“Waliyyah!” I almost dropped the phone.
Feranmi could be lovingly scary at times. She sure didn’t know that. She was my first friend in the University of Ibadan. It was a rare occurrence to have a friend who doubled as one’s course mate and then, tripled as a roommate. We always got each other. I called her pretty pumpkin, even though her weird-looking eyeglasses never let the world behold her beauty.
So, the pandemic had ended and that day was the first day of school in every part of Nigeria. It didn’t exclude the tertiary institutions. Feranmi and I agreed to meet at the school gate so that we could walk together to the faculty. That would enable us to catch up on the gists that had been piled up since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Oh, let me call class rep. He would be glad to join the walk. Don’t worry, we’ll make him keep a reasonable distance to allow us have a gist-full walk.” She laughed at my last sentence and said, “Yeah, sure. Let’s be the first to see what Quadri looks like after about twenty weeks of quarantine.” We both laughed hysterically until I hung up after saying, “Okay dear, bye.”
Feranmi was already at the school gate. She had called three times already and I wasn’t still ready. She called the fourth time and the scary call reactivated my responsibleness.
I miss 100 level days when Feranmi and I went for lectures together. I was a perpetual late comer while she was a ridiculously punctual lass. People like me know how to calculate time the best. I would say, “Let’s wait for ten more minutes joor. It will take us only five minutes to get to SUB. We can jog from there.” Some other times, it would be, “Don’t worry, we’ll get to the lecture room before Dr. B. It will take us just eleven minutes if we walk at our normal pace. If we gist while walking, it’s fifteen minutes and if we can run, we’ll get there in eight minutes.” If Feranmi had the opportunity, she could have given me out since then.
***** ***** *****
“I’m sorry. I’ll be there in thirty minutes.” I was sure since I was on my way out.
I got to the junction and joined the crowd of people who were already waiting for keke napep. “What is going on here? We have this many people in this vicinity?” I said to myself.
A keke came at last. I was not lucky to secure a space inside it. The fifth one had come and gone and I was still not lucky.
I was now alone by the roadside. “Thank God, I can get a space in peace now.”, I murmured. Twenty minutes was gone. I had ten minutes left. A keke eventually came. “Enter with your one fifty change.”
“What? One what?” I thought I heard wrong. It was usually fifty naira. “It’s post-coro things nah.”, the driver said confidently. Coronavirus went away but left behind its twin brother, frustration.
I was angry. “There sure is no situation that people cannot manipulate in this country.” So, there was post-corona price too. It took hearing similar stories from three different drivers before I gave up on waiting for a decent one and boarded one of the kekes that came later.
“You’re seven minutes late.” She said while showing me the time on her phone. “I am sorry. You won’t believe that drivers now charge three times the normal price, saying that it’s post-coro price.” She laughed briefly and said, “Ah, same here oo. That was how I paid two hundred naira for a journey that was ordinarily eighty naira. My mummy even paid seven hundred naira for potatoes that were sold for two hundred naira before the pandemic started.”
“God help us in this post-corona era oo.” I prayed while she said, “Aameen oo”.
We didn’t wait for our class rep because he was yet to take his bath when I called him. We weren’t surprised. He was usually worse than me in the game of late coming. We agreed that he would meet us at the faculty, so we left.
As we walked along, two passersby out of every five that we saw wore face masks. We would laugh whenever we saw one. It seemed like people were yet to recover from the coronavirus experience. We saw some students expressing surprise at how fat or thin their colleagues had become. Two friends became sad after hearing from their third friend about a student that died from coronavirus. We became sad too.
We soon came out of our unhappy mood when someone covered my face from behind. She begged Feranmi not to tell me who she was. I had to beg her, amidst fake cry before she uncovered my face. It was Jumoke. I called her Jummy. We jumped on each other. It was a passionate hug. “Big head, I missed you.” Jummy never stopped missing me. Even after a two weeks holiday, she’d miss me.
Jummy was as slim as when I saw her last. She said the same thing for me. I couldn’t argue that. We probably wouldn’t be fat, even after one year of staying indoor. The walk became more fun and we became noisier as we shared our experiences during the pandemic.
“You must be ready to submit your project, yeah?” That would be Jummy asking. She sometimes cared for me more than herself. “What project?” They both laughed so hard that they almost entered the main road. “Corona indeed do you something oo. Do you even remember the name of your supervisor?” I considered that a rhetorical question. “Whatever”, I said, feigning displeasure. Feranmi said that I looked cute when I feigned anger at Jummy’s remark.
At last, we arrived at the faculty. Students were everywhere. Oh, the newly admitted students were around too. It was the first day of resumption, so I didn’t expect such a large crowd. People obviously were desperately waiting for that day.
We were climbing the stairs that led to second floor where our course adviser’s office was when we heard a lecturer talking to a student. “How can you not remember your matric number? Your own matric number! How?”
We walked past them. Jummy would have loved to hear the last part of the story but we had to drag her along.
Our class rep was already in our course adviser’s office. Then, I heard the most shocking statement of my life. Corona did cause something.
To my class rep, I probably seemed fairer, taller or maybe, shorter for him to have said to me: “You look like a sister that I know. Her name is Waliyyah Abdulwasii.”
***** ***** *****
“Waliyyah… Waliyyah!” Oh, mummy is calling.
I have actually been daydreaming. This must be the result of over thinking.
I usually think about what will happen when the pandemic ends.