Tired of living on an intellectual diet of History, thanks to my degree in the discipline; determined to broaden my horizon and pocket, I enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree in, believe it, Seduction Studies two years ago. I applied through Direct Entry and was pleasantly surprised when my name appeared on the merit list for the three-year programme. Applicants who sat for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board entrance examination were admitted to the four-year course.
Why Seduction Studies, you may ask? Frankly up to the time I bought the forms I had no idea which programme to apply for. Most guys with my background would have opted for Law; there is this myth that historians and philosophers, especially if they are very good, are merely lawyers in waiting. I cannot see anything special about being soaked in sweat under a funny wool cap and chorister’s robes calling a half-asleep, fly-swallowing man ‘my lord.’ Although I love History with a passion and narrowly missed a first-class I was in no mood to take a Masters.
When I saw Seduction Studies in the brochure questions filled my head. When did the greybeards at the Nigerian Universities Commission approve the programme? Did our hormone-crazed youngsters need a degree to practise what they were already proficient in? Was this an outcome of the drive by recent governments to force entrepreneurial knowledge down the throats of our students so that the ghost of unemployment would be permanently exorcised? But what kind of business would a B.A. Seduction Studies set up? Perhaps a vacuumed and vermin-free version of the type that dotted Allen Avenue and Kuramo Beach. The quirk that controls my brain told me to check it out. Only five universities were offering the programme which was barely three years old in Nigeria.
At thirty-two I was the third oldest student in our set. But thanks to my trim figure, regular clean-shaven face, skin-punk haircut and the fact that I rarely came to campus in anything but a T-shirt and well cut jeans, you would have put me down for a nineteen-year old freshman.
‘‘Chris, softly, abeg. At the rate you are going even the final year babes will come to blows for you.’’ That was Mrs. Angela Folarin, the stately dowager who at fifty was the oldest student in our class. Armed with degrees in Economics, French and Law, she was the head of one of the most flourishing chambers in the city. I could not figure out why she wanted a B.A. in a field that ill-fitted her like a priest’s soutane on a prostitute. She was brainy and endowed with a beautifully wicked sense of humour and such a down-to-earth nature that made almost all our lecturers and fellow students rally round her as the department’s ‘Mummy.’
I shrugged. ‘‘Age is just a number. Should I wear my isi-agu and carry my dead grandpa’s ofo to school?’’ Mrs. Folarin could not hold back her laughter at my reply.
The Direct Entry students and the second-year regulars comprised the 200 level members of the department. In a class of about one hundred and sixty students the Direct Entrants were just thirty. The girls outnumbered the boys. This was not surprising: most boys, with heads full of practicalities, did not know what they would do with a degree in a discipline many of them wrongly thought they had figured out by finishing Golden Circle packets with girlfriends and pickups at nightclubs and street jams.
The more I sat through lectures, the more I realized it was the wisdom of the gods that inspired me to apply for the programme. Unlike many of the regulars and even a few of the Direct Entrants I was attuned to the rigors of study. I could reason from the particular to the whole and vice versa. Soon I became one of our level’s leading oracles, second only to Mrs. Folarin and a buxom mulatto named Aisha Odifrey.
Courses like Introduction to Seduction; Ancient and Contemporary Sex Myths and Techniques; the Human Anatomy, and Sex as Diplomatic, Business and Religious Devices were simply amazing. Phallic and Clitoris Studies was wildly popular, both for its content and the raunchy, roly-poly, bald Associate Professor who taught the course in a manner even the publisher of ‘Playboy’ could not have imagined. Even the dumbest student in our class, a perennial gum-chewer who would have come to class in panties if not for our staff adviser, Dr. Hadley Eze, who openly swore to give her an extra year if she did not, in the words of the Bible-punching academic, ‘stop leading your male mates to hell,’ got C on merit.
When many of the single girls learnt that I was no adolescent, and above all, that I was unhooked, quite a few of them began to take a more than academic interest in me. If I tell you I did not notice them I am lying. Seduction Studies had some of the most gorgeous girls in the university. The department’s representative came second in the Miss Unicity beauty competition in my second semester. The result nearly provoked fist cuffs even among otherwise sedate lecturers. By all standards our girl deserved the crown but some of the powers that be could not live with the fact of a Seduction Studies undergraduate hoisting the university’s torch at the National University Beauty Pageant. So the crown went to the Banking and Finance student who was later overheard confessing to close pals that she had reconciled herself to walking in the shadow of our girl. But the judges did not have the wand of the future. The sultry angel who became the second Nigerian to win the Miss World crown since Agbani Darego was our Seduction star.
At my age I was not girl-crazy, at least not like when I was in my twenties. Now I was looking for the real deal. In spite of everything I kept all relationships on a platonic level. Seduction Studies would not seduce me. Or so I thought.
It was Dr. Rosetta Kwande’s fault.
Then Rosetta was the youngest lecturer in our department. She had joined the university the year I was admitted. She had a first class and an outstanding doctorate from New York State University. She was one of the three female academics in the department.
At twenty-nine the doctor who originally came from the hardy, hill-dwelling Birom stock of the breath-takingly beautiful but blood-washed town of Jos had a stature that would have earned her pride of place among final year students of Queen’s College. Her neat low-cut hair accentuated this impression. She was chocolate-complexioned, walked like a person on a mission, and spoke in a full-throated voice not unlike that of my favourite foreign female singer, Toni Braxton. Her figure did not fill the hands. On the walkway she would not have been among the first ten. But she had a feminine gracefulness most female academics seemed to lack. The students related to her with a mixture of friendliness and respect; she was not that older than most of them and was easy-going but she could be tough if need be.
In our 300 level she taught the sweetly titled course Love Expressions and Indicators. By now I had learnt not to take any aspect of my discipline at face value. A week after resumption for the new semester, Rosetta sauntered into the lecture hall looking well packaged, small and dangerously sexy in a red polo T-shirt and black St. Laurent jeans. It was her first contact with us. Before today I had not had any contact with her outside chance meetings in hallways and a few occasions when I met her in the faculty parking-lot. I had played the gentleman by opening her car door and carrying her books.
Her smile was Close-Up white. She traded a few banters before settling down to business. ‘‘All right, take down the course outline. Topic One: The Kiss; An In-depth Analysis and Historicity.’’
‘‘Eh? Kiss, kwa?’’ That was the short class comedian, Obi Eze.
‘‘Wetin we dey do every day.’’ That was Moremi, one of the Direct Entrants.
‘‘Na mouth to mouth? Or mouth to that side?’’ This was from Osifo, the jock, whose mind could be as dirty as his Nikes after a training session with the university football team.
Rosetta smiled as peals of laughter filled the room.
‘‘Okay, people,’’ she tried to get things under control. ‘‘You will find out for yourselves soon.’’
‘‘How, doc?’’ Aisha asked.
‘‘Simple.’’ She walked to the white board and scribbled:
Write a paper on the topic: ‘The Kiss; An In-depth Analysis and Historicity. 26-32 pages. References should include print and online materials, minimum, 15 identifiable sources for each. Submit a month from today.
The silence that followed was deafening. Mouths hung open, eyes bulged. I was amazed. Kissing is going to take on a whole new perspective in my life after this, I concluded.
‘‘Osanobuwa!’’ gasped Osifo.
With a smile Rosetta refused to backtrack on the assignment in spite of pleadings.
‘‘Your predecessors did it. All I can give you are guidelines. Papers ain’t new to you. It will constitute thirty percent of your assessment.’’ The low American accent belied her steely core. We shut up, relaxed and paid attention to the guidelines. Rosetta lectured flawlessly for the next one hour. She had entered the class with nothing save her glass case and marker yet she was a well programmed computer and not even the most scatter-brained members of the class were bored. Applause serenaded her exit.
I did not take the paper for granted. Experience had taught me never to underestimate the apparently easy-going lecturers. I began work twenty-four hours after the lecture. In the middle of the night I whipped up my PC and keyed into Google, Ask.Com and other search sites. What I unearthed about this ostensibly simple act we take for granted was staggering.
Rosetta never missed a lecture. She was diligence personified. Although her classes were fun even the most head-in –the-sky student discovered she was no pushover the day some of the boys took it upon themselves to make derogatory remarks in class about, in their words, her inadequate ikebe. This was during a lecture about female erogenous zones. She stopped, called out the registration numbers of the boys from her class list and continued lecturing. We knew the implication of her action. The guys were in boiling onugbu soup if she forwarded their names to the Head of the Department for disciplinary action. After lectures, a delegation led by Mrs. Folarin and made up of myself, Yusuf Olu, the course representative and the three offending students went to her office.
Rosetta listened to our pleas, then said, ‘‘Madam (to Mrs. Folarin), if not because of you and Mr. Obidike (myself), I would have staked my career on dealing with these young men. I can play hardball if that’s what they want.’’
‘‘Ejoo! No, Ma!’’ Olurin, one of the offenders, begged piteously. Rosetta’s gimlet eyes had revealed that she was truly a product of the rugged Birom hills and bred on the backstreets of Brooklyn. You messed with such a combination to your peril.
Folarin replied in her best motherly voice. ‘‘It is not like that, Dr. Kwande. They are kids, your younger brothers.’’
‘‘Troubled by overcharged hormones,’’ I added.
Rosetta could not hold back her laughter. Relief cooled our insides like iced water in parched throats.
‘‘Okay, okay, guys. It is all right.’’ She waved away the flow of thanks from the offenders and smiled at them.
‘‘It is okay; catch some fun during class but no sexist stuff. But keep the jokes coming; it keeps the class rolling.’’
Olurin shook his head vigorously. ‘‘I no talk again,’’ he resolved. He was yellow down to his whistle.
Everyone turned in his or her paper by the deadline. Two weeks later, Rosetta marched into the class bearing a bulky file enclosing our neatly typed and spiral-bound papers. She put on her glasses as we looked expectantly at the file. I was not unduly perturbed. Although confident of a good grade since I had given the paper hundred and one percent of my best, there were no butterflies in my belly. I was not desperate for a first-class. At this stage of my academic career I was no longer in the rat-race for grades. I was enjoying what I was studying and giving it my best. That was enough for me.
‘‘I have marked your papers. But it is one thing to write beautiful prose, even if downloaded verbatim from Google.’’ She waited for the titter to die down.
‘‘We will be running a practical with the three top writers.’’
Curiosity nearly turned our eyes into chapel hat pegs. Rosetta continued, unfazed.
‘‘After all a kiss is better experienced than analysed. I can cite philosophical treatises on the kiss, even quote portions from the Song of Solomon. But Jimmy Cliff was right when he sang ‘who feels it knows it.’ So these top students will demonstrate a kiss which contains the four fundamental elements of a truly romantic kiss. They will select anyone in this class to partner them. You will observe closely and analyse afterwards.’’
Talk of a new learning order, not just a new world order. We were stomped for a minute even though our predecessors had told tales of demonstration sessions, though for different courses.
Rosetta had an enigmatic smile on her face. I silently prayed I did not make her honours list.
‘‘Just as a reminder, let us have the four fundamentals of a romantic kiss. They are:’’
‘‘Passion.’’ That was Moremi.
‘‘Desire and desire projection.’’ (Aisha).
‘‘Communication.’’ That was Tagbo, a shy but brilliant nineteen-year old boy.
Rosetta wrote down the mnemonic CAP-D, and then opened the file. I smiled internally and wondered how any of my few married female mates would react if her name was on the honours list.
‘‘Third best is Tagbo Nzekwe.’’
Tagbo ran out of the class. Osifo and some other boys had to run and catch him. Back before the lecturer, he began to shake like, to use the lingo of the students, Shakespeare. Rosetta did not lose her temper. She gave him a seat.
‘‘Tagbo, do you have a girlfriend?’’ Her voice was mildly amused.
‘‘Yes,’’ he replied, unable to stare at her.
‘‘Do you kiss her?’’
He merely nodded.
Rosetta’s smile was that of a shark inspecting a prey. ‘‘I will give you a few minutes to relax, and then you will do the exercise. Chose that girl you have been eyeing in the class and flow. You may even gain some tips to practise on your sweetie in the love garden.’’
‘‘The second is Mary Odigun.’’ Unfortunately Mary was in the university hospital fighting malaria.
The class became tomb-silent as we awaited the ultimate writer, the first of the best. Rosetta’s quiet voice was a clap of Amadioha’s thunder in my ear:
‘‘The best paper from this class, and I must confess, one of the best on the subject I have ever read was produced by Christopher Obidike.’’
The resounding applause was solid. I took a deep breath. What had I written to deserve this ‘honour’? All eyes focused on me. So far I had enjoyed this course immensely and the lecturer had my highest respect. I resolved not to borrow a leaf from Tagbo who was looking at me with spaniel-like eyes.
Rosetta watched me speculatively. As I got up I remembered Tania, my last girlfriend. We had mutually broken up two years ago because I could not accept her new job as a nightclub manager. Our first kiss had ended up in a session that would have shamed Brad Pitt’s role as Achilles ravishing Briseis in the blockbuster epic ‘Troy.’
The ladies eyed me with a myriad of messages. Many of them still wanted to take my handshake beyond the elbow. Mrs. Folarin could barely contain her amusement at my predicament.
I came out to the front of the class. In an instant I looked at our lecturer and something happened. Cupid’s arrow flew and hit me, not with love, but total realization. Rosetta tried awfully hard but could not totally extinguish the hot fire that suddenly flared up in her eyes. The heat burned me very briefly but intensely. Immediately the whole point of the demonstration struck me with the force of a haymaker.
‘‘Chose your partner, Obidike. We have other things to do.’’ Her low voice was calm but I was not fooled.
‘‘With due respect, class, my partner for this demonstration is Dr. Rosetta Kwande.’’
A collective gasp escaped the roof and pierced the heavens. Rosetta was taken aback. Only momentarily though. With a half-smile she stepped forward. Not even the UEFA cup final penalty shootout between Chelsea and Manchester United ignited the kind of charge that crackled almost visibly at that moment. Even Folarin and the second oldest member of the class, forty-seven year old Paul Oko, were perched on the edge of their chairs.
Rosetta nestled in my arm as if she belonged there. As our eyes locked; our lips just inches away, I whispered the question burning through my mind:
‘‘When did this begin?’’
‘‘Since the first day I saw you in the Faculty Hall,’’ she murmured.
The attack of our lips on each other drowned out the massive and heartfelt applause.