The Roommate

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The fear was obvious from the sound of his voice.

“Sir, my referees have stated on the curriculum vitae” he replied with a shaky voice. The rate of his heartbeat has increased based on the last question.

“Young man, what I mean is referrals, the person or persons that recommended you for this job position”

“Your referees are stated here, but I need to know those that are backing you”

From the way he spoke, he seems to be losing patience with him and that is the last thing he needed under the situation.

“Well sir, I saw the advertisement on the dailies and felt I met the necessary requirements, so I applied, took the tests and was invited for this interview”

The interviewer paused, studied him for a while and then went ahead to confer quietly with his other two colleagues sitting either side of him.

As he raised his head and addressed him again, he knew instantly that the interview was over even before it began.

“Please go with the secretary, she will attend to you,” he said with an air of finality.

Out of one of the many closed doors, a lady smartly dressed in a pair of black trousers suit emerged and led him out of the room.

On their way through the labyrinths of office rooms, she stopped by a desk a removed a brown envelope from one of its drawers and handed it over to him.

“This is for all the troubles you must have gone through in getting here and other miscellaneous”

He heard, but it has never happened to him until then; now he is a living proof that certain government jobs are not for the poor no matter your qualification and expertise.

To think that this same job will be given to the son or daughter of a politician or rich man who can’t even offer half of what he has to bring to the table.

He collected the envelope from her and from it; he counted fifty pieces of crisp 1000 naira notes. Ideally, based on a personal principle he knew he should have rejected the money, but common sense dictates otherwise. As of the last time he checked, the fifty thousand naira was more than 90% of his total earnings for the past three months. Besides, having surveyed the environment, it wouldn’t be in his best interest to start any trouble unless he buys the idea of having to spend the next few days cooling off in a police cell.

He walked down the street towards the bus stop filled with bottled up anger, but anger at whom in particular? It was the norm, but it doesn’t make it less painful to accept. Certain realities are difficult to accept whether explained through the easy way or the hard way.

A few years back as a freshman at the university, a returning student nicely put things into perspective for him.

As a new intake and a person in a new environment, one’s first and essential basic necessity was accommodation; where to lay down and try to forget all the frustrations of running around the campus from one office to the other trying to make sure that you are actually a legal member of the academic community.

The hostel room allocations is one of the most important parts of the registration exercise and is keenly contested and sometimes politicked

Since the student population far outnumbered the available spaces by at least ten to one, priority is given by the school authority to the new intakes over the returning students; they are new to the system and environs. One of the secrets to even being considered is early arrival to the allocation office and hence, a favorable number on the ensuing long queuing. On that particular day, he was very lucky.

The room was located on the ground floor of a three-story building

That the key to the front door was broken was the least of the problems as he stood in the middle of his allocated room wondering what happened. It was glaringly obvious that no sane person would want to live in that room without some financial input and serious housekeeping.

As if the last occupants left hurriedly in the middle of an aerial bombardment. Apart from the pieces of rags and papers that littered the whole room, there were offensive odors emanating from two cupboards built into the walls at both ends of the room. The room was small in dimensions (it was initially built to accommodate two students) with two doors; the front door and a back door that leads to a common veranda which runs the entire length of the building. The veranda overlooks a swamp (out of which a mighty python emerged some weeks later) which stretched into a nearby forest. Cooking spaces are carved out of the veranda by the students by portioning it into sections for each room using cupboards to demarcate boundaries.

Coming back to the room itself, there were two large windows by each door and at opposite end to each other for cross-ventilation. Due to the astronomical rise in student population without a corresponding increase in hostels, a room that was built to be occupied by two is now officially meant for six students minus illegal squatters.  Of the six official bed-spaces, two were double bunk beds and two single beds. The two bunks face each other on opposite walls while the single beds were placed by each of the two windows, had more ample spaces and since you have the bed to yourself: are considered as the choice spaces (there are high demands for them in the illegal space market and they cost more to procure illegally).

Since he was he was the first to be assigned to the room, he has the first refusal on all the six available sleeping positions.

He was about pasting a sheet of paper on which he has written his name and department on the wall over the bed by the back door to indicate he has claimed it when the front door burst open and in rushed a slim tall guy of about his age, and from the way he was dressed and his hard breathing it was obvious he was also a freshman.

“Is this room 105?” the newcomer asked.

“Well, the number is on the front door” he answered him, irked by his manner of asking

“Sorry, my name is David and am assigned to this room” he apologized as they shook hands.

“I am John”

“What happened here?” David asked him.

“I have been trying to figure it out for the past twenty minutes” he replied.

With the way things stood, there is no way he is moving in until the other new occupants move in.

“When we are complete, we will figure out how to put this place in order” he suggested.

“For the record, I have chosen this bed and the wardrobe over there.” He announced as he finally pastes the paper containing his name and matriculation number.

He opened the door and walked towards the bush path that will lead him to his friend’s hostel where he has been a squatter for the past week.

He walked through the same door a few days later to drop some of his personal items and got a surprise.

“Who removed the notice I paste on the wall?” he asked James who was sleeping on one of the double bunk beds.

David yawed, “a guy came here the other day.”

“And then?”

“He asked me if you are a returning student”

“So?”

“I told him no and he removed your notice and glued it over that double bunk.”

“For what reason?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“He said that the corners spaces are for the returning student and as freshmen, our place are on the double bunks”

“Is he crazy or what?” he asked angrily.

“I couldn’t tell, but he left those stuff over there,” James told him while pointing to some personal items and a new piece of paper which has replaced the one he left behind.

He walked straight to the paper, tore it off the wall, shred it and threw it through the open door.

“He must be crazy.” He addressed no one in particular.

“Well, he didn’t spend much time here for me to access his psychiatric conditions”

“One thing is obvious though, he looks more like a thug than a student” David continued.

James ignored the last comment and went ahead to hung up new curtains. They also called a carpenter to take care of the doors while waiting for other roommates.

“I will be moving in two days from today but if he comes around before that time, tell him I said he should piss off because there is no way am giving up my corner!” he slammed the door and walked off.

So, there he was again staring at another new notice at the same place where he left his notice two days ago. Inasmuch as he doesn’t see himself as the quarrelsome type, but sometimes you don’t get to choose your battles, and this is one battle he does not intend loosing because there was much at stake. The other person’s persistence was really annoying; to think that he had the audacity to move his belongings from where he had kept them is like adding in salt to the injury and he just about had enough!.

“Do you know where this guy can be found?” he asked David who seem to be finally showing some allegiance.

“I think he left his name, department and a room number where he can be found on the notice” James answered back.

“Maybe we should report him to the hostel management at their office” he further suggested.

“That’s a good idea, let’s go.”

On the way, they aligned their complaint and on getting to the office, went straight to the point.

“Good afternoon sir.”

“Good afternoon young men” the man at the front desk replied “and what may I do for you?”

“My name is James Ademuyiwa and this is my roommate, David”

“Ok.”

“Sir, we are freshmen allocated room 105 down the hall”

“So what is the problem?”

“Sir I am being bullied out of my officially assigned spot by a returning student.” He told the man.

“A returning student?” the man looked surprised.

“The authority is yet to allocate bed spaces to any returning student; they will begin doing that by next week.” They were informed.

“What are you trying to tell us, sir?” James asked.

“Am saying that whoever he is and whenever he comes around again, tell him to report here to explain himself or he will be in serious trouble.”

As they were talking, a young man approached the office and the man beckoned to him.

“This is the student’s hall chairman” he introduced the young man.

“You can always lay your complains to him.”

They narrated the whole incidence all over again to the chairman and his response was sweet music to their ears.

“No returning student has the right to oppress or intimidate any freshman in this hall of residence” he assured them.

“He will be made to face the laws!”

“Do you have his name and where he could be located?” he asked them.

“Yes! Yes sir!” they shouted in unison.

“This is his name and the room number he left is 26 in this same hall.”

“Very good, let’s pay him a visit”

James felt so good; everything is working to his favor. There was this feeling of being the top dog in the pound.

That beautiful feeling having the biggest, most sophisticated and effective gun in the duel. He is really angling for a fight.

As they marched down the hall towards room 26, he felt like a gambler who already knew the outcome of a match and had staked heavily on the winning team. Payback day is not far.

Room 26 was not difficult to locate. He took it upon himself to be the one banging on the door when it was opened by a rough looking guy.

“What the hell is your problem?” the guy asked angrily. “Are you the school’s carpenters or you just wanted to remove the door?”

He ignored him and said, “we are asking of Kayode Ogunmuyiwa.”

“And who are you?” the guy asked rudely.

“We are the new occupants of room 105” he replied equally rudely.

The guy sized him up for a few seconds, then turned and called out into the room. “Sir K, some boys from 105 are here to see you”

“What do they want?” the voice was really rough.

Sir K stepped forward from within the room.

Well, what can be said about sir K? In order not complicate issue in anybody’s mind, he will just put it simply; sir K was a thoroughbred hooligan and setting eyes on David, he got annoyed.

“You this stubborn guy again, I thought I told you, people, to vacate that bed space?”

James thought he had seen good dramas but this was an epic. Right before his very eyes, his big gun turned to a mere toy.

The chairman on recognizing sir K began to stammer.

“Good afternoon sir” he stammered

“Sorry sir, I didn’t realize you were the one sir”

Then he began to plead.

“Sir please kindly forgive them, they are fresh and are not enlightened yet”

“Have mercy.”

Sir K thought it over for about fifteen seconds.

“Ok, because of you, they can have it”

“I never really wanted it in the first place, just wanted to give them some orientation”

Right from the moment the chairman said good afternoon sir to the time he left them standing watching his retreating figure as he walked away from them down the hall, David and James with mouths agape, stood rooted to a spot in front of room 26.

They were brought out of their trance by sir K.

“So you guy went and reported me to the chairman?”

“I forgive you because you are new”

“The chairman is my boy, I put him there and he dare not go against me”

“He can only do that at his own peril and if he does, he knows the consequence”

“It will only take me a few hours to seal his fate and have him removed”

They thanked him profusely and walked like people deprived of sleep for days back to room 105.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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