Tina was a timid girl, the sort whose timidity enhanced her looks. She looked stressed and it was clear she needed a listening ear. As a leader in our hall fellowship, I was an appropriate downloading site for her worries, one to offer the occasional comfort and advice. 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? She had been there three times already, without luck since I kept a busy schedule and hardly studied in my room. She didn’t keep me waiting, and appeared on schedule, taut and ready to explode. I wished 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 what she had to say. After a few minutes of hesitation, during which I 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 known as the “October Rush”. A new academic year brought many changes, but most significantly, it brought fresh female students who were termed, in campus speak, as New Stock. The continuing (or senior) female students had various tags too. Second year ladies were Reduced to Clear, and the third/final year students belonged to the Buy one, Get one free category.
Campus wisdom held that the beginning of the first semester was generally the best time to shop for desirable ladies, freshers in this instance, before they got acclimatized. I looked knowingly at my guest; the Rush was on, evidently.
“Sister Akua, you see, I am confused already. Is it a sin to be fresh and beautiful in this university?” she lamented.
Fresh? Beautiful? Eish! Wasn’t she a tad too confident of her looks? Or was it arrogance? But the words that came out of my mouth gave no hint of my thoughts. “Of course not. But take heart and tell me exactly what is getting you so worked up.”
Nothing could have prepared the poor girl for such an experience. In the maze of activities 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 lecture schedules, 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 inKatanga. I met him on the STC bus when I was coming to Kumasi and we struck a good conversation. Now he’s taken to visiting my room every other day. He is cool, handsome, and speaks good English. 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 smooth and I shouldn’t lose guard. He has already proposed and says he is coming to visit this weekend for his answer. I mean he was my first friend here on campus, but I’m not sure I’m ready for anything deeper at this point.”
It was a Thursday evening and I had a scheduled a discussion with my room-mate Adwoa. She dropped in, saw how intense our conversation was, and merely changed her attire. I signalled that I would be following her to the Games Room as soon as I was done. The fresher looked at me with sad eyes before continuing.
“Then there is this guy I met at Paa Joe during the joint prayer meeting the Student Chaplaincy Council organized in the first week. He showed up to accompany me to the program every evening and has been visiting me regularly ever since. He hasn’t said anything yet but, sister, actions speak louder than words. He is always sharing scripture with me and I learn he is a powerful Christian brother. Well, I respect him for his life and brotherly affection, but I can sense he wants more. He becomes visibly uncomfortable whenever he comes across me talking with other guys and sulks the rest of the day.”
Inte Gorang stood in front of the mirror, putting finishing touches to his make-up. He turned this way and that way, brought his palm close to his mouth, fingers pointing upwards and exhaled through his mouth to smell his breath. Yes, the mint breath freshener was working perfectly. His shirt was well-starched and ironed, the edges razor-sharp, the texture almost brittle. His hair shone from the Sportin’ Waves cream he had judiciously applied. Yellow, the shoe shine boy, had ensured that one could see his image looking up from the flat top of Inte Gorang’s shoes. A few sprays of his designer perfume used only for the most important occasions, and Joe Pabitey was ready for the evening’s visit to Africa Hall.
Joe Pabitey. Few people called him by his real name. His nickname Inte Gorang was adulterated from John Garang, the Sudanese rebel leader. His friends teased, that Joe Pabitey had been fighting for years, four years actually, to get an inte, a girlfriend on campus. Such persistence was both admired and jeered, and every time he approached the Porter’s Lodge immaculately dressed, he was sure to receive applause and sometimes, blessings, from his Katanga Hall colleagues. A few times, even as he turned up the hill towards the Great Hall, the chorus of a song composed for him by his hall mates followed in his wake…
Ma ensi wo yie
Inte Gorang eeei
Inte rebel leader eei
Fa nkunim die bra nne!
to wit, “May it go well with you, Inte Gorang, Inte rebel leader, bring victory back today!”
Now 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. Along the way he had become a veteran of the October Rush. And each year, after failing to win a province, he had returned doggedly to the drawing board to re-strategize. His advances were not limited to the freshers though. It was just that having failed to succeed in the past three years in all the year groups, he had decided to really focus on freshers this final year. It was his last battle, going for the kill, do or die, be victorious or die trying!
In furtherance of this strategy, he had returned to campus two clear weeks before re-opening and befriended all the porters in the female and mixed halls. With heavy tipping, almost amounting to bribing, he had secured their tacit agreement to note down all the nice girls and their room numbers, so he wouldn’t have to waste doing reconnaissance. By the time school re-opened and the freshers started arriving for the orientation program, he had been on theAccraroute more than four times, journeying back toKumasion the STC buses, to get acquainted with 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 off and anxious at their departure, eager conversations on mobile phones, and more private information obtained from discrete 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 warlord’s battle plan.
It was convenient for him to be a resident of the Independence Hall. The hall’s proximity to the school’s stadium, (popularly known as Paa Joe), suited him well for he loved to pray in the open expanse. 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 role-played what he loved doing in real life: praying. In one of the scenes, he led a group of ogyacious or zealous Christians in prayer and called on them to “shoot the devil” with spiritual intercontinental ballistic and other long-range missiles. That was in the years just after the first Gulf War. As the leader of that counter-terrorist army of Jesus, he naturally employed the bazooka and thus his nickname Bazook.
He was in the third year and a relationship with ladies was way out of his mind. He felt he was too spiritual for that carnal indulgence. Brother Bazook was known to have exorcised the demon of carnality from another brother when the latter simply asked him for bread, rebuking him: “When souls are perishing, you are thinking of bread!”
During the first week of his third year, Bazook had just spent two hours at Paa Joe, praying in tongues and interceding for souls. He felt really fulfilled; satisfied 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 footpath through the Annex Block, he espied a guy sitting by the security box. He walked on, until he heard the guy walking behind him, calling his attention before striding up to catch up with him.
“Brother, God bless you for your prayers. May I ask what you were praying about?”
Bazook smiled at the stranger, wondering: “Perhaps he wants to tap into my passion for souls?”
“Well, I was interceding for souls this evening.”
The stranger responded, “Brother, the Spirit intercedes for us with groans we cannot understand, and He knows our real heart’s desires. I can interpret tongues and all I heard you say for two hours I have been here at Paa Joe was ‘Lord, give me a wife!’ That is the true desire of your heart, even though you may try not to listen to that inner voice.” Just as he appeared the stranger said a quick goodnight and disappeared into the night in the opposite direction.
Bazook spent that night reflecting deeply. 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, they may not be carnal after all? Perhaps he wasn’t supposed to be a Paul? A spiritual Peter was also in the Bible.
As he reflected on these, it hit him that it was October. The Rush. Yes, there is, The Rush!
The length of the queue behind your door is a reflection of your popularity as a fresh girl during October Rush, she had been told. She knew she was beautiful. That fact had been forcefully appreciated whilst she was in Wesley Girls, inCapeCoast. During the InterCo (inter colleges) 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 them off. She always recalled one particular incident with mirth.
The guy, from Kwabotwe, had pestered her the entire duration of one competition, for two days. From all indications, he was not used to being bounced by girls, one of those boys who felt every girl should melt at the mention of his name like Blue Band margarine under the onslaught of a hot knife. He just wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. And by then, she, Patty Sutherland-Graves, had learnt that for such boys only humiliation would teach them that even though all heads may look the same, the thoughts in them differ.
On the second day, she grudgingly acquiesced and gave him her name; he wanted to visit her at school. She told him she was called Pat Ricia and they agreed for him to visit – two weeks later, on the girls’ visiting day.
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 at the center of the main stage, with the promise of informing Miss Ricia of his arrival. Back in the dormitory, Patty and her friends were rolling across the floor in laughter, completely taken up by the hilarity of it! The guy was clearly a toke – a dimwit, to come asking after a Pat Ricia! Her friends took turns passing by the Hall, ostensibly to search for a missing item or to look for a friend, 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 Quartey got the message and left, with his tail between his legs
Patty was a veteran at playing love games and had arrived on campus for her first year well aware of the October Rush and eager to partake. Clearly, she would not be on the receiving end.
We were sitting on the lower bunk of the bed. I got up and went to the fridge to pick two bottles of Fanta, opened both and gave one to Tina. I insisted when she refused the drink. I had been out studying the whole day and needed to boost my sugar level; perhaps I needed the drink more than she but it wouldn’t do any harm for her to relax a bit more.
“What you are experiencing is called the October Rush, it is seasonal and it will pass. Tina, the question to ask is: Are you ready for any relationship at this time in your life?”
“No, not really.”
“But you do appreciate that you cannot fend 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 confused, like a pollen-laden flower in the land of a thousand bees!”
“Yeah, that’s right and we all experienced it. The important thing is to ascertain whether any of these guys – and there will be more, I can assure you – is serious and will still be around 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 guys during the Rush and even after.
“One of such girls was my room-mate in first year, Christabel. If ever there was a female player, she was one. Christy could wind the hearts of men like a Bonwire kente master weaver! Her tongue was sweeter than the honeycombs ofBabylonand her tales were more intricate than those of legendary Kwaku Ananse. All the guys who came proposing to her were accepted, none of them suspected they had rivals, and each of them thought he was the only one on the throne of her heart. Her admirers were not only students; lecturers, businessmen and teaching assistants had their names in her catalogue. She often said you needed some for study support, some to pay your bills, some to fund your shopping, and some just for going out to functions with. So she grouped her love-struck or highly-infatutaed admirers into relevant categories of need. There was one who took care of her educational needs only. Another existed in her life just to provide finance. Other took care of “tourism” needs 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, when he was almost done with the ironing, it started raining heavily. It was around 2 a.m. 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 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.
“Roomie, Bra Bazook here is looking for Tina, and I told him she was with you.”
Tina? 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 oh, 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.
“He is the “Chrife” or Christian Fellowship 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 secretly admired him. Indeed, my room-mate was the first person who noted how my face lit up anytime he visited us in our room, and how many times I mentioned him in our conversations. Adwoa once challenged that she believed I was falling in love with Brother Bazook. I rebuked her, saying 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 felt more than sisterly affection towards Bazook. He had been a friend for three years, but these mushy feelings had begun to be acknowledged just about a year ago. The problem was that Bazook seemed to “see girls as trees”, as 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 fond words 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. Being an all-female hall of residence meant Africa Hall attracted a good amount of visits from men with a mission. 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 tactic 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 never worked in the four years he had been on campus. Both the hunter and the hunted suffer almost equally, he thought, as he continued his walk up to the eighth floor. When he turned left towards Room 808, and saw 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 passed behind them and 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 in the bidding arena.
“When the Bible talks about offering yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, it includes even your choices. Make sure that what you choose does not become a scar on you and a hindrance to your Christian living,” Bazook exhorted Tina.
Tina was both shy and afraid of Brother Bazook at the beginning of their friendship, but with the passage of 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.
Tina’s earlier 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 would not be in her first semester.
“Brother Bazook, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, Tina.”
“You see, a number of boys have been showing affection for 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, with 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 sisterly, nothing else.”
“Indeed, first advice and this was given to girls 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 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 you during the period either. That person will possibly become your friend, not too obtrusive or interfering, 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.”
“Eish, 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, likeBruneiorGazaand 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 inKumasi, I don’t mean on campus?”
Forty-five minutes later, Gorang had to come up with an excuse. He left Room 808 dejected. Eish, what frightening heights 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.
“Hello, helloooo, Tina!” Gorang called.
“Hi Joe.” The name Inte Gorang hadn’t filtered to her yet.
“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 Block B. If you really were coming to see me urgently, wouldn’t you have been descending from Block A, 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 I 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 I’m 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 second or even a third glimpse. I have been glancing plenty times! 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 recital 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 had been a bad day.
In the end …
It actually turned out that Brother Bazook was interested in Akua, and the discussion with Tina teased him out of his shyness. Tina turned out to be his consultant. When Akua accepted his proposal, Tina later told Akua 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 Kumasibusiness tycoon. When the tycoon’s wife returned to Ghanatwo years later, he dropped Patty, who was in her third year. She got onto the ranks of BOGOF – Buy one, Get one Free.
Tina got hitched to 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.
 Local slang for fool