Seven years ago, I found myself deep into the heart of Southern Nyanza. I had been admitted to a quite famed-ish high school fraught with sternness and stoic elephant grass – uninspiring grass that could give you a haemorrhage if you sat too haphazardly on it. Grass you’d be tasked to cut as retribution and it’d stare at you like you were balming it. It’d stare at you with indifference, akin to a lass uninterested in your attempts to woo her. When it sweltered for months, the grass would turn brown, the green would burn off and it would take the mien of a wheat field.
We had inane, yet horrid lore of ghosts that visit during the night, ghosts that would chase after petrified waif boys like us. Save for the occasional tippler on the other side of the fence that’d sing on his way from a cheap liquor shack, it was silent for most part. Nothing much went on therein, the quietness of the country side was tranquil. The ghosts never visited, we must’ve bored them to death. In that school passions were discovered. Limits were stretched. Friendships and conversely, enmities, were made. Dreams were nurtured and some – inadvertently- were broken.
Outside the school, sugarcane fields hogged the soil to themselves. The main tarmac road was a far cry away. For plebeians like myself, to get to it you had to straddle a boda. It would run sputtering and choking, giving in to the rugged terrain, where on either side was a canopy of more sugarcane fields, a vast sea of green. Woe unto you if it had rained before – the hind tyre would pepper the back of your shirt with mud. At times, you’d be four guys collectively on a rickety motorcycle (carrying one passenger wasn’t viable) that on a bad day had to be overturned and its tank blown into; since surprisingly, it could run on whiffs of petrol given you’d keep it going at a high speed.
That’s the disparity between urban bikes and rural ones, the latter operating at the bare minimum with a precarious self-esteem, whatever it could glean it would take. You’d step off the bike with a cramped leg since you had nowhere to moor your foot on. Your feet had been dangling all through, compounded with the reverberations of the engine, it was hell. Your face would be dabbed brown from riled up dust, looking like a nomad that had been transversing The Kalahari. Or more plausibly, like you had plunged into the gut of facial foundation. Imagine how that looked against dark skin like mine, ghastly.