The village of Geffeichak is not connected to the National Power Grid, so forget electricity unless you have a generator. You have one, and that is why your phone has been useful. But now there are two problems: 1. Fuel scarcity 2. Your monthly allawee has not been paid.
This means you are broke. This means no phone. No phone means no alarm. No alarm means nature’s alarm. Nature’s alarm is the cock’s crow. The first crow is usually by 4:15am.
It is 4:15am.
You rub your eyelids and open your eyes. The throbbing headache from lack of good sleep tells you you are awake. The grandeur of your room reveals itself under the dying flicker of your lantern: green walls peeling off to reveal the previous yellow paint; hanger for your clothes—a stick horizontally held up to the ceiling at both ends by wires; a plastic table and chair taken over by books; and the rest of your room swallowed by shadows. You pick up yourself and blow out the fire. The light of the moon barely filters in. The next thing is to have your bath.
When you first arrived here, you had lots of change, so it gave you the guts to complain: I cannot use their stream water, it is unhygienic and a whole lot of other nonsense. So what you did was stuff the corner of your room with bags of pure water—one bag of water was enough for you to have your bath. But now your finances have reached ground level, and your senses have awakened: Few drops of Dettol will cleanse the stream of all its dirt, one sachet from the bag of pure water to brush my teeth, and I am good to go.
The early morning wind whizzes past causing you to tremble like the dewy leaves of the palm trees flanking the path to the stream. The path is marked with young women who have adopted careful gaits from long periods of towing this muddy path. Their men are still rolling in their beds, waiting for their water so they can begin their day to farm, hunt, fish or do whatever pleases them. You are not as privileged as these men are. You are a National Youth Service Corp Member posted to this village that cannot be located even on Google Maps.
Travelling here had felt like moving to the end of the world. You peeped through your bus windows as the landscape changed from clustered buildings to sparse buildings, to dry lands, to bushes, to trees, to forests, then to forests growing on swamps. All the way, you rescinded your faith in technology, trusting only the driver to get you there in one piece while you battled with imaginations of your death springing from ritual killings, accidents, and armed-robberies-gone-bad.
The young women are in dark coloured wrappers while your white singlet and white boxer shorts might as well be neon lights screaming your name in the half-light.
“Morning Corper,” one of the young women says. They know your name, but their native-moulded tongues cannot reshape themselves to pronounce ‘Bamgboye Oluwagboyega’ effectively so they take the easy road and call you the generic ‘Corper.’
You respond with a brisk wave and keep walking.
“Corper make I help you fetch water, go sleep, I go bring am come your room.” She giggles to her friend and they smack their palms together.
You are not a stranger to these young women of Geffeichak speaking words that carry double meanings, so you guard yourself against their advances by deflecting any form of unnecessary friendliness, because later in the day they will squeeze themselves into their white blouses and green skirts to become your students.
On your first day at the stream, the ladies had been fully naked, bathing without worries. You kept staring at your feet, the wet sand, the shadowed outline of the trees, the navy blue sky, anywhere else but their naked bodies, waiting for any sort of retribution for being there, but what you heard was their language and laughter. Overtime, the view became less strange. And even though you tried not to look, sometimes your gaze mistakenly fell on the curve of their breasts, the outlines of their hips, their nude body, partly clothed in soap suds.
“Mr. Boyega,” she says, obliterating the strong ‘Gb.’ She is among the very few circle of people here who bravely takes up the challenge in pronouncing your name.
You smile. It would also kill your tongue to pronounce her surname properly.
“Hello Blessing. How are you?” Your smile grows wider. The first day you were to teach you had been nervous, but the old trick of focusing on a friendly face in the audience helped you outstrip that nervousness. And that friendly face was Blessing.
“I am fine o.” She looks at her feet and rubs her palm against the other. A friend of hers follows her almost everywhere she goes, but you have forgotten her name. At least you know it begins with an ‘E’. She is staring at you now, fingers wrapped around the handle of two large buckets. As soon as she holds your gaze, she partly closes her eyes, and winks one of them.
“Hope you’re both ready for my test?” You say, ignoring her advances as always.
“Yes sir,” they reply. “I was reading in the night. I only slept small,” Blessing adds.
“I trust both of you. Fetch your water and let me escort you.”
“Ah. Thank you sir.”
The glow of the moon reduces to rippled reflections on the flowing water as they squat to fill their buckets.