Its 2006, I’m in High School. Rihanna’s, Unfaithful and Nelly Furtado’s, Promiscuous are worldwide bangers. Girls my age are tripping on their skirts to listen to Ne-Yo and the boys have discovered the pleasure of self-love. I am still innocent. I own a disc man where I largely listen to 50 Cent. I wear oversize trousers. I think my mom’s cooking is the best. My favorite past time is balancing chemistry equations. My mind is fraught with naïve ideas and I haven’t known a woman further than a handshake.
I am in form two. I sit in front of the class, take notes and answer questions. I still don’t know who I want to be but I know I will get good grades, go to a good campus, get a job and be happy. (Well, they never tell you that the existence of your happiness largely depends on how much you love what you do) I enjoy eating mandazi and avocado at the school canteen, we call it combi. I drop at the library every now and then to read Oyunga Pala’s Man-Talk. Sometimes, the librarian is nice and he lets us watch The Beat. (Is it still a thing?) This one time I’m glued to the screen when Rihanna’s, Umbrella is on and it makes me pee myself, only later I discover it wasn’t pee.
I’m in Dagoretti High which is notorious for bullying and vulgar behavior but I have had a good time here. I have been bullied once, maybe twice and it was nothing to write home about. I’m in Amboseli, cube three and the chaps here are more than my schoolmates, they are my brothers. (Richie, we will never forget the opening day you came to the dorms with Nakumatt shopping the size of a small island but you had forgotten your mattress and blankets at home.)
I like Opening day because of the pocket money, even though I am given less than a thousand bob which is both my shopping and allowance—and when I try to push for more my dad says, “Tutaonana half-term.” Of course the cash gets even less when half-term knocks on the door.—I love the feeling of euphoria that comes when you see friends after sometime apart. I love getting to the dorms and hearing stories, most of them made up about who kissed who, and who touched which girl where.
On opening day the dining hall is a deserted village, we’re all too busy sampling each other’s food to pay it any mind and the following week the line at the dispensary is unbearable because a quarter of the school is suffering indigestion.
I have only spoken to two girls throughout my stay here. The first one is Georgina from St. George’s. (It must have been a stage name) She has thick, dark hair that falls on her shoulders like a wave. She also must be at the admired age of sweet-sixteen because all her flowers are blooming and I’m in love.
“Hi, what’s your name?” I ask.
“Georgina.” She responds, her voice delicate and soothing.
“I really like your hair, Georgina.” I say, feeling the taste of her name in my mouth for the first time.
After she says thank you I swallow a gulp as if someone has punched my voice-box. All the vocabulary I have disappears along with any affections that she might have had for me.
I never get to catch the name of the second one. We’re at the science congress with my buddy. We have a prototype of a solar powered lawnmower and not even this brilliance will allow me to put in two words with a girl. She’s held her hair in a ponytail and her sweater is tied around her waist. Two, maybe three buttons of her blouse are unbuttoned. She comes over, buries one elbow on our desk and rests her chin on her palm and asks the name of my project and what it’s about. I end up eating my teeth, partly because of nervousness and partly because of the heat from her gaze. She eventually leaves but the memory sings jingles to my soul throughout the term.
Despite being unlucky with the fairer sex I still love funkie’s. I love seeing skirts milling around the school and how said skirts make boys who are otherwise rambunctious turn meek. The Rottweilers and Dobermans amongst us become courteous kittens. (This is why we can’t do without women in society, if for nothing they put men who would otherwise be savages on a leash.)
I haven’t received a single letter throughout my stay here. You don’t understand, letters are sacred, they are the evidence that girls actually talk to you. They are the equivalent of an engagement ring. (If you’re reading this in the future on your iPhone XXL: Back then, physical letters were the Snapchat and Tinder of our time.) Despite my inability to receive letters I still love sitting and listening to the names of the Denzel’s and Johnny Depp’s of our school being called. We call them smoozes and we near, almost worship them. The ones who get no mail are called breezers, they are at the bottom of the food chain. I’m a proud breezer.
There’s this one chap who gets like ten envelopes every month. Tall, yellow boy, built like an ox. He plays rugby and has a glow about him that can only come from a well off family. A glow that does not know what it is like to sleep hungry or eat ugali with salt. He is one of those people that remind me the world is unfair. Some people have things in excess while others have none at all. (One or two of his updates wash up to my timeline every now and then. He’s a pilot now. I sometimes wonder if all the mail he received in High School gave him the confidence to chase his dreams. I sometimes wonder where I would be if I received such amounts of attention? My head would have probably exploded long ago from growing too large.)
I have a chance to get mail from this girl from Ruchu High. Tall, skinny thing with small pointed breasts and a sense of fashion. We meet at tuition and she takes a liking to me. She has a habit of taking my hand and placing it on her leg and I sometimes push it upwards and feel the heat from her inner thighs. Other times we’re in the labs and we talk to each other by writing on the white desk with a pencil. She finds it romantic and giggles a lot when we do that.
The sky is sunburst orange, same as her skirt when she visits me at home. She finds me alone and sits next to me but since I have to uphold my legacy of being pathetic with women I move to another couch and after a few minutes of giving her a cold shoulder she leaves. (I reel when I remember some of these things. Who was that guy?)
Students complain that the food has kerosene but I never can tell because I am too busy clearing my plate. We have githeri, rice-beans or rice-ndengu and ugali-beans throughout the week. The big one comes on Sunday at lunch time, rice and cabbages with the furthest hint of meat. This is our pizza. Nobody misses lunch on Sundays.
Breakfast is a different kettle of fish. I sit at one of those tables that is devoid of common sense. It is a table of ten, everyone is supposed to eat three slices of bread but on our table its survival for the fittest. After the prayers are done, ten hands dip into the bowl and in a flash it is empty. Some hands have more slices than they can hold, others have smattering pieces and some have none. (It might seem boorish but it taught us that the world is brutal and if you don’t go for what is yours someone else will gladly take it)
Oloo loves this. Tall dark guy who plays basketball, with big hands the size of a kids back. He’s intimidating when you look at him but a few interactions and you realize there is a teddy bear deep inside him fighting to come out. (I see pictures of him on the web. He is a surgeon now. I know his patients are in good hands because if they ever need something like a kidney transplant and there’s only one left. Guess which doctor is getting to that kidney first?)
I enjoyed my time in High School, except the strikes. We had four of them throughout the four years I was there. What were some of your highlights? The people who went to schools that had events like prom and names like sophomore are also welcome.
In Memory of the Moi girls, nine. May your souls Rest In Peace.
Love this article? You will love my book even more, find it here. We don’t (yet) have the budget to buy space on prime time TV or full page ads in the Daily Nation, so your shares are what help us get discovered. Feel free to whisper us to a friend and leave a comment.