We arrived in Bauchi at dusk. During the drive from Jos I updated Garuba on what had happened in Lagos and how much time and effort I expended in obtaining the duplicate call-up letter from the NYSC Secretariat. We had stopped over in Jos at a place along Tafawa Balewa Street to treat ourselves to the most wonderful pounded yam and smoked fish, with a bitter leaf stew that was so peppery my eyes watered. Garuba said he loved it and that he would stop over at this Idoma woman's place whenever he was in Jos. The woman and her daughter both knew Garuba and we were given the special treatment. In Bauchi we drove to Garuba's place, both of us knowing that the next day after registration at the NYSC office, I would be given accommodation of my own. It was as yet unclear what my NYSC job would be, or even whether the job would be in Bauchi city itself, or in some rural location outside the city. Whatever, I knew that my one year in Bauchi State was going to be very interesting indeed. Being with Garuba had already caused me to feel as if I belonged here.
Once we had closed the door behind us in Garuba's room, it was so natural to collapse into each other's arms. It was obvious to us both that we had longed for this moment. I could hardly believe that this was happening, and I had to keep pinching myself literally. Then out of the blue Garuba said those words to me that sounded like music. We were both sitting side by side on the bed, our arms around each other, looking into each other's face. When I heard the words, I wasn't sure if he had really said them, or if I'd heard the words in my head. I looked into his eyes questioningly and because he saw that I appeared to be so affected by what he'd said, he smiled and pulled me close, whispering those same words again into my ear. Then I knew that he had really said them...and I hugged him and said the same words back to him...It was blissful being together again and we made the most of the time that we had together that night.
Garuba must have informed his parents the night before that there was a guest present, because when breakfast was served the next morning, it was for two and this was my first taste of fura da nono a yogurty porridge with millet mixed in, which I thought was absolutely delicious. He drove me to the NYSC office and said, just like the last time, that he would be back in an hour. Mrs Giwa was not there, her maternity leave commenced on Monday I was informed. Mr Audu was standing in for her, but he was currently in a meeting with the Area Director upstairs and I was to take a seat and wait. Taking my seat, I thought to myself that it was exactly because of these officious civil service types that I had vouched never to join the civil service, or work with any government department. These people wield enormous power and feel very important, but are insensitive in the use of that power, and appear to be oblivious to the fact that people are affected in a very real way by what they do and how they do their jobs. Mr Audu appeared after about half an hour and I take back everything I just said about civil servants. Mr Audu was extremely pleasant. He welcomed me to Bauchi, took my call-up letter, registered me and told me that I was lined up for a job at the chambers of the Attorney General. Wow! I was stunned. To think that I was half expecting to be sent to some village with no electricity or piped water, perhaps to teach English Literature in a secondary school. And here was this lovely Mr Audu offering me a job at the heart of the state government. I had just arrived in Bauchi he said, so I was allowed a few days to settle down. I was to report to the Attorney General's chambers on Monday morning. Wow and wow again! Now came that knotty problem of a place to stay. I was informed that I had reported late and that all the NYSC accommodation was taken up. It was my responsibility to find a private place for rent.
In a way this suited me, because it meant that I would be isolated from other youth corpers. I had no desire to live at close quarters with others in a manner that would be reminiscent of the university hostel. I was no longer a student and had no intention to continue to live like one. Besides, I had met someone in Bauchi who was going to play an important role in my life from now onwards. So I decided to wait until Garuba came back for me, so that together we would decide what to do about the problem with accommodation. I was standing in front of the NYSC building on the lookout for Garuba's car from the direction of his office, the direction where I expected him to come from, when I felt someones hand run across the small of my back. Startled, I turned around, only to find Garuba smiling at me. "Oh baby, for how long have you been here?" I asked. He explained that he had to leave the office to attend a meeting in a government building. The meeting was postponed, so he decided to come straight to the NYSC place and had been sitting in his car parked in the car park at the rear of the building. "How did it go in there?" he asked, gesturing towards the NYSC building as we walked towards the car park. I told him the exciting news about my job posting. However, there was no NYSC accommodation available and I was required to find a place of my own. Garuba had an uncertain expression on his face. This would be good news for us if Garuba had his own place. But he lived with his parents and there was no way that I could stay with him long-term. If however I got my own place, then there would be no restriction as to how much time Garuba and I could spend together. Listening to my explanation, he seemed to soften and agree to what I'd said. In the meanwhile, he must return to work. I suggested that I would go back to his room and wait for him there, so he drove me home and then went back to his office.
Being alone in Garuba's room, I had the opportunity to quietly reflect on what had developed between Garuba and me. From the minute I saw him I was attracted to him, but little did I know that he too felt pretty much the same. He had gone even further by openly telling me how he felt and what he thought of me. I never knew that anyone could feel that way about me and I was deeply touched by his frankness. I couldn't deny it, I had fallen for him too. I put on a video and lay on the bed, hugging a pillow. But I hardly paid any attention to what was on the screen. It was his bed and I was lying in it. I could even smell him in the pillow. I had fallen in love again, but this time with a man who was available, a man who wanted to be with me too. These thoughts must have been swirling around in my mind for hours, because I was quite surprised when suddenly the door opened and Garuba walked in. Closing and locking the door behind him, Garuba came to the bed, sat down on it and removed his shoes and his caftan, which he flung across the chaise lounge. He climbed into the bed, turned and faced me. And before I knew what I was saying, the words came out of my mouth..."Garuba, I love you..."