Since my premature return home, I always made sure to be out of sight. When the good news came on during the prime time bulletin, I was quickly summoned you’d think our house was burning down. Education matters headlined that day’s news bulletin and panel discussions. This was in line with the fanfare customarily witnessed with the announcement of results.
The third school’s remarkable performance in Mathematics was the first news item. The first freaking news item! I kid you not, this is not a work of fiction. It actually happened. The universe has a wicked sense of humour.
We listened with a mixture of amazement and disbelief as The Director broke the news to the jubilant students and teachers in the Girls Section. Students, in the Boys Section, who openly bashed the institution changed tune when the Royal Media Services cameras focused in on them. “This is a class that’s been good, err…good-behaving right from Form One. And we have never had cases of sneaking out of school. We know that we have come here to learn and nothing else,” one of the then Form Four candidates lied through his teeth. Everybody wants to associate with success.
After the announcement, my parents became absolutely disgusted by my presence. I started being subjected to constant physical and verbal abuse mainly from my old man. He no longer wanted to hear my bullcrap. There was no way a top performing school could be substandard. He was angry and bitter that I’d thrown away the opportunity of a lifetime; the third school was the closet I would ever get to a national school. It was a glorious chance to associate with success, and I had blown it. For what? FOR WHAT!
“Some children are better off as a stillbirth,” my father began to constantly lament.
We went to visit my elder sibling at the prestigious Moi High School Kabarak around the same time the results were released. I cannot remember the exact occasion but it must have been a big deal as the late retired President Moi was in attendance.
I can never forget how his security detail quickly cleared citizens from the footpath like they were flies for His Excellency to pass. The second president of our republic was a lively towering figure whose presence could be felt like an earth tremor. In his right hand was his mark of authority, a trademark rungu, a baton popularly referred to as Fimbo ya Nyayo. A fortress of men in black surrounded him on all sides.
Mzee Moi seemed oblivious of how well guarded he was. He had grown so accustomed to being flanked with security that he easily walked in step with them. It was as if he was walking all alone, and having been in power for as long as he had, this came as no surprise.
Before I could take in all of his eminence, he was already gone. I tried to get a back view of the longest-serving President of Kenya but the Presidential Escort Unit stuck so close to him that you couldn’t even see the nape of his head. Things went back to normal immediately after the former head of state’s passage. Wanjiku was back on the footpath.
I had been tagged along for the journey specifically to be bashed further for denying self a fundamental right. The vitriol stopped momentarily when an amateur photographer requested to take a picture of us as a family at a fee. We would later spot the picture clipped on an open air hanging line–photographers usually put up such kind of makeshift galleries during public events. The snap cost Ksh.50. If you were to look keenly at that photo, you’ll notice that I looked out of place. I did not belong in that frame. A living stillbirth.
The following week, on Monday evening, I decided to take a break from everything. I left home before my parents got back from work. I did not know where exactly I would go but anywhere was perfect as long as I was not getting emotionally abused. With zero money, I ended up spending the night–where people with zero means reside–on the streets.
I pitched camp by the roadside, at the outskirts of our estate, with street kids as my new neighbours. We didn’t interact in any way. I just sat a few meters away from them and curled up on the ground with my head in between my knees. They paid zero attention to me.
It was a clear night sky. I’d braced myself for it by dressing warmly but the biting cold stripped me naked leaving me shivering like a leaf on a stormy day. Time seemed to drag. I wondered if I would even make it to morning in good health. Ironically, this was not the first time I was spending a night in the cold.
Sunrise came, and once I was sure my parents had left for work, I went back home. Home might have been toxic at the time but hobo life was a different monster altogether. Social media standards aside, having a roof over your head, a warm meal and a blanket to cover yourself with is soft life.
Also: Mungu ukibariki, bariki chokora…
I still considered the third school to be wack. But being at home, when everybody else was in school, was no better. I figured I could stomach the place till, at the very least, the end of the term. Anything was better than sitting at home idle at that point. Plus, why lie, the recent happenings gave me a slight of change of heart towards the institution. Everybody wants to associate with success.
My next move was to try and salvage the situation how I knew best. I dressed up in full school uniform and packed up a few of my school belongings one morning then took myself back to school without consulting or notifying my parents. I hoped the school administration would view my act of showing up alone as a sign of remorse. That they would be lenient and accept me back in, considering the fact that I was a first time offender who’d been at the institution for only a month.
I was allowed into the school gate by the security guard when I got to the Boys Section but nobody attended to me inside. I ended up just standing next to the administration block, watching students go about their lives. Unlike before, when I was given a hero’s send-off by my fellow students, now nobody wanted to associate with me. We simply stared at each other from a far. I suspect they were afraid of getting themselves into trouble, bearing in mind the school’s new elevated status. Everybody wants to associate with success.
As evening drew nigh, the Deputy Principal, the same guy who took me to receive my marching orders in the Girls Section, asked me to leave. I froze, shrunk then looked at him with puppy dog eyes but he remained unmoved. He showed me no mercy. While escorting me out, he grinned arrogantly remembering how arrogant I’d been during my time there. Ain’t karma a bitch!
On my way to the matatu stage, I came across a poor couple arguing by the roadside. The man was, lying flat in a dry trench, praying and wishing and hoping to die while his wife pleaded with him to stay alive. They were really going through it that they didn’t even notice me as I gawked at them. I wondered why everybody else seemed not to care. Maybe their antics were a regular occurrence and the area residents had grown tired of it. Or maybe the area residents only worried about themselves. Nobody cares.
Eventually, having my own shit to deal with, I went on my way as well.
Sometimes I wonder if the guy is still alive, and happy, or if he finally crossed over to the other side, and found happiness there. We all deserve to be happy.