Playlist: Ha He ~ Just A Band
I firmly held my parcel in my palm and walked hastily from the Easy Coach bus stop; crossed Haile Selassie Avenue in a huff to join Moi Avenue. Safety, over time has proven to be a rare occurrence for me that side of town. As I let out a sigh of relief, I felt some little but rather rough palms brush over my left arm. Here we go again, pickpockets I thought. Still, I picked up pace, dashing to familiar streets, ready to check my pockets for the worst possible of eventualities. Still, the little rough hand brushed, held my arm this time round. There was a sense of determination in that touch. I turned around, with firmness and arrogance only to be met by a voice that sounded familiar. The look, I could not put a finger on the face. My mind traveled with mirage, trying to find who and where possibly I had encountered the little man before.
Zack, right? Zack from ‘ABC’, remember me? He asked. I was not in a state of kindness neither was I with patience to discover lost paths as my watch ticked towards ‘late from lunch’. Still, he seemed harmless, at least I thought so, felt so. I looked at him and arrogantly offered, how can I help? I am getting late, to a boardroom affair. There was fright on his face; like I had said a bad word, or a big word, or a foreign word. JT*, I am JT, we went to school together. My mind ran through fifteen years back, still I could not reconcile the JT I schooled with, with this one. He knew I was going to blow him off, streets have taught me so. Don’t blame me. So he asked, please, lend me Kshs. 50. I’d easily have walked to Kayole, but I am a bit frail, I haven’t eaten all day, skipped; rather didn’t have anything for dinner last night. My heart plunged, at that instant. Not because he had presented his case well, but from imagination that someone I went through school with, one who had dreams the way we were taught could possibly reach out in such a way. I had some spare change, I extended him that, but I was interested in knowing more. I gave him my card. Do anything, call, beep me or visit my office. Tell them I said you can… I left, this time round without clutching my parcel under the arm like I was before.
JT never called. He didn’t beep. He also never visited my office. I have never met JT since then. I have not heard about JT. There are times that scene comes to play, for most of the time I try to match the JT I knew years ago and the frail and needy JT I met. I try to find it within whether I did JT justice at that hour or whether I was overly obsessed in whom I was and what mattered to me more. I wonder why he never called, why he never visited. Why didn’t he even send a message? A ‘Please Call Me’. What are the chances I would have called back anyway? For someone who stares at my phone endlessly when an unfamiliar number calls in…
JT welcomed me to boarding school the rude way. The only way freshmen, fresh boys were welcomed back then. 1990 was the year. My father had overly sold me the idea of boarding school. I only bought into the idea because the school uniforms there were better; color and design. I hated the Khaki shorts I wore to my local primary school. The blue shorts and checkered shirts were nicer. It was all rosy on arrival, queues for admission here and there, pleasant teachers hiding their harshness behind smiles and kids peeping through windows at the newbies. I settled into the hostel and bid my family farewell. In a record 27 minutes, JT had twisted my box to a butterfly design. He took everything he ‘needed’. Juice, Biscuits, soap, anything he liked, he took. That is the JT I met, years ago. Of course JT was your typical bully. He hit my food dish four times just after I had been served. That meant I went without food those days. The matrons and the kitchen crew was always unkind spotting a face they knew so well had been served. Those were normal though. I lived through them.
Like a modern day terrorist, he, JT took fees and rewards to protect you from himself and other bullies. You gave him a packet of biscuits, promised him half your portion of bread at weekend breakfast or fetched him water for shower. Water in school was scarce, it trickled in at specific taps around the school at 0300Hrs. So as JT snored away, you, a kid spent your time on some endless queue fetching water just to be on safe side. Like modern day leaders, I negotiated, compromised and even played what can only be termed bitch for survival. Still JT was a funny chap; he told village stories and the kind that fascinated other kids in school. They gathered around him over Saturday afternoons, I am not sure whether it was from fear or interest, but they listened, and laughed at his tales. I knew someday JT would leave school, somehow. He either was going to grow too big to fit in his uniform, he was going to mess with some rich mans kid and earn himself an expulsion or simply, he was going to die from constipation from the foods he snatched from kids. He didn’t.
I hated JT for one thing. At my early stages of adolescence, yes that word just sounds wrong! Puberty, somewhere around there, I wrote a note to a girl declaring my undying love. I was 12 inching to 13 years old… The way I couldn’t concentrate in class. The way I couldn’t eat my githeri… For real, in that very school, I ate githeri for all my lunches, for seven years! So really, not having my githeri was a serious bargaining point! Stop laughing, you. JT, in his usual pinching habits, went to my locker and picked the note. I walked in after tea break to find him reading it to the entire class…with the said girl in audience! Repeat after me; EMBARRASSMENT! Nonetheless, I survived JT, till I completed school and he escaped my mind till we met on the streets. He is no longer big. At least he wasn’t when we met. Life, it changes.
I know you’re waiting for the next episode of ‘Up in The Air’… It’ll be up next, soon… We don’t want it to be like my primary school githeri, right? 🙂
Till then, Thanks and Cheers!