The girl was what the poem would call a ‘vexation to the spirit.’ Before and after classes, during that transition period when we are waiting for the teachers, she would go around the classroom and talk to her friends. It was more speak-shouting than talking. They have been told by the teacher having a class next door to be silent several times, but still they keep doing it. The most irritating thing about them is their laughter. It is a high-pitched squealing that pierces through your eardrums and creates havoc inside your head. I sit at the back. I am witness to all these.
Her face is a feet away from mine. She is staring at me. She’s asking why am I so silent, why am I reading all the time, why do I have these dark circles under my eyes. I don’t speak for myself, those who seat in front of me and at my sides choose to be my speakers. Speaker one says to her, ‘don’t bother him, he’s reading.’ Speaker two who sits at my right side says, ‘yeah, if you read as much as him maybe your grades would be just as high.’ Speaker three at my right says, ‘hey you have a crush on him, don’t you?’ She replies by slamming the book I was trying to read, then pinching or at least trying to pinch those who spoke for me. I kept my mouth shut, I wanted to speak for myself, but my voice is too low and the words sometimes don’t come out right. So I disengage. I leave them alone.
Then the teacher comes and everyone settles down, keeps quiet. I close my book, take out my notebook and start to listen. The class is history. The lesson is about Africa. It was about colonialism. It was about this guy called Jomo Kenyatta, who was not only a writer but also government official. It wasn’t that interesting really. The teacher was what kept most of the students interested. She is beautiful and smart. She has wavy black hair that reaches far below her back. She sometimes ties it in a tight bun, but more often she just lets it hang loose.