Dreams and Phone Calls by Tayo Oladipo


The phone rang persistently, forcing itself into my sleep. What will I not give to be left alone in the early hours of the day? Sleep between 4 am to 6 am is in a class of its own. Sweet sleep! But who could be troubling me at this time? Who dares call me at this early hour? It took me a while to open my eyes and a bit longer for my brain to register my eerie room. The room, painted white, had only one item of furniture: my slim, single bed! Books were scattered everywhere, you would think that the room belonged to a tramp and not a student. A fluorescent bulb on the wall flickered intermittently, calling to mind scenes in a horror movie. The atmosphere is musty, as though the room had been abandoned a long time ago.

The phone rang again. This time around, I managed to drag my body out of bed, resolving to ask the caller if people in his family house people don’t sleep. The caller was Kemi. It has been close to two months since I last saw her; in fact, I have not seen her since she graduated. With a smile, I pressed the disconnect button. I ran to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Kemi is a witch she can smell my mouth even on phone. I called her back.

“Josh, good morning,” Kemi breathed. There was panic in her voice. What could be wrong with her? Maybe a relative of hers was dead again, I thought. For the past one year, the angel of death seemed not to be far from her family.

“Morning, Kemi.” I replied, beginning to panic myself.

“Wahala dey o!”

“I guess. What has happened now?” I thought she will take offense at that question, but not today. Her reply sent me coughing.

“Josh, did you hear what I said?” She asked.

It took me some 10 seconds to regain my composure. I walked to the calendar on the wall with the phone still held to my ear. Today is April 1. My guess was right!

“April fool!” I said, then I disconnected the call. I was still looking at the creased edges of the calendar when she called back. I did not answer. I got an SMS when I turned to go back to bed. It was from Kemi. It read: Josh I swear, it’s not a prank. I am pregnant. I don’t know what to do. Pls, talk to me.

 My brain went dead for an hour or so. When I finally regained consciousness, the day was bright, ignoring the fact that I was in trouble. I missed 16 calls from Kemi. I took my bath dejectedly, dragging my feet as I got dressed, like a zombie. I looked in the mirror. I looked like death warmed over. It seemed that everything in my stomach had been taken out. Every now and then, some giant bird inside me fluttered its wings and sent my stomach rumbling. Not quite long ago, I was sleeping peacefully. Now, I doubt I can ever sleep again. How quickly did my fortune change!

My phone rang again, this time around, it was my friend, Tosin. I did not know whether to pick or not. I surely cannot tell him my predicament but I think he may guess from the colour of my voice. My voice will be a sick green, perhaps, or death yellow. I picked. He will eventually know, anyway. He is not called Google for nothing.

“Josh wa! Our Josh! Hope you don jack wella for Stylistics test? You know say I no understand that course. You go help me…”

“No be only jack, add jackal join.” I clicked the end call button. My mind went back to Kemi’s text. Why was I even worried? Was she not older than me? Was she not my senior in school? Who would blame me knowing that she was in the best position to take care of things? But again, I have cause to worry. Her brother is my project supervisor. And who does not know that lecturers in Nigerian universities hold god-like power over their students, especially students like me who do not belong to a fraternity? He gave me an E in Victorian Poetry when he found out that I was dating his sister. I scored 23/30 in the continuous assessment and 21/70 in the exam. Clearly, it was not my script he marked.

I picked up my phone from the bed and dialed Kemi’s number. I must act fast before she tells anybody about it. A computer voice came on: “Sorry, the MTN number you are trying to call is not reachable at the moment. Please try again later. Thank you.”

Sweet Jesus! Now I know that the witches in my village have finally caught up with me. They don’t want me to be the first graduate in my family. I wanted to call my pastor to pray for me, but of what good will prayers be now? I know he will not oblige me even if I call. Hold your peace Joshua, the son of Ogundele, Go and write your test. You will scale this hurdle like any other. So I decided to go write my test. The devil is a liar.

On my way out, my landlady hurled a curse at me for not greeting her properly. You do not greet her while standing. You must prostrate, or if you are female, kneel. As heavy as my mind was this morning, I was afraid I will take a full nap on the ground if I dare prostrate. I ran out of her sight and waved my hand around my head and threw back her curse at her.

It was while crossing the road that a hit-and-run driver knocked me down. There was a heavy duty vehicle coming at top speed for me. I could not move any of my limbs. I closed my eyes as I waited for death.

It was taking too long to come. I opened my eyes only to find myself in my room, a shaft of light piercing the semi-darkness through the partially closed window blind. It was all a dream Kemi is not pregnant. I did not have an accident. My phone rang. I checked the screen. Dr. Fabiyi! My project supervisor and Kemi’s brother!

Tayo Oladipo is finishing a degree in English. He writes poems and fiction when he is not doing assignments or editing essays. He loves books, food, one girl like that, among other things.

Creative works (literature, art and culture) emerging from Nigeria.

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