I was late for class on that day. It was one of those classes that the lecturers don’t like it when they get to class before you. At the same time, I think they like it because they will find someone to embarrass and even punish by telling them not to enter. Unfortunately, that is one of the limited ways lecturers can punish students in universities. Like any other teacher, I’m sure they wished they were allowed to use canes. Oh, the pride that would come with caning boys with beards or girls old enough to be mothers. I am not the type to be late for classes. Attribute that to the fact that I take life seriously. I am the kind that has my life all planned out and if anything happens that seems to tamper with his master plan, he’d find ways to evade it. Unlike some of us who just take life as it comes. No plan, no goals and we think we are just fine. I would later learn the hard way that I could not evade everything in that respect.
Upon reaching the school gate, I realized I had forgotten my school ID in my bedsitter house. The second load of shit. My house was in Kahawa Sukari, a place where I had to board a matatu to get to JKUAT. There was no way I’d go back for just a card.
“That’s the day you feel like the devil is getting back at you for the times you blamed him for things he didn’t do.”
“How do you know it was the devil?”
“Because on that day I don’t know what had got into the administration, they had new security guys at the gate, like tha f***! Nobody knew me there and I knew none of them. For the two years I had been in campus and now the third, I had never had any challenge getting through the gate since those guys there knew me.”
I stood there for twenty minutes before I was allowed in since I passed their interrogation to prove I was a student there. The wasted twenty minutes had dumped my heart in ice. I had even given up hurrying.
“Everything on that day was just so off,”
I continued off to class because the only way I’d not feel like I wasted fare, sleep and my breath was to get to that lecture room even if I’d be chased out. I would have tried. I’d go out saying shit happens, wait for my classmates after class and ask them what they learnt.
I got to the lecture room’s door and listened in. It was quiet like there was no life in there. Or were they having a slumber practical? I took a deep breath and said, here goes nothing and swang the door open. It’s one of those noisy metallic doors. I stepped in and all eyes were on me. I inspected the entire room with my eyes and almost cursed. They were doing a CAT! You know those random CATs that should actually be called RAT? (Random Assessment Test.) Nobody had said they’d sit for a CAT on that morning. Silly Monday morning! I had frozen at the entrance like I had just walked into a mortuary.
The lecturer was like, “Get in son. Time is running.” I swear that was so unlike her. Yes, she was an elderly woman who God knows why she was ever moody and rude. Now look, she had just called me son! Was I missing something? Oh yes, I would later realise. It’s like they all knew what was going to happen or what was already happening so they just composed themselves to ensure I wasn’t having it any rough on that day. Everyone seemed nice. I was so confused at the time. It was too good to be true. Like someone who had been allowed to heaven when all he knew fate had for him is hell. I took the question paper and proceeded toward an empty sit. Just after I had sat, it clicked that I didn’t have foolscaps! And just so you may believe that it was too good to be true mjango, a second later I hear papers flapping behind me. I turned and saw a hand bearing three foolscaps stretched towards me. I think I forgot to say thank you because my mind was now scattered between amusement, confusion and disbelief. Mark you, the girl who lent me foolscaps was among the many girls I had never spoken to in class.
“I’m not a people person,”
“I’m telling you it was just me. I rarely wanted things to do with people. I had a notion that they’d slow me down.”
“Meaning you have never been in a relationship?”
“I have but just once in high school.”
“Then what happened?”
“We had met in a Maths function. Subject related functions are the only ones I attended. She is the one who came to talk to me because I was named the best in the contest,”
“Eh, so you’re that bright? I went to Maths and English functions as a journalist to take photos using our school camera. For the record, girls liked that.”
After a peal of laughter, “It happened that as she drove the conversation, we realized we were homies. So during the holidays we met and started hanging out. Now here’s what happened, by the time the holiday ended, it’s like we had become a thing. I can tell you for sure that the following term was when I performed poorest in my entire life in high school so far. Even the principal called me to his office and asked me whether I was having problems at home. Funny enough, two weeks later their school came for a function in our school. She came looking for me in class because as usual, I couldn’t attend any other function. I told her to her face before my classmates that she and I were done.”
“You told her to her face?”
“Yes, that she was causing me to fail.”
“She slapped you? I hope!”
Giggle, “No, she went out crying. I heard she stayed in their school busy throughout the entire function.”
“But I’m not proud of it today.”
How I did that CAT, only God and probably the lecturer know. So after the class, the few friends that I have joined me asking why I was late. Every one of them seemed normal. We walked across a few blocks and came to a certain parking lot. I saw two guys that I knew very well. Seeing them and especially seeing them together on my campus was totally inconceivable. That’s when I felt it, that something was indeed wrong.
Seeing them from a distance extended the panic frame and time. Battalions of thoughts were matching through my head trying to establish why they were in my school. I tried all I could to convince myself that it didn’t have to be something bad but I couldn’t help it. They’re my uncles who had never seen each other eye to eye ever since I was a teenager. My friends noticed that I had begun to drag and asked whether I was fine. I didn’t answer because I was so overtaken by the panic.
We got closer and I branched without telling my friends. I’m sure they noticed but didn’t say a thing.
I stood before them as they stood side by side to each other. Behind them was a BMW X6. I had unconsciously sworn that I would jump with my head first on the ground if what they were to tell me was going to break my heart.
“Hallo Mwamburi,” Uncle Mcharo said.
“Hallo uncles,” I said.
“We know you already notice the irony,” Uncle Mwangombe, the younger one said.
I nodded. “Is my mum alright? Just tell me.”
They started moving their heads in random directions while one pretended to tuck in and the other to scratch his neck.
“Let’s take a ride Mwamburi,” Uncle Mcharo said as he ushered me into his car.
I hesitantly boarded on the back seat. Uncle Mwangombe sat at the back with me. He is my favourite and he knows it. Ever since I was a young boy, I have always been the apple of his eye. Maybe because he is also my mum’s favourite. He is the second last born among four and my mum comes in last after him. The second born is Aunt Tina and Uncle Mcharo comes in first. When I was 15, the brothers clashed because Uncle Mcharo allegedly started sidelining the family after he began being successful in his business. He is selfish, they say. In fact, that was the first time I was in his car, any of his cars. Their father became ill and all he did was send some hundred dollars. He was in the States at the time. My grandpa died shortly after when I was 17. He showed up during his burial for one hour and all he could say was, “I didn’t know the illness was that serious. I will send some cash to cater for whatever is needed here.” Even though he did and does all that, my mum has never said anything ill about Uncle Mcharo and he knows it. They shared a special connection that only blood can understand. With everyone against him, he only talked to my mum and his mother in the family.
Being the only son of my mum, my single mum, countless are the times she has reached out to Uncle Mcharo for financial help for my sake. She has never had a stable job ever since my dad left for another woman when I was in class seven. I have never understood why. I came to learn later through Uncle Mwangombe that the woman my dad left my mum for was my mum’s best friend since high school. I have never been able to shake off the mentality that women are just savage and chokers of other people’s progress. But maybe life was just about to show me that wasn’t true for all women.
I could see feel how their mood had changed into a sombre one while in the car. The air conditioner made it even harder to hide it. Uncle Mwangombe could not even look at me in the eye. For a moment I thought that Uncle Mcharo had become a Hiphop fan. It was playing on the stereo and he wasn’t changing it. It’s like they had not come to a conclusion on who would tell me the bad news, because now it was evident that that’s not how people look when they’re about to say that there is a ruracio or a newborn baby or it’s my grandmother’s birthday or they’ve just discovered that we are all related to the president so His Excellency will be attending our get together every August and we’ll be celebrating every Christmas with him in State House!
“Uncle,” Looking at Mwangombe, “What has happened to mum?”
I saw a tear form like dew on a blade of grass – at the corner of his left eye. And well, he needed not to say anything more. I wrapped up the battalions of thoughts into one big army; I had no mother anymore.
“Losing my mum was the toughest thing I ever had to go through,” he said. He hadn’t touched his tea since he started talking about his mum. Poor tea, left to go cold and would probably have to be poured out to some stray cat in town. From the time tea is just leaves in Kericho it dreams being drunk by a human being. The kind of human being who will hold the teacup with the pinky finger sticking out; a sign of class. Most probably a rich one who will not escort it with anything and perhaps not even put sugar in it. It wants to be glorified solo. We break the heart of tea (if it has any) when we take it with bread or nduma or what do you call that old friend of nduma? Yes, nguashe! God forgive Luhyas for calling sweet potatoes maboni! (Pronounced: /mabwoni/) Tea likes its own personal space. And tea feels sexy when served and taken while hot, don’t you think? So his tea was now feeling less sexy. Like you would be without a beard or makeup.
“I’m so sorry about that Mwamburi,” I said while also trying not to say anything more that I think may comfort him but it eventually ends up making matters worse. There is nothing as bad as saying the wrong thing when someone is in sorrow.
“It is well now Mjango. It’s been almost a year now, so yea.” He said and finally took a sip of his tea.
He had later found out that his mum had died of a heart attack. She had been diagnosed with hypertension two years earlier.
I sat up in my chair because I knew this was where things would get interesting. “So Mwamburi, did the sorrow change you in any way? Did it make you see the world in a different way?”
“Yes,” he said, “It made me ask myself many questions and made me resolve to many if not a number of things I have never imagined of myself. And this was all in an effort to find a landing place, a place my heart could call home after the only home I had ever known since I made my entry into the world – suddenly left for a better world.”
Everything that I ever did, every effort that I ever made was all done having my mum at the back of my mind. If something would not be beneficial to my mum then it wasn’t beneficial to me either. I think what my dad did only made me more ambitious and focused to prove to him and the world that I am the son he would wish he had never left and my mum is the wife she would never get again. It was to work, it would have worked, but life had other plans.
Funny enough, I didn’t care about those plans. As soon as I saw us lower her coffin beneath the ground, it dawned on me that I had nothing else important to live for. I might as well just go about life like everyone else. Besides, that was the new sign on the road of my life, so I might as well take it. If life wanted me to do things for myself now, oh trust me, I knew just how to do that. I was going to take my shot at everything life had to offer. It’s for me, right? Time to live my life, eh? To live it once, aye? Si I have no other life but this one, sio? And I have to live it to the fullest, just like everyone else my age is. Alright then mjango. Let’s see what’s in the world’s menu. I hear it has something for everyone, shots for everyone. As many rounds as you want. Alright, I’m taking my shot!
Shoot Your Shot continues next week, mjango!