BLACKOUT

On nights like this when there is a blackout, everywhere bears semblance to a vacuum. There used to be noises from neighboring hostels, but it is one month since the academic staff union declared an indefinite strike. Hostels are deserted; only few rooms are lit at night. Most of the time it was the guys in Toluwani Hostel, one opposite mine; they shouted all sort of obscenities and sang in throaty voices. While they warded off boredom, I’m sent fumbling with concentration till I close my window- a choice that leaves me short of choking in my one-window room.

There are two traders near my hostel. I patronize one mostly. Mostly is all the time except when my customer doesn’t have what I want, but the other does. This loyalty to my customer leaves a wall between the other woman and I.

The rain is indecisive; it pours heavily for a while, and then emaciates into drizzles. But this doesn’t deter me from going out. My phones and laptop are dead. I have an essay to submit, one whose deadline lapsed few hours ago, but I’m not the one to give up so easily. The other woman’s generator is on. I say a quick prayer to keep my face invisible, so I don’t suffer insults. I’m before her shop drenching; gadgets in hand, my extension box a tool to tap all the electricity I can get. More people roll in to charge - lamps, android phones, tablets, java phones. Our phones are like second skin; especially to people with an everyday ritual of chatting with someone till they sleep off. 
They, those charging here, take shelter under a shade in front of the woman’s shop. On other nights, the shelter is where strangers from different departments and levels connect, to argue over sports, school politics, and talk music. But tonight, everyone is cold, wishing the lights come on so they can get the hell out of here.