THE REAL NAMES AND IDENTITIES IN THIS HAVE BEEN MASKED. THIS IS BASED ON A REAL LIFE OCCURRENCE AND HAS BEEN MODIFIED WITH FICTIONAL ADDITIONS.
“Do it here! Here! Here!” The nurse instructed strongly in Fante pointing to one of the shrubs at the entrance of the clinic. I was led by the hand quickly there and just in time, because the fountain springing up from within my stomach was waiting for nobody.
No, don’t be too quick to pass judgement without knowing the full story.
We already talked about that.
I wasn’t pregnant.
I stood upright with an exhalation of relief and turned to see the group of girls I came with who were in no better condition than I was. This was not the turn of events any of us expected. This was so not the plan. It’d surprise you that this wasn’t going to be where it stops.
It was Saturday. Visiting Saturday.
My parents weren’t coming for visiting. But it was okay with me. We agreed they were to come on P.T.A. meetings only. Whatever I needed was bought and sent to me through bus transit. Food? There was a friend I always shared with. Her mother was in the same field of work as my father and we got to know each other through the adults. But that Saturday, she didn’t get visited either. That visiting was dry for the most part. Things were slow too. It was expected. The term was only days away from ending. End of term examination had started and everybody seemed to be more concerned about that than visiting. Form one girls assigned to ‘run’ that visiting were merely sitting there with their books at the Trident Bridge where decorated tables from the various houses were set-up side by side and occupied by a continuing student and a number of first year girls from the respective houses. ‘Running’ was a job that got girls punished for not doing. So I found myself sitting there when it was my turn to ‘run’ not exactly out of liking for the assignment.
‘Running’ involved going to look for and call out wards that were requested for by their guardians who came to visit them at the respective wards’ house tables. The guardians would come and say whom they were looking for and one form one girl at the table would be sent to go and look for her. It used to be very annoying especially when you looked everywhere and couldn’t find whomever it was you were looking for. Sometimes, when you got back to the table to report that you couldn’t find a ward you were sent to call after searching every nook and cranny in the school, you would find the ward already with her visitor laughing and chatting. Goodness, woman, where were you?
It’d shock you also that the three people I was sent to call that day had already met their visitors when I got back to the table.
I was tired and hungry from all that running, and snacks from my chop box were not going to do it this time. My food buddy didn’t get visited by her mother. She managed to get a box of pizza through a friend of hers from our brother school that decided to come and see her. And when roll call and reading time after visiting was over, she brought one half of the treat to me in class which I happily carried to the dining hall when it was time for supper. So nice of her!
But this was not going to cut it for this hunger coupled with tiredness. I was bound to sleep during entertainment tonight, especially when there was another appointment after. With such a dry visiting, chances of having someone who would share was very low. Not that girls wouldn’t share, but that the number of people who actually got visited were very few. Someone who got visited today didn’t get visited again till next month. Or next two months. Some of us were ok with once or twice a term.
But as always, there are always exceptions to the norm.
And some people just always get visited whether rain or shine.
Two cousins in my house were one of the few, and I tell you, it was a buffet.
The food was so much. They had to call friends to help them finish the food or else it was all going to go bad and go waste. One cousin was a year ahead of the other, so each girl invited their friends from their year group. I was luckily invited as well, and, after supper, I moved to the buffet table after people dispersed to finish their home-cho in their pantries and prepare for entertainment.
There was fried rice and buckets of chicken
There was rice and stew.
There was jollof rice
There was banku and tilapia
And there was gizzard. On the side.
We had some time before entertainment. So it was all good.
We sat and ate
The bowl of gizzard was opened.
“You guys, there’s gizzard,” our host drew to our attention. Girls dug in, reader.
I just continued eating the rice and stew I served myself. One of the girls who was a friend of mine, picked one gizzard with her fork and put it on her plate to share with me. We divided the gizzard, each girl taking a part. But as she was taking it up into her mouth, it fell. And there wasn’t any more gizzard. I luckily had my half still with me and though I offered to share, she insisted I have it and that she was ok.
Entertainment was over and everyone dispersed to their houses to sleep-well, not everyone per se.
We were sure other houses were having secret meetings after lights out as well. Although it was illegal, we just found a way of doing it without being caught sometimes. Yes, people were caught sometimes. And it was not a very pleasant thing to be caught not in bed by teachers after lights out. All form ones sisters of my house were at the house’s balcony. We were the only house with a balcony. And to be honest, it gave us a lot of advantages in getting away with important meetings that just had to be held after lights out. The next day was the first Carol’s Service program in the school for me and I was pretty excited. That Saturday night was our last rehearsal and the plan of our coordinators was to keep us there through most of the night time-of all Saturdays to be worn out from ‘running’. Form one girls were usually the people expected to sing the carols as the house choir during each house’s seven-minute long maximum time performance during the service. Over and over and over again we sang as undertone as possible. The compound got extremely quiet after light out and the slightest noise could echo within the enclosed space of the linked houses. The decoration committee, simply called DecoCom, were grouped a metre or two behind where we sat singing, preparing towards lawn decorations for the house.
I neither heard nor noticed. But apparently, one member of the DecoCom threw up all of a sudden and was taken away about half an hour before I stood up. I was feeling pretty cold so I decided to move quietly to get my sleeping cloth from my dormitory. On my way, I saw one of my house’s prefects and some other two house members murmuring on the veranda. When I got there, she stopped me.
She asked me if I ate the food the two cousins were visited with today.
“Follow me,” she said, suddenly grabbing my hand and taking me with her.
“Why, what is going on?” I asked confused.
“People who ate the food are running and vomiting,” one of the girls who was with the prefect said.
“But I’m ok,” I explained. “I don’t feel sick at all.”
“You, let’s go,” the prefect insisted. “If nothing strange happens, you’ll come back.”
I spoke no more till we got to the front of the bathroom. The place had a strong odour of puke and runny stool with girls having working buckets and vomiting into them. Others were sitting on the floor feeling so weak and dehydrated. It was utter chaos.
A girl among them looked so sick I felt so sad. Her nose had turned so red with fluid seeping from her nostrils. I remembered she dug into every option available when we were eating-she ate some of this, and some of this and some of that. A girl who walked out of the bathroom bent over while clutching her stomach intercepted us as we passed. I was so startled because I thought she was going to fall and die, to be very honest. ‘What is going on here?’ I wondered in thought with undisputed horror plastered on my face. But the drama was not over just yet…
to be continued
home-cho: home-made food