The water suppliers, whomever they were (and believe me we tried to uncover their identity), had a tendency to cut us off from time to time. You’d wake up in the morning to take a bath only to find the taps emitting drops of water so depressingly tiny.
In such situations, you had three alternatives.
The first alternative was going around the dormitory begging for water. At this point, nobody was in a mood to be generous and so you received no more than cupful. You had to do many rounds before finally having enough.
You’d think that the only problem with begging for water was the amount of time it consumed. But there was,in fact,a greater problem. The risk of acquiring an infection.
Once, a student was diagnosed with an STD. They never told us who exactly it was but some teachers with mortar mouths kept hinting at the fact that she was one of those Bible-hugging, fire-spitting, tongue-speaking Christians. That’s how the phrase “holy by day and ‘whorey’ by night” came to be.
Anyway, since that day, we all became hygiene maniacs. Everyone was skeptical about getting water from other people’s basins. And if you borrowed a basin, you scrubbed it with all manner of detergent until it was bruised.
The second alternative for getting water involved breaking the Lord’s eighth commandment. It involved identifying a cubicle whose occupant(s) had water and then lurking around in order to steal the water when said occupants fell asleep.
You see, when water was in scarcity, it became a gem and as such, it was protected with due diligence. It was kept under the bed, right below the headrest. Those whose beds had close proximity to the ground even went as far as leaving one of their arms on the ground as they slept so that if you wanted to access their water, you had to move their arms first.
One day, a student who had left her arm on the ground suddenly woke up to a white being tightly clutching her arm. The night was peach black and the darkness was made worse by the absence of electricity. The student concluded that she was face to face with a ghost.
She was about to scream when the ghost threatened to bite off her entire arm. The ghost bit her hand for effect.
It was painful but not enough to bruise her. The ghost asked the girl to stop being selfish before taking her water.
After the ghost was gone, the girl let out a deafening scream. When she recounted the story to us, most of us knew in our heart of hearts that there was no ghost. That it was a student with a desperate need for water. Still, it would be foolish to completely rule out ghosts only to end up with a missing limb. We started tucking our arms in at night.
As you can see, the aforementioned alternative required courage, patience and above all, creativity.
If you didn’t want risk acquiring diseases or angering the Lord, you had to forego bathing.
This was a most daring choice because of the colossal self-consciousness that came with it. You literally had to keep people at arm’s length. Every time someone complained of a funny smell, you wondered if it was you. The one time I was in this situation, someone offered me chewing gum and I screamed, “I brushed my teeth, okay?!” She was perplexed.