And just like that, Wednesday is upon us again! Last week, Joan shocked us all by leaving Barima in one breath and dancing with Nii Okai in the next. This week, we are delving into Salamatu’s life. She is the roommate we know the least about. Let’s correct that. Catch up on all things #Room1045 here.
Edit- I wrote this intro last Tuesday night. Unfortunately, deadlines and some unforeseen demands came into play and I had to put publishing Ep05 on hold. As always, the reactions were varied. Situations like this always make me realize how important this storytelling side gig of mine has become. It makes me realize that people don’t care if you have to jog half naked in the rain to deliver the story, they just want their story- that is both flattering and a little sad. Lol!
Thanks again to every one of you for always reading when I post a story, especially the silent readers who came out of their hiding places to ask for their story . Like one of my good friends says, ‘You are the ones who make me relevant.’ Special thanks to all those who checked in on me and assured me to take my time.
‘You did what?’
Kesewa lifted her head unexpectedly, causing her scarf to fall off. Her braids spilled over the pillow and her cloth fell to the ground. That didn’t stop her from repeating the question.
‘You did what?’
Joan laughed. She was sitting on the table in the corner of the room.
‘I said I met my sugar daddy’s wife, broke up with my sugar daddy and ended up with a church boyfriend. All in the space of 24 hours. Top that!’
‘His wife? And your face is intact? Hasn’t she heard of acid?’
‘Wow Kess! Can’t you mask your hatred for me a little bit? We came to a mutual agreement.’
‘Yes, mutual! Besides, I have moved on. Nii Okai has my heart- all of it.’
‘What about your school fees?’, Sala asked.
‘We are trusting the Loooooo-rd to make a way. Hallelujah somebody!’
Salamatu smiled quietly to herself.
Joan amused her. If she was going to be really honest, sometimes she wished she was carefree as Joan was. It seemed to work well for her. The whole Nii Okai thing seemed to be going well. It seemed like Joan had been put under a spell. She spent all her time with him. She just hadn’t found her way to his prayer meetings yet. She kept saying that tongue speaking and Bible wielding would take some getting used to.
‘Barima is calling again.’
’Are you going to keep ignoring him for the rest of your life?’
’He will give up. I am not going back. He must think that I said what I said out of guilt. He also knows that if I made a mistake, I would run with it anyways because I can be stubborn.
‘Correction. Because you ARE stubborn.’, Kesewa quipped.
Salamatu liked this: this friendly atmosphere, this lighthearted honesty.
Joan retorted, ‘Since we are being honest, when are you going to leave that boy? Chukwuemeka cannot be the only guy in the world who has caught your fancy, can he?’
Silence fell over the room like unexpected torrential rains.
When will you learn to keep your mouth shut, Joan?
Kesewa pulled the scarf back onto her head, got off the bed and walked out of the room.
Joan caught the look of indignation on Salamatu’s face.
‘What? We are all thinking it, aren’t we?’
‘She didn’t judge you. Why are you judging her?’
‘Judge. Did you miss the tone of I-am-better-than-you that she kept throwing at me?’
‘Maybe it is just in your mind.’
‘Sala, I wish we were all like you. You are always looking for the good in everyone and everything.’
‘Tea bread ne magarine 3 cedis. Malt baako.’
Prince looked over his shoulder when he heard the movement. It was Salamatu, the girl from next door.
Shoot! She has seen me looking at her. Now I have to say hi.
‘You are the Muslim girl from Room 1045, right?’
‘But I have seen you in that room before.’
‘Yes, I am in Room 1045. No, I am not a Muslim girl.’
‘Oh my bad. I just assumed-‘
‘That because my name is Salamatu, I must be Muslim? Don’t worry- happens all the time.’
‘So you are Christian?’
‘I am nothing.’
‘No, I believe in God. I just don’t like the labels.’
‘You should have a conversation with my roommate PK. It will be fun to listen to both of you argue.’
The owner of the tuck shop shifted uncomfortably. They had been standing in front of her shop for too long. This was not going to allow her to spot potential customers from across the street if they as much as glanced in her direction.
‘Two exercise books and correction fluid.’
‘We are barely halfway through the semester. Exams are so far off. In fact Jesus will come before exam season.’
‘I need to get into medical school. Trust me, everyday is examination day.’
‘I see. You should come by our room one of these days and have a debate with PK.’
‘When I get into med school.’
They were laughing- all 7 of them.
Most study groups had 3 or 4 people max. 5 was pushing it, so 7 was weird enough.
But it worked for them.
All 7 of them were sitting together on Day 1 when the very first lecturer told them to join study groups. Harry, the natural leader amongst them, had a study schedule ready by the close of day. He also formed a whatsapp group chat and added them to a Google group so that they could remotely work on assignments together. Yaw was the joker- always ready to lighten the mood when everyone else was stressed. Shola was the task mistress- always setting targets for everyone.
‘We should have finished revising this chapter and be able to answer the past questions by the end of this meeting.’
That was Shola. She was the one to avoid when there was a deadline and you had not yet submitted your part of the work.
Princess was from Liberia. Her parents preferred to bring her to Ghana for her medical education. She seemed like the daughter of very rich and powerful people back in Liberia. She was used to having an easy ride and having people to pick up after her, so she was always clashing with Shola. The twin boys- Panyin and Kakra- were equally intelligent and mischevious. After week 3, Sala discovered that they had been taking turns as each other so that nobody would be able to make them out. She kept their secret and won their loyalty. Of the two, Kakra was the teacher. Panyin was the ‘Guys, let’s think about this calmly. There must be another way around it’ guy.
When Bonsu walked into the classroom, everyone hushed up.
Except Sala, because her back was facing the door and she didn’t see him come in.
Shola signalled at Sala but it was too late.
Bonsu walked up to their table and looked at every one of their faces.
Alpha University had two heads- the Vice Chancellor and Bonsu. It was rumoured that even the Vice Chancellor tiptoed around Bonsu.
Bonsu. Aka Black.
The ironic part was he was not black at all. He was as fair as an African man could be. Perhaps that was the whole reason why he had that name.
‘You are the only one who knows how to laugh, isn’t it?’
He grabbed the textbook that was lying open on her laps and gave it to one of the stooges following him.
‘Let’s see who is laughing now.’
Sala swallowed her saliva and said, ‘I am going to need that book. I have a test in two days’ time.’
‘Come to the Den for it.’
As soon as he and his entourage left, the talking and whispering began.
Sala looked at Harry and asked, ‘Where is the Den?’
‘Sala, are you crazy? Nobody goes to the Den- even boys are afraid to go there. You are a girl- there is no way you will survive.’
Yaw tried to joke around.
‘If you were Christian, I would have said you were trying to enact the whole Daniel in the lion’s den thing.’
Sala repeated her question.
The boys started yelling and chanting as soon as they saw her.
The yelling intensified when they saw that she was advancing, rather than retreating.
‘I am looking for Bonsu.’
The guy who yelled the obscene words at her in response had alcohol on his breath.
The others started chanting Bonsu’s name. One of the boys pointed in the direction of a room in the far right corner of the space they were in.
The Den looked more like a refuse site. All the boys walked around in boxer shorts or nothing at all. There were clothes hanging on lines everywhere. There was also the distinct smell of kanzo. In one corner, someone was building a tower of Postinor 2 and Durex condom boxes. Another guy was singing along with Bob Marley to Redemption Song.
Sala knocked three times and pushed the door open.
The room smelt like smelly shoes, dried up sweat and stale air.
She wrinkled her nose and waited for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting.
‘Where is my book?’
Bonsu was sitting on a table with a bowl of aboboi and tatale in front of him. He had just scooped three spoons of sugar into the bowl. On any other day, Sala would have said something. Not today.
‘Of course. Did you really think the fact that anything would deter me? I need my books to study.’
‘Wow. You came here?’
‘What is the worst that could happen? Rape? Physical abuse? Been there, done that.’
Bonsu’s eyes widened and he checked to see if she was bluffing. It was hard to tell really.
Sala was bluffing but he didn’t need to know that. She was determined to get her book, come rain or sunshine.
‘You don’t like me much, do you?’
‘No, I don’t. I just want my book back.’
‘Wow. You are one determined lady. You walked through the catcalls and endured the jeering and obscene talk, just for a book. Couldn’t you have borrowed one from someone?’
‘No, this is about standing up to a bully. Medical students have very limited time to study. I have wasted too much of it chatting, resolving fights and ignoring catcalls. I’d like to study now. And I need that book to do that. I can only do so much when the book is for someone else- they will also need it soon. Can I have my book now please?’
‘Sit and have some aboboi with me. You eat aboboi, don’t you? Being from the North and all.’
Sala ignored him and turned her head to look around.
‘What are you looking for?’
‘Something that you value and will urgently need. If I have something you want, then we can just trade, rather than endure this one sided subjugation.’
‘I doubt you’d find anything.’
She grabbed a photo frame from the open locker adjacent his bed.
‘Put that back. That is the only picture I have of my mum.’
Sala resisted the urge to smile in triumph.
‘Give me back my book and you will have your picture.’, she said in a cold, emotionless voice.
‘You have some nerve coming here and trying to-‘
‘If you don’t give me the book, I will burn the picture. I have a lighter in my pocket. I can always buy another book but you will never have the picture back.’
‘Take your book and leave. It is beneath the pillow.’
As soon as the Den was out of sight, she started running.
The lighter had been another bluff and she was wondering what would have become of her if Bonsu had found out.
That was so Joan-like. Actually, that wasn’t me chanelling my inner Joan. I was chanelling my inner Maa Rakia. Her fighter spirit.
The smile formed without effort.
After a cold shower, Sala finally sat on her bed to open the book she had gone to great lengths to recover. As she looked at all the things she had to read, she began to panic.
I should have made better use of my time today.
The pains in her chest came out of nowhere. Her fingers felt numb and her heart was racing.
‘I-I- can’t breathe-‘
Everything was spiraling out of control.
She could hear voices.
‘Sala! Sala! Kess, call the boys next door. We need to get her to the University Hospital.’
Suddenly, she felt like prey trapped in the lion’s den.
See you next week!