“What if…what if you get a woman,” he began drawing my teenage attention, prying me away from my own thoughts, which were too important to be disturbed but had to act like I was listening; he had my partial attention. “And when she undresses you find that she is transparent, that you can see her innards, her heart beating, and her intestines?”
Pissed off by the rude intrusion into the castles that I was building in the air, and the need to show him that I was a good listener, I feigned surprise, dropping my jaw and hang there like we were up and about a mannequin challenge. It was back in high school, a long time ago. And the dude asking me about encountering a transparent woman was my desk mate, the time was evening during a biology remedial class. A lot of guys were already asleep and a few of us pretended to be listening how roots absorbed water into its system, from a short slightly built brown teacher with a funnily rounded forehead. He had a nickname, of course all of them had nicknames. His wasn’t particularly striking, perhaps because of his ability to mind his own business and perhaps because he had a deep Kalenjin accent.
There were those teachers who never minded their own business. There was one in particular christened Jembe. When we joined form one he had that name, apparently because he had a knack for giving out punishments that involved the esteemed garden tool, that has sadly been defiled by overly generous ladies. He had it. We called him by such without questioning circumstances that led to him acquiring that name. For some strange reasons Jembe never seemed to have gotten over that name and sought revenge whenever possible. He was permanently on duty, going round every morning, fishing people who skipped preps.
Jembe had a son and a daughter, and a wife. Thinking about it now, I wonder how a grown ass man would forgo the comfort of his wives ample bossom (his wife was blessed in all aspects) to go round waking up people who never gave a shit about their futures, at least when it came to studying and passing. Who knows, they could have pulled a Joho stunt by now. As sanity allowed we did all we could to avoid the son, who was about twelve at the time, with lanky feet, thin like preying mantis’. It seemed like his dad had pulled him aside and imparted the following wise words.
“Son, should anyone look at you in a manner that suggests a jembe, screen shot that face and bring to me,” and the son of Jembe heeded that advice.
Back to our biology teacher, with his funny forehead. His only interest apart from class room business was his paycheck and probably his daughter who had the same exact forehead. Dominant genes, we joked. It happened that he had spotted my desk mate whispering to me about the transparent woman and watched me dropping my jaws and remaining ‘statued’, judged it as the sincerest form of disrespect, for the next thing the class heard was:
“Toka!!!! Toka!!!! Toka!!!! Toka!!!! Toka!!!! Toka!!!! Toka!!!! Ketaut!! You two!” the rest of the class, which was asleep, rose from their slumbers thinking the words were directed at them. And so we rose without closing our books, opened the door and stepped out.
As fate would have it, we later learnt that the cool Kerio Valley breeze wouldn’t be the only thing that would welcome us. Teacher on duty. He wasn’t worse than Jembe but he never listened to any form of reasoning. He seemed to have decided early on that if you give a student a chance, he will concoct the most believable lie ever-never trust a student knee deep in shit. A few seconds into our night out, he passed by, heading into his office. He saw us and quickly summoned us into his office. Once inside he began an interrogation without any interest in the answers we were going to give.
“What are you doing outside?” he had asked as he went about sorting papers on top of his table.
“We were talking in class and the teacher asked us to step out,” my desk mate volunteered.
“What were you talking about?”
Silence. I almost told him about the transparent woman.
“You were gossiping about the teacher’s open fly, isn’t it?”
“No, sir!” we cried out in unison.
“No, no…face the wall,” he ordered us as he took out a cane and gave us an ass whopping. Four strokes each. He then asked us to report to him on Monday. I remember now that it had been a Friday. Friday were good days for various reasons. One, Fridays are always good for no reason at all, two is we never had to wake up for preps the next day, which means Jembe wouldn’t be disturbing us, three (most importantly) was it was the last day of eating murram that week.
Before he could let us go, he remembered about a school trip scheduled for the Form 3s that term. We hadn’t paid, having spent all of the money on the most trivial things one could thing of; bread, kangumu etc. he quickly took out a foolscap, wrote our names and asked us to prepare sufficient reasons as to why we hadn’t paid for the trip. As far as we were concerned, the trip would be a ‘ghost one’ a mere figment of one’s imagination. I swear some had even told their parents about going to Mombasa but wouldn’t account for the money given to them. And you want to blame the government for runaway corruption?
As if he had sensed that were already in deep shit, Funny Forehead let us off the hook. It’s as if he had a premonition that the teacher on duty would ‘sort’ us out, thus absolving himself from the need to bother his forehead with a worthy punishment for two errant boys. He exhorted us to be attentive in class as he slotted a piece of chalk between an old note book that would as well have been used to teach Joho’s generation. It was old and crumpled by the edges. If it would have been carbon dated Kenyan style it would have been discovered that Zinjanthropus used it.
As he walked away, we resumed the formulation of the most formidable lies that would explain or justify why the canteen man had taken our trip money. Even though it seemed probable that we would find a transparent woman than a believable reason, I can safely tell you that we went for the trip. Up to now I can’t tell how we got the money, for first thing the following Monday morning we were at his office immediately after assembly, with crumpled notes (currency) a little dump with sweat as we held up our breathes not to be mentioned in assembly.