The International Writers Magazine: Exam Time
The Last Green Bottle
Aaarrggghhh! I moaned as I leaned forwards on the wooden chair to ease my sore back.
Right now, I would give anything for a cozy padded chair. I’ve lost count of the number of hours for which I have been seated here. I suddenly snapped to attention when one of those vampires bit me on the cheek. After turning my strained neck from side to side severally, I looked up at the northern wall of the candlelit room – need I say the street’s overloaded transformer gave up last week for the umpteenth time? The luminous dial of weathered clock read 10.30 pm. Quickly, I flipped through the pages of the Chemistry — the most volatile but my favourite subject — past questions booklet before me and vowed to finish before 12 midnight. For I want to be fresh for tomorrow’s exam, the UTME.
About an hour and half later, I was lying on my bed. Anxious about the D-day, I tossed on the couch which served as my bed. The other members of my family were asleep in the other room of our rented two-room apartment in a ‘face-me-I-face-you’ house. My father has ordered that I have exclusive use of the living room in the evenings to aid my reading. This meant that Wole and Adebisi, my siblings are not my best friends for now as Father forbids all of his children to watch television in any of our neighbors’ apartment.
I heard two voices conversing in the corridor. One I could identify as that of a guy and the other was the familiar voice of ... Sarah, whose family occupies the last room on the right side of the house. Sarah and I sort of watched each other grow as our families have lived in this house for as long as I could remember. I chuckled as my until-now-squashed crush on her popped up again. We actually grew apart when my father unlike hers decided to send me to a public secondary school which according to him instilled discipline in pupils. So out of the window flew my dream of dating her – if I could ever muster the courage to tell her of my feelings – as she quickly climbed about two steps up the social ladder. I shook my head in disgust. “This girl is also writing the exam tomorrow and she gallivanting with ‘Uncle’ Deji”, I muttered. I winced as I heard her laughter pierce through the darkness. The kind of laughter only illicit tickling at the sides could bring forth. “Uncle Deji indeed”, I hissed. Fondly called Finest by his equally dumb peers, he is the scourge of teenage girls in the area. I was in my first year in junior secondary school when he graduated – or more aptly, was forced out—from the same school. Ever since then, he has refused to study hard for the university entrance examination and just like many other young people, thinks too highly of himself to learn a trade. I heard he now introduces himself as a musician. I wonder how much that his child-frightening voice can earn him.
However, if she is stupid enough to be out at midnight with anyone not to talk of a member of the opposite sex, aren’t her parents supposed to be smarter? My father has repeatedly said mister Dehinde and his wife—whose extramarital relations is known to all in the compound except her also philandering husband—did not deserve the beautiful gifts called children. But why should Sarah read for tomorrow’s exam? After all, her father who the landlord constantly harasses for rent has paid a ‘tutorial centre’ to help her with solutions to the examination questions. God knows my father would rather sleep with his mother than pay mercenaries to help me.
Such an upright man he is, much unlike his friend, Baba Chike. Chike and I grew up together and were best of friends all through elementary school. However, the once inseparable pair gradually grew apart in secondary school mostly because Chike was ‘rolling’ with some unscrupulous boys and I refused to join the clique. He soon became the ‘happening guy’ in school. Determined not to be outshone, I rapidly developed into the school’s number one nerd.
He suddenly disappeared from our neighbourhood only to resurface last week, with that reigning car called End of Discussion and many “bling-bling” amongst others to show for his ‘efforts’. In the full glare of onlookers, he handed over the keys of a brand new jeep to his father who promptly rained praises on his ‘successful’ son. “Shameless man!” my father called him when my mother related the story to him later in the evening. The rumour mills have it that Chike’s lucrative business is that one that they mimic foreign accents and pose as white men on internet dating sites. I would rather go hungry than bilk another man of his money.
Thoughts of tomorrow suddenly possessed my restless mind. I have heard enough gists from my friends not to be informed about the possible numerous scenarios. Ibrahim, a veteran in his own right, has told me countless stories of corrupt examination officials who brazenly demanded bribes from candidates to look the other way. He offered to give tutorials on how to smuggle in the prohibited mobile phone for easy receipt of solutions to the questions for a token, but I declined. He said I might even be lucky to catch glimpses of the breasts of my well-endowed neighbor cum secret love if their intervening cleft is the vault in which she would keep the smuggled-in answers. He only stopped giggling when I threatened to leave his house.
As sleep slowly overcame me, I silently made a vow in the darkness. I know that I deserve better living conditions than this – imagine seven persons sleeping in a single room and sharing just one decrepit toilet with five other families. I accept the fact that I would have burnt fewer candles if only I had been properly educated in that ill-equipped public school I attended. I don’t dispute the fact that not many graduates are recruited annually into the labour market despite their tertiary education, neither am I unaware that politics has fast become the quickest route to gargantuan wealth.
“However, I shall never do anything which would cause harm to other people or contribute to the rot in the country”, I swore under my breath. I made up my mind to be the last man standing should all around me fall for the attractive alter egos of evil. I hope my six-month preparation and my tested-and-trusted brain and of course, God’s grace will count for me tomorrow. “The last green bottle”, I mumbled with a chuckle as my tired eyes finally lost the battle with the forces of somnolence.
© oluwatobi odetola July 2010
odetzworld at hotmail.com
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