Sunday, 16 December 2018

Bathroom Encounter

The chilly, harmattan-clogged air bit right into Idaya's bones as she trudged with her bucket of slushing water to the outdoor bathroom of her face-me-I-face-you building.

The torch of the 2nd generation Nokia phone she held was the only source of illumination she had as she moved in the pitch dark, and the sound of her slippers slapping the caked earth the only non-cricket sound that accompanied her. It was 3.30am and definitely not the godliest of hours for a bath, but as she planned on leaving home very early that Monday morning for an interview, it was necessary.

She got to the bathroom, a simple unpainted structure with zinc roofing and door that was made from the same material, which could be locked from the inside with a roughly fashioned hook. And just as she was about to reach out and push open the door, she heard the sound of water pouring heavily on concrete. There was already someone having a bath in there. 

“Ooooh oh, someone still beat me to it despite my waking up so early,” she grumbled to herself . “Na wa for this my compound people o, they are not smiling.” 

She decided to wait there for the person to finish up, to prevent someone else going in before her again. She sat on a block just a short distance from the bathroom and began to play snake game on her phone, leaving the torch on. She would have been scared sitting out there all alone at that hour, but the fact that there was another human having his or her bath close by prevented her from being afraid. 

After completing three levels of the game, her impatience grew. The person was still yet to come out; she could still hear the continuous crash of water being poured over a body and tumbling over the concrete floor of the bathroom.  

Na wa o. What kind of endless bath is this? Is it drum of water the person brought?” 

Her bucket of warm water was fast turning cold, exposed in that weather as it was, and the cold was seeping deeper into her system by the minute. All she had on was the wrapper she tied around her body and the towel she had slung across her bare shoulders; those were not enough protection against such a strong harmattan cold. 

She looked down at the phone. The time was now five minutes to four. She had been out there for twenty-five minutes; the person in the bathroom had been having his or her bath for over twenty-five minutes!  

Enough was enough. She got up, went over and banged on the bathroom’s metallic door. “Ah ahn, please, come out now. I have been waiting for you since,” she lamented. 

There was no response, instead the person hit the door back twice, angrily, each louder than hers. 

Idaya stepped back and resumed the wait. She tried to resume the game too but could not concentrate on it and just kept tapping her foot impatiently. “I don’t know how someone can just be this wicked. Keeping someone out here in the cold and just wasting time anyhow.” 

Another ten minutes went by, still the person did not come out; did not even venture to offer an apology or reassurance that he or she will soon be through. All Idaya continued to hear was the sound of water. Her impatience turned to full blown anger then and she returned to the bathroom, proceeding to bang the door with both hands. It swung open under the pressure of her hands, apparently the person had not locked it behind.  

As the door opened, the sound of water stopped abruptly and Idaya quickly began to apologize, saying she had not meant to open it. But when the door swung open fully and the light of her torch fell into its enclosure, she saw that there was nothing in there, no one! 

At once her head went heavy on her neck with fear, her mouth forming a soundless ‘o’ in terror. She turned around and went flying back in the direction of her home, screaming breathlessly as she went. When she barged into the one-room apartment she and the rest of her family resided in, her scurry and her gasping shout woke her mother and brother up. 

“What is it, what is it?” they asked, but she was too shocked to respond. She could not find the words to describe what she had just experienced; was not even sure what it was she had experienced.  

She was only certain of one thing – that would be the last time she would ever venture out to have a bath so early in the day. 

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