Sunday, 19 October 2014

Residues of Kubwa Camp — Four: Reye

She had on red lipsticks over her already red lips; her gait, seamless, angelic maybe – steel legs of flesh. She wore tiny socks that stopped just above her ankles over which her white sneakers were still unblemished with red coloured dirt even at five in the evening. Usually, at five, white sneakers were no longer as white as they were in the morning due to the usual hustle, bustle and ridiculousness of the NYSC orientation camp.

Her complexion was dark, coffee dark, coffee with a tinge of skimmed milk. Her dark skin complexion was unique; it was the kind of dark skin complexion that made light people jealous of dark people.
‘My name is Reyé.’ She was saying, responding to your question.
You were hardly listening though. It was impossible to listen because your legs had started trembling under your knees. They had become wobbly, like noodles, noodles soaked in hot water.

You had seen her once before, you had had a blissful conversation. Well, you were having a blissful conversation until the men wearing camouflage shirts and black, baggy trousers tucked into black, extra-large, ugly boots came to disrupt things with their whistles and faded gold beagles. ‘Let’s go,let’s go. Move to the parade ground, Right now.’ They had shouted, their voices as loud as their beagles, louder maybe, and as thick as the bark of an orange tree. You often wondered how they never lost their voices in the twenty one days of camping. You lost yours twice and you hardly ever shouted, except when you were arguing with some of your forty something roommates about whose school was better or about what kind of music made more sense or about the current administrations efficiency or lack of it.

Everyone started running at the command of the men in uniform, ‘If you are walking, you are wrong.’ They had roared, almost in unison, almost as if they had practiced how to make everyone else’s life miserable. She ran, too, she ran very fast and before you knew it, she was far away from you. She had looked back and you had caught a glimpse of her but she hadn’t of you. That was the last you saw of her. Until now.

You tried to talk your legs into steadiness. ‘Don’t be stupid. Behave. For God’s sake, behave.’ You said to your legs under your breath, as if your legs had ears and would behave once you tell it to.
She was wearing glasses, Reyé. The last time you saw her, she had contact lenses on her haunting eyes.
You mumbled something in the lines of ‘What made you ditch your contacts for glasses?
'Someone got excited and hit my left eye while I was wearing them?’ She said.
Your legs were still wobbly, your arms had joined in, they seemed not to fit any longer by your side, and so you were moving them about like the confused leader of an orchestra. ‘Excited?’ you managed to say.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘On the parade ground, during the early morning prayers.'
'Oh. That’s cold.'
'It is. But I don’t like these glasses. I prefer yours.'
'I don’t like it either, dear.’ You said and she laughed, you laughed, too. That was when you stopped speaking, involuntarily, of course. So you stood there, next to her, like a statue with moving hands and wobbly legs.

They were boys playing soccer on the field, one platoon against another; you stopped following those games after your platoon was defeated very early on.
She was still standing next to you, pretending to enjoy the football match, as if it was the most captivating thing she had ever seen, pretending that she did not notice how strange you were acting, drawing eccentric circles around your body with your hands, your hands that vehemently refused to stay put by your sides. You had lots more to say to her just that your mouth was no longer interested in speaking and so before the football match ended and one team defeated the other on penalties, she said, 'Alright. I will go now.'
And you mumbled incoherently and watched her walk away. Your words came back after she had left but you had nothing to say to yourself so you kept on watching twenty two sets of boys on the field who you cared nothing about, kick about one round leather.

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