African Short Story: ‘NEPA Wahala’ by Fatimah
The three minutes I’m supposed to wait for seem like three years…
The three minutes I’m supposed to wait for seem like three years, regardless of what happens in this toilet stall, I know, with all certainty, that they would be the longest three minutes of my life.
I close my eyes tightly while I wait for two pink lines, or their absence, that are to determine how, and if my life as I know it is going to continue.
There is only one thing to do while I wait- pray. Think about my irresponsible behaviour, admit I have sinned, confess my sins to God and repent of them, perhaps in those three minutes He’d forgive me, a miracle would happen, and the lines would be favourable for me.
You see, this whole thing is the fault of those horrible NEPA people, they started it. I’m hunched over a toilet seat, hoping the lines literally fall for me in favourable places because of NEPA.
It was the eight day of NEPA induced hellfire- there hadn’t been electricity a week and my small room, originally meant for four occupants, but inhabited by nine, was a swealing sauna with its temperature controlled by the vengeful heat of the scorching sun by day, and the combined heat of nine bodies in the tiny confinement by night.
It was an oven on low heat, and we were being slowly but thoroughly cooked through and through, I already had a smattering of heat rash across my chest and back, and it didn’t look like it was going to slow down in spite of the dusting powder I’d unleashed in a counter attack.
The lucky students who lived in Lagos had gone home for the weekend, which for some of us began on Thursdays since we didn’t have classes on Fridays, escaping the hellish conditions for the comfort of their homes while those of us who were suddenly unfortunate by not being Lagos residents had to endure the heat and be cooked some more.
I wanted to take a shower to cool off but the thought of lugging a pail of water up three flights of stairs after scooping it out of the algae infested reservoir in the hostel quadrangle was more unappealing than the heat at that moment. My scrawny arms ached from vigorously swishing a plastic hand fan back and forth in an attempt to ‘fan’ myself, but all I got was tiny, reluctant gusts of hot air.
I hissed loudly, flung the hand fan to a far corner of the room and rolled over on the bed which had already been drenched in sweat.
I couldn’t sleep, it was too hot! I couldn’t read either; it was just too damned hot! What was I doing in school if I could neither study nor relax? It seemed like I was just here to suffer.
I wanted to weep; I was close to dissolving into tears of frustration when my phone rang. “Great!” I thought, “Just great. The universe wouldn’t even let me be miserable in peace“.
But when I glanced at the phone and saw who was calling, I blinked back my tears actually managed a weak smile- having a cute, caring guy who was trying his damnedest to break down your defenses could do that to you, I’d recently learnt. Especially when you’re ‘feeling the boy’, then yes, your brain cells could occasionally dissolve into mush, along with that whole bugs in your stomach thing.
I snatched the phone up, hit the green button and answered with the most fake enthusiasm I could summon.
“Hey baby. How are you, are you okay?”
I chuckled inwardly. I always did when he called me baby. (I told you my brain cells sometimes turn to mush)
“Nothing much”, I finally reply with a pout (again, brain cells= mush. You get the picture)
“Well you don’t sound too good, talk to me”
At that, my face involuntarily split into a grin that threatened to tear my jaw apart.
“If you’ve been living in this hell fire they call a hostel this past week, you wouldn’t sound good either.”
He laughed indulgently, a beautiful, bubbly sound that was music to my ears.
“I’m downstairs, let’s go get dinner as usual. But maybe you should listen to me this night and pack a night bag, there’s light, even if generator generated, at mine” he chuckled at his own clever pun, which I found clever too, of course, and continued “what are you doing in the hostel?” he paused for effect, “nothing!” answering his own rhetorical question with a dramatic flourish.
“By now you ought to know you can trust me, I wouldn’t do anything you don’t want me to do, and I can always sleep in the living room if that’d make you feel better” he pressed on “you don’t even have classes tomorrow and even if you did, you know I’d drop you off right in time for your class.”
I thought about it, there was really no point in stubbornly returning to the hostel to endure another sleepless night spent alternating between warding off mosquitoes and swishing my trusty hand fan back and forth. If I couldn’t escape to my boyfriend’s house, where could I go? (actually I hadn’t said ‘yes’ to him, I said ‘I will be thinking about it’ but now we’re sort of boyfriend and girlfriend).
I’d been to his place several times before; it was a very cozy mini flat which was very well kept. I also trusted him not to do anything I didn’t want, because he waited until the day I finally nodded yes before he put his hand under my blouse.
And he always, always brought me back to school before 12 midnight when the school gates were locked. I honestly didn’t have a reason not to pack a night bag and spend one night of comfort, away from my hostel of Hades.
Four hours later when my phone and laptop were fully charged I had watched E! to my fill, I sighed in contentment and gratitude as I clutched the duvet tighter to my body, shielding myself from the deliciously cold gusts of air wafting out of the AC vents.
I was finally ready to call it a night, my benefactor cum boyfriend was already fast asleep on the living room couch as promised, he looked so angelic with his face relaxed in sleep. I felt bad for putting him out, we could actually share the bed, after all it was three times the size of mine at school, how much space did I really need? I shook him awake and told him to come share the bed.
“Are you sure?” he mumbled sleepily as he rubbed the sleep off his eyes.
In that moment he was the cutest thing on earth, like a giant teddy bear, soft and sweet and I just wanted to hug him to death.
“Yes I’m sure. You don’t look comfortable here at all.”
So we shared the bed (either of us on opposite ends), said goodnight and slept.
The AC was deliciously cold, especially after all the abuse my skin had suffered, so I kept hugging the duvet tighter and gathering it around myself until I found myself flush against a warm human wall. The wall felt as good as the cool air so I moved myself closer, curled into it and slept more soundly.
When my sleep addled brain felt hands under my nightshirt, it was pure heaven, considering that I’d been in hell just hours before. And so I let them take me through several heights of heavenly bliss that I never reached before. I let him strum me like a guitar at the juncture where my body splits into legs and quaked, trembled and screamed when ecstasy hit me in waves.
When he finally asked me for permission, like he always does, I couldn’t lie to myself, let alone to him that I didn’t want him to, and so I told him he could go ahead, and he fused his body with mine.
The first time is the hardest and toughest for doing something new, especially in this case where barriers had to be broken and the sheets were stained red. Once you cross a hurdle however, its easier to cross it again and again, even devise different ways, patterns and styles crossing it.
The first time you mount a horse is aloes the trickiest, but once you mount a steed and ride it properly, you get the hang of it.
We were both horse and rider, and we took turns riding each another, sometimes, bareback- no saddle. I soon learnt how to serve him meals that required no plates, just his face.
After two weeks electricity returned to normal in the hostel, but every once in a while, when I wanted to feel the coolness of AC blowing on my skin, I packed a night bag. The boyfriend and girlfriend business wasn’t a bad one at all, even as a first timer, I could tell. So I wondered why girls in the hostel always had nothing but complaints about their boyfriends because mine never gave me cause to.
Sigh. That was how it all started, and its all NEPA’s fault that I’m here in the toilet, waiting with bated breath. If only there had been no power outage for a week, perhaps I’d have never had to spend that night at his place.
I exhale again, more than three minutes have passed, I’m certain, the lines would be out,or not, now.
Slowly, slowly, I crank my eyes open, tiny slit, by wider slit, till I have them fully open, and slowly, slowly raise the trembling hand holding the test strip to my eyes, confronting the ghost of my future.
< align="justify">Fatimah is a writer and an aspiring baby girl. Check out her awesome writings on the wanderinglass.com and follow her on Twitter @FlawlessMilo