With the Weavers:
I trudged in hotfoot back to my room, my shoes were ready now and all I had to do was wear them and vamoose. As I tied the shoelace I thought of what could be happening at the meeting, ‘perhaps it hasn’t started’ I thought. Most Nigerians are habitually late. This lateness is colloquially called Nigerian or African time (I’m damn sure you know that). This thought I used to excuse my lateness because I felt every other person would be late.
At last I was ready to leave. ‘Goodbye everyone’ I motioned to my roommates and left the room immediately. I have this unfortunate tendency to forget things easily and so it was not until I got to the exit point of the finest hostel in Unilag that I remembered that I left my bunch of keys behind. Oh no! I exclaimed in regret but somewhere within me I was grateful for this timely remembrance. After retrieving it I began my journey to the Faculty of Arts; this walk lasted only a few minutes because I raced like one who was being chased by a wild beast.
The faculty was slightly unpopulated, very few students roamed its corridors, there was this strange quietness that drowned all the departments and it wouldn’t have been out of place if a stranger walked in and said with all conviction it was a cemetery.
I ascended the stairs to my destination, the third floor (which was all I knew about the venue, and even this I wasn’t completely certain). When I got there I looked into each class but found no soul.
I wondered if the meeting had been scrapped. While I stood, an anonymous voice encouraged me to leave; after all I had an appointment later on that day. But on second thought I went back to the floor beneath where I stood and continued the search. An exercise in futility it was but not until I got to the fourth floor, I think.
My knees were already weary and fatigued and begged to be rested at least briefly. I was considerate and so I stayed outside the class for about a minute while I thought of how to cross the next hurdle. Looking for the venue of this meeting reminded me of the first time I moved into my hostel – it was a dreadful day: I had traversed the entire building before I found the room I was designated to move into. What I felt was a distasteful potpourri of lividness and tiredness. All thanks to the crop of ill-informed chaps I questioned and the two weighty bags I supported with both hands. To worsen the whole situation, nothing displeased me more than to see a multitude of ‘negroes’ already residing in a supposed four-room apartment. Anyway, that was a long time ago and I’ve got used to the state of things around there.
Presently it was time to go in but I couldn’t coax my legs to move. I don’t know why; but about that same time came a saviour who confidently sauntered into a nearby class. I recognized him as a member of the Weavers and as a sharp boy I quickly trailed behind. I heaved a sigh of relief when I finally sat. There were very few members today compared to the first time I visited the Weavers.
Truthfully, I had come to scout and assess on that occasion and being here today meant they got a pass mark. I was opportune to listen to a potential world renowned writer as she read out a poetic piece deserving approbation. That writer is none other than Miss Temitope, and the work is entitled ‘Let Me be Eve’.
Not long, the proceedings took a new turn and the spotlight was beamed on the late legendary writer Chinua Achebe. As stated by the anchor, it would be a discourse and all and sundry was encouraged to air their views on the icon. I was among those who indicated interest to speak (something I rarely do). Two lads spoke before me and when it was my turn, I shyly made my way to the front of the class, turned and faced them and my nerves started acting up.
I felt this inscrutable shiver run through my body like the currents of a sea, I would have been glad if it lasted momentarily, but, not so, it ravaged my insides, gave me cold feet, seized my tongue; I tried to curb it to no avail. I stood there for a second or two bemoaning my woes.
Surely I had to speak now, not just because I wanted to express myself or challenge the unanticipated nervousness that had suddenly enveloped me – I had, I think a dozen eyes peering at me. I opened my mouth but even I was appalled at what it spewed. It had this unpurposed strangeness of content and an intermittent break in speech, I think it was a slight stammer. But hey! I had to go on, you know, finish what I started.
So here’s what I did: first I tried to convince myself that some of them were my course mates. I thought, ‘I can talk foolhardily to this pack individually, hence I should be able to speak boldly to them as a whole.’ Good thinking right? Yeah, I guess you concur. But of course not, this was absolutely futile. I also tried to pace around but ironically I remained on the spot and the only thing that paced was my voice.
Indeed, I was a great let-down to myself. I couldn’t imagine why such a thing would happen to me, primarily because I have spoken and I still speak to larger audiences. Or was it the abscence of familiarity? I somewhat don’t think so because my fellow course mates were there, well, except for a few aliens from other departments.
And so I spoke childishly and naively, and I believe they all could see nervousness written all over me. Nothing much happened thereafter. I was asked to say the closing prayer and I did better this time but who knows if that was because all eyes were shut? I don’t. But perhaps just as I have got used to the modus operandi and the unhealthy living conditions in the safest and most alluring edifice (hostel) in Unilag I’ll get used to speaking confidently to the Weavers.
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