I was staring at him. He was staring at me. We were staring at each other the way two people do when they are so smitten that everything else ceases to exist. Mr Muhereza was wasting his breath talking about Njoroge or some character from the novel “Upon This Mountain.” His voice was nothing more than an unwelcome distraction from a very important thing — a cute boy.
We were smiling. We were smiling like two fools who had glued their lips apart. He was winking at me and I was blushing endlessly. And every time he winked and I blushed, he raised his eyebrows in surprise. I found it quite strange but it was also exciting. I loved the games he was playing. I loved him instantly.
Later in life, I learnt that love is not a game. I learnt that love is not a crazy obsessive unreasonable distracting all-consuming avalanche of feelings. But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about how just one little act of disobedience led to a series of embarrassments, too many embarrassments for one person to face in a single day if you ask me.
Ms Nkuba, the school matron, was an organisation freak. It was easy to see why she was a childless spinster. At least that’s what we mumbled under our angry breaths to counter her loud and overbearing voice. “Arrange your shoes! What would you put that on top of your suitcase? Straighten your bed, you careless animal!”
That last phrase, that’s the one that had thrown me off. “Careless animal” ran through my veins and made my blood boil. I thought about punching her in the throat. But I would have to stand on a chair or at least jump. I was a height defaulter. It’s a burden I still carry with me to this day.
If I couldn’t make her face the wrath of my closed fist, at least I would defy her. I refused to straighten my bed. I walked away in protest and now here I was, in an English Literature seminar, ignoring everything except this mysterious and exciting boy.
The weather changed. It started to drizzle. It was almost as though the universe was working in my favour, to make the moment as romantic as possible. I started to think he was ‘the one.’
He motioned me to go sit beside him and I gladly obliged. He raised his eyebrows in surprise again. As soon as I sat down, my dormitory prefect came and said to me, out loud, “Liz, your mattress is outside. You need to go and get it before it starts to rain.” Anybody who has been to boarding school knows that it’s only bed-wetters who hang their mattresses to dry.
I was no bed wetter. Ms Nkuba had thrown my mattress out because I had refused to straighten my bed. I wanted to explain to my new found love whose name I didn’t know. But he cut me short. He said, “Actually, it wasn’t you I was looking at. I was looking at the girl behind you.” I echoed his words in my head as I carried my mattress back to my bed, as I listened to students mock me by way of clapping — something they always did to bed-wetters.