I was on my way home yesterday when something incredible happened to me.
I should start by clarifying that, “HOME” is too ambitious of a word for the place I live. It’s what I call the shared room with two mattresses on the floor and a basin for a kitchen. I live here with my friend who owns a small shop nearby. It is nothing much, we have our sleeping spots and the basin we fill with plates, pans, cups and spoons. We cook outside on our trusted single gas burner and only iron our clothes on Sunday. We also charge our phones once a day to save on our power bill.
I know that it’s not much, but the dream is to work hard on this degree, publish a great book of my village stories then build it into a series of cultural awareness books for schools and young adults. I can see it all so clearly although it seemed so far away as I walked home yesterday.
My phone buzzed noisily with a call as I walked. I ignored it after seeing my uncle’s name on the caller ID. See, my uncle disapproves of many of my choices and maybe even me as a person. He disapproved of my “girly” preference of reading storybooks to tree climbing and racing. He made it very clear that I used too many words for a boy-child and was just too soft for his liking. Real boys and men, raced each other, wrestled, got in the dust and mud, spoke briefly and gruffly. They did not, according to him, sit under trees and write short stories.
It is easy to be a disappointment to someone who disapproves of everything that you are. But I kept reading, I kept writing under the tree. And as a result, I passed my A-level exams and got accepted for a study loan. I chose to study Kiswahili literature, which my uncle thought was a waste of education, and that I would never dream of getting a respectable job with this degree. He was sure to call me and express his sentiments once I had packed and left my village. He went ahead to offer manly advice for me to “man up” and at least study accounting or finance.
So, there I was, after almost two years of studying, barely affording to feed myself as I applied for one internship or part-time job after the other and feeling all the sting of a broke student. There I was walking home on a stiflingly hot and dusty day after fighting for a seat in the crowded bus that takes almost two hours to get to my stop. From there I would have to walk at least thirty more minutes to my place because cheaper accommodation is always furthest from the main road.
I shoved my phone back into my pocket with an irritated groan as I walked on. My mood was sour, from my empty stomach, the pinch on my feet (because the bargain shoes I bought last month are a size too small but make me presentable during interviews), and just bone tiredness. I was tired from spending the night preparing to meet the professor who needed an assistant but turned me down after two hours of sorting his papers.
I was tired from the late afternoon job as a supermarket cashier that pays for my room, food, and transport. I was tired because despite expressing their disappointment in my choices, my uncle and relations still constantly call me for support. It’s always someone’s illness, project, or school uniform that I needed to pay for. And I must scrape every cent I can spare to send home for my peace of mind. Still, my peace of mind is a myth because if I don’t send anything, there would be endless nagging. And if I do, even though it’s all I have, it’s received with dissatisfaction, and I end up feeling robbed. Now that I think of it, my issue is that I’m just so tired.
I am even tired of the pretty girl from my class. The one that smells like foreign fruits. She says we are friends and organizes our study sessions together. I could not believe my luck when she called me asking to meet after our first semester. She declared us study-buddies and gets me to go through all her essays. I don’t mind correcting or even rewriting most of them. Although she did score two points higher than me on a paper I had mostly written for her. That’s probably because I only got to work on mine the night before the deadline after finishing hers.
She usually disappears when we don’t have assignments. There’s another paper due this week and she has been calling me. She even started referring to me as, “Boo”. I know she doesn’t mean that in any intimate way. She clearly wants another A and not to hang out with me or visit my place with my shopkeeper roommate.
“Oh, I am just tired of people always asking, always taking and wanting something from me!”
I was thinking this exact thought when the woman blocked my path calling out to me,
“Kaka, could you please HELP ME?”
And I thought,
“Please God. Please somebody,… anybody…make it STOP!!”
———————————————————————— to be continued