She was a timid girl, one whose timidity enhanced her countenance. She was stressed, it was clear and wanted some attention, a listening ear. As a leader in the hall fellowship, I was an appropriate choice as the downloading site for her worries, and to offer the requisite comfort and advice. She had been to look for me in my room on three previous occasions, each time failing to meet me, since I kept a busy schedule and hardly studied in my room to avoid interruptions. My presence in the room at that moment was in response to a note she had left for me: could she talk to me, please, urgently. I waited and there she was, all taut and ready to explode.
I had to put her at ease, but all I did seemed inconsequential; all she wanted was to get the issue off her chest. I braced myself for whatever she had to say. After a few minutes of hesitation, during which period I just sat looking at her, encouraging her in silence, she blurted, “It’s the boys! They are pestering me so, and I just can’t cope!”
It was about three weeks into the new academic year and the school was under the siege of the phenomenon called the October Rush. A new academic year brought with it many changes, but most significantly, it brought freshers, especially fresh ladies who were classified as New Stock. The continuing female students had various tags too. Second year ladies were Reduced to Clear, and the third/final year students belonged to the class where you bought one and got one free.
At the beginning of the first semester, it was generally held that the best time to shop for ladies was as early as possible, the desirable ladies being the first year students before they got acclimatized. The Rush was on, already.
“Sister Akua, you see, I am confused already. Is it a sin to be fresh and beautiful in this university?” she lamented.
“Of course not. But take heart and tell me exactly what is getting you so worked up.”
She undoubtedly hadn’t been prepared for such an experience. In the maze of activities that were crowded into the first month of the academic year, many a first year student became perplexed. Orientation programs, registration procedures, accommodation search, getting used to new schedules for lectures and everything else, learning to find one’s way about the large campus and preparing for matriculation – it was all unnerving for a fresher.
“Sister Akua, take this Archito guy. He is in the second year and in Kat. I met him in the STC when I was coming to Kumasi and became friends. He’s been coming to my room every other day. He is cool, handsome, and speaks good English too. I like him, he was my first friend here on campus. He’s already been of immense help and has devoted a lot of his time showing me around campus. My room-mates say he is so cool and I shouldn’t lose guard. He has already proposed and says he is coming to visit this weekend for his answer.”
It was Thursday evening. My room-mate came in from a discussion then. When she saw intense our conversation was, she just changed her attire and went out to the Games Room. The fresher looks up at me, with a sad face. Oh, this Rush!
“Then there is this guy I met at Paa Joe during the joint prayer meeting the SCC [Student Chaplaincy Council] organized in the first week. After the first day, he came for me every evening so we could go together. And he has been visiting me regularly ever since. He has not said anything in terms of proposal but, sister, actions speak louder than words. Some friends tell me he is a powerful Christian brother and he is always sharing scripture with me. Well, I respect him for his life and brotherly affection, but I feel he wants more. He is visibly uncomfortable when he sees me talking with other guys and becomes sullen the rest of the day when we are together. What should I do?”
Inte Gorang stood in front of the mirror and put finishing touches to his face. He turned this way and that way, brought his palm close to his mouth, fingers pointing upwards and exhaled out softly through his mouth, to smell his breathe. The mouth perfume had the effect he desired. His shirt was well-starched and ironed, with the edges razor-sharp, the texture almost brittle. His head shone from the spotting waves cream he had judiciously applied and his hair was well-brushed into the scalp. Yellow, the shoe shine boy, had ensured that one could see his image looking at the tip of the shoes. A few puffs from his designer perfume and Joe Pabitey was ready for his evening visit to Africa Hall.
Few people called him by his real name. He was nicknamed Inte Gorang, an adulterated version of Garang. His friends linked him with John Garang, the Sudanese rebel leader because they teased that Joe had been fighting for years, four years actually, to get a girlfriend on campus, an inte. His persistence was both admired and jeered, and each time he approached the P-Lodge immaculately dressed, he was sure to receive applause and sometime, blessings from his Katanga colleagues. A few times, even as he turned up the hill towards the Great Hall, he could hear the chorus of the song composed for him by his hall mates…
Ma ensi wo yie
Inte Gorang eeei
Inte rebel leader eei
Fa nkunim die bra nne!
To wit, “let it go well with you, Inte Gorang, Inte rebel leader, bring victory back today!”
In his final year, Gorang was bent on avoiding the proverbial four-zero, the term used to describe students who completed their four year degree courses without getting hitched, without grabbing. He was a veteran of the October Rush, of course. Each year, after failing to win a province, he went back to the drawing board to re-strategize. His advances were not limited to the freshers though. It is just that having failed to succeed in the past three years in all the year groups, he had decided to really focus this final year. The last battle, going for the kill, do or die, be victorious or die trying!
In furtherance of this, he had returned to school two clear weeks before school re-opened and befriended all the porters in the female or mixed halls. With heavy tipping, he had their tacit agreement to note down all the nice girls and their room numbers, so he didn’t have to spend time on reconnaissance. Once school re-opened and the freshers were to start arriving for the orientation program, he had been to Accra more than four times, to journey back to Kumasi on the STC buses, to get acquainted to some of the ladies at the bus terminals. With such rich experience, he could pick out the freshers with ease – their large suitcases, parents dropping them and anxious at their departure (most of them leaving home for the first time), eager conversations on mobile phones, more information obtained from a little eavesdropping. He was extra helpful to them and once they got to Tech junction, he ensured that he was visibly available to get them taxis to campus, a coincidental good Samaritan to the freshers, all part of the battle plan.
It was convenient for him to be a resident of Independence hall, called Indece by most students. The hall’s proximity to Paa Joe, the school’s stadium, suited him well, as he loved to pray at Paa Joe. Brother Bazook was very prayerful, an ardent Christian who spent at least two hours each day interceding for souls and his nation, his foremost prayer topics. He earned his nickname when he acted in a play at church. In that drama, he enacted what he loved doing in real life: praying. In one of the scenes of prayer, he was leading a group of ogacious Christians in prayer and called on them to ‘shoot the devil’ with spiritual intercontinental ballistic and other long-range missiles. Those were the years after the Gulf war. As the leader of that group, he employed the bazooka, thus the name Bazook.
He was in the third year and going out with girls was way out of his mind. He felt that he was too spiritual for that carnal indulgence. Brother Bazook was known to have cast the spirit of carnality from another brother when the latter asked him for bread, rebuking that “when souls are perishing, you are thinking of bread!”
In the first week of his third year, Bazook had spent two hours at Paa Joe, praying in tongues and interceding, what is called kabeying in the chrife parlance. He felt really fulfilled and satisfied that he had done his Christian duty as he rounded up his prayers around 8.30 pm. As he climbed up the stairs to cross the street and take the path via the annex block, he spied a guy sitting by the security box. He walked on, until he heard the guy walking behind him, calling him and catching up with him.
“Brother, God bless you for your prayer. May I ask, what you were praying about?”
Bazook smiled at the stranger, wondering where he was coming from. Perhaps he wanted to learn and tap into his passion for souls.
“Well, I was interceding for souls this evening.”
“Brother, the Spirit intercedes for us with groans we cannot understand, and He knows our real heart desires. I can interpret tongues and all I heard you say for the hour I was at Paa Joe was ‘Lord, give me a wife!’ That is the true desire on your heart, even though you may try not to listen to that inner voice.”
Bazook spent that night really reflecting on that. Indeed, he had begun to think about relationships lately, much as he tried to push it out of his mind. Perhaps, God had used the stranger to tell him it was OK to have such thoughts, and they may not be too carnal after all. Perhaps he wasn’t supposed to be a Paul. A spiritual Peter was also in the Bible. As he reflected on, it hit him that it was October.
The length of the queue behind your door is a reflection of your popularity as a fresh girl during October Rush, she was told. She knew she was beautiful. That fact was forcefully appreciated whilst in secondary school in Cape Coast. During the InterCo competitions, she had the most enquiries from the boys from Kwabotwe, Adisco and Augusco, much to the chagrin of her friends, who tried very hard to hide their envy. It got to a point where she had to play pranks on those boys to keep off. She always recalled one particular incident with mirth.
This guy from Kwabotwe pestered her for the entire duration of one competition, for two days. From all indications, he was not used to bouncing from girls, one of those boys who felt every girl should melt at the mention of his name, like Blue band margarine in the presence of a hot knife. He just wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Patty Sutherland-Graves had learnt that for such boys, only a humiliation could teach them that even though all heads may look the same, the thoughts in them differed.
On the second day, she finally acquiesced and agreed to give him her name; he wanted to visit her at school. She told him she was called Pat Ricia and they agreed on a day for him to visit – two weeks later, that was the next weekend when the girls were allowed visitors.
On the appointed day, Alan Quartey – for that was the guy’s name, she could never forget it – duly turned up and asked for Miss Pat Ricia. By prior arrangement, the request filtered to Patty’s friends who took Alan to the assembly hall, and gave him a seat on a portion of the main stage, with the promise of informing Miss Ricia of his arrival. Back in the dormitory, Patty and her friends were rolling on the floor in laughter, completely taken up in hilarity! The guy was clearly a dimwit, to come asking after a Pat Ricia! Her friends took turns passing by the assembly hall, ostensibly to search for a missing item or to look for a friend, but the main purpose being to have a look at the latest toke to visit their campus.
After about two hours of waiting in vain for Miss Ricia to appear, Alan got the message and left.
Patty was a veteran at playing love games, and arrived on campus for her first year, well aware of the October Rush and eager to partake, clearly not on the receiving end.
We were sitting on the lower part of the bunk bed. I got up and went to the fridge to pick two bottles of Fanta, opened both of them and gave one to the girl. I had to insist when she initially refused the drink. I had been out studying the whole day and needed to refresh; perhaps I needed the drink more than her but it was good to get her relaxed a bit.
“What you are experiencing is what is called the October Rush, it is seasonal and will pass. The question to ask, Tina, is: Are you ready for any relationship at this moment in your life?” I asked her. I had found out her name by now.
“No, not really.”
“But you do appreciate that you cannot fight off young men forever, and that you will have to make a decision one day, don’t you?”
“Oh yes, I do. It is just that now with all of them coming towards me at the same time, I feel like a pollen-laden flower in the land of a thousand bees.”
“Yeah, that’s right and we all experienced it. What will be important to ascertain is whether any of these guys – and there will be more, I can assure you – is serious and will still be here after the Rush. Some of the guys see it as a game, some are also serious. Some of the guys come your way accidentally, others encounter you by plan. We will have to see how it goes. On the other hand, there are some girls who also take advantage of the guys in the Rush and even after.”
I recalled my room-mate in first year, Christabel. If ever there was a female player, she was one. She could wind the hearts of men like a Bonwire kente master weaver. Her tongue was sweeter than the honeycombs of Babylon and her tales were more intricate that those of legendary Kwaku Ananse. All the guys who came professing love to her were accepted, none of them suspected they had rivals, and each of them thought he was the only one on throne of her heart. Her admirers were not only students; lecturers, businessmen and teaching assistants had their names in her catalogue. She also said that you needed some for studying with, some to pay your bills, some to fund your shopping, and some just for going out to functions with. The relevant categories were education, finance, tourism and public affairs. She even had a guy whose main use was ironing. I always pitied that guy. Christabel would chat with him deep into the night, usually on Sunday, and then around midnight, she would make an attempt to touch her mound of dresses to be ironed for the week. This guy would immediately get up and insist on ironing! Christabel would smile sweetly, call him a darling and, a few minutes later, go to sleep, whilst the poor guy continued the ironing. He would finish at dawn, let himself out of the room and be back for the same routine the next week. Oh what love could push some men to do!
One day, whilst he was almost done with the ironing, it started raining very heavily. It was around 2 am. Christabel looked outside and decided that seeing how heavy the rain was, the guy should sleep in our room, and go to his hall early in the morning. The guy stepped out – we thought he was going to the gents, ok, ladies in this case. Twenty minutes later, there he was all wet, clutching a large piece of cloth in his hands. He had rushed to his hall to pick up his sleeping cloth! It just confirmed my belief that he had a few wires incorrectly connected upstairs!
“Room five-eight! Room five-eight!” That was my room-mate, Adwoa, calling from the P-Lodge. I stepped out of the room and looked down from the rails. There was a guy standing with her, who I recognized immediately as Brother Bazook.
“Room, Bra Bazook here is looking for Tina, and I told him she was with you.”
Tina was the first year, under-siege first year gal who had come to see me. Was Bazook one of the contenders for the young girl’s heart?
“Ei, Bra Bazook, so if it wasn’t for Tina, you wouldn’t have even asked of me, eh?”
“Sister Akua, it is not like that oo, just that mankind has been spending more time on souls, interceding and following up. I have an urgent message to deliver to the daughter of God, Tina.”
“OK, she will be down with you soon, or you want to come up here to see her?”
Tina had by now joined me on the corridor and indicated that he should wait for her at the P-Lodge; and we both returned to my room.
“Do you know Brother Bazook?” I asked Tina. She nodded yes.
“He is the chrife brother I told you about. I like him as a brother-in-Christ, but nothing more. If he should propose today, I will reject him, but how does one bounce such a brother without hurting his feelings? I can tell his affection is genuine and he is passionate, and I am certain he doesn’t go around proposing to lots of ladies…I could even be the first.”
At this point, I had to decide whether to follow my head or my heart. I will tell you why. I knew Brother Bazook well and always admired him. Indeed, my room-mate was the first person who noted how my face lit anytime he visited us in our room, and how many times I mentioned him in our conversations. Adwoa challenged me once that she believed I was falling in love with Brother Bazook. I rebuked her, affirming that I was just appreciating his spirituality and love for the Lord’s work. Upon reflection, however, I had at least admitted in my heart – yes, I had more than brotherly affection towards Bazook. He had been a friend for three years, but these feelings had been festering for at least one year. The problem was that Bazook seemed to see girls as trees, Adwoa usually said. On the other hand, how does a Christian girl go about letting a brother know that she loved him and was just waiting for him to pop the question, without appearing like a bone going after the dog?
Tina’s admission about Bazook therefore hit me, making me momentarily lose my concentration.
“Yes…yes, er what did you say? Oh yes, I know Bazook as someone who rarely expresses interest in girls. If he is developing some affection towards you, he must be serious then. Perhaps he even has a prophecy to that effect. Go on, go and talk to him.”
Gorang typically got to Africa Hall just after 9pm. As experienced as he was, he knew that most of the guys rarely visited girls after 9pm. The period between 9pm and midnight was usually reserved for those closest to the girls – boyfriends, relatives, girlfriends. Where boyfriends were concerned, it was called owner’s time. So for the brave, that period was free and if you were lucky to be admitted and no one was with your object of interest, you had monopoly, time to make your point and pitch.
Gorang was visiting two girls this time. Patty and Tina: one a tough nut and the other generally easy, by his analysis. The strategy was to spend more time on the tougher subject and then finish off with the easier target.
Gorang climbed the stairs up to the fifth floor and stopped to lean on the railing, to catch his breath. The lifts had not worked in the four years he had been on campus. “Both the hunter and the hunted suffer almost equaled,” he thought, as he continued his walk up to the eighth floor. When he turned left towards Room 808, and saw the about six guys leaning on the railings on the eighth floor, he briefly wondered whether they were going up to the rooftop, what for he couldn’t fathom. Perhaps a prayer meeting? As he drew closer to the door of Room 808 to knock, he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder.
“Are you going there to see anyone?”
He turned to see the face of one of the guys he had passed, waiting on the corridor.
“Yes, I am here to see Patty, she is in Room 808.”
“Then please join the queue, we are all here to see her.”
“Come in please.” Patty was waiting. That was two hours later, but Gorang knew it was part of the game. With patience, one could kill an ant, dissect it and take out its heart, he soliloquized, as he opened the door and entered the room, taking his turn at the bidding table.
“When the Bible talks about offering yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, it includes even your choices. Making sure that what you chose does not become a scar on you and a hindrance to your Christian living.”
Tina was both shy and afraid of Brother Bazook at the beginning of their friendship, but with time, she was learning to relax in his presence. He, in turn, was increasingly loosening up enough to speak contemporary biblical English, instead of the King James version he utilized during the first week she met him. Tina remembered with mirth how he used to intersperse his speech with “Thou knowest”, instead of “You know”. They were standing under the trees that bordered the street leading to Africa Hall and, as usual, Bazook was sharing some nuggets, as he called them, from his bible reading that day.
Her discussion with Sister Akua had been helpful, and whilst descending the stairs to the P-Lodge to meet Bazook, she had decided to take matters in her own hands and stop acting docile. She had a right to decide who stressed her out, and who she wanted to get close to her. She recalled Sister Akua’s words that the decision was hers to make, one day. She decided that day will not be in her first semester.
“Brother Bazook, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, Tina.”
“You see, I have been getting a number of boys showing affection to me in a nice way, during these past few weeks on campus…”
“Ei, I hope I am not counted in that list o!” Bazook burst out laughing.
Shyly, “Well, to be truthful, you are!”
Bazook continued laughing.
“OK, OK,” Tina struggled to get him to concentrate, “now back to my question. How can one ascertain that the love a man professes is genuine? If you love a girl, how do you show it, Bazook? Have you ever loved a girl? Can you fall in love within a couple of weeks and be clear that you want to have a life-long commitment?”
“Ebei, Tina, why? You want to set a GCE A level question or what?” This triggered another round of laughter, Bazook clutching his stomach.
“Well, let’s take it one at a time then, Tina. Yes, I have loved a girl, and still love her. And, no, even though I have shown you great affection during these few weeks, my motives are purely brotherly, nothing else.”
“Indeed, first advice and this was given to the girls especially in school by our scripture union patron: never assume a boy’s love. Let it be expressed first.”
“But what if it is quite clear from the boy’s actions that he is just waiting for the right time to propose, Bazook? What if it is obvious from the amount of time he spends on you, the number of notes he sends to you, the little gifts he sometimes sends across?”
“Still, don’t assume, Tina. My view is that a guy who really loves you will not be afraid to lose you during the October Rush, and may not rush on you during the period either. That person will possibly become your friend and not too obtrusive and interfering too, so as not to risk alienation. So, true, the person may ‘fall in love’ with you, but the maturing time for that love definitely will outlive the October Rush.”
“OK, good points there. You still haven’t answered one question, though.”
“Ebei, Tina, today you really want to grill me, huh? Don’t you know that if I am heard discussing these things with you, I could be tagged ‘carnal’? You know, you are one of the few girls who are able to get me to discuss these deep topics o.”
“Wow that is nice. But perhaps from you I can get unalloyed truth about these questions. I am certain that you do reflect on these topics in your mind a lot more though. So now back to the question: how do you show your love to a girl?”
“Tina!” She could almost swear he was blushing.
“Bazook! Ha-ha, answer the question, brother.”
“Do you have a car?”
“Are you staying in one of the hostels on campus, like Brunei or Gaza and how many are you in your room?”
“I am in Katanga. You know, in the old days, final year students had a room each to themselves, but these days, two of us have to share. Hmm, tough days now koraa…”
“How many are you in your room?”
“OK, we are two officially…”
“Total number in your room?”
“…and we have two perchers.”
“Do you have a fridge and a microwave in your room? What is your size of TV – is it plasma or 21 inches?”
“When was the last time you travelled abroad?”
“Which restaurants do you visit frequently in Kumasi, I don’t mean on campus?”
About forty-five minutes later, Gorang had to come up with an excuse and left Room 808 dejected. Eish, what that the levels the Rush game had reached? He was clearly not in the league of Patty, and he didn’t even know if he had enough energy to see Tina. Besides, it was late.
As he exited the P-Lodge, providence and fate combined to present Tina to him. She was just about to ascend the stairs to her block.
“Heloo, helloooo, Tina!” Gorang called.
“Hi Joe.” The name Inte Gorang hadn’t filtered to her yet, clean slate.
“I was coming to see you but something came up in the hall, so couldn’t set off early. That is why I am late.”
“Ah, but you just descended from the other block. If you really were coming to see me urgently, wouldn’t you have been descending from my block, where my room is?”
Eish, the first year girls this year are wild o, Gorang thought. A bad night it was turning out for him. A smooth operator, he didn’t miss a beat.
“That is what I was coming to. The ‘something’ I spoke about had to do with a project work, actually. So had to work on it, and submit to my project mate in 504, and she detained me to do some explanation too.”
“Alright, I understand now. So what did you want to discuss with me, Joe? Please make it snappy, as I have had a long day and feeling tired.”
“Well, Tina, you must have realized that with such beauty as has been bestowed on you, any man with a working brain cannot pass you without a glance. These past few weeks, each day that passes reinforces the love I have developed for you, even beyond the outer beauty. Your character, your smile; your intelligent conversations, your style; all these have combined to sweep me off my feet. It has been difficult holding back this expression…”
“Joe, thanks, but this is about the fifth such poetry I have heard this week. Besides my beauty, can you give me five proper reasons why I should believe you, and can you wait for another month to see if these reasons still hold?”
Gorang had a fitful sleep that night. It was a bad day.
It actually turned out that Brother Bazook was interested in me, and the discussion with Tina teased him out of his shyness. Tina turned into his consultant. When I accepted his proposal, Tina later told me Bazook came straight afterwards to her room, speaking in his own tongues!
Gorang completed his degree, four-zero.
Patty bounced most of the bidders, settling for a married Kumasi business tycoon. When the tycoon’s wife returned to Ghana two years later, he dropped Patty, who was in her third year. She got onto the list of Reduced to clear.
Tina got hitched with a classmate of hers, in her third year. He had his own stories of chasing women, and getting wounded by some. In the university, he had become wiser and knew that most of the good girls didn’t like being rushed. His name was Alan Quartey.
When taking strolls on campus, Alan and Tina would bump into Patty a few times. Alan couldn’t even remember her, Patty did.
Tina heard her name and turned. A girl she knew from her secondary school was walking towards her, in deep thought. It was October again, and Tina could almost guess what the discussion will entail.
© Nana Awere Damoah, October 2010