I remember that I was smelling when I woke up the next morning.
Read part seven 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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