The long awaited day had finally come. We had been told many tales about one of the favorite times on campus – Inter House Athletics competition. We were told this period was more than a holiday or a group of holidays. School had to come to a halt to let the games begin. During this period, seniors would approach the potentially robust and athletic physiques and con them into doing one sport or the other for their houses. I wasn’t athletic at all but looking at the potential benefits for competitors, i was stunned especially at this time of the term where chop boxes looked back at you sadder than you. At this time of the term, the dining hall is man’s best friend. We would be present at the gate even 30 minutes before time. This “Offside” was the only surety you could take control of a ladle when the gates finally opened.
It was normally crowded and each soldier was very ready with their weapons either in the pocket or in the hands. Guess what the weapon is – The Spoon. Occasionally someone’s spoon dropped making that clanging sound. Boys would shout “Gbraiinnn!!”. This would be met with jeers and hoots at the person who’s spoon fell. It was hilarious and shameful at the same time.
More often than not, we would overpower the pantry worker who was bold enough to open the dining hall gates for us. When the gates opened finally, it was a stampede. You run for your life, or wait for your life to be put in your hands. And when you managed to grab hold of a ladle, you’re awarded the Table Head award. This title spoke meanings. It changed destinies and enhanced lives. If your friend grabbed the ladle, you’re safe. If your enemy grabbed the ladle, there are two things involved – you either keep quiet and weep within or get up majestically and walk out of the dining hall. The ladle was arguably one of the greatest trophies with meaning on campus. Both juniors and seniors alike had to battle it out. But more often than not, it’s the seniors who won.
Now back to the real deal, looking at the special table for athletes, drinks, special siestas and even glucose (I don’t know how and why i tripped for glucose), there was no way I was missing out on this treat. I had to think fast and twice.
I run to one senior and told him emphatically that I can run. Awaana, as he was popularly called, turned back, and asked that i repeat myself. I did and to his relief, he turned his pen and paper and took in my details. He asked if I had run before and I didn’t hesitate to tell him how I had won races up to 1500m for my junior high school some few months back. Little did he know all this happened in my head. He looked at my petite representation standing there and I could swear he was torn between not judging books just by their covers and also not letting go of an opportunity he had been looking for this long.
He belonged to George’s house. One of the houses on campus that weren’t favored when it came to such extracurricular activities. He jotted down my name and gave me a number. He called other organizers and asked that they give me a jersey. I even had the privilege to choose which number to wear. As the Usain Bolt in me got over confident, I chose the number one jersey. I had no idea I was headed for the best if not worst memories i’d cherish forever.
The time was almost near and the seniors called us and camped us, gave us fruits and energy drinks.
I was feeling heavenly. Soon enough, the time came and we had to report to the field to do the do. These seniors wouldn’t just let us go and fail in peace. Since they thought this team of new athletes headed by myself were here to redeem them from the shame of possessing last positions annually, they assembled all the other juniors and raised chants to support us. They called it Morale. The jama songs kept ricocheting in my head as i thought hard of whom i was going to run with on the field.
All my house mates were singing jama for me….
All at once, the seniors carried us shoulder high amidst the praises and chants and singing and clapping. Typical of every boys school. Powder flew here and there, on and off our faces and we felt like how the only university graduate in a village that is not even worthy of being found on the map. As we were nearing the field, we met other houses and their representatives en route to do justice to any other competitor. One guy caught my attention.
Initially I thought he was one of the workers in the pantry, but no, he was in a Stephen’s house jersey and that was alarming. Immediately, all the 99 gods of Adukrom who rallied behind me knew I had to take a leak. I asked to be dropped down immediately and this senior poured me onto the floor. I hurriedly located the nearest washroom and after releasing urine for about 40 seconds, 20 of which i wasn’t aware I was actually releasing urine. I washed my face over and over again and looked into the mirror. One part of the mirror told me i could do it. I was born for greatness and nothing can stop me. The other part told me to remember where i came from. I was as confused as the one who designed the Japanese flag. Immediately, a house mate entered the washroom and called out my name “Perry!! charlie house pee dey search you. Dem dey come start the race. Horry den come”. All at once, i washed my face and my hair again. My heart was racing and God knew it. I exited the washroom and started jogging to the field.
In less than 3 minutes i was on the field trying to locate my house members. At the sight of me, my house went into an uproar. They shouted my name and clapped. All other nearby houses knew their end had come. With this vim and vigor i jogged like a champion and approached them. I didn’t stop there, as I got closer, I maneuvered some killer moves.
This got the house going berserk with fans. I could see hope in their eyes. May this day never end, I prayed. Apparently the guy who came to call me from the washroom had told them, I was coming with some vim and that only Real Madrid FC defense can stop me. Wow!, Michael Baffu Amuah, Really?? Did i say that? I asked him in my head.
Soon it was time, the names of the athletes were mentioned for the 200m. I was calm patiently waiting for the 1500m I had written my name for. I knew with that one, you could take water and you could sprint for long. Evidently some people would not last the third lap. Whatever happened, I could possess the 3rd or 4th position. That was my way. And then I heard my name echo through the P.A system. My heart skipped two beats. I was shocked. I approached the seniors tent frantically looking for Awaana. He was nowhere to be found. The House Pee, Mawusi Adiamah approached me and asked why I wasn’t moving to the field and that if I didn’t hurry we’d be disqualified. I explained the situation to him and he looked into my eyes with a mixture of pity, care and hope.
“Perry, we believe in you. At this juncture, you’re the only option, our only hope. Just go out there and give your best…”, while he kept on with his little pep talk, I just wanted it to start raining or something, since the earth had stopped opening to swallow people up. Then I heard “Perry say he go run am!!!” which was met with a loud applause and cheers from my house mates. I started jogging to the starting lines. I could hear them cheering on. At the track, I turned to look at my competitors on the starting line, my whole body urged my eyes to cry. Some faces weren’t user-friendly at all. For God sake these were men. Who admits men as students? I fumed. I couldn’t even stretch enough to be prepared.
Then the final moment we had been waiting for. “On your marks…”, we approached the starting lines and went into position for that command. At this juncture my mind was empty. I remembered my mother, my father and that girl i exchanged eye contact with on a public bus 6 years ago. They were my only motivation now. “SET!”, we pushed out our asses while waiting for the sound of the gun.
“KPA!!!!” I run! I run! I quickened up, I doubled up, I galloped, I eloped, I run! God knows I run. But truthfully the others were flying. The cheers were deafening. I crossed the finish line with a little space between another runner and myself. I was panting. All my breath had evaporated. I lay on the ground as they tried judging who had finished when and at what position. Ladies and gentlemen, to the glory of God, I chalked first out of 10 – first from bottom. I couldn’t believe it. How! Why!
Mawusi once again came to help me up and helped me walk to the house base. Nearing my comrades, all I could see was disappointment in their eyes. Some laughed their hearts out. Their laughter almost made me cry.
You know the painful part, Awaana was also laughing. Other houses were laughing. Even teachers were laughing. As for my house mates, they laughed so hard their hearts weren’t even beating again. At once I had to fake a wound. I started limping. When Mawusi saw that he grabbed my arms over his neck and shoulders as I limped majestically. He informed them that I had some muscle pull at the start hence our performance. I think that trick worked. They calmed down on me. I was given a shed to rest, just where the red cross had club had set up. I grabbed some glucose and gulped it down in heavy doses. For the rest of the term, my comrades didn’t know if to praise me for charismatically redeeming the house, or shame me for drastically giving them another year to reign at the bottom.