Lauren slid down the side window as Jide drove through the school’s gate into the midst of the short and scattered buildings, the same kind that dominated Apapa. She frowned at the few girls who roamed in frayed shorts, topped with easy-wears aberrant of a school environment, and the boys did not seem to care. Boys walked alongside boys and girls walked alongside girls. It was as though it was the Nigeria’s custom. The same thing happened in the church. The boys sat on a separate row from the girls and anybody who walked in seemed already accustomed with the formula. In Nigeria, everybody minded his own path.
No designer needed to tell her the gold jewellery glittering and dangling from some of the girls’ necks were fake. Only fake jewellery blazed like gold-plated medals, and the girls swaggered as though they wore the world. No one should crucify them, though. The fake had no difference with the original if the surrounding persons couldn’t differentiate them. Her aunt used to say that.
People lined themselves at the front of a tall building, tall when compared to the others. They held bags, files and other things that made them look student. Jide talked on how he used to visit his friend who attended the University, and how they used to go to the school auditorium to see the framed photographs of the white lecturers and white founders of the school. They would laugh at their long noses, white beards and funny names like Walter Falls.
“Those people standing front of the auditorium, what are they doing?”
“They are probably making complaints about admissions. You have no business there. Log into your computer and clear yourself, then you’re good.”
The man her dad brought helped her do all those. “Admission problems like?”
“Changing courses and many others. Be grateful you didn’t experience those. I did in my time. I wrote my exam twice before getting admitted into a state school, and when admitted, I encountered lots of paper trouble.”
It was surprising that difficulty in admissions was also present in Africa, and not only the Canadian schools with big names.
Jide pointed to a group of bungalows, competing for space with the prides of Barbados that had leaves spread like robins with rainbow wings. It was the Admin, and anything concerning fees was done there. She had thought every of those things were done online.
Jide glanced at her and cracked a little chuckle. “I can’t understand why you decided to school here when you have so many better choices in your motherland.”
“My dad is here. I want to be with him, and it’s interesting to explore the world. One of every three Americans’ dreams is to explore Africa.
No doubts that Nigeria is a good place to start from.”
“What about mum?”
“Mom bases in Switzerland, and I so don’t want to be in that country. She is the greatest activist of me schooling here.”
“Why don’t you go school in Switzerland? It has enough good schools.”
“I want Africa.”
“Or you want dad?”
She wondered what made him think that, and what made him say it as though it was a bad thing to want dad. “Both. I might further elsewhere, but for now, Africa is good. People have made it here. You have.”
He whirled the steering right and said nothing more.
“My mom is around. She came to Nigeria last weekend for a month leave, which I believe will extend more than that.”
“I hope she succeeds in taking you to Switzerland for schooling. The universities there are good, well equipped, recognized, standard, and up to date.” He gave them all sorts of praises before he finally ended, and her ears got some rest.
A signboard of two persons eating fronted a russet array of bungalows. “Is that the school café?”
“Yes, that’s the only place you may enjoy in the school if things haven’t changed. I remember one time I ate there. They used to have good pepperonis and sausages.”
“Let’s go have a little something.”
His face folded into a grimace. “I don’t intend to spend the whole day here. Let’s do what we came here for.”
“The pepperonis might be as good as before. You won’t know unless you try. Use it as a compensation for being a week late in giving me this tour.”
“Are you hungry?”
She weighed her tummy. Though full, one snack wouldn’t make it burst. “One doesn’t eat only when hungry.”
“Wait till we’re done. If there is time left, we might eat something.” He peered at a white storey building, behind a statue of a student holding a book and a pen, with eyes glued to the book. “Let’s go into the library?”
Before she could reply, he had parked his car under an orange tree that refused to produce fruit, and she remembered the sermon the priest gave last Sunday of the unfruitful fig tree, and how Jesus cursed it to wither. A sudden impulse to curse the orange tree breezed through her.
“Is the library what we came here for?” She smirked.
“This is part of the tour. You need to see your field-related books.”
What a cheat. No to checking out the café, and yes to the library. They stepped out of the Toyota.
The scavengers roaming about wouldn’t take their eyes off her, as though they had never seen a white girl. She maintained pace with Jide, so he could block the gazes coming from left, but they still peered. Some boys at the far end pointed. Jide would have better parked his Toyota close to the building.
The stares didn’t stop when they entered the building. It doubled. The women at the door left eyes on her. “What is wrong with these people? They are all staring.” She peeked at her sides and tried not to meet any of the gazes.
“You’re white. This is one of the things you’ll face. Get used to it. Most haven’t seen a white.”
“But I thought the school was supposed to have a good number of whites. It is under the American curriculum.”
“That isn’t enough to force a man to leave the good schools in his country. There should be few white lecturers, but I doubt if white students, so most of the students haven’t seen a white teenager.” He turned face to her. “You’re actually the first I’m encountering.”
“Really.” She cocked head at him. “Then maybe you should come with me on my next trip to Canada.”
“Sure.” He chuckled.
“Research says Canada is the best place to live in.”
He didn’t argue. An argument would have been beneficial, so they could raise a chat about Canada, and she would do some brag. There must be something to brag about, whatever topic he chose. He probably knew this and decided it was best to keep quiet.
They placed their phones into a pigeon hole and walked in.
Jide told her to ignore the stares, surely because they were staring at him, too. Ignoring them was the only thing she could do; when they’ve seen enough, they would stop staring.
She strode to the pile of short books arranged in a shelf—novels. One had “Marley Andes” as its author. Lauren drew it out and checked its title. “Does the library allow borrowing?”
“You’re not yet a bona fide student. Let’s go see books that concern you.”
She drew out another novel by the same author. “I remember this book. My mom bought this one for me when I was thirteen. The story is vague, but I can tell it’s romance. A boy meets a girl and something happens.”
“You love romance books?”
“Yes, but prefer thrillers.”
Leafing through the pages, she joined the fragments of the plot’s memories slinking into her head, and ignored Jide telling her they should go see business books.
“I remember the storyline.” She tried remembering the princess’ name. “Mareta, that’s her name, Mareta. She was a princess and had a thief imprisoned. Little did she know he was her soulmate. The man…”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jide said. “Shelve it and let’s move.”
“The man has red hair. I can still tell that. He was an Indian with a red hair.”
“No more novels. Let’s go see what concerns you. Time is counting.”
She fixed the book on its shelf and motioned for them to continue. The eyes on her had reduced, but some big eyes wouldn’t go away.
They progressed to the business studies section. Many mighty books sat on the shelves, books that seemed impossible to fit into one small head. The big books she had whined about in high school were nothing. She picked a book and skimmed over the first page. There was a lot to learn, a lot to compress in her head for a little semester. After much looking at the books, her stomach began rumbling. The remaining would be looked into when she was bona fide.
“Let’s go eat something,” she told Jide.
He studied his wristwatch and opted to take her home, saying they would buy some snacks on the road and she would eat in the car. She wanted to ask if they would stop by a restaurant or if they would stop one of the street hawkers that mysteriously balanced their trays of snacks on their head. But she didn’t ask. Jide didn’t seem the kind that would eat from those hawked foods that kissed the blazing rays of the sun as the hawkers ran along cars. And if he tried to buy from the hawkers, she would tell him the story of how she saw a hawker use sweaty bare hands to touch the surface of a meat-pie before wrapping it in a cellophane.
They left the library and headed for his Toyota.