I open my eyes staring up at the white ceiling, daylight piercing through the curtain. Too weak to sit up, I move my arms around searching for my phone. The walls are blue, the wardrobe is brown and the curtain is white. The air condition is on full blast, the room is so cold I can barely feel my face or breath. After fiddling around under the blanket trying hard not to let the cold air in, I finally find my phone, a BlackBerry Z10. I hit the on button.
The phone takes a while to boot.
I reach for the AC remote control and turn it off before I freeze to death. The phone finishes booting and I check the time. It’s 11:30am. That’s not really a surprise ever since I graduated from KNUST, about two months ago, I had entered a form of hibernation. With nothing to do I entertain myself by watching movies and sleeping. I sleep too much because it’s the only way I can escape my boring reality. The curse of having friends that school outside the country makes for a very boring and lonely holiday, they travel and the refuse to return and even when you ask them if they are ever going to return they don’t reply your messages. So it’s better to move on with my life. The room is a little warmer and I feel comfortable exiting the blanket. Knowing that the moment I leave my bed and put my feet on the ground I’ll have to come back to reality. It would be very nice if we could all live in a fantasy world, reality is too harsh. I sit up on the bed and put my feet on the elegantly tiled floor. The black tiles, as black as coal, makes the room look like a splendid man cave. The cold tiles sting my feet, I take in a deep breath of the crisp cold air, and I have no other choice but to absorb the pain. The sting of the tiles representing the cold hard reality, my reality. I make my way to the bathroom.
I do this like clockwork, immediately I wake up, I brush my teeth but taking a bath on the other hand is a taboo. Thanks to Nivea forty-eight hour protection I don’t have to take a bath for two days, bless the Lord.
Now in front of the mirror I study my reflection, chocolate brown in complexion, brown eyes, short and scruffy looking hair, a mildly spotted face and there is a little bit of facial hair going on. I didn’t like it at first but the ladies loved it so there is no problem. I pick up my Jordan extra hard toothbrush, yeah that’s how real men do it, and my Closeup toothpaste. Covering the whole surface of the toothbrush with the blood red toothpaste I drop the toothpaste and look back up at the mirror. To my surprise I see my reflection smiling back at me with the most devilish grin I’ve ever seen, I drop the toothbrush and run out of the bathroom immediately headed to my sister’s room. I bang on the door repeatedly.
“Jasmine! Jasmine! Jasmine!” I screamed, my voice echoing through the hall way.
“What?” she replied in an angry tone.
“There is something in my bathroom mirror.”
“What do you mean there is something in your bathroom mirror?”
“I was about to brush my teeth and I saw my reflection smiling back at me.”
“Well you are supposed to expose your teeth before you brush, that’s how it works James.”
“No you don’t understand I was about to start brushing and I looked up and it wasn’t my reflection it was something else.”
She sniffs the air around me, “Have you been drinking?”
“What? Of course not.” Actually I have been, alcohol works well with boredom among other things.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure, you can come and see it for yourself”
“I’ve had a long hard week, you better not be drunk and seeing things!”
We walk into my room which is just inches away from hers. The bathroom door still open, screeching in its hinges as it continues to open. My fight or flight instinct had kicked in and since I couldn’t fight I decided to fly out of there without a care about the status of the door. Whilst in the room I direct her towards the toilet but something else catches her eye.
“What is that?” she said in a tone that signified she was right about something.
“Errm it’s a bottle, that’s not why I brought you here. Come to the toilet and see what I told you about.”
“It’s not just a bottle James, It’s a wine bottle. So you have been drinking!”
“That’s not the point”
“That’s very much the point, you are hung over and you are seeing things that are not there. I’m going back to my room, do not disturb me again.”
“Wait you haven’t come to the bathroom yet!” I said
Come to think of it the room did smell of alcohol but I wasn’t hung over and I didn’t hallucinate what I saw. She leaves my room for hers and I hear the sound of the locks on her door. I go back to her door and continue knocking but she doesn’t answer.
Realizing there was no hope I decided to go back to my room and investigate the situation by myself. I walk back into my room, the toilet door fully open. I tip toe into the toilet and I decide not to investigate anymore. I consciously avoid looking into the mirror. I brush my teeth as quickly as possible, ran out of the toilet, shut the toilet door behind me and jump on my bed.
The grin still hunts me. The sound of birds chirping magnificently on my window still didn’t help the situation. I could not possibly understand how my reflection could have a life of its own and smile at me.
Thinking long and hard I conclude that maybe I was actually hung over and I imagined it. Then again nobody starts hallucinating after one cup of wine, a bottle maybe, but not one cup. Well who is to say I didn’t imagine it. But it felt so real other than the obvious smile if felt like there was something in the toilet with me, a presence. And it might come back.
I brushed it off as an imagination and I close my eyes forcing the events that just occurred to evaporate from my memory. The room is starting to get hot, I search for the AC remote and turn it on again. Its hypnotic sound and the feel of the breeze from its vents, directly above me, soothes my mind and I start to wander if it’s time to register for the NYSC. That’s the only thing to look forward to, the only thing that will bring excitement to my life. With that thought in mind I pick up my BlackBerry to find out from their website.
The Network is slow today, as always. There is no decent network connection in Nigeria all of them have made a lot of money so they don’t care anymore. The network symbol shows that I’m on a 3G network but the speed at which the web page is loading feels like I’m on Edge.
The NYSC webpage finally finishes loading and I scan through looking for registration requirements for international students. Finally I see the link for the requirements and I open it. Yet again waiting for the snail speed network to open the website, I wonder what they are going to ask for. Hopefully they won’t ask for what I don’t have. The web page finally opens and I see an elaborate list of requirements:
“Requirements for Registration of Nigerian Foreign -Trained Graduates
The following are the requirements for registration of foreign - trained Nigerian graduates wishing to participate in National Youth Service Corps:
The Originals and photocopies of the following documents are required for registration and mobilization of foreign-trained graduates into the National Youth Service Corps (please note that downloaded Certificates/Transcripts, Statement of result and Attestation letters are not acceptable);First University Degree or HND Certificate.Complete official Transcript of the First Degree or HND Programme.Marks Sheets (for Indian Schools only)O’level Certificate i.e. WASC, GCE, SSCE, NECO, IGCE, GCSE, High School Diploma for those who schooled in USA etc. Candidate must obtain credit in not less than 5 subjects (including English and Mathematics) in not more than 2 sittings.Medical Doctors and Optometrists are required to produce in addition, Evidence of completion of Houseman ship, Registration Certificate with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria/Optometrists Association of Nigeria, as applicable.Pharmacists shall produce in addition, Evidence of completion of Internship and the registration certificate with Pharmacists Council of Nigeria.Nigerian International Passport showing clearly;
Entry Visa to Country of Study
First Departure Date from Nigeria
Date of Return to Nigeria
Data page of the passport
Candidates with dual nationality are required to produce both passports for verification.
Loss Of Travelling Passport
Prospective Corps Member who lost his/her passport would be required to present;
Police and Immigration reports from the country where the Passport got missing
Evidence of stay in country of study
The above documents should contain the same information as contained in the lost passport.
Current Nigerian International Passport
For Loss Of Academic Credentials, the following is required;
Confirmation letter from either the examination body (for loss of 'O' Level Certificate) or the academic institution of graduation (for loss of Degree, HND Certificate).
Certificates not written in English Language should be translated at the Embassy of the country of study or a University in Nigeria where the language is studied, before uploading and presentation to the NYSC.Special Note:
Foreign -trained graduates enlisting into the Nigerian Youth Service are not obliged to choose their State of deployment. However, married women would be deployed to the state where their husbands are domiciled provided their marriage certificate and evidence of change of name (Newspaper publication and Court Affidavit) are uploaded and attached to their forms.
Graduate of University of Education Winneba, Ghana, King Faisal University, Chad Republic and all Universities in the Republic of Benin are requested to obtain and upload letters of Evaluation from Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja before registration.
All names inconsistency on different documents must be supported with Court Affidavit and uploaded before physical verification.
Verification is not done by proxy. All prospective corps members must therefore appear physically at the Evaluation Division of the Corps Mobilization Department of NYSC National Directorate, Maitama, and Abuja for verification after registering on-line.
You are expected to indicate the state where you will pick your call-up letter.
You are expected to collect your call-up letter on presentation of your international Travelling passport. Collection by proxy is not allowed.
You will also present your international travelling passport before you can register at the orientation camp.”
At first glance the requirements look doable, I have all they have asked for. I pick up my black leather folder where I keep all my important documents. The folder practically contains my life. If I want to disappear and change my identity, the first step would be to burn the folder and its contents. Bringing out all the contents of the folder and going through them one by one to see if I have all the documents that are required.
First University Degree? Check! Complete Official Transcript of the First Degree? Check! Mark Sheet? What is that supposed to be? Oh for Indian students, that’s not for me. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana! So the people that went to India, to study, in their minds they are international students! Reverting back to my document check. WAEC and NECO Certificates? I think I have those.
What I have here has a heading that says, “Statement of Result Certificate” I guess that must be it. Check! Definitely not a doctor or a pharmacist more like an Engineer. And finally passport with all the random stamps and expensive residence permit? Check!
The entire requirements have been satisfied and it’s time to start packing my things, the sooner I leave this boring house the better for me.
It’s Wednesday morning, I awake to the piercing sound of my alarm. I pick up my phone and it’s 5:00am in the morning. Today is the day, my flight for Abuja is by 9:00am. I look around, it’s dark and hot inside. There is no light. ‘Thank God for NEPA, constantly taking away the light.’ I hiss. I put on my BlackBerry flash light, stand up from my bed and head toward the shower. Trying hard not to look into the mirror.
I could see something worse than my reflection smiling back at me, so I actively avoid looking into the mirror. Since there is no electricity, I doubt there’ll be hot water. So I brace myself to take a cold shower. I take off my black V-neck shirt and throw it on the floor by the laundry basket. The tiles take on a strange green color due to the reflection of the blue light cast by my phone. My Dettol soap in hand and I do my signature dance, to warm me up for the cold sting of the water. I put on the shower and as I expected the water is as cold as ice.
I hurry it up and cover myself with my two-foot long towel to salvage any form of warm that is hidden in its pores. I hear a knock on my room door.
“James are you ready?” It’s mum coming to check on me as expected.
“I’m dressing up, I’m almost done.” I reply.
“I hope you have packed all your things?” she asked from behind my room door.
“No not yet, I want you to mail them to me when I get to Abuja.” I replied with a sarcastic smile.
“What? You’ll walk around naked! You better be ready soon, the driver will soon be here.” she replied.
“Yes ma, I’ll be ready in 20 minutes.” I hear her footsteps fade as she walks back to her room. Still in my vest and boxer, I pick up a navy blue button down shirt.
I look out the window the sky is navy blue, day breaking slowly, the sounds of busses and cars passing are the only sound waves in the air. I pick up my black jeans and quickly put it on.
Next are shoes, what shoe to wear? I pick up the BlackBerry with the flash light still on and I scan through my shoes which I always neatly arrange under my bed and the Todd’s black loafer jumps up at me. I pick it up and put it on. I look at the time again and it’s 6:03am. I pick up my miniature but manly suite case and head down stairs to wait for the taxi driver. It’s a lot brighter now, there is no need for the flash light. I make my way toward the stair case and the electricity comes back on. Being the superstitious human being that I am, I take it as a sign. A sign that marks the start of something good. I drop my box in the parlor and head back upstairs to tell mum that I’m ready to roll. I run back up the stairs, knock on her door and open it. She is lying down on her bed, the lights are on in her room. Dark brown curtains, brown tiles on the floor, to the right a large sofa by the side of her bed, to the left a brown wardrobe. I walk toward her, she is awake.
“It’s time to move. Is the driver here yet?” I said.
“I’ve been calling him, he said he is ten minutes away.” she said sitting up. She picks up her handbag, a black leather bag, fiddles around inside the bag and hands me an envelope. I open the envelope. Money!
“That’s seventy thousand naira, it’s for your ticket back to Port Harcourt.” She said. I’m not sure tickets cost that much if they did nobody would fly!
“Thank you ma” I reply with a big smile on my face. Excess money! You’ve got to love it. She fiddles in her hand bag some more and brings out a set of keys.
“This is the key to the house in Abuja, the key to the gate, the main house is there and the key to the boys’ quarters is also there, stay in the boys’ quarters. Do not go into the main house.” she said with a straight face. But I couldn’t help but smile because there is no way I’m going to stay in the boys’ quarter. The boys’ quarter is for boys.
“Yes ma I’ll stay in the boys’ quarters” She stands to her feet, we hold hands and she says a word of prayer. Immediately we finish the prayer her phone rings, it’s the taxi driver. He is at the gate waiting for me. I go downstairs pick up my box and head towards the gate. I remember I haven’t told Jasmine that I’m about to leave. I give my box to the driver and proceed back into the house. Mum is busy talking to the driver. I get to Jasmine’s door and knock like there is a fire in the house and I’m trying to break down the door. I open the door and she is still sleeping. I climb on the bed and start to jump up and down.
“I’m leaving.” I scream out whilst I jump up and down on her bed. She wakes up and groans a little bit and points at the door for me to leave.
“I’m leaving for Abuja and you are telling me to leave your room? Get up!” I said. She sits up on her bed realizing I’m fully dressed.
“What are you doing?” she said with a not so happy early morning face. At this point I stop jumping on her bed and I’m back on the floor.
“I’m not doing anything, I came to tell you that I’m leaving for Abuja now.” I replied.
“Were you jumping on my bed?” she asked.
“No I don’t think so, maybe you were imagining it.” I replied.
“There is sand on my bed!” she exclaims.
“What sand? I don’t see anything!” I said as I move closer to the bed to investigate her claim. She grabs me and puts me in a head lock, she is surprisingly strong for her small stature.
“I’m sorry.” I scream.
“Safe journey, and call me when you land in Abuja” she said releasing my neck.
“Sure” I give her a hug and I head down stairs to the gate. As I exit the house I look back one more time to take in the house before I leave. A lemon green duplex, with two gigantic pillars in front of it, in between the pillars is a balcony with a disco-ball-like chandelier right in the middle of the balcony. At night when it’s lite, the balcony looks like a dance hall. A house party will definitely happen, maybe... I’ll have to wait till mum and Jas are not at home, either way the house party will definitely happen. I turn around and walk towards the big blood red gate. I exit the compound and I see mum and the taxi driver still talking. I give mum a hug, greet the driver good morning and we are off to the airport.
On the way to the airport it’s 6:30am and finally I can breathe, away from home I’m free to do whatever I want. Deep down I feel like it’s going to be a good day. The house slowly fades off in the rear view mirror. The sound of Drake’s album in my eardrums.
The sound puts me in a trance and we fade off into the rising sun, floating towards it with very little struggle. I close my eyes and I fall asleep.
I am awakened by the sound of car horns. I open my eyes and I see a bunch of commuters scurrying off to their place of work, hoping they don’t arrive later than their boss or else they’ll have to beg and grovel for their jobs or get screamed at for coming to work late. These are the most courageous people in the world having to wake up early in the morning to go to work, it’s such long thing. The smell of exhaust smoke in the air chokes me. Finally we are out of the traffic jam and on the open road, 30minuites away from the airport. I drift back into my sound sleep. A bump on the road wakes me up, to my surprise we have arrived at the Airport.
It is currently under construction so it looks like someone had a bad day and decided to trash the place. The driver stops the car and I give him his money, five thousand naira, personally I think it’s too small but I get to save a couple of notes so I don’t have a problem. It’s surprising how we didn’t say a word to each other during the one hour journey from the house to the airport. I kind of like it that way. I’m not much of a chatty person early in the morning and I’m glad he didn’t try to force a conversation on me. I make my way through the labyrinth of people as I go to collect my boarding pass. There are people selling recharge cards constantly forcing their goods in my face and then there are the hustlers, who by the way are very annoying. For some reason think you can’t collect your boarding pass by yourself and hound you: offer to collect your bags, your ticket and to complete the checking in process for you, in exchange for some money.
I don’t have that kind of money to throw away so I blow them off without a second thought. But I do respect their ambition though sadly all that energy is directed at the wrong vocation.
I spot a Genesis fast food restaurant from the corner of my eyes, the blood red ‘Genesis’ sign is so inviting. I remember I haven’t eaten, the pain in my stomach becomes a little more pronounced. The thought of eating their meat pie makes my stomach growl sadly checking-in is more important than food right now.
I walk past a series of red shipping containers that have been converted to offices, the containers have various airline tags on them to direct customers to the appropriate service. Apparently that’s where tickets are being sold, lots of customers are queued in front of the various windows. You would think as adults they would queue in an orderly fashion, but no, they are all screaming at the cashier with their money in hand like a couple of kids in front of an ice cream truck waiting for the ice cream dude to hand them the goods. I walk past the series of containers through a gateway and finally to the desks where I’ll check-in my luggage, I’m getting tired of lugging it around. At this time the sun is fully out and the whole environ is lite and a little bit warm.
I walk up to the desk that has the sign ‘Aero Contractors’ on it. Behind the desk is a female attendant, she has a serious look on her face as if her supervisor is right behind, but there is no one behind her, or maybe it’s just too early to be awake for her.
“Aero 9:00am for Abuja” I said in a low voice, due to the lack of food in my stomach.
“Your ticket and a photo ID please.” she said in a mechanical tone, like she has been practicing that line since she was born. I hand her my ticket confirmation slip and my international passport. She picks them up off the desk still with her face glued to the computer screen in front of her. She picks up the passport and studies it, then looks up at me for the first time.
I notice the blue eyes immediately - contact lenses! Maybe she wants to charm the rich men that come through the airport. Other than the eyes nothing really stands out, she is fair in complexion, with lots of black spots and pimples on her face.
She continues to fiddle with her computer so I look behind me trying to amuse myself, the line is still very short I look at my watch and it’s 7:42am. I wonder if there are going to be a lot of people on the flight.
Before I can continue with my daydream she drops my passport and my boarding pass back on the counter top, the sound brings me back to reality. As she was retracting her hand I managed to spot a wedding ring, “Oh that’s cool, good for her.” I whispered.
I pick it up and proceed to check-in my luggage. Now it’s compulsory to give my bags to the check-in dudes, they are just like the hustlers ambition guys I met outside earlier but these ones are actually certified by the airline so I don’t have a choice. As I leave the counter I’m immediately approached by one. Damn these dudes are fast!
“Yes, Aero Contractors, Abuja.” I replied as he instinctively takes my luggage from my hand and I hand him my ticket as well.
He goes into action, walking briskly to a guy sitting behind a desk and my would-be chauffeur hands my ticket to the guy. Then we go to the scale to measure the weight of my bag. Usually when I’m travelling this is the point where the heart rate goes up and you look at the scale hopping the weight of you bag isn’t above the required limit. And if the bag is above the limit, you accuse them of not maintaining the scale properly. Lord knows I’ve done it before and it worked, it isn’t going to be a problem doing it again.
My would-be chauffeur drops my bag on the scale. I watch, holding my breath, as the dial moves from zero to twenty three kilo grams. Goddamn I have an excess of three kilo grams.
“Oga you get excess luggage”
“What?” I replied as if not to have heard what the scale keeper said.
“I say you get excess luggage of three kilograms, you go pay three thousand naira before we go check-in the bag.” the scale keeper said. And there is no way I’m going to part with my three thousand naira, these airlines have taken my money for too long.
“Bros see, I came from Lagos two weeks ago with the same amount of clothes that’s in this bag right now and I didn’t pay for excess luggage, where is the excess luggage coming from?” I said with a serious face on. In another life I might have been a lawyer.
“Oga you dey see am from the scale naa.” he replied. A crowd slowly forming behind me, making the scale keeper nervous. I sense his nervousness and I decide to push further.
“You are stepping on the scale! I just saw your leg now. Why are you stepping on the scale?” the crowd behind me starts to grow and they are buzzing like bees.
“Oga my leg dey ground, e no dey on top scale.” the name tag on his chest says Chinedu.
“Bros my luggage is 19kg I beg. I don’t have the strength to argue with you.” I replied removing my box from the scale. At this point there is a crowd behind me and they are impatient and ready to launch a full scale assault on Chinedu, and it’s still too early to be awake.
“Oga be fast let us leave here” a lady behind me said. I’m not sure if she is talking to me or Chinedu frankly I don’t care.
“Madam please wait I’m coming.” Chinedu replied.
“When last did you service the scale?” I said. When all else fails create doubt. The crowd grows quiet. Chinedu continues to getting nervous. He is staring at the crowd like they are about to lynch him. It might be his first day on the job.
Chinedu unwilling to answer the question provokes a second member of the crowd to speak out, this time an elderly man, “When last did you service the scale? Come on answer the young man’s question!” the elderly man screams out with a cracked voice.
“Daddy it was serviced a year ago” the Chinedu replied. On hearing this reply the crowd went wild hurling insults at Chinedu and the airline. In the midst of the commotion I could sense that Chinedu was about to abandon his post before he gets eaten alive.
I pity him a little bit but I have to leave here, I have a plane to catch.
“Please attend to me, the weight of my bag is nineteen kilograms.” I urged. Obviously distracted by the crowd he writes down nineteen kilograms on a piece of paper and hands it to my chauffeur. I smile and we proceed back the dude with my boarding pass sitting behind a desk. On getting to the dude with the ticket, my chauffeur hands him the piece of paper with nineteen kilograms written on it. The dude scribbles down on his register and gives me back my boarding pass. Now for the last phase, baggage screening. On the way to the baggage screening we pass by the scale and there is a riot going on. Several security guards are at the scene and attempting to calm down the angry mob who were demanding that the scale be service first before they use it. I look at my creation and I smile, I hope nobody gets fired.
I got to keep my three thousand naira from the grubby little claws of Chinedu. If I had given him the money he probably would have kept if for himself. Baggage screening was a breeze, I hand my chauffeur a two hundred naira note and head towards the waiting room. I check my watch and its 8:30am.
How time flies when you are stirring up an angry mob. Removing my black belt and my black Todd’s Loafers and my navy blue man purse. I go through the screening machine and the alarm goes off.
The security personnel decides to repeat the very tedious instructions, “Shoes, belt, phones and keys should go through the machine”
I’m asked to go back and put my watch through the machine. As I remove the watch I see the bulge of my phone through my jeans. I remove it and put it through the machine. I walk through the scanner and there is no sound to my relief. I pick up my stuffs as it comes out of the machine, I put my belt and shoe back on and I proceed to the waiting lounge. The air conditioners are on full blast, the waiting lounge is half full and chilled. I the riot is still going on in the other room I can hear them scream. The thought makes me smile. If I’m going to be awake this early I might as well entertain myself. I sit far away from the AC vents and look at my time, its 8:45am. Just fifteen more minutes left before boarding.
There is a flat screen TV on at the far end of the hall suspended from the ceiling, Africa Magic is on. I’d rather sleep. I look around the room and ease into my chair. Although the metal chair is cold it’s oddly comfortable. My seat is strategically opposite the entrance of the hall so I can see who is coming in and going out. I watch way too many spy TV shows.
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