Episode 1 – The Greenhorn
“66, 67, 68, 69”, I paused the counting to catch my breath. It was my first time in the renowned Santaland, and being the curious cat, I decided to go on a short personal tour. Having scored remarkable grades in my Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), I had successfully gained admission to the reputable black and white college on the hill. And it was my insatiable curiosity that landed me at the bottom of the hill, known as Katanga. After strolling the ‘lower school’ campus, I decided to return to my father, who would be fruitless searching for me. That was how come I ended up climbing and counting the famous Katanga staircase, of 83 stairsteps. Upon reaching the 70th step, I stopped to catch my breath. It was then that I saw him – a lanky, unkempt senior student. His complexion looked like the charcoal used by the caterers at the Adisco bush canteen (no offence, the guy was dark, not black). He had an afro comb in his bushy hair and his shirt was untucked.
Before I continue, let me add that freshmen were supposed to have been admitted that day but due to accommodation challenges, the date had been rescheduled to a latter one. So, thanks to the ‘links’ my father had in Santaland, I didn’t have to dress like a ‘greenhorn’, which helped a lot because most of the seniors did not consider me a freshman.
But this particular senior was an exception. He beckoned me to approach me with a wave of his left hand. Hesitantly, I obliged. “You be form one boy?” he queried. I nervously nodded in the affirmative. “So why say you no wear the traditional white white?” he further pushed. I explained the situation to him and he smirked. “So you be DB eh?” he asked mischievously. “No oo”, I shook my head vehemently. “I see, you know something? Make I feel someGH 5 cedis. Else, I go make your body faa you”, he threatened in pidgin English. I tried to leave the scene, but he held my left hand strongly. Then before I could say Jack, his long fingers were in my pockets. Boy, the joy on his face was similar to that of someone who had won a jackpot. GH 10 cedis! That was what he dished out of my pocket, and after sniffing the fresh GH 2 cedi bank notes, he told me to ‘search’ for him when we, the former ones, started classes. “My name bi Mosquito. I day LeMaire house”, he added, before descending the stairs. I stood there, motionless for about a minute or two. A gentle tap on my shoulder brought me out of my reverie. I could not believe that I had just gone through that. Turning to face my ‘intruder’, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. My dad, fuming!
“Where have you been? I’ve searched the entire campus for you”, he questioned, trying his best to suppress his anger. I recounted everything to him, including the money-sucking encounter with Mosquito. “Serves you right”, my father admonished. He then asked me to lead him to senior Mosquito, but I told him that would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. After ‘blasting’ me for my gullibility, my father led me to the bush canteen. As we were consuming our individual bowls of banku with palm nut soup and goat meat, Mosquito and two other colleagues came to buy lunch (with my GH 10 cedis, of course). Just as I was about to point him out to my father, he gave me that look – the ‘I go mafia you’ look. My hand dropped and I continued eating my supper. “This is why Africa is not progressing. Corruption everywhere. Everyone wants to amass wealth. If you see that boy, point him out to me”, my father said, as Mosquito and his colleagues took seats beside me. Nudging me in the rib, one of his friends passed a note to me. Hiding it from my father, I read its contents – Masa, this be boarding school ooo. If you no go fit handle the pressure aa, go girls school or try some day school bi. Siaboy. You day love aa chuke me (This is a boarding institurion; if you cannot handle the pressure, opt for a girls school or try a day school. Idiot. Try exposing me and you’ll regret it).
I kept mute all day.
Homos Night. The dreaded evening in the life of a form one boy. The night that you are officially ‘initiated’ into the ‘zebra’ fraternity. I was in a white singlet, purple briefs black tie, my glasses and a pair of white socks.
My face wore a mixture of mud and powder with my black belt encircling my waist like a snake. Other “form one homo dwans” (scapegoats) had much more hilarious look than me. We fooled and entertained the seniors. The rules were simple – the do not win or lose the admiration of the seniors, else you’ll be punished. Thankfully, my house placed 5th out of 12 houses. We were ‘released’ to go to our dormitories, except the winners and losers. I have no idea what happened to them that night.
Just as I was about to retire for the night, the dormitory door opened, and a familiar face popped in view. He had his mischievous smile, and his afro comb was in its usual place – his bushy hair. “Oh dear Lord”, I gasped, as he approached my bed.
To be continued next Saturday.