By Victor Jawaseda:
I am relaxed somewhere in the sixth floor. A memory flash in my last trip to Bondo in the first week of January this year. In that trip I met two friends of mine. Kennedy and Ishmael. I also met at almost the same time my old school mate called Beryl. The emergence of Beryl in this flashback guides this note.
I went through Primary School in three regimes. The first and second which lasted about five years in total did not enforce so much regulations on us. The last regime was strict and academically it bore much fruit. It is in this last regime where a relationship (read love) or the thought of it was a crime.
Numerous times we had lovers paraded in the school assembly. They were to be disciplined in the open to serve as a good example to anyone who dared to commit the same nature of crime. The individual cases would make you laugh. We did stories about each pair during break times. The longest break then was games time. Those of us who had no ball juggling skills would gather in groups to reflect on the events of the day.
I do not know how true the parties loved one another. So far, I can only remember one pair who went on to the peak of settling down. They are married to date. For the others, either the love faded away or the ‘consequences’ killed it. Whichever the case, majority did not see the light of day!
With school consuming eight hours a day for five days a week, there was little time to build the love. For lovers back then, weekends were so special and crucial. A holiday would be golden opportunity to follow up on previous agreements just like weekends were.
At that time, communication had not become so sophisticated. There were no emails. The nearest telephone booth was in Anyuongi several kilometers away from Wichlum. Those who have studied relationships know how essential communication is. How did the parties communicate? Well, several methods were employed. The most common was to send a younger brother or sister depending on one’s confidence level on the conveyer of the message. Leaked messages (read wikileaks) would result in shame and punishment in school. Another method was letters however it was rarely practiced.
In the village, there also existed the paparazzi and the public watch dogs. It was difficult to hide affection. At some point, the ‘media’ would reveal the hidden affairs. The headline would be so and so (a man’s name) is friend to so and so (the female partner’s name). This would be written in sisal leaves or for those who hailed from the emerging town it would be written in the back of latrines and long buildings by means of charcoal.
Back to my story. I was raised in a strict family. My mum never bought any nonsense. She stood her ground on matters discipline. I still think that firstborn kids had it rough. I sometime watched my younger sisters commit the same mistakes and go unpunished. For me relationships were difficult to run with the conditions both in school and at home.
Beryl was very pretty. Her mum worked in a local eatery. Her friend was Dani. Dani’ father owned the restaurant. I admired Beryl. The strict environment could not stop me from imaginations. I always say that the human imaginations and memory journeys are truly free. Free in such a way that no one can stop you from developing affection to someone. The school and parents limited my travel physically by both giving me assignments but mentally I was free to admire and chase Beryl.
After the conception of the idea, then came the real task of chasing the dream. I had two approaches. The first was to do my campaigns in person. The second was to seek the courier services from my younger brother. The gist of the second approach was that the targeted damsel was a classmate of my brother and as such they would easily exchange the information.
After the messaging and counter messaging there was minimal progress. I then decided to do it myself. One weekend, I timed Beryl when she was on an errand between their house and the market centre. Getting somebody’s attention was difficult. Time was precious. She brushed me away talking of ‘next time’. I bet you know how sad it is to be told to wait for another opportunity. That was literally a week or two away because of the school schedule.
There was an irony of relationships too. An example was when the village media would declare the two of you an item whereas in the real scenario you had not sealed the deal. I was not spared either. My advances towards Beryl had been decoded. Trouble could easily be ignited either at school or at home. The guilt question of the imminent punishment was, “When?”
There was a boy who also had been attracted to her too. So when he saw us discussing in the subsequent meeting, his perception of loss was to conduct a spoil of the party for me.
One afternoon as we were going to school from lunch Beryl stopped me and asked, “Victor, let me ask you one thing? Have you heard what people are saying about you and me?”
I shrieked. That was one of the longest afternoons I had. We promised to keep it low.
That was the love I never had or so to speak. The matter did not reach the two institutions and neither was it ever prosecuted.
I was lucky. I always am!
That’s me Jawaseda.
Do you have similar stories?
Victor is a Kenyan writer and one of Kenya’s brightest upcoming leaders. He is currently compiling his autobiography.