My phone beeped as it notified me of a text from an unsaved number. I was hesitant to open the text as my stomach reminded me that there were more important things to be worried about. In less than five seconds, I reached for my phone and opened the text. Despite my ravenous state, a smile forced its way to my lips. Like a dam that had been opened, my head was flooded with memories.
It was the second term of my second year in Senior Secondary School. Usually around this time of the term, elections were conducted for various prefect posts. The third year students who occupied the posts were busy with preparations for terminal exams so they had little or no time to dispense their respective duties.
One by one, a number of my friends and colleagues picked up forms to indicate their interests in running for different posts. A few posts had just one candidate in the running, some had two and others three. Judging by popularity, it was easy to tell the students who were going to win by a landslide from those who were going to have it tough. Subtle and loud campaign strategies were made here and there. My friends who were normally hostile to the junior students suddenly became friends with them.
In all of these, I put up an apathetic mien. However, deep down, I was toying with the idea of running for a post. What’s more? It was not just any post; it was that of the position of the Head boy. One person had filled his form and had started campaigning. Although it was unspoken, a number of boys were expected to run. I strongly doubted I was in that list not because I was not fit to run but because I lacked the social traction for it. I was not as popular as those boys were as I kept to myself most of the time. Then again, I was a proven leader. I met all of the particularly high requirements for the position. In fact, I had been the class captain for over a year and if I say so myself, I was doing a decent job at it, so why not? I discussed with a few of my friends who encouraged me to go for it. They decided that with the right campaign strategies, I could whip up the needed support needed to win. My parents were not left out in all of these. My dad particularly gave me moral support and told me I was going to make a fine Head boy.
And so, on the day of deadline for submission of forms, I hurried to the staffroom to obtain mine, ran back to my class, hastily filled the form and went back to submit. On getting to the staff room, I met one of the very popular boys who was expected to run for the post I was running for. He too had come to submit. I managed to steal a quick glimpse at his form and what I saw only confirmed my suspicion. He wanted to be the Head boy. In that moment, I wanted to do a 360 degree turn, head back to my class and rip my form to shreds but somehow, my feet denied my wish. Instead, I proceeded to hand it over.
I knew what I was up against. With my relatively low social presence among students, I knew that if I was to stand any chance against either of my opponents, I had more work cut out for myself. We were all required to pass a screening test which we did. From then, my campaign swung into full gear. With the help of my friends, I went from class to class during the lunch break period to campaign. I felt welcomed in some classes as they paid rapt attention to me. I was met with hostility in most. It did not help matters that most of the junior students did not know the first thing about me. One even swore he had never seen me. While speaking in a class one day, I was interrupted by cheers from the other class. Upon investigation, it was my opponent that caused the hullabaloo. I had never been given such reception. The most I got was a round of applause after my speech. At the cafeteria, the thought of mounting a table and making a dramatic speech on why I should be elected the head boy crossed my mind so many times. It remained a thought that never became reality.
I prepared a well thought out speech for the day we were required to present our manifestoes. I rehearsed my speech severally in front of my mirror, friends and parents. Places I needed adjustments were pointed out to me and I did well to make those adjustments. On the manifesto day, I was called upon first. I shivered as a cold chill ran down my spine. As I took those steps to mount the stage, my feet felt wobbly. I started to feel dizzy. My hands were shaky and dripping with sweat. I paused, took a deep breath. No, that never worked for me. I was still nervous. It did not help matters that there was a pin drop silence all over. I took hold of the microphone and started my speech in spite of my state. Somehow, in the middle of it, my confidence was restored. My hands were not shaky anymore and my voice carried a little bit of authority as I wanted it to. I rounded off my speech to the applause of everyone. I even got more reception than I thought I would. Things may not turn out so bad after all.
Again, my hopes were dashed when the third contestant was called upon. His name had barely left the moderator’s lips when a loud ovation followed. It was five times what I got. He had the backing of everyone. His speech was adorned by cheers from every side of the large hall. I thought the roof was going to come off. It was difficult to restore decorum when he was done. I was trying so hard to stay positive. I slouched in my seat once the reality hit me: there was no stopping him. I was certain he was going to win. All I could do was hope that he would not win by a large margin.
The day of election came. I think I was just emotionless that morning. I had accepted my fate already. Academic activities were suspended at noon to allow students cast their votes. Once I was handed the sheet on which I was to tick the names of my preferred candidates, I heaved a heavy sigh. It was so heavy that a number of my colleagues turned to look at me. Embarrassed, I proceeded to tick the names of the students I wanted in the various prefect posts, mine inclusive.
The result of the election was not one I looked forward to. Nonetheless, the days flew by very quickly and the day for the announcement of the results came. It was to be announced during assembly. On that day, I wished desperately for a downpour so that there would not be an assembly to announce the result. Well, you know the saying about beggars and horses. So, no, there was no downpour.
After the prayers were said and the national and school anthems were sung, the principal mounted the podium and began to speak. I think I turned deaf because I could not make out most of what she was saying. I just stood there nervously biting my nails.
I only began to hear her when she slowly started to reveal the results of the election. The post that was contested for, the names of students who ran and the number of votes each had. In that order, on and on she went until she got to the post of the head boy. By then, my palms were dripping with sweat. She called our names. Next it was the number of votes each of us had. I thought I saw a small smile creep up her face. Of course, the boy with the loudest applause on manifesto day had 198 votes. The third person running had 98 votes. I swallowed hard knowing that the number of my votes would be called next.
A hush swept over the hall. The rains had denied me one request. I was hoping the floor would not disappoint because more than anything, I wanted it to open up and swallow me whole.
I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. My friend had returned with the food I asked him to buy. Relieved that I was going to put an end to my stomach’s growling, I grabbed a spoon and dove into the food. After downing half the content of the plate, I picked up my phone and stared at the text that had made me smile earlier. It read;
There. The stillness of the night, it’s here. Nothing compares. The darkness that comes with it is so beautiful and concealing. Tell the night a secret and be rest assured your secret is safe for life. I find it fascinating that the night-time is one where there seems to be an unspoken agreement by everybody to put aside the hassle and the joy of life and lay still in oblivion.
It is 5:30am. In another hour, the day will break and the sacredness of the night will be marred by the light of the day. That light is so revealing. Carelessly, it destroys the sanctity of the night. From the oblivion, life will return and so will my worries and troubles.
I lay motionless on my bed hoping against hope that the day will never break. I just want to remain like this for as long as I can.
At 6:00am, my alarm will go off, forcing me to move to turn it off. Why does it have to be so far from my lampstand? Oh yeah, so I will have to stand from my bed to turn it off. From then on, I will have to bid goodbye to the pulchritude of the night and exchange pleasantries with the rigor that adorns the day.
Right here on my bed, I shiver from the thought of cold water hitting my skin while performing the ritual of caressing and sometimes aggressively scrubbing – depending on where – my lather laden sponge over my body. How I dread the agony of picking out the day’s outfit. A few times, I have considered getting rid of half the wardrobe to help me decide faster. Come to think of it, why haven’t I gone through with that?
Breakfast is never in the plans for me. Once I am dressed, packing my bags is next in the routine. I like my books arranged in a certain kind of way so they do not squeeze or develop “dog ears”. My laptop and its charger also have to go into the bag but my bag is not so spacious and so it is always a struggle.
The day always goes by very slowly. I find most of my courses boring. The lecturers taking them do not make matters better as they are more boring than the course itself. Sitting still through one to two hours of those classes is hell sometimes. It is at these times that my eyelids weigh a tonne. The struggle of keeping them apart outweighs my feeble attempt at paying the lecturer any attention.
Staying awake is the compromise I often manage to reach. Other times when my eyelids are as light as feather, I daydream. My body sits still while my mind travels far and wide, through time and space, revisiting sweet and sad memories, making up scenarios that were likely never going to happen like Ma surviving cancer. It was always pure bliss being in that fictitious world; my escape from reality.
After classes, I head straight for the cafeteria to buy lunch. The tussle at the cafeteria to buy food is not one I look forward to. Once it gets too rowdy for me, I pick a spot and wait a while for it to get a little less rowdy. This has never gone beyond twenty minutes. In that short time I, scroll through my Twitter timeline, attempt to reply my WhatsApp texts, stare into space all the while praying no one comes to sit at my table. Most times…most times I…ermm…
My thoughts seem to have trailed into some memory. I sit up straight on my bed shaking my head and lightly tapping my forehead. It is clear that whatever I am trying to recall has something to do with the cafeteria. A dream, perhaps.
“Cafeteria, cafeteria, waiting…” I mutter to myself.
Now I am certain it is a dream. It’s as if the memory is hiding behind a door and I am slowly approaching it. Little by little, like parts of a big puzzle, it starts to come to me.
I was at the cafeteria, only this time, it was…
“boooooom chaka boooooom chaka booooooom…” my alarm goes off, carelessly piercing through my thoughts and scattering the little pieces of my dream puzzle I have put together.
I groan as I stand to turn it off.
My prayers have not been answered after all. It is day break. Worse is the fact that my little dream has vanished into the thin air because my alarm had to remind me it is daybreak.
The day remains my enemy. Nothing will change that.