“My brother, it’s not a small something o!” Joseph said exuberantly in acquiescence with what I’d just said. “The girls that transferred to our set this year ehn – fine, fine chicks.”
“How many have you seen?” I said with a chuckle, as I foraged in my locker. “I’ve only met Mimi, and then I’ve seen –”
“Dumebi Madubuike?” he cut in.
“Who?” I looked uncomprehendingly at him.
“That one is SS1D, right?”
“Yes, her. She’s also in Unity House, I saw her in her day wear during afternoon prep yesterday.”
“Men, she is sexy!” Joseph enthused.
“How do you even know her name already?” Ibuka said as he squinted at his white school shirt, investigating the fabric, which he’d painstakingly ironed earlier on, for any unwelcome lint.
“What are you talking about?” Joseph said, turning a disbelieving look to him. “Have you seen this Dumebi girl? If you have, you will understand the need to know her name, background and ancestors.” As Ibuka and I tittered, he said, “Serious o! Eze, tell am nah. Did you not see what the girl is carrying in her front?” He cupped his hands and stuck them in front of his chest. “Watermelon toh bad! I mean, what other SS1 girl has breasts like that?”
“Tufiakwa to you, Joe!” Ibuka said, making a face.
“Abeg, Joe, leave me o!” I gasped, my body still shaking with laughter as I set out my provision on my bed from the locker.
In the distance, the breakfast bell was tolling, and the human traffic in our dormitory had become slightly hurried.
“What are you preparing?” Joseph asked. In one fluid motion, he leaped from the top bunk in front of me to his feet. He crowded my personal space and reached for the bowl into which I was upending crisp pieces of cornflakes.
I slapped his hand away. “Leave my bowl. Make your own.” I dropped the packet of cereal on the bed before him.
“You’re not going for food?” he queried, as he picked out some flakes, threw them into his mouth and chewed.
“Mm-mmm.” I shook my head as I began scooping spoonfuls of powdered milk into the bowl. “Just bread and tea – no, I’m not in the mood for that abeg.”
“You’re just saying that because you have provisions,” Ibuka voiced from his locker. He had turned his attention to his blue trousers. “Just wait until this school’s hard life hits you, then you’ll stop doing shakara for bread and tea.”
I knew he was right, but I couldn’t bring myself to give up the rich breakfast I’d woken up this morning salivating for. I lifted another spoonful of milk into the bowl.
“Whoa!” Joseph said. “This kain plenty milk you’re adding to the cornflakes – ogbeni, calm down.”
“It’s my stomach it’s going inside, not yours,” I retorted.
Ibuka glanced at us. “Are you not lactose intolerant, Eze? All that amount of milk can’t be good for your digestive system o.”
“That lactose intolerance happens when I take too much Peak Milk,” I said, now reaching for the tin of Milo. “During the holidays, I noticed that I don’t get stomach upsets when I take Loya Milk. So I told my mother to buy Loya instead of Peak for my provisions.”
“Ride on then, brother,” Joseph said. He dropped the packet of cereal and maneuvered his way back up the bunk.
“You’re not making for yourself?”
“Nah, I’m watching my weight.”
I gaped at the 112-pound, leanly-built boy and snapped, “You’re joking, right?”
He grinned widely and nodded yes.
I shook my head at him and refocused o n my breakfast.
“Nna, see enjoyment o,” Chibunna said as he walked past our corner. “Eze, no need to ask if you’re going for food.” I was too busy sprinkling Milo onto the hummock of milk and cornflakes to respond. He turned to Ibuka. “Ibuka, are you not going for food?”
Astonishment eclipsed Chibunna’s features. The expression was mirrored on mine as I turned from my breakfast to my friend.
“Ibu, are you feeling well?” I said, concern crocheting my brow.
“Of course I am,” he snapped. “What kind of nonsense question is that?”
“The kind you ask when Ibuka says he’s not going for food,” I riposted.
“Gbam!” Chibunna concurred with a giggle. At a glare from Ibuka, he raised his hands in mock surrender and began to walk backward. “No vex o. I’m going, I’m going.” And he was out of the room.
I was still waiting for an answer.
Ibuka gave a small shrug and looked away from me as he said, “Me too, I’m watching my weight.”
“You’re what?” As I said this, I turned my frown to Joseph.
He noticed my stare on him and began laughing. “What are you looking at me for?”
“Because I know you’re the root of this nonsense.”
“What nonsense? Ibu needs to look trim and fit abeg. Following this, me and him are going to start taking morning jogging more seriously. Then I’ll coach him to start doing press-ups.”
“What is the meaning of all this?” I was aghast. “Ibu, you’re agreeing to this?” At his glum nod, I said, “Why?”
“I’m doing it for Miracle.” He drew himself up then and stared defiantly at me, as though daring me to taunt him.
I didn’t. I said softly instead, “But why do you think you need to go to this length for her?”
“Because Joe said she’s a big girl, and big girls like their guys looking good.”
I turned a glower to Joseph.
“But it’s true nah…” he began protesting.
“How do you know she’s a big girl?” I shot at him.
“Any girl who has the morale to diss Toby in class is not a mai-mai girl, Eze,” he maintained.
I turned an earnest look back to Ibuka. “Look, Ibu, you don’t have to listen to Joe –”
“But he has so much success with girls…”
“That’s because he’s an idiot and those girls don’t know any better.”
“Hey –” Joseph bristled.
“Ibu, listen to me,” I continued, ignoring Joseph’s affront, “if you want to do this – skip breakfast, exercise, do press-up – make sure you’re doing it for you. Not Mimi, not Joseph – You! Besides you don’t know what Mimi may or may not like in boys. By the way, the Ibuka she said hi to in Chemistry class is the same one standing before me, not so?”
He gave a slow nod.
“See? She ignored Toby – who is fit, by the way – and made you her friend. So give the girl a chance to like you just the way you are –”
“Or not like you just the way you are,” Joseph interjected cheekily.
“Joseph, don’t be a witch,” I said.
“It’s wizard, oga. I’m being a wizard. I’m Dumbledore, full of wisdom and experience. You should listen to me, Ibu. Don’t listen to Eze, he’s Professor Snape.”
Ibuka cocked his head at him. “Isn’t Snape the one who turned out to be the best of them all?”
Our hilarity bubbled in the room as I returned to my cornflakes.
My stomach gave an ominous growl, startling me out of my concentration on Mr. Iroegbu’s somber CRK class. He was taking us through the suffering of the Israelites in the land of Egypt, and something about the cruel Pharaoh ordering the deaths of all male Hebrew newborns must have alarmed my bowels.
I gave a start in my seat, and Joseph flicked a quick quizzical glance at me. I ignored him. He returned to the lecture. I reached my hand downward to rub my belly, and that was when it growled again. I squirmed in my seat to try to silence the rumbling.
What is going on?
My stomach rumbled again. The tremors reached down in a slight cascade that petered out in my lower alimentary canal. I clutched at my midriff as a few more tremors began to build up some pressure in my bowel.
Oh God no!
A bead of sweat broke out on my temple. I glanced at the clock on the wall beside the blackboard; there were only two minutes until the end of second period. Mr. Iroegbu droned on. The pressure climbed. I began taking hollow breaths. Only one more minute! I watched as the red seconds hand slowly completed its circle around the clock. The closer it got, the slower it seemed to go. My stomach rumbled again, and I hunched forward.
Suddenly, the pressure began to deflate, with a rush of gas down my alimentary canal. Instinctively, I tightened my anal muscles, successfully compressing the flatulence into a slight ‘pfft’ that escaped with no fanfare. I exhaled gratefully as I looked quickly around. No one seemed to have noticed. Relief swelled inside me.
To get nabbed farting in class was an embarrassment I didn’t want to know. I was nothing like Ejike Ibeneme, who said he enjoyed his own ‘brews’. He would let rip in class and sit there with a smug expression, sniffing the air as if it were the delicate bouquet of an expensive wine. Then he would go on to describe his farts and their delicate hues of whatever he had ingested the day before. By JSS3, he’d acquired the nickname, Sir Farts-A-Lot.
Finally, Mr. Iroegbu was done. “I want you to write an essay on the ten plagues of Egypt,” he said above the din of students getting roused from their stupor of the past hour, “and I want the assignment on my desk by Friday.”
Kpam! Kpam! Kpa-kpam-kpam!
“Good day, sir!”
And he was out of the classroom.
“Oya, Eze, come let’s go,” Joseph urged, his eyes shining.
“Come and go where?” I said, still recovering from my near-catastrophe.
“I want to go and talk to Dumebi Madubuike.”
“And you need me to go with you because?”
“I don’t want it to look like I’m chyking her.”
He pulled at my hand until I gave in and got up on my own volition. On my feet, I paused. I waited. No discomfort came from my bowel. I smiled.
“Are you alright?” Joseph arched his brows at me.
“Yes. Yes, I am.” My smile became brighter as I began walking out of the classroom by his side.
“Because no one smelled your mess, abi?”
My smile faltered. “Jeezus! You knew?”
“How could I not know, when you were busy shaking like shekeleke. Thank your God I didn’t smell it too. We warned you not to take that much milk.”
“I told you, I’m fine. It’s Peak Milk that usually upsets my stomach like that.”
Most of the other SS1 classrooms had no teachers in them, and so, the passageway was littered with a throng of students loitering and chattering. We walked past SS1C and descended three steps to the threshold of SS1D.
“There she is.”
I looked ahead of me and spotted the new girl standing by the doorway of her classroom. Dumebi was a voluptuous girl, and her school uniform fit so snugly, it looked as though her bosomy chest would spill out, amidst ripped buttons, if she took too many breaths.
“Mama mia!” Joseph gusted.
I chuckled with some derision. “Next thing now, you will turn into a dog and go after her with your tongue hanging out.”
“Exactly the kind of evil Snape would wish on Dumbledore. But God pass am.”
“For your mind.”
When we got to her, Joseph began, “Hi.”
She gave us a lazy look, the expression of one who thrived on excitement, but was yet to get it. “Hello.”
“And I’m Eze.”
“Do you know what my shirt is made of?” Joseph asked.
Dumebi lifted her brows. “What?”
And I thought you didn’t want to chyke her, I thought, looking askance at him.
A second passed, and Dumebi chuckled. “You’re funny.”
With the ice broken, it wasn’t long before the three of us began conversing. Joseph did most of the talking; he smiled easily and made fluid arm movements to exaggerate his buoyant speech. Dumebi smiled a lot too, and seemed charmed by him. I supplied a comment in edgewise, all the while wondering what I was doing here with them.
Then my stomach grumbled. I stiffened in shock.
I placed a surreptitious hand on my belly, silently cajoling my alimentary canal. Please, not again. Not here…
But my stomach remained defiant. It gave another nasty growl, louder this time, sending tremors downward. My legs locked in place and began quivering as my anal muscles contracted.
“Eze, what’s wrong?” Dumebi interrupted Joseph’s chatter to ask.
I gave her a frozen stare.
“Are you okay?”
I turned the stare to Joseph. He looked panicked. Guy, don’t mess me up, he mouthed at me.
“Eze…” Dumebi began.
My stomach snarled and howled, waves of rage that crashed down my intestines, escaping my anus with audible and short squelching sounds. Dumebi sprang back from me as though I’d suddenly become leprous.
“Eze…” Joseph said.
“Yes! I’m going!” I panted.
I wheeled round and began a fast shuffle down the corridor. My destination was the senior hostel toilet. No journey had ever seemed more distant in that moment. My bowels raged away inside me as I shuffled along, earning me a few curious stares. Every muscle on my body felt tight, tensed against any sudden motions. Sweat dewed my forehead in spite of the cool morning.
That must have been Ibuka. I kept plodding on, too focused on my frantic supplications for a safe journey to the hostel to notice anyone.
God, please help me… Chai! Not here, wait small… Almost there! God, please… I won’t take plenty Loya Milk again… In fact, I won’t take milk at all… I won’t –
A violent spasm rumbled through my system, and my face flamed as I felt the sticky touch of excrement begin to spread in the confines of my underwear.
“Oh my Jesus – oh God…” I choked out and broke out into a sprint.
That was the sudden motion that my body had been guarding against, and as my legs began pounding the ground in a run, the muscles slackened, and fecal matter surged forth, gathering inside my underwear and dribbling down my legs.
By the time I made it to my hostel, I was sobbing furiously. And I’d also well and truly shat my pants.
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