Evans had his eyes on the window as successive raindrops splashed on the panes. Each drop glided down in haste, in hot pursuit of another, leaving behind a trail that succeeding drops readily maintained. But, only at brief intervals did Evans notice the window—and the raindrops.
The windows that allowed one a view of the world around—a shallow stream covered up with green vegetation; a heap of rubbish; and a little hut, that never run short of its supply of marijuana—had been closed to keep the classroom warm, and, of more importance, to prevent those who sit close to the window from getting wet. The weather aided by the closed windows had made the classroom dark. Still it did not discourage the teacher. She maintained her stand in front of the class, in front of the marker board, a green marker in her left hand and a long note in her right, as she scribbled away on the white marker board. One would easily reach a conclusion: to Mrs. Bassey, the darkened state the classroom had been thrown into was not much a thing to be considered. Most of the students managed to copy, just what they assumed she had copied on the board; some had accepted defeat after much straining. Evans maintained a peculiar category: lost in thought; his eyes on the window, almost not recognizing the continuous activities the window allowed. Mrs. Bassey had quickly guided the class to a state of decorum, after some students had tried to make their voices heard, in complaint. Even the most daring among them knew the importance of remaining quiet, once Mrs. Bassey had given an order. More complaints, likely, would have been heard if it were another teacher who stood in front of them. Mrs. Bassey had uttered only seven words, in a raised voice—’no more noise, do you hear me’—and the class promptly obeyed, no one wanted to be the scapegoat.
Evans had stopped writing after a few lines, though the decreased illumination had not been a major reason.
Evans heard Mrs. Bassey’s voice and he recognised the raindrops on the windowpanes. He quickly joined the rest of the class, with undivided attention, towards the board. Mrs. Bassey did not raise her voice, this time, still it was compelling enough to demand everyone’s attention.
“You are to draw a diagram of a cockroach, in both views, —”
“Ventral and dorsal.” the class said, in chorus.
Mrs. Bassey smiled. “You will find both views on page 207 in your textbook.” Most of the students responded with a half-hearted ‘yes, ma’; not just to acknowledge the teacher’s instructions, but to acknowledge her dogged position; a position they had come to accept—even when it was entirely unnecessary, Mrs. Bassey would ask for both views. A careful murmur followed after, as Mrs. Bassey had never been so gracious to guide them towards a page. They also recognized something new when she continued. “Both diagrams will be the first thing I will check when next we have a class.” She had never done such before.
Evans closed his notebook with a quiet heave: the previous note and its diagrams, ventral and dorsal, were still missing.
“Emeka,” Evans called. The sound of his voice surprised him: weak and forgettable. And the chaos in the class, that ensued after Mrs. Bassey had made an exit, easily overshadowed his call. “Emeka,” he called, this time a bit too loud for the distance between them. Emeka turned. “when you are through, may I have your note, please.” His choice of words surprised him more—may, please?
Emeka nodded and continued with his work, enjoying the attention around him. Emeka had a flair for drawing, and the result, a number of girls had flocked by his side to benefit from this instinctive aptitude.
Evans heard the sound of windows being opened, and he reached for the one close to him. Few drops still found their way in, but they were tiny enough to be ignored. He looked through the window, and he remembered his home—the gloom that seemed to have moved in; and his breakfast he had left on the kitchen table, untouched. Evans, with the back of his palm, felt his neck. He did not feel sick, and his temperature was fairly normal. Still his loss of appetite was real. Though it was almost noon, Evans still had no desire to eat.
Evans felt a hand on his shoulder. And a voice that was too familiar asked, “Is it fine?” Ijeoma Nweze stood close, her notebook displayed before him. Her smile showed she was pleased with what she had drawn, she merely wanted someone else to admire her attempt.
“It is fine.” Evans said, even before he had considered the drawing. When he did, he realised it was really good. “You drew it yourself?”
“Yes.” Ijeoma beamed.
“Maybe you will draw for me.” Evans was surprised at his words, and that was the second time that morning.
“Don’t worry, when you are ready, just tell me.” Ijeoma responded. Maybe she may not mind copying my note too, he thought. He considered Ijeoma’s handwriting and frowned a bit, but he quickly consoled himself, knowing that the need to have a complete note was more weightier than anything else. He prayed Ijeoma would be willing to extend her help a little further. His tensed mood brightened a bit, and he smiled.
“Are you okay?” he heard Ijeoma ask.
“You look a bit distant these days—and worn out too.” Her choice of words were impressive, and, unlike her. Evans smiled. He considered the girl in front of him: Ijeoma’s breasts even seemed bigger; and her hips, fuller.
“Good.” Ijeoma remarked, before she hurried away, likely to show someone else her drawing. She stopped abruptly, and with ease, she quickly bridged the short distance between them. “What about that novel you were reading the other day, the one you wouldn’t allow me to touch. Have you finished reading it?”
“Can you borrow me?”
Evans remembered that Ijeoma had promised to help him. “I left it at home. Maybe tomorrow.” He had lied, and the next day, if Ijeoma bothered to ask, he would lie again. The steamy romance novel, marked with red ink, was inside his bag. The one marked with yellow ink was there too. For days, Evans had touched both novels only when he searched his school bag. His interest in erotic tales had recently declined.
Evans felt bored all of a sudden, and strangely—alone. Someone reached for the window, near him, to close it. The tiny drops had increased in size, and Evans had not noticed.
Evans pulled a small paper bag from his wardrobe; a pile of old clothes had earlier concealed its presence there. The last time he had done this was over a year ago—just another routine check it had been. This time, it was not. As Evans examined the paper bag, he was not surprised when he noticed few wet spots on it. The nauseating smell of its content had declined over the years.
Evans heaved as he opened it.
The paper bag contained few tablets; those tablets, Evans was sure, had expired a long time ago. They were the tablets his mother had given him, ten years ago, after he complained of a throbbing headache. A feigned headache. First, Nneoma had been worried because the content of the food flask Evans had taken to Steve’s flat had not been touched. Then Evans, though six, at that time, had thought of an excuse—I couldn’t eat; I had a headache, and I was weak. Truly, the musky smell of Steve’s pubic hair had filled his nostrils, so much that he could not eat. Now, ten years after, Evans was glad he had kept those tablets safe. He was sure they would easily provide a welcome escape from: an uncertain future; the thought of Steve, and that first kiss; and, the persistent gloom around him.
Watch Out for Chapter Twelve…