The guy at the hall entrance is peering at me irritatedly. I can tell from his face what he is thinking – is he here for the examination, with that kind of hairstyle or here to pay another special tribute to Bob Marley the stoner?
The girl behind me in the queue is trying to hold back a chuckle. The guy behind her too. In the Northern part of Nigeria, pagans are known by their affinity for Sundays, their hairstyles and a little too much of fitted English wears. Not by their demeanour. My face pokers. I stretch my hand waiting for him to double check my ID.
The hall is bright – a little brighter than usual. Not just from the invasion of light but from its scantiness. We the finalists are few and empty seats abound. My heart skips a bit. I do a brain scan to check if my cramming is intact.
We are trailing behind the supervisor as he points the first guy to a seat. Then the second, with five seats between them. I’m next in line to get a seat but i grow reluctant. The guys behind me are not so keen to write the exam anymore also.
“What are you scared of?” The supervisor queries. Smirking.
My palms get sweaty. I’m particularly ambivalent today; must be the fright of a higher stake or the astonishment of being on the back of a five year program or maybe the delight and promise of a beautiful future i picture in my head – the one where i get to be the fruit of someone’s labour.
We are all seated in silence, waiting to start. The guy from my left is sitting motionless and out of earshot. The girl from my right is donning the longest Hijab I’ve ever seen (people who wear the longest are perceived to be holier).
“Start!” The supervisor declares.
I put my pen to paper but my hand is quaking. Exams often spur my clumsiness, but i manage to tame my nerves. Half an hour later, ‘long hijab’ has done nothing but stare heaven-ward. She gestures at the supposed saint from the hall entrance to come closer before whispering into his ear.
He forms an inscrutable visage before he continues drifting around. After a while, he plucks a guy from the other end of the hall and brings him right next to ‘long Hijab’. She comes alive precipitously – her neck and pen already moving in synch.
With my kind of hairdo, I don’t get to come to the hall, without being seen as the impious, seventh day sympathiser but she is already seen as a graduate because she has the longest Hijab I’ve ever seen!
Jeff Ugochukwu Emmanuel