The year is 2000. The second term of school. Millenium has come and settled. The world did not end after all. Pastors who had announced the apocalypse go about like they never mentioned anything of the sort. A good number of villagers are embroiled in unending disagreements with people they sold their belongings in anticipation of world’s end. They want a reverse of transaction, lakini opportunists unawaita kina nani?
Computers, I hear, did not shut down either. Not that I really know what those are or what they do anyway. The closest I have come to a computer is being referred to as dot com. My name is dream.com, by the way. And there is a bicycle taxi in our market called KMT.com. KMT means Kaza Miguu Twende, Tukimaliza Mlima Kalia.
Forget about KMT. Today I am overly excited. Why? Because tomorrow is a BIG day. Very big day. A red letter day. Tomorrow, Friday, is the day we have all been waiting for. Tomorrow is the day of The School Tour!! Tour of The Rift Valley.The Rift frigging Valley!
It is especially significant for me because up until the last minute, there were signs that The Man Beater was not paying for us the required Ksh. 500 for the trip. And our class teacher has been rubbing it in our noses, coming to class with a list of those who have paid every day, and reading it out loud after calling out the register.
Mugambi Muriuki: Present in class
On Tour List : Absent.
I even sat the Man Beater down and tried to explain that I was willing to sell four of my rabbits, will he top me up? The answer, “We will see about it.” Mum kept saying not to worry, nitalipiwa tu, but weh!
So you can imagine my excitement when yesterday, Wednesday, I was read out in the list of people who were supposed to remain behind to be briefed on the tour itinerary. I have tried to be prudent in glory, but its hard. I have been telling people, ‘Don’t worry, utalipiwa. Ata mimi nimelipiwa leo.’ But I myself can hear how shallow I sound.
There was a small hitch though. My home is far away from school, I cannot manage to be here by departure time: 4am. Man Beater thinks we should ask for a refund, and for the first time in my life, I look him in the eye like ‘TF, nigga are you high or insane?’ He’s bluffing though, they already made arrangements for me to spend the night at my aunt’s close to the school. He is a comic, this Man Beater of Tsavo.
So, when school closes for the day, I head over to my aunt’s. The evening wears on agonizingly slowly. I am too excited to eat, but not too excited to brief them of my schedule; I need to be at school before 4 am, so whoever is involved in my programme should plan their night accordingly. They assure me that they are well briefed and ready, but I am suspicious. They don’t look like they are giving the matter at hand the seriousness it deserves.
At lights out, I am directed to spend the night at one of my male cousins’ house; I feel like a grown man for the first time in my life. They ask if I am a bedwetter; I lie with a straight face! I’m sure I am not going to sleep anyway.
My cousin sets his alarm to 3.30 (I confirm) I think that is too late, but I keep quiet. I, however, set my Asahi ‘water-resistant’ wristwatch to 3 am, and repeat the same on my small bell ringer clock that I smuggled from school. They won’t need it tomorrow anyway.
We turn off our lamp at 10.30 pm. My first rouse is at 10.45. I wake up in a fit, after a bad dream that the bus has already left. Sigh!
I finally fall asleep, for a jolly long time! I wake up again at 12.15! After feeling around and confirming the bed is still dry, I wake my cousin up to take me outside for a pee. I take the opportunity to remind him to check his alarm.
As soon as I cover myself again, I hear the bus leaving. I jump in a fit and alert my cousin kumethúka. Nimeachwa! Listen, the bus is leaving!
It’s only 12.20, he grumbles. “I know, but that’s beside the point. Can you HEAR. THE. BUS. LEAVING?” No, that’s not the bus, those are vehicles that pass by every other night.
“Vehicles passing? At Night? Going where? which vehicles, btw?” I do not ask this aloud, but I discover one thing: My cousin is jealous because I am going to the Rift Valley. You see, in my home area, very few vehicles pass by at any time of day. If a vehicle does pass by, we troop out to see its destination. Even fewer vehicles pass by at night, during which time si hujua tumeibiwa. My cousin, I cannot trust him anymore.
I confirm this when he goes to sleep immediately after our little engagement. How dare he fall asleep? Further confirmation comes when I wake him again and tell him to the bus honking its kingóra. We are being called. Clearly irritated, he says, you sleep, I will wake you up when its time!
Oooooh, so that’s it eeh? Now I understand. Unataka niachwe. He goes back to sleep; I dare not. I sit up, every passing vehicle on the highway I am sure is the bus leaving me behind. I cannot trust clocks anymore, its been like 7 hours but they have only counted 3! I contemplate sneaking out on my own, but that is a bit too risky. So I resign myself to missing the trip. Sad.
When my two alarms go off at three, I literally spring out of bed, grab my small torch and get ready in two minutes flat. I wake my cousin up and demand he takes me NOW.
Tired of fighting, he gets up and goes to the main house to get tea. My aunt is already up, but I do not understand why she insists I have tea. Can’t you see I am late? But aunt Rosa is another one! She won’t let me, so I down the fastest hot cup of tea ever!
As aunt Rosa packs my bag, I speed her up. You do not want to know what she ended up packing in there in the hurry! No, I won’t say!
We get to school at 3:30. The bus has not even arrived. Actually, it does not arrive until around an hour later. And some people arrive as late as 45 minutes after the bus. I keep opining loudly that those ones ought to be left behind.
My cousin is patient enough to wait the entire time. Of course, he dare not leave without seeing us off, because Aunt Rosa will be cross at him for mistreating Sister Rose’s kid.
Sorry Cuz, I know I just gave you the longest and most uncomfortable night of your life, but right now I need to go away and enjoy this trip! Byee!