Today’s episode of Corpers Lodge will be very short. I have good excuses for it: tomorrow, the 2nd of July is my passing out parade. I have allowed the excitement of leaving this wilderness weaken my bones and turn me into an amateur pensioner. Hard as I try, I can’t bring myself to do more than spending a precious amount of time ironing and reironing my khaki and dotting on my headdress.
Besides that, I am fighting the injury time temptations of travels and travails. Guys calling you to say Mehn you haven’t visited Ilesa o. When are you coming to Ibadan? Shey you promise to come and see me in Ondo state. Etc. All these are money sucking avenues. Again, it’s a ripe playing ground for the village witches to take a final shot on target. On your way to Ibadan, in Iwo Road, a family of sheep would suddenly appear on the way. Screeeeeeech, gbaaaaaam! Next thing, you are standing before Angel Michael and you are not even sure your passport is in his laptop. Fellow corpers will paste your sickly photo on Whatsapp and Facebook groups with their lame, ‘This world is wicked, two days to POP and he die. If you are not wicked type RIP.’ Privately, they will tell their friends ‘Omo na girl im go visit for Ibadan o.’
So I have been fighting temptations.
Again, I am seeking the face of God. I don’t want to collect my discharge and leave just like that, unanointed. No, I will only go after my Creator, if God will not go with me I shall not move an inch from Cemetery Lodge.
I practically live on my CV. I have now edited it two hundred times. The time I have spent on my CV would have been used to write three novels. As if it is by CV. Total waste of time. But some of you already have connections. Why don’t you approach your uncle in the oil company and tell him about your hardworking blogger friend who is also smart? I can head the blogging department. I am also terrific with negotiations, show your uncle the last episode of Corpers Lodge. Eshe.
Too much talk, let’s go straight to today’s short business.
It was the 27th day of March, a day before the postponed presidential election. Late in the afternoon. I was standing in that famous motor park/filling station in the Old Garage Oshogbo, waiting for IBK. Since the day I nearly died donating blood to her, I hadn’t set my eyes on IBK. I had left her for Cemetery Lodge to organise for Micah. A day after the CLO election the entire lodge began preparation to storm IBK’s hospital but Mercy called to tell us that IBK’s brother had had her transferred to an Ibadan hospital. For the six weeks she was in Ibadan we only communicated on phone, but these were painfully short and impersonal. I was sad.
An hour ago she called me and told me she was on her way to Oshogbo. I screamed with joy and hopped into an okada to Ikirun. At Ikirun, I couldn’t wait for the Oshogbo bus to get full, I hopped on another bike, to Oshogbo. It was a forty minutes journey in the dusty expressway. When I arrived Oshogbo, my eyes were blood red from flying in the wind, like Agu’s after-smoke eyes. But this didn’t matter, it was the king inside me and not the Agu in my eyes that counted. Even the headache and the dizziness didn’t count. I just needed IBK.
I dialled her number, the phone rang to the fullest, no answer. I dialled again and again and again, no answer. I became anxious; I began to wonder, could it be she had tricked me? Oh God please no. But I heard the noise of motion while we spoke on the phone…
My heart stopped beating. IBK was standing on the other side of the road, waving, her teeth reflecting the light of the departing sun. She was wearing a tight white shirt over striking blue jeans. Her brown hair extension lay on her shoulders, slightly blown by the breeze. She was very slim but her beauty, and those curves, those curves sent my heart surging with emotions as a thousand excited butterflies took over my stomach. I made to cross the road but stopped to let a trailer roar by.
I ran across the road. IBK opened her arms. I entered into the warmest hug ever given. We held each other, tight, lost to the whole world, shielded by passion and unified by the rhythm of our unified heartbeats. We were the only people on earth, standing in the centre of earth while Oshogbo, Osun and Africa rotated around us.
‘Did I miss you so?’
For answer, she disengaged her head from my shoulder, placed her head on my forehead and stared into my eyes. I tried to look back though the fire was too bright, overpowering. ‘You saved ma life,’ she said. ‘I saved my life,’ I corrected. She laughed. ‘Let’s start moving. I don’t want my brother to come catch me in Oshogbo, I didn’t tell him I was traveling, I just sneaked.’
‘Why did you do that?’ I couldn’t help asking.
‘Why not, I can’t afford to miss this once in a lifetime event. Let’s be going.’ She linked her hand into mine and we crossed the road. At the other side, she stopped and exclaimed. ‘I left my bag over there.’
I recrossed the road to get her handbag which she left at the spot where we hugged.
The organisation of the election this year was quite different from previous ones. For instance, all INEC ad hoc staffs were mandated to pass the night prior to election day at the Registration Area Centre. The presiding officers and the assistant presiding officers would receive electoral materials, both sensitive and insensitive materials in the night and leave for polling units at first light.
IBK’s polling unit was located in the next village, mine at the village after next. We were told to converge at our RACs by six o’clock but it was well after six when we arrived Cemetery Lodge from Oshogbo. Everyone in the lodge had left for their RAC including Tina and Edwin whose RAC was in this village, left already to ‘avoid stories that touch’. ‘What did you cook?’ IBK asked.
I cooked beans and yam but ate so little because of the fear of being pressed to shit tomorrow while presiding over the polls. But with IBK eating with me I dared the toilet and ate like General Gowon. Then we packed our NYSC kits in bags, plus toiletries and blankets. We were like a fresh-minted couple preparing for a picnic except we were headed for different beaches.
It was nearly 7.30pm when we boarded the bike to our RACs. When we reached the school premises that served as IBK’s RAC we saw corps members roaming about. So much for six o’clock. We got down. Our hands joined. ‘Be careful,’ I said. ‘You too. Run into the bush at the site of any wahala.’ Then she hugged me and whispered, ‘Make sure Jonathan wins your polling unit.’
‘Ah, I am neutral o.’
She pecked me on the cheek. ‘Good luck dear.’
‘You too.’ She began to make for the generator-lighted classroom. ‘I will dream about you,’ I said. She turned and blew me a kiss. I continued to watch her long after she disappeared into the classroom.
‘Oga corper make we go, night e don do.’ I turned, nodded an apology to the okada man and climbed up. I felt an acute emptiness inside of me; on the outside, I felt naked, like a woman whose only wrapper had been forcefully taken from her. The okada man kicked the machine back to life. I took a last look at the direction of IBK.
As part of my POP celebration, I wish to give out some recharge cards here. Although I write Corpers Lodge I also look forward to reading Corpers Lodge. I am an avid reader of this series. Now I want you to guess which of the sixteen episodes so far is my favourite episode. Not your favourite episode, no, get into my head and try to tell which episode I would really love to read more than others. If you guess correctly, you get the card. Please comment with your valid emails. Most of my readers are VIPs, I know, you don’t need the card but I urge you to participate for the fun. You can always donate your card to Miss Charity. And it’s not on the fastest-fingers-first basis. No, if ten people guess the correct episode they will all get the reward. Fear not, I have set my June allowance aside for this (I love you na). You may comment now or as far as 11.59pm Sunday. You may tell us your own favourite too, it won’t affect your winning. I will announce the winners on Monday at the end of Blood Island Episode Six.
Thanks for blogging with me thus far. Jah bless.