He stood on the road with a sport magazine and a notebook in his hand wiping the imaginary cobwebs entangling his face with a brown handkerchief. His look was handsome with emerging hangdog expression and his eyes caught between dullness and anxiety. He hissed and walked towards the fuel station before him with 'uncalculated' hurry, the bunch of keys in his back pocket announcing his presence with jingling sounds.
He stopped suddenly and looked at the verdant vegetables on a motorcycle parked at the other side of the road. ‘What happened to all the motorcyclists today? Haven’t they woken up?’ He asked himself and looked at his wristwatch. He shook his head and let out a husky sneeze.
The shape of his head brightened the anxiety on his face. He darted forward, mumbling against no one in particular. He removed his mobile phone from his pocket, cast a glance on it and returned it. He contemplated whether or not to walk to his destination or wait till he would get a commercial motorcyclist. He looked into the air as if expecting an explanation from it why the commercial motorcyclists were yet to resume their routine. His right hand akimbo, he held the magazine and the notebook to his chest with his left hand. ‘And I want to see her before she goes to class,’ he mumbled plodding and stopping at the same time.
He walked a distance and like a man favoured at his exigency, his eyes caught a commercial motorcyclist coming towards him and waved him down. ‘Campus,’ he said and was in hurry to climb without waiting for response. The rider told him he was not registered with the school management and could only take him to the school gate. ‘They won’t let me enter,’ he stressed looking at the glossy hair of the anxious young man. ‘I have a lecture by 7.00am and it is almost the time. Just take me to the gate, I may see another bike from there,’ the young man said. He climbed and put on his dark goggles. He put the magazine and the notebook in-between him and the rider and rested his hands on his laps.
He alighted at the front of the campus north gate and waited impatiently for few minutes but all the motorcycles that crossed to the campus carried a passenger. He patted his head and walked to the pedestrian gate. ‘Your identity card,’ the security officer before the gate asked him. He searched all his pockets and told the security man he forgot to carry it. The officer looked at him deeply to infer the verity of his claim and pointed another security man to him. ‘Go and explain yourself to him,’ he reiterated and attended to other pedestrians.
The huge, muscular security man was sitting on a chair holding a long stick and a Kalashnikov leaning against the wall behind him. He wore a beret cap with oversized green trouser and ash colour shirt. His face was fierce and incandescent with a black ring in his fifth finger that bore bones and human skull inscription testifying to his assumed “strong man.” His skin was scary with cicatrix and a protruding incisor which threatened to stab whoever dared to disobey his command.
‘Good morning sir,’ the young man said, doing the talking more with his head than mouth.
‘Eeh, what is the problem?’ the officer said giving him a look caught between condescension and enquiry.
His demeanour bore a message that every claim must be proved beyond reasonable doubt before any consideration. ‘I’m Alfred Akpa, a hundred level student of chemical engineering. I have not been issued identity card and I forgot my admission letter at home,’ the young man said, avoiding eye contact with the security officer. The officer looked at him doubtfully. He shook his head and patted the rough plastered ground softly with his high-hill boots. ‘But every year one student is entitled to accommodation in the hostel, why do you choose to live outside the campus?’
As if silence was the response the officer demanded, the young man kept mute and gazed at the officers’ boots. He shook his left leg lethargically and yawned slowly. He opened his mouth to say something but it immediately escaped his memory. ‘Don’t you understand my question?’ the officer fumed. The young man looked up and waved his hand lifelessly at a lady on a motorcycle who was not even looking at him. ‘That is my classmate,’ he told the officer as he turned to him. The security man looked at him with livid mien. His lips parted and anger broke out of his mouth. ‘Young man,’ the officer said pointing the stick at the acclaimed student. ‘Don’t take me for a fool or I will treat you like one of those idiots. I asked you a simple question and you are trying to divert my attention. What is my business with her being your classmate?’
The young man tried to pacify the irked officer but his temper was beyond his plea. Another security man bolted from where he was and slapped the young man’s head from behind. ‘Get out!’ he ordered. The young man was reluctant to obey his command and he enforced it by slapping and pushing him. His magazine and notebook fell down and any attempt to carry them would elongate his punishment. So, he left them on the ground and the officer beating him trampled over, his rough boot creating hoes on them. The officer returned and saluted his senior whom he ordered the young man away from his sight and went to his position.
The young man walked a distance and stood with his hands akimbo. He hissed and shrugged his shoulders wearily. ‘Run away from there,’ a security man who was watching him from the gate barked. He walked slowly away muttering and shaking his head. ‘I will teach you people bitter lessons one after another in days to come,’ he ranted.
He dashed his right leg against a stone and in an intractable anger; he took the stone and threw it to the gutter violently. He looked back and caught the security man who shouted at him conducting a search with metal detector on a middle age man. ‘Nonsense man,’ he boiled and walked faster.
A dark complexioned slim man on red T-shirt and a blue face cap sighted him from other side of the road. ‘Alfred,’ he called. The young man stopped and turned. He saw the caller and strode across the road to meet him.
‘Good morning,’ he greeted the man with a stifle smile.
‘Where are you coming from?’ the man said looking at his shiny shoes with admiration.
‘Don’t mind those idiot security men. I wanted to go and see my babe who called me she was shivering with fever but they denied me entrance because of identity card. Hundreds of people trooped into the campus every day without identity cards and they don’t question them. They are stupid for messing up my day.’
‘They are fools. They behave sometimes as if they can protect life and property in the campus. Often times, robbers invade the campus and cart away peoples’ belongings unchallenged,’ the man buoyed.
Both of them walked slowly discussing and insulting the security men. They got to a bus-stop and stopped to read newspapers a vendor was arranging on a table. ‘How much do you sell Daily Sun,’ the dark complexioned man asked and carried a copy of the Daily Sun newspaper. The vendor looked at him disdainfully and in his face was a ray of anger. ‘The price is written on it,’ he replied and attended to other customers with bright smiles. He ignored the duo and occasionally looked at them with a displeased mien.
Alfred also picked up a copy of The Nation newspaper and flipped through it. ‘If you people want to read newspaper, then buy and go. You people come here to price and read newspapers always and never buy a copy. I can’t tolerate that anymore,’ the vendor blustered at Alfred and the dark complexioned man. Those who were there looked at the duo in a strange manner and continued with what brought them to the vendor. ‘Michael let’s go,’ Alfred told his friend and placed the newspaper on the table. Michael kept quiet, looked furiously at the vendor who was busy attending to his customers. ‘You talked foolishly. I have bought newspapers times without number from you and you are saying we only come here to read. Did I tell you I won’t buy the one in my hand?’ Michael bellowed. The vendor raised his head and looked at him murderously.
He stopped selecting newspapers for a vendor who hawked for him and advanced towards Michael. The accumulated anger for quite a long time exploded and he was determined to take his rage beyond mere words. ‘You’ve never bought a newspaper from me. You only come here to read and fight fans of other football clubs over Manchester United. Good for nothing dunce,’ he blast pointing his finger at Michael’s nose.
‘I’m not a plebe like you. I’m a computer boffin and studying interdisciplinary course in the university. Do you know who my father is? Idiot, old man like you hawking newspaper on the road and you are not ashamed. Where were you when your age mates were making it,’ Michael taunted.
A serious fight was about to ensue before they were separated. Some of the congregated people insulted the duo for engaging an elderly man in a feud and warned them against such. In an attempt to exculpate themselves and refusal to admit mea culpa, Michael brought out money from his pocket and showed a man who was telling him to go away that he planned to buy two newspapers with the money before the vendor alleged that they only come to his shop to read. The man and other people around did not listen to him and remained adamant that they should leave. They reluctantly left the shop.
Ugwu Lawrence Enenche is a prolific writer and reputable researcher on African Literature and folklore. He is a celebrated public speaker with a distinguished, ineffable, modest and pro-active personality. He has written many published and unpublished articles, stories, poems and his recent novels are Just After Dawn, A Talking Dream and Gone With Love.
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