On This Street, Part VI

Did you miss Part V? Read it here


It was three weeks to graduation and I hadn’t left home since I suspended my job hunt. I had gained unreasonable weight and my skin had transformed into a dark, rough coating. I also stopped taking calls from former classmates.

One Thursday morning, my phone rang incessantly. Irritated, I stretched my hand and held it close to my face to see who was calling. It was Annah. Irritated, I cancelled the call. By experience, I knew she never had good news for me.

I threw the phone back at the edge of the bed but within seconds, it buzzed, announcing the arrival of a message.  “Are you aware that you have a retake?”Annah’s message read.   She must be lying, I thought to myself. But the more I thought about the message, the more heartbroken I became. I picked up the phone and dialed Ian’s number, even when I’d been ignoring his calls since we met at Children’s Hope International.

I asked if he was aware that I had a retake. “What prank is this? I don’t even know your registration number!” he said. Then we both went silent. It was that silence that made Ian sense that I wasn’t bluffing.

“Are you there G?”

I responded with a sob. Ian asked for my registration number and left for university. One hour later, he confirmed that I had failed one paper and needed to re-take. That meant one whole year of waiting to graduate. I suddenly felt hot and light at the same time, like I didn’t have bones beneath my skin. I walked out of the house, oblivious of my destination.

I found myself by the roadside, watching cars for several minutes before fear gripped me. What if someone I went to university with found me in this state of distress? But still, I was glad I left home. I imagined if I’d stayed there by myself for another minute, I would have done something terrible to myself.

I continued walking by the roadside and found myself in front of my hair stylist’s salon. My stylist and the girls in her salon always had stories about every event in town. Their chit-chat could take my mine off the retake, I thought. I could also learn how to style hair and forget about job search, who knows where my breakthrough could come from?

“Your hair is still good but why not take good care of it?” my hair stylist wondered.

She instructed one of the girls to apply oil in my scalp and style the braids. ­­­­ I inquired whether she was doing it for free and she affirmed. As I waited for my hair to be worked on, I dosed off on the chair and moved to the couch shortly after, to have a proper sleep. I was woken up by a fat woman who needed more space than was available for her to sit comfortably.

On TV, armored police mercilessly battered a group of youth. A mixture of teargas fired by the cops and smoke from the protesters' burning tyres, billowed on screen. The salon went mute. Then an argument broke out among the hair stylists. Group 1 said the whole scenario was staged and a propaganda to soil the name of some politicians. Group 2 said since it was on TV, it must be true. However, Group 1 wondered how the journalists got to know about the event in record time. They further argued that if it was true, they would only reach when the damage had already been done. They claim the whole violence was acted.

“Do you think everything you watch in Nigerian movies are true? They are acted to teach us. These TV people also act,” one lady said and the whole room seemed convinced.

I knew this argument was misleading about how media operates. So I explained how communication flows from the source to the audience.  The four hairdressers were amazed and changed their earlier stance about what was showing on TV. For the first time, the fat woman who had been minding her phone the entire time, spoke to me.  

“What do you do?”

I was afraid to introduce myself as a graduate anymore because of my unkempt looks and my pending retake, but I did. She gave me her business card and told me to call her the next day, saying she was looking for people like me.  Rita worked in a media house that needed to recruit more people.

The following morning, she directed me to a hotel where they were already training new recruits. Just like she had informed me on phone, Rita was not at the hotel but I found Terrence, the team leader. He was very welcoming. He told the trainees that finally luck had hit them because there was a potential graduate among them. The scolds on the faces of the other four trainees was clear.

“We’re a team. It doesn’t matter whether you hold a diploma, a degree or a certificate, we’ll be after your performance,” Terrence offered, realizing his mistake.

The damage had already been done.



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