Atinuke thumbed the attendance booklet her office as the course representative entrusted to her, and was baffled at how Bankole managed to evade school for so long without her notice. She’d first noticed when she went through the booklet some weeks back. It wasn’t strange for a student to miss classes, so she’d dismissed it.
The following weekend, the booklet informed her Mr Bankole was still not in attendance. Her attempts to reach him wasn’t successful for a long while: his phone was unreachable, he was never in his room either. Worried, she’d informed the course adviser who gave her the info of his next of kin. His sister had confirmed that he was in school, although she’d sounded very sad and resigned.
Armed with that intelligence, she’d stormed over to his room and demanded to see him. Only to be told he wasn’t in.
Atinuke chuckled at the memory and it echoed in her empty room. If Bosun was in, she’d have reminded Atinuke it was unlady-like to laugh to one’s self. Atinuke had deflated so rapidly at the news of Bankole not being in his room that it was funny to her now. The possibility of not meeting him in his room did not occur to her at that time. Or the fact that he might not be willing to be seen.
Atinuke shook her head and closed the booklet. She seriously hoped he would see the course adviser the next day. It would be a waste to see years of academic excellence go down the drain, especially at this die-hour. She lifted him up in prayers again, after which she prepared for her afternoon nap. God, I’ve done my best. Only You can help him now.
It was a sunny day and Bankole hurried to escape the sun’s wrath. His head was full enough without adding an ache to it. He slipped quietly into the lecture room. He was late. What was that saying again? Yes. Better late than never. How convenient. At the very least, he was here, and it was a step in the direction of “take action”. He should be proud, right?
Atinuke looked over her shoulder and their gazes met. Disbelief chased after shock on her face before a smile triumphed. He returned her smile and felt suddenly good: he was wanted here. He’d take care of undoing alienation of his other friends.
A yawn escaped him. Was he tired or was it the lecture? An answering yawn from a coursemate supported the latter option. The yawns were becoming quite contagious and they spread, infecting the entire class which in turn elicited peals of laughter. The lecturer, affronted, asked them to share the joke and the class fell silent.
The rest of the 45 minutes of the class, Bankole was lost. He was still trying to figure out what the lecture was about when Atinuke, escorting the lecturer to his office, beckoned on him to follow her.
He hedged and mouthed “Next class”, pointing to his seat.
She shook her head and mouthed back “No class now, let’s go”.
For all his bravado, he didn’t think he was ready to face Mr Daniels, their course adviser. It was not like he had a choice. Returning his note to his bag, he followed after Atinuke with the speed of a snail in a hurry.
The library was welcoming in its silence and Bankole soaked it up. After all, it was not every day one was presented with proof of wasted time. He needed the quiet to process it. The neatly printed sheets of his courses’ outline was spread before him. He leafed through them and he began to feel overwhelmed by the grounds he had to cover to catch up.
Mr Daniels had organized and printed the outlines for him, and Bankole was touched by his kindness. Most course advisers didn’t take their job seriously or even bother with an apparently failing student. And the meeting wasn’t as bad as he’d dreaded. Mr Daniels told him to return in two weeks’ time to get a date for his missed tests.
Bankole hung his head sadly. He could see Atinuke again as she waited for him outside Mr Daniels’ office. She had squeezed his hand in comfort and whispered to him, “Mr Bankole, I’m praying for you”. His heart was warmed. If someone was praying for him, surely, that had to count for something.
With that he took his pen and began to draw up a plan. This ‘elephant’ of a pile would be taken apart in bits: one topic at a time.