Joe Black Sits His Exams

In class. Looking at bent heads and scratching pens, enraptured by the sudden change in mood from slackened reading to full blown revision. My desk mate has got about five books piled up on his locker. One hand is supporting his head while the other’s dipped into his trousers. It’s a favourite pastime of his. I don’t berate him about it. If he needs something to do with his hands, fumbling about his privates is a far better alternative than lighting up a ciggie. I am careful not to eat anything he touches, though. I aint that much into crotch flavour.

Everybody is busy with good reason. It is a few days to the mother of all exams. To those in the dark, those who are so far removed from life past their noses that they still think miraa is a cash crop, hundreds of thousands of students countrywide will be sitting for an exam that will determine a large part of their future lives ranging from whom they will date to the number of their twitter followers.

That reminds me, my twitter handle is @dshady9 and no, I don’t need your follows. Let me test the authenticity of reverse psychology. I’ve always had a feeling Freud was full of crap. Or whoever it was that came up with the reverse psychology thingy.

Its results have not been anything far from disastrous whenever I’ve used it on girls. Reason why I never get any mushy letters with ‘xwiry’ plastered all over them. Glad not to, though. I’d puke over the multi coloured hearts popping up at every other line and the copy pasted love quotes. Let me stop there, my girl issues would fill a thousand page book.

I’m talking, I mean, writing a lot aren’t I? It’s because I am nervous. No scratch that. Nervous is what I am when a doc is about to stick a needle up my ass. Scared is what I am if that doctor’s sexuality is in question and he might end up sticking a totally different kind of needle. Scared shitless is what I’m feeling with the exam rearing it’s ugly head round the corner, taking its time, like a time bomb, ticking away ceaselessly, each second pulling me closer to it so that it can detonate in my face.

Back to the KCSE, I don’t even know why I’m scared. Exams have never fazed me before. At least, not in this way. I didn’t even flinch when the pink English KCPE paper was placed on my locker and that’s saying something seeing as two of our number fainted. One was a girl. A girl in a dress. A dress that wasn’t too quick in covering up. When girls in dresses faint, they leave an impression. An impression that doesn’t do one good especially if they have a national exam to write.

I’m hitting the books hard, almost as hard as Shebe hits the bottle. You don’t know about Shebe, do you? He’s legend. Dude’s known by even the dogs back at good old Majengo. In my eighteen years, I’ve never seen him sober. His mouth gets more alcohol than an EABL distiller. These past holidays, someone told me that Shebe had died clutching a bottle of jebel as was his wish. I felt bad for him. How the hell would he make do in hell with no fire whisky to ignite his bones?

Then, one morning I’m going to buy milk when I hear someone singing a vulgar tune. I go to check. This, of course, is no novelty so I don’t begin lamenting about the souls lost to devil’s piss. I instead give him a cursory glance which is instantly replaced by a look of uttermost horror followed by a sprint that leaves my bones complaining bitterly in rapid Kisii. ’Twas Shebe in the ditch, having defied death to keep on drinking. Only the good die young, apparently. Or in this case, the sober.

My exam fright to do aint got nothing to do with preparedness. It’s more of the fact that within this past year, my reasons for attaining good grades have increased ten fold. Last year, I did not have any motivation. I did not think education as anything ground shaking. It was more like a pastime, something to keep me off the incessant boredom at home.

Right now, though, I might as well as be the kid with the most reasons to be in school. Excluding, of course, those kids who have burgers on their menu, huge screens for chalkboards and go for school trips to Paris.

To begin with, I’ve got a sponsor to please. It never gets lost on me that am seated here eating chapattis every week and showering with hot water because someone decided to pay my school fees. Folks, you can’t compare that to anything.

I got my grandpa, too. My grades have taken an about turn since I came here to the tune of convincing the old man that I’m the saviour that was prophesied about by his father before him. I reckon he be reading too much Ngugi but hey, you don’t go messing around with some beliefs.

I attend the Mackenzie Education Centre community. I’ve been top of my class all year and thus, every chap, shrub and crab expects me to pass. Starting from the director all the way down to Mwinzi, the school watchie. They’ve all taken my passing as a given. It breaks me to think of how sure they are of me and how unsure I am of myself.

I got you too. Thought I’d forget you? You guys have been the confidantes I don’t have in the real world. I write about my life. Not because I have that colourful a life(if I did I would have a ‘ Keeping up with Munuve’) or because I’m that good a writer but because I know I’ve got an audience here. They’ll always listen to me and they’ll give me advice and at the end of it all, I’ll be like ‘Man, what wouldn’t I do without you?’ If I could, I’d take you all for a cruise round the Pacific with Biko’s forehead riding on a separate boat. By the way, success cards are already flowing in by the masses.

Our education system is designed in such a way that a piece of paper could make you or break you. A certificate, regardless of whether ’tis issued by the KNEC or some geek at river road is what you need to realise your dreams. Unless you got cash. The doors that dough could open are countless. Notice the similarity in pronunciation?

I want to pass this exam so I can go to campus. I want to pass this exam so I can look back and say I made it. I wanna pass this exam so I can be going for holidays in the UK and if I’m ever denied a visa, I’ll take my woes to Biko along with a bottle of Johnnie Walker, by then a greying old man at his home in Kendu bay, and tell him, ‘‘ Baba, they used the word ‘onus’ on me. ’’

It’s pretty late. I’ve been writing for hours. The wind outside is howling loudly, coming in in gusts and riffling the pages, just like life, flipping us back and forth, not giving a damn about who we are and what we tweet about, messing us up at will. OK, I should get to bed. Waxing lyrical is never a good sign.

Wake me up when November ends.

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