Damola woke up at the usual time. And as usual thoughts imported from all over his past lined up like a Greek chorus, chiming one after the other the chronicles of a dull and concept driven life. Lying in bed he wondered if today would be any better than yesterday. He would have to get up to find out, he reminded himself as he struggled out of the duvet and made his way into the bathroom. He had an evening class. As his mirror reflection brushed his teeth he began to plan for the day: bath, Guardian, toast and tea, a.m. television, turn on pc, email, delete porn site junk mail, view a few web sites of interest, prepare lecture notes, go down to the campus, get a coffee and doughnut, make way down to lecture hall by the same route, give lecture, return home. This was the life he lived for but it seemed it was not what he imagined it would be. He had paid too little attention to Kipling’s ‘If’, and had made himself slave to thoughts and dreams. But then, who hadn’t? As he poured water over his body he began to think up a team list to replace the present Arsenal team who had once again given Manchester United a premature title triumph without a whimper of resistance. If the resistance movements of the world had capitulated in the same manner reggae artists would still be singing ‘Free Mandela’ and Malawi would still be referred to as Nyasaland. And he would not be at the University of Northwest London teaching postcolonial studies for a part-time living. He would not be thinking of how he was going to get out of the rut he was experiencing trying to complete a PhD in postcolonial identities in African literature. All he could say to that was, ‘fuck’. Fowler and Yorke would replace Henry and Wiltord. He would sell them for a combined total of forty-five million pounds, irrespective of the new transfer system. When it took effect, he would modify his fantasy accordingly. Fringe players like Grimandi and Vivas would have to go, as their predecessors before them (Marshall, Selley, Dickov, McGowan, etc). Vieira needed a better partner in midfield than Edu. The Dutch gladiator, Davids would do just fine. To replace Adams, Keown and Dixon, he would get Taribo West, Sol Campbell and Thuram. Good. Next season, Arsenal would do the treble. He picked up the Guardian and a loaf of bread from the local discount store. When he returned to his flat the post had arrived. As he sat down to breakfast he skimmed through the headlines. Foot and mouth, foot and mouth, foot and Fuck. The bread was near unpalatable. If given a choice a dog would rather eat its own shit. And there was still the matter of his overdraft and the threatening letters from the bank he’d have to respond to. Damola never felt the need to think twice about such matters. He would send an envelope with a neatly folded blank sheet inside. That was his standard reply to letters of such malevolence. What was made of it he never knew. He cared, and wished he could assume spirit form, like his late father and observe their reaction. Would they shower expletives after unfolding the paper and finding not a dot of ink on it? Or would they casually dump it in the wastepaper basket without so much as breaking into a curious thought? He’d given too much thought to it and had to start preparing for class. The Northern Line trains seemed to be untypical in their regularity and lack of delay. That he made it on time to King’s Cross without hitch left him in a daze. Throughout the journey his head had been stooped in The Beautiful Ones are not yet Born. Taking the elevator up to the Piccadilly Line platform he was careful not to put his hand on the railing. Shit happens. As he waited on the platform a tune started playing in his head and he wondered if it would be the one to make him money. He had a good voice. But he was too old to be in a boy band and his tunes were distinctly A1. He got out at Holloway Road and went straight to the Library to confirm a few references. ‘I.D. please,’ asked the guard at the entrance, always as if she were seeing him for the first time. It was her job. If they weren’t thorough they’d be accused of complacency. Bounding up the stairs to the second floor, passing some very attractive students, he was soon immersed in Soyinka, Achebe, Fanon and Ngugi. Finishing up with Towards the Decolonisation of African Literature, he smiled self-satisfaction. A mobile phone with a Simpson’s tune went off loudly, the owner engaging in an even louder conversation. Someone told him to take his cunt elsewhere and an argument ensued, probably over the use of appropriate gender-specific swear words. The office would be a better place to complete the work. It was cold. Spring had arrived and the clocks had gone back, but the grip of winter was proving uneasy to shake off. He would have to go to the caretaker’s and remind them that he was not South African and therefore had no previous experience of minus zero weather conditions. He was thinking of moving quickly before Craig walked in when Craig walked in. ‘Hi! You’re in early. Thought you’d still be at home.’ ‘Hi Craig. No. I decided to try and finish off my work here.’ It was hard to sound enthusiastic by his presence. Yes, they shared the office, but Craig was a good companion only when you had no work to do and wanted to know what was ‘going down’ in the department. He was a specialist in Hardy and nineteenth century fiction. He was nice in the non-pejorative context of the word but there were days you hoped he would not be around. ‘Guess what. Your mate Bill was seen with that Sudanese girl you fancy up at the Harbour last night. Eddy and Sheila saw them having a snog by the window seat.’ ‘Great.’ ‘Great? Is that all you have to say? Great? I thought you’d be bonkers.’ ‘Why? I don’t own her, and besides she’s my student, and Bill’s too. He’s playing with his job.’ ‘So, you going to report them?’ ‘On your hearsay? No thank you. Haven’t you got a class to prepare for?’ That was all he needed. She’d be in the class this evening. It would be hard for Damola to control his self-consciousness with this news rolling around inside him. Thankfully Craig realised he was not as prepared as he thought and remained quiet at his desk, the pc making the only sounds from his side of the room. Damola’s head began to ache. She was a beauty, this student, a cross between Helen of Troy and Oluronbi. What did she see in Bill anyway? Was she having difficulty in his course and was seeking favours from him in return for a lay? Or did she really think that the nutty professor look was in? Or did Craig’s informants see two different people. He had no reason to doubt Craig, he was the faculty equivalent of a web ferret. He thought he should be the one cosying up to her in a trendy pub. Underneath fuliginous lighting, in between quotes of Fanon and Ayi Kwei Armah, he would caress her hands in his while her foot nestled in his crotch. If this were The Lion and the Jewel, he would be the Lakunle to her Sidi. She would choose the old dog, Baroka, over him. It was hard to think of another scene from another work of fiction, so he ended his daydream there in favour of finishing his lecture notes. He brought out a current copy of New Statesman from his desk drawer to see if he could add some topicality to the discourse of mimicry and its effects on fictional characters in South African protest literature. There were a few articles on foot and mouth, and one on why we should fear a clown at the seat of power in the United States. He laughed silently at one of the cartoons, concerning two dogs in a veterinary waiting room. It was time for the class. He made his way down the corridor. It seemed darker than usual and he wondered if he was going blind. It would be an excuse not to take the class. Someone had accidentally tripped the light switch. It came back on like a revelation, blinding in its consequences. This was no time to fall into dreamland. He had to pretend as if he was his usual self . That would be hard. He began to recognise the faces of passing students the nearer he reached the door. He saw her before he entered, sitting in a central position where she would always be within in his field of vision unless he kept his face to the writing board. She was radiant, slightly dulled around the edges by his sense of suspected betrayal. But how could someone you never revealed yourself, yourself, to, betray you? He had to clear his mind or else. ‘Good evening’ he stammered. A slight tension in his chest reverberated through his voice. He was finished. She looked as if she was going to. The fire alarm went off. A member of the security staff popped his head through the door and asked everyone to evacuate the building. Tears of joy nearly fell from his eyes. That would give him enough time to compose himself. They were always false alarms. Within twenty minutes they would be back in class. He would have daydreamed his way through every conceivable worst-case scenario and a cathartic sigh of release would escape with his fear into the atmosphere. As he lay in bed that night, watercolouring the day’s events, he felt there was no reason to think tomorrow would be any better than the dreams he would conjure up.