Chinedu could not believe what had happened this night. He could not remember how he got to his car or how he got home. As he slumped into his couch, he thought; was this a dream he was going to wake up from? If it was, he was not sure he wanted to wake up. What he wanted was for the dream to be rewound back to Fadeke standing in that elevator. He wanted the dream replayed in his own way. He wanted to see Fadeke scream and fly into his arms in a passionate hug. He wanted to feel her warmth on his skin. He wanted to be reminded after six years of her favourite Daisy perfume by Marc Jacobs. He wanted to tease her like he used to about her round cheeks which he called “poff poff” (fried flour balls).
But this was no dream. He had seen Fadeke and the opposite had happened. She had ignored him. What was she upset about? He had been looking for her the past six years. She had always been on his mind. Everywhere he turned to, he saw her silhouette. At a point, he had thought he was beginning to go crazy. He had never been able to get her out of his mind. Now, six years after, seeing her standing right there, so close in the elevator, she had ignored him. He still found out it hard to believe that this was no dream.
As he lay on his bed that night, he tossed and turned. What did I do wrong, Fadeke? He thought. After tossing on the bed for close to two hours, he stood up and went to the living room. It was no use; he could not get himself to sleep. He turned on the television set to watch a tennis match being replayed. As he sat down to watch, his mind raced back to his first meeting with Fadeke.
She was just sixteen and a fresher in the University of Ibadan, Oyo state in the western part of Nigeria. She had looked a little lost that day as she walked down the faculty of administration building. “Jambites or Jambitos” (as they were called in school slang) had just resumed school and most of them were everywhere trying to sort out their registration and signing of course forms. Some had made friends with their colleagues and hung out in groups of twos and threes, while some still roamed about trying to find a friend.
The expression on her face that day was confusion. “You look confused, can I help you?” Chinedu had asked.
“Yes, please. I am trying to locate Dr. Abudu’s office.” She said still looking around and not meeting his gaze.
As she looked up to Chinedu, his heart stopped beating for a second. She had round cheeks which emphasized her lovely eyeballs. Even without any form of makeup, she was a natural beauty. She smiled and he saw her perfect dentition and wondered if she had ever worn braces. He was so taken by her beauty that he didn’t realize that she had been talking.
When she stopped talking and was looking at him, he suddenly realized she was waiting for an answer and he pinched himself to reality. “I’m sorry, you were saying something.” He struggled to say embarrassed by his attitude.
“Oh, I was saying that I have been trying to locate Dr. Abudu’s office. I am a fresher so I don’t know most of the lecturer’s offices. I was wondering if you could help as I need to get my course form signed.” She said smiling.
“Dr. Abudu’s office is on the first floor. It is the first office by your left.”
“Thank you. I’m very grateful.” She said as she turned to take the stairs two by each.
He stood rooted to the spot dumbfounded. She was beautiful. He hadn’t even remembered to introduce himself neither did he know her name. The only thing he knew about her was that she was a fresher and was in the department of Accountancy; as that was the department where Dr. Abudu lectured.
He was in the third year in the university and was studying Actuarial Science. It had become a tradition for “staylites” (the school slang for older students) in the university to seek out the freshers for a relationship. The tradition had been given the name “Jambite rush” and most staylites looked forward to the rush. However, this had never appealed to Chinedu. He called it a “Use and Dump” tradition because after a year of relationship, the freshers were dropped for the new batch who had just resumed.
Most of his friends called him a spoil sport since he was never interested in the tradition. They always told him he needed to “catch them young” and spice up his life. Three years in the university and he had never bothered to seek out anyone for a relationship; he was not ready to go into one that he would not be committed to.
Still looking transfixed, he wondered if this was what he needed to spice up his life. But he couldn’t do the “Use and Dump” tradition. No, he wouldn’t do that, he thought.
She looked so angelic; he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. I have to see her again. Not knowing her name was a minus for him and standing right there, he started thinking of his next line of action; finding out her name and getting to know her.
Fadeke got to her hostel that day excited. Her hostel was the most expensive hostel off-campus. It had all the facilities and comfort of a home. The hostel had only 10 rooms and two students occupied each room. The rooms were very spacious and accommodated two full-sized beds, two reading tables, two wardrobes and a side stool by each bed. The room also had connection points should any of the students decide to bring in a television set. There were also facilities available for laptops in each room. Two rooms shared a large kitchenette where cooking utensils and other kitchen wares were kept making it a total of five kitchenettes in the hostel.
Fadeke eagerly waited for her roommate, Tochukwu to come back from lectures. Tochukwu was in her second year in the university and had taken to Fadeke from her first day in school. Fadeke had come to the hostel with her parents and the hostel matron had introduced Tochukwu to her new roommate. As a result of Fadeke’s friendship with Tochukwu, she hadn’t needed to hang around idly with her colleagues as Tochukwu had put her through most of what she needed to know to feel comfortable in school. She decided to make lunch for both of them to while away the time.
Tochukwu came in an hour later looking distraught. She flopped on her bed without even a greeting to her roommate.
“What’s wrong, Tochukwu?”
“I had a bad day at school and I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to go to bed”.
“Okay, if you say so. I made lunch just in case you feel hungry”. Fadeke said looking disappointed.
“Thanks but I’m not hungry”. Tochukwu said already lying down on her bed with her clothes on and facing the wall.
Fadeke had thought she could tell her what she was excited about but with her roommate this cranky, she decided it was best to keep her mouth shut. She was also upset that her effort at making lunch was not appreciated. She decided to do just as her roommate; she lay down on her bed and it wasn’t long before she was in deep sleep as she was also very tired from the long walks in school.
Lectures commenced in school the next week and everywhere was busy with students going in and out of halls. Chinedu had tried to find Fadeke a few times by going to the halls where the Accountancy students had their lectures but he hadn’t been successful.
“Wasn’t she coming for lectures?” He thought. But he couldn’t ask anyone for help especially from his friends who studied accountancy as they would tease him. He could imagine what they would say. “So, you are also on the Jambite rush? We thought you said you couldn’t get involved in the “Use and Dump” tradition”. The teasing would never end, so he decided to go on his mission alone without any assistance.
He stood on the corridor where he had met her and thought. He could still see her face in his mind’s eye and wondered where she could be. He closed his eyes for about two seconds and tried to imagine. As he opened them, he saw her standing right in front of him smiling. He was shocked and blinked to be sure he wasn’t day dreaming.
“You look like you saw a ghost”. Fadeke said still smiling.
“I…I…em…” Chinedu stammered still wondering if this was real.
“My name is Fadeke”. She said stretching out her hand. “I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself the last time we met”. She continued.
Her hand hung in the air for what looked like hours which was actually a second before Chinedu took it.
“I’m Chinedu. I’m sorry, I’m not usually this disoriented”. Chinedu said feeling embarrassed and praying in his heart that she wouldn’t ask why he had his eyes closed a moment ago.
“No, you don’t have to apologize. I get disoriented atimes as well”.
He was still holding her hands when he realized that she was trying to pull out of the hold. He immediately dropped her hand and tried to get himself together. She was right here standing before him and he was already at a loss of what to say. Fadeke noticing that he seemed at a loss decided to rescue him.
“So, Chinedu, what course are you studying?”
“I’m in the Actuarial sciences department and in my third year”. He said silently grateful in his heart that she had spoken first.
“What about you?” He asked finding his voice.
“I’m studying Business Administration”.
“Oh, biz admin”. He said suddenly realizing why he had never seen her with the accountancy students.
“Yep, and I’m sure you know am a fresher”.
“Yes, I do”. How could he have assumed she was in the accountancy department just because she wanted her course form signed by an accounting lecturer? He suddenly felt silly.
“So, you are taking Dr. Abudu’s course as an elective, right?”
“Yes. We were told we had to take an elective course within the faculty, so I just decided to opt for an accounting course”.
“So do you stay on or off-campus?”
“I stay off-campus. Don’t think I can function in the hostels on campus”.
“Why?” Chinedu asked wondering since most students would rather stay on campus.
“Well, it’s too crowded for my liking and I love to feel comfortable”.
Chinedu laughed at her statement. “Comfortable?” He asked. “How do you mean?”
“I really don’t know how to explain but I love it off-campus”. She said trying not to go into details of why she wasn’t staying in the hostels on campus.
He wanted to ask which hostel she was staying in and if he could check on her but he felt she would think he was going too fast, so he decided to save the questions for another time. Just then, she looked at her wrist watch and gasped, “I have a lecture at 2p.m. I’m ten minutes late already”. She said.
“It was nice meeting you again, Fadeke”.
“My pleasure”. She replied as she started walking towards the stairs.
Chinedu watched as she ran down the stairs. He put his hand on his chest and felt his heart beating rapidly. She always did this to him, he thought. How long would he be able to hold before voicing his feelings? He hoped it would be soon.