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ATWIED – NYSC CHRONICLES

CHAPTER 2: LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

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I woke up in the evening to the sound of loud music blaring from the general direction of the Mami market. Definitely, that’s where I’m headed tonight, I thought to myself. I was still in mufti and was determined to continue wearing my mufti for as long as it took. I wore a white t-shirt on black jeans with slippers as I stepped out into the night. I had a couple of missed calls from Hajia, and a couple more from another girl in the WhatsApp group where I’d previously been fighting everyone like a deranged creature. I called Hajia first.

“Hello, Hajia. Where are you?”

“Hmm… Are you just seeing my missed calls? Since that time I’ve been calling you.”

“Sorry dear, I’ve been sleeping since.”

“Sleepy sleepy. Where are you?” She asked me.

“I’m on my way to Mami market. Will you join me?” “Where exactly?”

“That place where they play video games. They also sell smoothies too.”

“Okay I’m coming,” She said as she hung up.

I enjoyed the cool evening breeze as I took in the sights and sounds around me. The girls all looked so beautiful and smart in their white on white, those little shorts hugging their asses desperately like it was a do or die affair. The guys either looked smart, for those who kept fit, or downright stupid. Some of those shorts could pass for boxers, making them look awkward with their hairy, muscular legs. Most people were excited to get into the action as they were all already dressed up in their NYSC kit. I stood out like a sore thumb in my half-mufti outfit as I walked towards the video game arena, a rebel without a cause. I got there and ordered for a strawberry smoothie at a cost of N500, then settled back and watched the girls dance to the hip hop video game dance simulator. The soft bounce of their boobs gave me so much joy, coupled with the loud blare of music from numerous speakers from various joints – the atmosphere was electric! Suddenly I heard someone should my name, “Wayward Pikin!”

I turned and I recognized her immediately – Dumebi. She was one of the girls that had gotten into a war of words with me from the WhatsApp group. We were now close friends, and I had even missed some of her missed calls which I had forgotten to return.

“Dumebi, how are you?”

She was with four other people, all from the group. She was an excessively energetic little girl, more hyper than anyone I could think of. I, on the other hand, though a keyboard warrior, am quiet like a mouse in real life and innocent looking. She stood in front of me, a big smile on her face, appraising me from head to toe.

“So, this is you? And if someone sees you now the person will not know that you are the same person that is capable of all those atrocities you were committing in the group. Just look at how quiet you are looking.”

The others with her surrounded me as I continued to smile sheepishly like a cornered rat. One of the girls looked at me curiously.

“Dumebi, who is this?”

“It’s Wayward Pikin.”

The other girl looked at me in shock and burst out laughing. I shook hands with the three girls and two guys in front of me.

“Okay guys, can we just forget about everything that happened in that WhatsApp group? I was just trying to catch some harmless fun. How are you guys enjoying camp so far?”

“It’s fuuun!” Two of the girls chorused. I smiled, even though I didn’t share the same enthusiasm – yet.

“We wanna play this game!” Dumebi said excitedly. “Wayward, will you join us?”

“No thanks. I’d rather watch.”

And watch I did, feeding my eyes hungrily as they danced with so much happiness and excitement. One of the girls was married and highly curvaceous, and I envied her husband, watching all her features bounce as she danced, flawlessly mimicking the moves on the plasma TV. She was the best dancer of the lot. After they were done we elected to go to one of the joints to chill, being the first time all of us were meeting ourselves face to face. I mocked Dumebi happily along the way.

“I can’t believe you were defeated by a married woman. See how you were dancing like someone that was suffering from epilepsy,” I said, laughing furiously. Indeed, her dancing was so awkward.

“Ehn, thank you. My boyfriend likes it like that.”

“Why won’t he like it like that? Does a beggar have a choice?” We yabbed (translation: threw friendly jabs at) each other back and forth until we got to a joint where we promptly settled down and ordered for some drinks. I bought a drink for myself and looked up to the sky, all man for himself, and Dumebi proceeded to yab me seriously.

“Chai, Igbo man! I’ve always suspected that you were very stingy. How can you be with several people and you buy drinks for only yourself.”

I smiled as the rest of the gang laughed at me. Not that I didn’t have the money, but I was new to the environment and still testing the waters. Besides they came with two other guys, let those guys shoulder the responsibility.

On second thought, maybe they were right. Maybe I was stingy.

The other guys ordered for some drinks too and everyone was engaged in conversation. Dumebi came to sit down beside me and emptied more than half of my drink into her glass. The girl was just determined to get under my skin. In real life, I was no match for her energy-wise. I was way more reserved. As we all talked, my phone rang – it was the sexy Hajia.

“Hello, where are you?”

“I’m at the video game place. I can’t see you. Where are you?” She said.

“Just wait there, I’m on my way.” I excused myself and went to meet her, Dumebi’s voice trailing after me. She was probably saying something she thought was funny. I rolled my eyes in exasperation, the girl was slowly getting on my nerves. I met up with Hajia and I must confess that she was the most beautiful Hajia I had ever seen in my life. She was the CocaCola to my orange juice, her black ebony skin glistening in the darkness, her Hijab framing her face so perfectly. This was a new uncharted territory for me. I told her I was with some guys from the WhatsApp group, and her discomfort at the prospect of hanging out at a joint was palpable, probably against her religion. I told her we wouldn’t waste anytime there, that we would just say hi and leave, to which she obliged. We went back to the joint where the others were and introduced her to the gang. I held out a seat for her and ordered a nonalcoholic drink for my new best friend. Dumebi looked at me with eyebrows raised and I was wary of what she was going to say next.

“Hmm… ladies man! Baba for the girls!” She teased, and I resisted the urge to strangle her. She talked too much. Hajia and I talked for a while, and she was quite chatty. She gisted me about how lonely she had been in camp since the day she’d arrived because she was one of the first people to resume. She’d been so bored the day before which was why she came to see me at the Platoon 7 canopy but I was too busy to see her. A guy at the next table sitting alone with a bottle of Andre lit a stick of cigarette and Hajia became visibly uncomfortable. She said she wanted to leave and I obliged her, deciding to escort her to her hostel, with Dumebi’s voice trailing us as we left.

Damn, that girl was so annoying!

I escorted her to the front of the hostel, bid her goodnight and made my way back to Mami market to join the others.

“Is she your girlfriend?” One of the girls asked me. “She’s just a friend,” I answered.

“Hmmmmmmm!” They all chorused.

What have I gotten myself into with these people? I thought to myself.

“But how are you going to cope? She’s a Yoruba Muslim and you’re an Igbo Christian. Won’t your mum oppose the union?” Dumebi asked in her usual hyperactive way.

“As I said, she’s just a friend,” I said through gritted teeth. Please, just shut up already.

After a while, I excused myself and went to join the guy sitting alone at a table with a bottle of Andre, but this time he was joined with some other guy who was wearing a branded Indomie noodles shirt. In my mind, I had left the kids behind and had come over to discuss with more mature individuals. If only. I sat at his table and introduced myself to the two dudes. The Corps Member introduced himself as David, an upcoming singer, while the other guy was working at the Indomie stand. I poured some of the Andre into my glass cup – my mission there – as we talked about random stuff. David was about to light another stick when he hissed and put it back inside the pack.

“I hate cigarettes. This shit kills. What I really need is some high-grade marijuana,” he thundered.

“You also smoke MJ? No worries, I can help you get some when next I’m going out of the camp. I hate cigarettes as well,” the Indomie guy offered.

As he said those words my ears perked up.

“Bro, did you just say you can help us buy some weed?”

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