My cousin passed on a few days ago. And she got me thinking of how one time we have people we care for in our lives and the next time we don’t. I tried to think of how much we take for granted our social capital, the people we meet, the relationships we build then frustrate, the people who truly care about us. I decided to be honouring every relationship I build, every person I meet, every activity I participate in. I called this “the friendship series”. And it starts here.
THAT SCARED LITTLE GIRL
You are a new student at a remote school somewhere along the windy plains of Kajiado west constituency. You are used to traveling for over seven hours to get to school. That transitions to walking three hours to get to school. You are uncomfortable because someone saw it fit to spread a rumor about this prestigious high school you came from before joining their secondary school. Everyone is saying a sarcastic hello because they think you won’t fit in. Your habitat doesn’t make it easier. You are in a cubical infested with bad smell from this expired nasty cream made from milk. You are the only person who seems to be bothered by the smell: the result of you being the only person who is not in touch with their culture. That is not true. You are in touch with your culture; the one that your mother chose for you to identify with not the one that your father grew up in.
In the neighboring cubical, a new student is brought in. From the confusion in her eyes and the submissiveness in her posture, you can tell that she is a form one. She is scared. She looks about to cry. Her box is as stocked as a form one’s can get with two pairs of socks, one shirt, one skirt, a pair of bed sheets and a blanket. The four o’clock bell rings. The flock of girls high with oestrone leave the dormitories to go flood the dining room. The other new girl seats down on her bed mate’s perfectly spread bed. “Girl, you are in trouble” you think to yourself. You watch her for a while least pretending to be busy putting up your own bed. The two of you are alone. You walk over to her. You help her spread her bed. You show her how to polish her shoes. You hold her hand and lead her towards the dining room. Both of you don’t have sugar so you go to the canteen and purchase some for the two of you. You walk to class (500m from the dining room) in silence. You still don’t know her name.
Class ends at 9.30 pm. You find her standing along the corridor separating your cubicle from hers. Her bed mate made it clear that she cannot sit on her bed. Your bed mate is pretty cool. But then, you are her senior. And you are the famous new girl. You call her over, help her make tea, watch her hold back her tears. After you are done with the night’s routine, you tell her to go to bed. She does. You tack her in; like you would your scared little sister. She tells you goodnight in a soft voice.
You wake her up in the morning so she won’t be late for classes. She does not have anything to read but school routine is school routine. The two of you walk to class. Somewhere along the way, she holds your hand. That sets your life on its path for the next two years. You become her school mother. You protect her from being bullied. She fights for you. You watch her confidence grow. She joins the basketball team. She does your washing when you are sick or reading for your mocks. Sometimes you take up her chores and let her rest. You become a team. And then the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations come. Your parents and a bunch of cousins come for you. She cries and refuses to say goodbye. She watches from a far as you leave. You wave at her, she refuses to wave back. She is in her second year of secondary school. And she, like you is heartbroken.
You leave thinking of how you are going to come back and visit her. You dream of buying her things you wanted when inside so she won’t dream of them like you did. But then you learn how much of a bitch life can be. You start playing cat and mouse with your own confused personality. You join campus to do things you are not sure you want to do. You lose touch with her. Four years later, you text her through the only number you have; her dad’s. She respond with hers in a nasty “I got my own phone” and you can hear the omitted “bitch” at the end of the sentence echo in your mind over and over again. You start saying “hi” every now and then until she breaks the news that she is now in med school. She wants to become a nurse. She visits you in a shack where you are living for your undergraduate. She seems high class and busy. She is at her prime. You are still a tomboy. You still have people who refer to you by number like you lost your name somewhere along the way to hell. You snake through life unnoticed and you have a Muslim boyfriend named Abdul that your mother hates. The next time you hear from her, she is working at Kajiado AIC dispensary and she wants you to attend her graduation. You are sure you cannot make it because you work for this asshole who thinks they own you but you work your way to be there. Then your graduation comes and she is there with all her beauty and glory, amidst your family drama and car miseries and stupid celebrations having fun and being one of you. And that sets a life where the two of you continuously check on each other. Too busy with an extensive distance between the two of you, it becomes hard for physical hook ups. Yet you are there for each other. You stand by each other. You still call her your daughter and she still calls you her school mom. You remain friends.