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September 2017

College Hijinks

What Went Wrong

Your head is throbbing. Hard and fast.

You haven’t the faintest of ideas why you are in such a situation. The last time you felt this, you were with Paul.

But you don’t want such a feeling.

What happened? Did I black out? 

The first thought is where your phone is. And your satchel, which was a gift from your grandma. Hailed as the greatest sewer in your village, having the satchel was like having a part of her soul with you everywhere.

Guilt starts racking your head. And it doesn’t do good for the migraine that is building up. It is as if your head wants to explode.

All at once, everyone is rushing towards you. Feet are storming beside you, people with kind faces and worried eyes are all looking down on you.

“Hey! Hey! Are you alright?”

“What happened?”

“Don’t do anything. Call the ambulance first.”

“Does this bag belong to – ”

Too many words are being spewed out around you. But you are very sure you are okay. Wasn’t there something you were so excited for today? Or was it a hazy dream?

“I…I…am okay,” you stutter, barely catching a breath since everyone wants to look at the bug under the microscope which is you.

Someone holds your right hand and hoists you while another props your left hand on their shoulder. Support. That’s what you need at this time. You damn well know you might end up collapsing again.

“My satchel. Phone…” Your words trail off as your lips tremble and become heavy.

Who was calling me? Why did I even faint? Why won’t my head stop throbbing? 

“Here’s everything. Are you sure you’ll be fine on your own?” A kind-hearted lady asks you, handing you the satchel and the unscathed phone. “I could give you a ride.”

Between elbowing the throng of people along Tom Mboya Street and getting a ride in a Range Rover, there seems not to be a choice. You have to take the ride from the kind stranger and hope you can recollect all memories of what went amiss when you alighted.

The lady leads you to her car where she ushers you in and locks the door behind you. A faint Paco Rabbane perfume greets you as the lady begins to maneuver into a less busy street.

Pedigree.

You tell yourself that she is the kind of woman who has amassed wealth and still has a warm heart. They are a rare breed. Those whom you know have either or none.

“So, what’s your name?”

You don’t like when people get personal, but this is the lady that saved you from the sidewalks where you had fainted. Chances are that you just have to break the ice with this woman.

“K.”

“K?” She throws you a strange side-long look.

It happens. People think you are being a classic millennial, and that throwing single-lettered response is the mark of being “hip” and “cool”. Or you just don’t want to be bothered.

But you decide to stick with your nickname and tell the lady, “Yeah. It’s complicated.”

Like the rest of my life. 

“And what happened back there?”

You realize the lady is echoing your inner questions. There can’t lack a solid explanation. Maybe you just lost breath and fainted. Maybe it was Paul. Maybe it was the giddiness.

You shrug. “I have no idea. Probably a migraine.”

The lady introduces herself as Sheila and says that she works in a radio station. Deep down your fantastic brain, you convince yourself that you have heard that angelic voice somewhere. You might have met a celebrity!

You relax in the car and watch as Sheila drives you right through the University of Nairobi gate. Yes! Does this make me cool already? 

The car cruises to a stop and Sheila looks back at you with the most cordial brown eyes in the earth. She makes you think about your mother.

They have the same brown eyes, high cheekbones, and precise silky hair. You shake your head and realize Sheila is talking.

“I have to leave, K. But I hope you’ll be alright,” she says soothingly.

You nod. You are still assessing this angelic soul in a body and wondering why she extended such a hand of kindness to you. She could have just looked on at your gaunt body on the pavement and driven off.

“Thanks, Sheila. For saving me,” you say.

“No problem. And all the best,” she says and then drives off.

Did that just happen? 

As you wonder about Sheila, you realize that no one really gives a crap that you are standing where you are. Or you are hauling your bags and your garment is soiled along your left leg.

It’s as if you don’t exist, and it not, then they are very good actors.

On cue, your phone rings. This time you don’t miss a beat as you see it’s your mother that is calling.

“Hi mama.”

“Hallo! Can you hear me?”

It’s almost depressing that your mother is screaming at the phone due to the network hitches back at your home. If anyone was too close to you, they might think you were getting reprimanded.

“I can, mama. And I am okay. I just arrived,” you say. At this point, you know you are just stretching the truth and not lying.

Your mother responds with a “Bless you” and then breaks into a wordy prayer for you. A tear or two starts streaming down your cheeks. You do miss her already!

“Thanks, mama. And I love you so much. I will work hard. For you, me and Tumo.”

“We love you too,” you hear your little sister scream in the background and it almost ax-splits your heart.

You hung up and man up. You can’t cry here, now.

Another kind soul takes you to the admission queue where you are given a tag. Now that you are the three hundred and the ninetieth person on the queue, there is a reason for you to sit and wait.

And maybe check your phone.

Not many notifications. A Facebook friend request from a Cameroonian preacher. An Instagram comment under your recent picture where you took a picture with your mother and little sister two weeks ago.

It was a blurry one, and the comment drives that point quite harshly.

You immediately give up on Instagram and stick to Facebook. It’s barely harsh.

Then you peep at your call log and see that the call you missed at the commotion was Paul’s.

What does he want with me? 

Your mind tells you that he has changed. He was sober, after all. And he didn’t sound aggressive or angry.

But you can’t put his mistakes and “bad calls” behind him. He still deals in drugs. You can’t trust him. Not this time again.

Then you realize another phone call had come through. An unknown contact. You don’t call. The last time you topped up airtime, it was immediately flushed down the vortex by your local “generous” service providers. You still don’t understand how they do that.

Everytime.

After a half-hour of your patience being tested to the brink, you move some couple of paces along the admission queue. The panel at the admissions desk seems to be doing pretty well, given the fact that there is quite a crowd at your campus.

Then your phone buzzes.

The unknown contact. Is it Paul? Must be the freak! 

You pick up and curtly ask, “What now?”

“Oh. Aren’t you pleased to hear from your father?”


 

College Hijinks

College Hijinks I

College.

They called it “the place of opportunities” where “favor never runs dry”.

And by they, you mean your uncle. Uncle Garry. The one who used to live under the Thika Bridge in a soaked carton shack and now has relocated to the better slums of Kibera.

You wonder why your devastated uncle offers words of wisdom like some sort of Gandhi prodigy. It may be because he used to be a university dean, working in the famed University of Makerere before he had to flee from the shackles of the man-eating Ugandan head of state.

He told you how college was the place you were bound to have sex for the first time, meet trans-racial individuals and even bunk on classes!

His words excited you right before you had to leave and go to the city under the sun, Nairobae. Nairobi.

For some weird out-of-space reason, you are so excited to join the University of Nairobi that you can’t sleep the night before you leave. It could be that or because you don’t know whether you can trust Uncle Garry.

As you rest your head on your Winnie the Pooh themed pillow, you can’t help but wonder how life in Nairobi is. Of course, you had done your research – and you have also visited the city sometime in the past.

A shady website offering rumors on the mill had informed you that Nairobi girls always inflect in their speech (or twang) and they like a song known as “Leg Over”. And the Nairobi dudes have to don a faded hair coiffure and have an iPhone. Did it say that they were referred to as “cool kids”?

These warped ideas and more are still swimming in your mind even as you board the matatu that will shuttle you to Nairobi’s Odeon stage. Even as your little kid sister refuses to unhinge herself from your bear-hug and your single mother waves relentlessly at you, the mere thought that you are going to make your future brighter drives you on.

You don’t let the tears fall, even as a cloud of smoke wafts around your Sunday-best-turned-Monday-college-admission wear.

It can’t be that bad, you console yourself, settling next to an aging elder snoozing off at the front seat.

Too bad you can’t tune off the snores, the smelly driver’s socks, the cranky radio that constantly spews static…Already you hate the idea of traveling on this matatu.

But you are some kilometers into the town of Nakuru. The driver is speeding like he wants to rush to the next day at the very instant.

So many thoughts are swarming your mind. What sort of people will I meet? Will my hostel mates be friendly? The sex stuff…

In the racket, Fergie’s You Already Know lyrics “Fast life moving, ain’t no going slow” sip into your mind. You desperately don’t want to taste the fast life.

You swear to yourself that you will stay indoors and bury your head in books, only looking up to pray to God before pulling out an all-nighter.

You promise yourself that you won’t even try making new friends, you won’t step a foot into any club, no alcoholic drink will land on your tongue and every Sunday will find you in a church.

A gulp goes down your throat and clears all the doubt of the life you are going to start.

Bzzz.

There is a vibration in your left pocket. It’s Paul. Yes. The druggie you used to learn with in high school, the one who missed the college cut-off points by a whisker. You definitely don’t want any business with him. For more than the drugs reason.

As your thumb hovers on the reject button, you remember that he could be the only friend you know right now. And you know you have really stretched the definition of “friend” in that context.

You answer. Paul is sober, for the first time in a long time! He sounds ordered, calm and sane.

“Hi, Paul.”

“Hi K.”

A grimace flashes on your face. You don’t like when someone calls you by your nickname. Or just a letter.

“It’s been a long time. How have you been?”

The question almost chokes you. Paul wants to know about you. After four years. What do you tell him? That he was the one who wronged you, and not the other way?

Damn. Why did you have to call today? Why now? When I have to start anew? 

A few seconds to contemplate. Such decisions never used to bother you. You used to be rocky, hard-core. But the last few months have been nothing close to easy.

“I…I…No, thanks.”

You hung up. Stuff the phone in your African-themed satchel and press it between your legs. A sniffle almost makes you give in and bawl your tears away.

You are now on the outskirts of Nairobi, and you start to get the giddy feeling that you initially tried to suppress. Somehow the air has changed, the mood is uplifting and you feel like taking a picture and posting it on Facebook.

Lost in the rush, the matatu starts to buckle and slow down at the Odeon stage. You don’t even start to ask about how the driver escaped the traffic that is slogging down the Uhuru Highway.

The place of opportunities.

Wow.

There you are now. No one is standing in your way. Not even Paul. You have forgotten all about how you really struggled day and night to pass your high school tests to get there. The prayers you whispered, shouted and screamed.

What freedom! What vibrant energy!

The moment you step out of the matatu, the feeling of ecstasy has long withered. Your phone is ringing again.

Who now? 

As you turn to get your phone, someone hits your shoulder, another collides against you, another hits your knee. You look ahead of you at the busy Tom Mboya street and see a sea of faces and feet headed for you.

There’s no time to even answer the call. You are now trying to get to a safer position.

You have never seen so many people all at once. Suddenly you feel claustrophobic.

No! Not now.

You beg your chest not to start constricting but it is busy protesting its innocence. It is just reacting to what is happening to your mind.

Your legs start to turn to jelly. No sooner do you get to the sidewalk than you drop to your knees and your eyes roll backward.

Poof! 


Hi you! Thanks a bunch for reading my first College Hijinks post in the blog series. Did you like it? Well then you will love the next posts in the series. Be a good person then and subscribe so that you don’t miss.

And have a nice time, reader! 🙂