I was in town yesterday and the day before, and I must say I am perturbed by the uneventful nature of back-to-school. That, or I done grown too old I don’t even know the hyped ‘holes’ anymore.
The year is long ago, Tuesday, the beginning of the new school term. Hours seem to run by like minutes, a lot needs to be done. Who has completed Biology homework? No one. Who knows where their school sweater is? No one. But all those are largely non-issues; first things first.
One, there is the issue of a hard-line stance from both parties during the handover of this term’s budget. Pocket money they call it; how long it stays in the pocket renders this name totally meaningless. It is a long haggle with the Man Beater going on and on, again, about how during his day he was given five shillings upkeep and how he wore his first pair of shoes when he joined form one. How a lot of money distracts you from studying and how he survived with one pair of trousers for four years. Since I do not have full independence yet, I cannot talk back, but the look I give leaves no doubt what is on my mind: old man, are you losing it?
Do you know the least bit of economics to understand simple shilling depreciation dynamics? How much money is a lot of money anyway? Do you know how much more distracting insufficient upkeep is as it turns one into a merchant? That eats up time, energy and poses a great expulsion risk if you must know. At best, ungenizaa ukiwa mdogo tusome pamoja when the shilling had that much value.
It’s a vuta nikuvute scenario. While I need to hold on long enough to get that extra coin, I also need to make sure the Man Beater leaves early enough because, at ten, Stella is coming around to see me for the last time this weekend. The Man Beater’s reluctance to toboka and the excuse that he needs to get to work works in my favour this one instance, every term.
Now, Stella. This lass is something else. We have had a long haggle over a certain personal business all holiday; she has rebuffed all through, but I am still optimistic I can land a deadline-day deal. Well, it could be that I never exactly put my demands on the table, but ai! She should read between the lines, si ako shule pia? At worst, I might get a kiss, but at the opening day night talk in Umoja dorm, guys will get a completely different and much much longer version of this story.
The problem with Stella is she comes here in so much of a hurry. I totally fail to understand. It’s not like she has important business to attend to. Ati, salon? Your hair looks just fine to me! What do you mean you need to get to school at 3…you don’t need to be at a school at all! But that’s her, and this is me. A frustrated me.
Now, budget things. First things first, I need to put aside a hundred shillings. That will go into paying Somie for that magazine he brings us, that one with pictures of people with stars on strategic parts; have you Seen it in your entire Life? It will also pay Lewis for those CDs he brings us. God, this entertainment is eating so much into my budgetary allocation, I think I should leave it to adults.
1pm. Not a bad time to be in town. But what to do now? School should be at four, so by no account should we get there before five. How would you go through a whole school term knowing you came ontime on opening day? So now, it has to be up and down and across town until 4.30.
Talk to some girls here and there, tell them I am the chief actor of Box 1’s drama club, see you during festivals. But all girls leave by two, they can’t be late. They, well, got no balls. Now what? Dive again into upkeep for 3reds. I buy a pair of trousers and a long sleeve shirt, because school insists we buy from them, and that we wear short sleeve shirts. These trousers btw are called Anti-K, coined at a school where the deputy was called Kaka, and students wore them to defy him as he loathed them with greatness. Anti-kaka it was, Anti-k is an evolution.
It is frustrating to know upkeep is now running dangerously low, so a can of Kane Extra, KX, will come in handy. Unaffordable and unfinishable, it takes four people to purchase a 60 bob can. ‘Nana…nanana…nana nana…I was gonna go to school, but then I got high….’ Time to beef a little with boys from other schools. You idiots, we have marked you, see you during fests, you’ll die!
4.30 pm. Drunk and late; good enough. Now, matatus know we are late and they have debe, so, instead of the normal fifty, fare is seventy shillings. Ayayayaya! But haisuru, lets go to jail!
So now depa won’t let us in, we have to alight at the gate and walk in as he takes our names, frisks us and does an alcoblow test. No worries about that, depa himself has been drinking since morning, so he cannot tell whether the smell of liquor is yours or his. God forbids he dislikes you! Thank you early arrivers, at least you have no problem picking our contraband over the fence.
It’s a win-win…we arrive late, we get punished and so school gets cleaned on day one. The punishment is better than preps, there is too much to share….including smuggled KX. A good opening day it is, now we can last the term.
Wait a minute! An internal audit reveals I am negative 300 shillings, and it is day one. Where could I have lost it? No idea….so, by circumstance rather than choice, I have to go into business. Venice here I come, call me a merchant, hand me some argosies. In sooth I know not why I am sad.
PS: A minute of silence for Alfred Kinyua aka Mavoo, who took Furaha gin as we took KX. Like a sore thumb, he was picked out drunk. In his own words, upon expulsion, when his parents asked why he had been chased away, he replied, “Nilirudi shule nikiwa nimefurahia.” They almost died of confusion!