“Annie… Annie. Wake up, I want to pee, please walk me to the bathroom” Ayele whispered
“hmm” mumbled Annie in her sleep as she tossed to the other side of her student bed.
Ayele lay awake on her bunk bed in Dorm 7, trying hard to suppress the urge to visit the bathroom. She looked at her little alarm clock, the tiny glow in the dark hands of the clock read 12:15 am. There was no way she was going down the stairs to the bathroom alone at this ungodly time.
Ayele tried to distract herself. She clenched her fists and her toes and started adding doubles in her head. “1+1=2, 2+2=4, 4+4=8…” She tried to hold the pee in by holding her breath. Bad idea. Soon she was so close to wetting herself that it brought tears to her eyes.
She got out of her bed and went to the bedside of her friend.
“Annie,” Ayele whispered and nudged her friend again in a final desperate attempt to wake her.
Annie pulled away in discomfort, muttered something incomprehensible and tossed again. Ayele was certain she could not hold it any longer, and hell would freeze over before a proud *Ganyobi like her would be sneered at for being one of those secondary school girls with loose bladders who wet their beds.
She reached for her rosary which she had hung on the side of her bed for protection, traced the sign of the cross over herself with it, and wore it around her neck.
She slowly crept her way through the winding maze of multicolored buckets, yellow gallons, and the shiny and rusty metal trunks that had been arranged in the middle of the dormitory to make way for scrubbing in the morning, and opened the door.
She stared down the long corridor that led to the staircase. “Lord it’s going to take a miracle to make it to that staircase, not to talk of getting downstairs before I pee on myself,” she thought. She wrapped her arms around herself in a bid to stop herself from shivering but the cold harmattan air only made things worse.
That damn harmattan is the cause of this situation anyway. It’s almost like the weather can’t make up its mind. It’s so cold in the morning that some girls skip their morning shower then it gets hellishly hot during the day, almost like the sun is pressing its lips to the face of the earth in some sort of heated love affair, and the rest of the world is trapped in the heat of their passion.
I had to drink a dam of water today otherwise they would have parceled my shriveled remains home! This is what I get for refusing to die with thirst – death by fright!
Slowly she started down the corridor, each step she took brought ten thousand pictures of what could go wrong to her mind. I should think more positively, she thought, let me sing a song. The only song that quickly came to mind was a jama song she and the rest of the form one girls had been taught by the Sports Prefect. They had been made to sing it every siesta all week, ahead of next week’s inter-house sports competitions.
If you want to killi me….Kill me make I die…I forever loyal to shamisha-
Really? Ayele thought, Of all the songs in the world? She was almost at the staircase now. I could pray instead. So she started muttering Psalm 23
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
The fluorescent light at the staircase which led downstairs was off! Poor Ayele was panic-stricken, a few drops of pee hit her panties. She felt herself beginning to get wet. Ye though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death. She repeated louder in her head, as though that would chase the fear away, and more importantly hold herself together while she descended the dark creepy staircase. Step by Step, we will make it. She willed herself, held on to the handrail and took one step down the stairs.
The first step, the second step, good good.
The third step, fourth step… What was that sound!
Fifth step… Cockroach?! mouse?! snake?!
Sixth step… Oh no no ….no…not now… please…
Warm fluid run down her legs and pooled at her feet. Ayele stood in chilling defeat for a moment, and then, as though being chased by the devil himself she ran back to her dorm.
The next morning was full of chaos. Asabea, the form two girl in charge of scrubbing the stairs was livid about having to scrub urine off her workspace. She held all the form one girls hostage on the balcony, refusing to let them go downstairs to take their baths or do their chores until the culprit confessed.
“But who would commit such a cowardly act?” Annie questioned no one in particular. She was standing with Aso, Tina, Owusua and a girl from Big Dorm whose name Ayele didn’t know. They were all holding their buckets in one hand and soap dishes and towels in the other and had tied their sponges loosely around their necks.
“Mtchew…As if the person who did it would own up” Aso replied. I just want Sister Asabea’s tantrum to end so I can go and bath.
“Could happen to any one of us you know” Tina said, “That staircase is really dark at night now that there are no bulbs. I wonder what they use our house dues for.”
“I wake my school mother up every time I want to go to the bathroom at night. She walks me there” the girl from big dorm said.
“Nonsense,” retorted Annie “I would never do that if I was your school mum… mtchew…as though our bladders are attached. If the place is dark. carry a torch eh? Why disturb someone else’s sleep? So selfish! She tossed her towel over her left shoulder and leaned on the balustrade.
“You must have a great school mum,” Ayele said hoping that contributing to the conversation would make her look less guilty of the crime being discussed.
“I don’t blame you though, your school mother lives off your provisions so she has to be at your beck and call. Annie said again, clearly not satisfied with her previous statement. “The silly girl who did this will surely be punished. This is *Deebee foolishness” She was about to speak again when Martinette’s angry voice tore through the corridor.
“Form one fuɔ! Gymi nii bεn na ayε saa gyimi diε wei?” Asabea bellowed.
“Asabea, you will speak English and remember your manners in this house, understood?” Gianni, the House Compound prefect scolded calmly.
“Sorry Sister.” Asabea replied and shouted again “Sisters in the Upstairs Dormitories, whose stupid daughter, brought to this school by the stupid computer system of the GES, thought it wise to turn the staircase into a urinal?”
“What did I say about manners?” Gianni chided again.
“I am sorry sister, but how can I scrub this smelly place with my usual portion of water when inspection is only 30 minutes away eh?” Asabea whined cunningly slipping in a request for more water.
With the frequent shortage of water in the school, students had to make long trips to the taps at the school field, popularly referred to as Batman, for bathing water. The House Polytanks were supplied with water weekly but that was usually reserved for scrubbing and only distributed to students in extreme shortage cases.
Water was an unofficial currency in the school, and as with every economy, there were power brokers: prefects, sports girls, students with kitchen mothers or fathers etc. There were also house workers, like Asabea, who took every opportunity to demand and hoard water for their own use, while using as little as possible for their designated workplaces.
“I will ask a form one girl to help you. Now go to the prefects’ dorm and tell Radiatu to give you 2 Gallons of water, an extra portion of Parazone and gloves” Gianni ordered, but Asabea was already halfway down the stairs at the sound of water. More water is always welcome news, even if it takes such unpleasant tasks to be rewarded the precious resource.
Turning to the form one girls, Gianni ordered. “You all have 10 minutes to take your bath and 15 minutes to do your chores”
“Yes Sister” the girls cried in unison and hurriedly walked past her down the stairs!
“Girl with the red bucket” Gianni called out.
Please don’t let it be me. Ayele prayed. As she rushed down.
“Victoria, call me that girl in the blue morning coat, with the red bucket.
Definitely me. Ayele cried inwards. “Sister Gianni, is it me please?” she surrendered knowingly.
“Yes. Gianni said firmly. “Where do you work?”
“Prefects’ Dorm please”
“The Prefects’ Dorm is not dirty this morning. You will help Asabea scrub the stairs today”
“Yes Sister,” Ayele muttered. It’s either this ‘Karma is a bitch’ thing is really true, she thought or Annie is a witch!
*Ganyobi: of Ga descent
*Deebee: Spoilt rich kid