IPUBLICISEAFRICA SERIES: Chronicles Of Tonio Lawrex (episode 5)
Episode 5 – (FLASHBACK)
After lectures that day, I flipped through my phone which had been in silence throughout the lecture, and I met three missed calls; my heart jumped when I saw the caller was Tobias, but my heart jumped more when my eyes met his message which read thus – `you no go pick my call now abi? Hmmm if you know how bloody this issue is, you won’t be avoiding my calls`
I wanted to call him but a call came at once and he was the caller again.
I picked up and managed to say: “Hello… hel… hello, can you hear me” I struggled with the poor network.
My heart leapt the most when he said: “What did you tell Oge?”
“I don’t get. What do you mean – what I told her?”
“Ok! There`s nothing you told Oge again abi?”
“Come straight with what you want to say; because I and Oge have held a couple of conversations, so I hardly can tell which of the conversation you are… ”
“Stop beating about the bush my friend, you sure know what I’m talk…”
“And you stop shouting at me like that; we’ve got no issues before, unless you want to start one!”
He let out a sarcastic giggle and said: “Oh! Oh, oh! You are now growing wings shea?” I wanted to shoot back at him before he mumbled: “Hmmm, all this year-one students though. Ok naa let’s watch and see.”
He hung up the call on me before I could even utter one more word.
`…All this year one students though` – Those words were the massive cliché heard from almost every student whom have passed hundred-level. It had meant a lot of things depending on the context it was used. But all its meaning boiled down to the point that year-one students were naive and ignorant of a lot of things but yet most of them claimed to know better. And this definition goes as far as making the speaker of the aforementioned statement to try his/her best to prove the year-one student in question, wrong.
In the case of me and Tobias, I was the year-one student in question and he was then in year-three or so, I wasn’t sure. Deep down me, I know something strange was cooking and I was in a big-time trouble, because I searched through my mind and recalled two conversations I had with Oge, which might be the sole cause of their breakup.
I was much stressed out from the lecture of the day and as a result I couldn’t wait for Emma for us to board Kene Napep together and go home, I just waved down one and hopped in. Inside the vehicle, I sank into thoughts; it was second semester of my hundred-level and exams were fast approaching, it was announced that the exam timetable would be out the upper week but I haven’t started reading. I wanted to dial Oge`s number and tell her we needed to meet but then I decided to do that when I got home. My exams were facing me – a big case faced me too; which one would I focus on?
My scores smiled in first semester for I got a couple of A`s in Mathematics, GS Courses and a few departmental courses. But I guessed that was because I was more serious with my studies in first semester than I was in second semester.
My admission into the university was like a miracle because since I left secondary school I didn’t take JAMB till after three years, owing to many reasons one of which was financial reason. I took JAMB once and got immediate admission through first batch. First week was a sort of observation to me as I struggled with attending lectures, adapting to the environment, making friends and paying Acceptance Fee. The kind of sun which shone inside the school throughout that period was as harsh as hell, my smooth chocolate skin soon tanned and my stubborn afro hair saw a reason to grow into tuft.
One of the things I adapted to, was the mode of dressing seen along the streets where students lived. From Second Market to Amansi (down school), it was normal for girls to go on skimpy wears as boys sauntered with huge beards and dreads. Looking fresh, custom-like and sophisticated. There was this evening I saw a girl putting on something that confused me till today, it was a long-sleeve top which stopped just below her bum. The normal bum-short they used to wear wasn’t there, the rest of her body from her upper thigh to her toes were naked. I couldn’t tell whether she wore other things or not, but mere looking at her, the top-wear is the only thing that made her different from a naked vixen. She walked carefree as she made a call with a very large phone pasted on her ear. It wasn’t a new thing amongst students because everybody walked past her, so I decided to pretend it wasn’t also new to me; I walked and passed.
As someone who newly entered the university with the ambitions of becoming great through the good things around, I started helping myself by attending seminars, programs and speeches. I never missed any program I heard that Dr. P. Ifeanyi, P.Iykes, Rich Minds, Kachi and other motivational speakers would be a host, I always attended them and it had been a great source of eye-opener to me. I was a monger for wise words and entertainment, so I hardly skipped such things.
‘Look you’ll see a lot of posters and banners of program in this school, you’ll have to ignore most of them, because activities would stress you out, and rip you of your time to read‘ my elder sister would advice me. She studied Marketing and was in final-year that time. But I wouldn’t mind what she said; I sometimes accepted an invitation without letting her know about it. I would just attend it when the time comes.
It was in one of my seminars that I met this guy that always inspired me; fair, brilliant, tall and ugly; but appreciated by his girlfriend. Paul was a Law student whose ego and dignity I respect so much, but the kind of temptation he later fell into made me realize that human beings are capable of doing anything if not careful. Human beings are a sack of uncertainties prone to temptation, and no matter how disciplined and abstinent we seem to be, it is just a matter of time and our skin will drag us into a quagmire of mess.
Partying was yet another challenge, the first party I attended in school was the one of Matriculation Night, it was like a culture amongst student to celebrate the night they were official matriculated as students of the university, so I decided that mine wasn’t gonna be different. When we stepped into Fayrouz Club that night, the dance floor was very hot as florescent lights flickered everywhere. Skimpy girls and hungry boys were a thousand, they dance and rubbed their body on each other, thus the boys quenched their temporal hunger with the boogie. I nodded my head to the rhythms of the songs as I stepped in. Miscellaneous drinks were scattered on the table where I sat with my friends most of whom were my course mates. In a table of thirteen guys there were only two girls sitting with us. We were new so we didn’t know much girls; the two who came had been friends with the guys who brought them.
I didn’t freak for alcohol in green bottles for I had history with it, it had maimed a part of my life; a story I will tell on a suitable day. I rather took yogurt and alcoholic wine than drink Origin, Heineken, Life, Star, Gulder and whatnot. But it was, and is still normal among boys to mock any friend who doesn’t take alcohol. In fact, one is considered abnormal if he doesn’t drink alcohol, but I didn’t mind; I will always demand for yogurt (thick good ones) and dilute it with black Bullet.
There was yet another grown boy who didn’t care what anybody said, he openly said he doesn’t take any sort of alcohol, bottled or canned. He only took Malt throughout the rounds that came to the table. They laughed at him and he laughed at himself too, as he proudly enjoyed his Malt which was even more nourishing and healthier than the rest of the drinks.
As the night matured, we drank and drank; danced and danced. Even poor dancers amongst us tried dancing as they staggered drunkenly and it was funny enough. I checked my time and it was 10:38pm. Most girls in the club had drunken to stupor; they succumbed to the persuasions of the boys who came with them. One of the two girls in our table was a confirm party girl, I watched her down four bottles of Heineken and was holding a can of black Bullet. I know she will kill herself if she tried finishing that one in particular. At intervals she would hold onto the so-called shi-sha smoke and draw a mouthful of smoke then puff it into the tin air with her eyes dull. The guy who came with her was drunk too, in fact the moment he started grabbing and groping the girl on vital parts of her body without the girl hesitating was the moment I knew we have stayed long in that party, it was the moment I knew they were absolutely drunk.
“I want to go home now” the voice of the other girl came.
That was when my attention drew to her, and to my very surprise she wasn’t drunk at all. In her hands was a can of blue Bullet and before her was a plate of pepper soup which she scooped into her mouth reluctantly. She resisted every persuasion from the guy to drink alcohol.
Like I said, boys were very hungry that night, almost everybody needed a girl to intoxicate with drink, so as to access her easily.
But for us to have been there for hours and there was still a girl who made it as far as not drinking alcohol made me grow interest in her.
“Common, it`s still early to start going now, baby the party had just started” the guy said, with his arms round her waist.
“I just want to go now please, it is almost going To Eleven”
“Don’t you know some people stays here till the party ends around 4am”
“I`m not some… we are not some people. We got to do what we want to do and not what some people are doing” she said politely. I knew she wanted to make that statement personal, but she endeavoured to be polite by making it mutual; `we`.
On hearing that statement I whispered to myself – “Sharp girl!” After a while, I noticed they weren’t talking and the guy was busy chatting with other guys, then I made advances to approach her. The guy was drunk, so he didn’t mind, we talked and she was too uncomfortable to smile but my tipsy self was too eager to make her smile. She did smile at last and we conversed normally.
Some people who were dancing moved away from the light and it shone on her face. Only then I noticed what a damsel I had been sitting and discussing with. She had a very huge hair (not breaded nor even weaved), a bulbous nose, a smooth fair skin and a big, pink lips. As if she had been waiting for the light to shine, she quickly used the opportunity to look at me as well; her eye were pure-white and the spikes of her eyelashes seemed as though they were fixed but I took a closer look at them and noticed they weren’t fixed. She gave my face a look that entailed I wasn’t looking bad too. I smiled and she smiled back.
Most of our dialogue were sign language, we didn’t talk much. It was when the guy excused us to ease himself that I asked her – “Is this your natural hair?”
“Yeah, why ask?”
I touched the strands and confirmed, then I said: “They look dense, black and natural” I was still feeling them with my fingers. My love and freak for hairs were alarming though.
“Tonio nawa for you oo, waitn be your own? Na babe wey I carry come be dis oo” the guy was back from easing himself and that was the first thing he said and we all laughed. He didn’t mind us; he just turned and started drinking again.
“He`s your boyfriend right?” I whispered to her.
“No. A childhood friend” she said and then like an afterthought she asked: “Was it Tony or Tonio he just called you? Oh my God this boy is really drunk” she threw her head backwards and giggled.
“No, he was correct. I`m Tonio, not Tony”
“Tonio? Uhmm, I haven’t heard that name before”
“Yeah, it`s Italian short-form for Anthony”
“Wow! What of Tony?”
“That`s American short-form” I lectured her.
“Uhmm, what`s the difference naa?” she giggled.
“The big difference is LANGUAGE”
“Ok oo, TONIO”
“Yeah, so what about you?” I asked.
She turn to look at me, as if to be sure I really deserve to know her name, before she said: “I`m Helen by name”
That was how and where I met Helen for the very first time.
…To be continued
© 2016 Nwoye T. Anthony
(CHRONICLES OF TONIO LAWREX)