I stayed in the hostel in my first year and except for the time I poured water on a porter, I followed all the rules. No washing on the balcony. No contraband which meant no electrical cooking appliances and more. Cooking in the room attracted a fine and a history lesson about a certain someone who burnt down a block while at it.

That Saturday morning, I had woken up early to wash the clothes I piled up for two weeks, downstairs at the tap. Washing anywhere else was against the rules. By 8am, I was done.

I was also very hungry. For someone who eats as early as 6:30am, it would be weird if the soldiers in my stomach did not protest. I had been craving beans for a while and I decided to cook it that morning. I counted on its being done by the time I finished washing clothes but the plan fell through; the only roommate of mine around had gone to pray and I wasn’t about to leave food on fire without anyone around.

I ate the few slices of bread I had left and proceeded to the kitchenette with my kerosene stove to cook beans. I turned up the stove to the highest and went back to my room to wait. I was going to start reading my chemistry note when I remembered a friend had agreed to help with the mathematics question I had issues solving. I took my note and went to her room, four blocks away.

An hour and 4 questions later, I was good to go. After she told me the textbooks she uses and why, we talked about the different personas on our floor and then she said “I cooked at my balcony yesterday o. The sink was clogged and the water inside made me retch. Nylon, oil, okra and some unknown things were floating on it. I could swear I saw cooked beans on the floor too.”

Beans! My beans! My heart skipped and without a word or my note, I flew all the way to the kitchenette. The sight I saw at the entrance confirmed what I already knew. One of the cleaners and about six of my neighbours stood around my pot, one of them poking the beans burnt beyond recognition with a stick. I could not cry.

I was sure someone had jokingly asked “who is burning?” like they did every time someone burnt something. I thanked them and took my empty stove and blackened pot to the room. At the end of the day, I had successfully cooked nothing.



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