Boarding school for me was a mix-mash of amazement. College was my first foray into the world.
You see I grew up as an only child.
The whole experience of college was like a psychedelic trip. It was all like a blur. Then it was over.
In recent times, I have begun to remember. All it takes is a question or occurrence and then I remember an incidence from college or from my childhood.
It is always a ‘(insert preferred expletive)!’ moment.
My son came up to my study and asked me about the sleeping arrangements in his (future) college. Young blood wanted to know if he was going to be sharing a room.
He is an only child too.
You pampered, indulged, and entitled splice of my DNA…
His question tore open a subconscious veil in my mind though.
It reminded me of a night I experienced over three decades ago.
I was nine years old when I got sent off to college. At the risk of sounding immodest, I am gifted. I always have been. In retrospect, it may have been the reason I was home-schooled as a child.
As newbies into that college, we had one of four ‘houses’ in the male hostel to choose from.
Green House became my lodging house. Our lodging house was a long line of round huts. They lined up in a perfect straight line. They had zinc roofing and had walls whitewashed until they shone. Each hut housed three double deck bunks each. The metal bunks had a rheumy black paint. They had twisted link fabric springs upon which we put our mattresses.
The rule was that the junior students slept at the top. And senior students would sleep below. For a sense of privacy, the older students would wrap old bed sheets around the frame of the bottom deck. This formed a curtain around that completely obscured the occupant below. The double deck bunks were then pushed to the nearest wall at an angle. One of the two sides of the breadth of the bed always had full contact with the wall. That enclave thereafter was ‘a corner’.
A bed always faced the door. That bed had no wall to annex. But the two beds flanking the doorway touched the walls in the manner I have described before.
Each hut had a diameter of fifteen feet. My ‘bunk’ was to your left as you entered my lodge.
The student in the bottom bunk of the double decker facing the door was the most muscular teenager. The strongest-looking man-child I have ever seen in my life. He was fifteen years old at the time. He was a senior student. He was half Nigerian, half Ghanaian.
He had a thick, guttural voice that periodically slipped into a startling falsetto. It was a funny modulation that never failed to amuse.
Laughter though was at your own risk.
Kwame did not faff around. He would knock your lights out.
Senior Kwame… junior students always referred to senior students as ‘senior’.
And so that night I had to skip dinner and tutorials. Both activities were compulsory; but I was ill. I had a cold and was in bed sequestered.
Senior Kwame was in bed too.
I do not know why he was in the lodge that night.
But then no one knew why Kwame did anything he did.
I can tell you with some authority that no one knew why Kwame was on earth to begin with.
Kwame was unruly!
Kwame was uncouth… a scoundrel…
That had a soft spot for me.
We were like a tiger adopting a fawn; my humble self being the fawn (of course).
Kwame was always in detention for violence of some sort. At least half of those indictments had to do with Kwame beating up anyone that had picked on me. Funny thing was that he was not my ‘school father’, assigned or adopted.
Kwame was a mystery. The rumours about him were larger than life…look, let you and I not yank each other’s chain. There is no easy way to say this, so here goes,
Kwame’s father was a notorious juju priest.
And it came to pass that the apple did not fall too far from the tree. Kwame had charms made for his protection. His father made those amulets for him the rumours said.
Everybody avoided Kwame; even teachers.
The rain was quite heavy that night, a torrential downpour, complete with lightning and thunder. The time was eight pm. I remember because I had set the alarm of my Casio Calculator Watch for eight pm. I had medication to swallow.
I was still lolling in bed when the door burst open. It seemed as if a clap of thunder had flung the solid hardwood door open.
And Kwame entered the hitherto warm lodge.
Though startled, I kept my peace because…well…because it was senior Kwame!
Until Kwame came out from around the bed and froze as he locked eyes with his doppelganger.
Kwame stood glaring at another Kwame.
As they faced off; the rain, the wind, and cold air within the lodge began increasing by unbearable degrees.
Like a crescendo the volumes rose while both Kwame’s eyes remained locked.
A particularly livid crack of thunder activated both of them. And with loud screams they pounced on each other.
I lay as though dead. But I could see and hear everything.
The blows were real people.
I could hear the thuds. The scuffle sounded like two tigers sorting out territory rights.
They were both shirtless. They both wore denim shorts. They attacked each other with reckless abandon. They were fighting like they were sworn enemies.
It was a short and brutal fight. It played out like a two-minute video compilation of five of the most savage attacks. All culled from UFC and professional boxing knockouts.
And as inexplicably as it began, it ended.
One Kwame ran out of the lodge like a previously-cornered feline.
The other Kwame returned limping until he disappeared around the bed. Then I heard him sit down with a heavy grunt.
Because the bed had bed sheets around it, I could not see him.
I heard a shuddering sigh as he stretched out and lay on the bed. The springs of his bed creaking lengthwise lent me this truth.
Then Kwame spoke for the first time.
I was the only verifiable human being in the room, who else could he have been addressing?
“Instead of you to sleep, you will just be there monitoring what is not your business!”
People, I almost shit myself!
I must have been so terrified that I fell asleep immediately.
Those memories have been in hibernation until now; over thirty years later.