I’m in one of these stands in Busia Complex. From the Nairobi-Busia highway entrance, count four stalls on your right. That’s where I’m standing bargaining with this tall Somali leaning forward and supporting his chin by his left arm on the counter. I secretly admire his shiny black hair and the brown pigment on his upper incisors. He’s refused to lower the price of the suit I want, he sticks at KES 4500 while my wallet can only afford 4K. These people have taken over all major businesses here that ny stranger making a stopover will think they are natives of Busia. Anyway, we finally settle at an equilibrium, which is 250 bob lesser his initial price. That means I have to rush for extra money before the suit is grabbed by another guy.
Without delay, I stride to the M-PESA shop just behind this building, near Crown Bus booking office. This place is crowded that the attendant is buried in the horde of customers surrounding the counter. But seeing him, or her is none of my fackin business. What I want here is money to top-up the 4,000 bob. Cause I’m in haste. “Kuna punch?” (punch means 500bob) I bark! My eyes stuck on this door where the agent number is scribbled. “eeh, toa tu. ” The agent girlishly snaps. I’m not sure the reply is meant for me since we are about ten chaps transacting. And, wait! That voice sounds familiar. But damn it. I didn’t come here to recognize people’s voices. Thus I relax for like five minutes and watch, as clients who were here before me get served and leave.
And you see, internet has a way of busying its users. It’s within the five minutes that I stumble on @Lazarus Nadebu’s tweet. He lives soccer, today he’s tweeting about this Arsenal guy that missed a penalty. I’ve hardly retweeted it when the M-PESA chap inquires “wa mia tano ni nani? George Achoka? Ghai!” Her voice frails. Sounds like she finds that name familiar. My eyes get quickly disentangled from twitter and fall on the two glowing ovals above her nose. She gives a very long exclamation of delight – this sigh that girls give when they encounter a longtime friend. I freak out at her gaze. The Tecno in my hands drop. That childhood feeling takes over me again and drives me to the past. Where this story actually begins.
The class teacher appoints me the class prefect, and Carren the class monitor cause we are bright and sharp. I led in the previous exam, she took position two. We are in standard one, anytime Carren skives school the class teacher questions me. That obliges me to pick her to school daily though sometimes she wakes up really early and collects me. Her home is just a stone-throw away, you know.
Even at home, that supremacy still reigns. I am always the dad in chababa na chamama as Carren assumes my wife’s role – the mom to my so many children. We always have our own separate room away from all other kids. But we are disciplined ‘parents’, we don’t do the things those big boys and girls do when they land such chances – when they share a room with their opposite sex. Though we sometimes test, specially on days when our kids catch sleep so fast.
We trudge to the stream together, run to the shops together. We also go to steal those sweet mangos together. I scramble up the tree as she keeps watch under. I stretch to reach the ripest mangoes – those always on the furthest and weakest branches. She warns me against that and implores me to only pinch those I can reach without strain. I chuck the mangoes down as she runs about collecting them. Suddenly, Agunda, whose shamba these tall mango trees stand, approaches. Carren instructs me to hide in the thick branches then quickly, she scatter the mangoes she’s been collecting. Agunda arrives and inquiries what she’s doing here. “Natafuta kuni” She rudely responds.
“Leo umeacha wapi rafiki yako?”
She’s that bold. Agunda gives this girl a ‘I don’t believe you’ look as he walks about under the tree, whistling. He removes his hat then looks up the tree trunk and inspects the branches. Satisfied that there’s no one up there, he leaves. I come down as soon as he comes out of sight. We chortle. Collect our mangoes, and take off.
In class six, tits crop up her chest, and probably a few strands of hair sprout down there. And all other stuff that escorts this stage. Older boys start eyeing her. And you see, those days boys in class eight were so huge. So when you happened to stand in their way they just beat you up. Standing in their way here means wanting the same girl they have interest in. One afternoon, this tough huge guy in school issues me a stern warning. He says he should never see me around Carren again. I know this man, he never jokes. His are never mere threats, he says and acts. I don’t want problems and injuries on my young plain handsome face. So I obey his word. Carren starts querying why I of late avoid her but I seem not to find the best answer. Before too long, they strike up a relationship with the guy. I feel depressed and jealous. I want to inform her that this man will just use her and dump her. I want to remind her that this same guy impregnated her elder sister. But I’m afraid my words may fall on deaf ears. I decide to mind my own business. Nonetheless, their relationship only lasts a while.
Her family moves out after she completes class eight, without leaving any physical address.
While in form two, my mom comes over during the school AGM. That’s when I get to hear about Carren again. Mum tells me Carren dropped out of school last month. Her dad stopped sponsoring her school fees after she became pregnant, she now lives with the sperm donor. You just don’t want to imagine the feeling. I think form two is just so unfair to our girls.