Rufus sat in the chair at the back of the class, as he had become accustomed. To compound the misery, he was shortsighted, which made his decision to sit at the back even more bewildering. He would struggle to see what Mr. Tamuno scribbled on the board, but then give up after a while. While trying to assimilate as much as he could from what the lecturer was saying, his mind would often drift off without prior warning. He, one time, imagined himself in a dark room with a piano under a dim spotlight. He played melodies to a drummer’s looping bass and snare, while a keyboard complemented the chords he struck. A guitar seamlessly blended into the mix unobtrusively. It progressed with the guitarist eventually doing an amplified electric solo to muted instruments. But then, he noticed something strange. He was the guitarist as well. At that point, everything melted into oblivion, and he was jolted to reality by thunderous laughs. Mr. Tamuno had told a joke about his old classmate in secondary school. Ten minutes later, the class was over. He took the short walk from his faculty to his dorm. At the hostel gate, he saw a stack of freshly baked bread and a cooler stock with ice and ‘minerals.’ With the scorching sun assaulting his forehead, he had to take a gulp of something. He quickly bought a bottle of Coke and finished the content in close to no time. Rufus had demons. He came from an expectant household where academic failure wasn’t an option. Only problem was, Rufus was failing. His grades had dramatically dropped after he grew disillusioned with life as a whole. He would spend countless hours ruminating on what could have been if some decisions had gone his way. He was haunted by a potent mix of self-loathing and resentment for certain individuals. He was socially unenthusiastic, as he grew weary of repetitive patterns of interaction. After taking a bath, he sunk into his bed and turned to his phone for as long as he could.
“My mama say ‘baby be kiaful if anybody come to say I love’ uh-uh uhn…” Aṣa’s genius rung in Rufus’ head. He couldn’t quite get that song out of his consciousness. It was almost 7 p.m., and Rufus had been waiting all day for night. He was fairly excited about the possibility of seeing Ijeoma. Ijeoma was a diary of sorts to Rufus. She held a special appeal which he didn’t seem to see in anyone else. For an hour or more, they would have candid conversations. They had unwritten meet-up guidelines they usually adhered to, and by all indications, they were supposed to meet that night. He took a habitual stroll into and around the school compound, soaking in as much inspiration as he could from an environment with a dearth of the aforementioned. He walked along as he chewed on a bar of Snickers; an unnecessary expense incured. He was like a cursed man compelled to buy anything in sight with the slightest appeal. Perhaps feeling a need to compensate for his shortcomings, he quicky gave in to the urge most days. But his efforts to attain gratification from his erratic spending on edibles always ended up making him feel more desolate. He felt weak from the inside out. His unhealthy lifestyle conspired with his bodily insecurities. He wanted to call Ijeoma just to ask her to come out. He needed to see her.
“I’m in my room, but I’ll come out to buy food soon. Dunno if I can see you, though.” Her skepticism had become increasingly consistent, and her disposition towards him more hostile. He tried to convince her to spend some time with him before she went back to her dorm room. With a hint of displeasure in her voice, she agreed. Sometimes, Rufus would wonder if she was as special as he thought her to be, or she just seemed that way because of the absence of her kind in around him. The vivid daydreams were constant fixtures in his days. They helped him temporarily forget about the pain under his right foot. The pain started when he was just a junior secondary student. He walked considerably long distances to school and back. Being frail-boned as a young boy, a bone under his right foot gave in one day, as the trekking was incessant. Seated on a chair roughly twenty yards away from a fridge which always seemed to be on at all times, he passively hummed and whistled time away. She knew to meet him there. In his hand, he had a black nylon bag with chocolate cookies in it. He bought the cookies for her as a surprise; a, perhaps, unnecessary surprise from someone who always seemed to be in financial straits. In her own way, she inspired him. He always wanted her perspective. Many a time, he would want to send her a message on his phone, but he would hesitate because he didn’t want to seem like a typical ‘loser’ with too much time on his hands. On some level, he felt she was obliged to look after him, like a comforter amidst temporary turmoil. He stared at the glossy packet of cookies unintently while he dialed her one more time. He had been sitting there for three quarters of an hour. Her phone had gone from ‘busy’ to switched off. His insecurities wouldn’t let him not make unproven conclusions. Perhaps, he was wrong. Maybe her battery died or a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in her dorm room. His forlorn figure sank into the chair, while a lump clogged his throat. He would go back to his room, but he just needed a moment to stew in his own misery, while the night breeze dried his misty eyes.