The phone rings. It vibrates loudly and the rest of us can hear it from our beds in the tiny bed sitter we share. We have tried to squeeze our few belongings into this room and decorate it as much as we can. In another world, she would be an interior designer. On one wall is a mirror with picture slots and beside it a paper with the cooking duty roster, a menu of our meals and ‘7 habits of highly effective Proverbs 31 Chefs’. We are four: the slimmest one, the mysterious one, the pretty one and the writer. She is the pretty one. She complains that there are too many cereals, the mysterious one says that meat is fattening and therefore we only eat it once a week.
The phone distracts us from our laptops. I am busy typing something on the laptop, the other two are also on their laptops; probably watching a series or a movie. As for her, she has been waiting for this call. She turns excitedly on her bed, looking at the phone and hesitating before picking it. She sighs, almost in relief. The call always comes around this time; almost ritualistic. Normally, if she was telling us a story, she would have forgotten about it, to concentrate on this important call. Love is important. She would have changed her voice to a soft tender tone, one that reminds me the story my mum would tell me, about a goat that had a very soft voice which bore four kids from its knee. She calls him by those names that describe something sweet; a short form of honey mostly. I hope she finds honey sweet, I think to myself. She changes her posture, in readiness for the long call. Long calls are sentimental. Theirs is what they call match made in heaven; even their names start with the same letter.
The phone rings. The lecturer is boring. He tells us how he was retrenched from his previous job and how he made a failed attempt at politics: a sad explanation of why he is here dictating so many notes to us. He has a deep accent from one of the communities where‘t’ and‘d’ sound the same. I miss most of his words as he reads word by word from his paper. He dictates as if each word is followed by a full stop and I have to read the sentence again for it to make sense. Most of my units in the university have been a great disappointment; leave for the programming ones. My imagination of a perfect Entrepreneurship Skills course was a class where we would work on entrepreneurial projects which would then be evaluated at the end of the semester; but here I am writing notes. The examples are outdated and some are irrelevant. One of my colleagues says that I love to hate on the Kenyan higher education system; that is why I talk too much about my alma matter; because the system in high school came close to what I had imagined an education system should encompass. I write stories at the back of the book as he reads through the notes he just dictated; what he calls ‘explaining’.
I need to work on my attitude. The problem with imitation is that it makes the imitator imagine that the copy will just be as perfect as the original was; overlooking the difference in experience, location, environment and technology. Perhaps that is why the education system in Kenya is not where it should be, it makes a terrible imitation of the West.
Away from my ramblings, let’s go back to the phone. It rings, just when the lecturer begins to dictate the notes again. She looks at who is calling; it’s him; you can tell by how she quickly gets out of class to receive the call. She hops, almost running; her savior from boredom.
The phone doesn’t ring for days. She talks about him day in, day out. Every story has an example that relates to him. She misses him. She sits on her bed and looks at their photos, she smiles. She watches their videos and tilts her head to the side as she places her palm near her ear. She can’t wait for him to come back. I am sure the room misses her giggling and the glow on her face when she comes back from seeing him.
There’s a knock on the door. It’s Valentine’s Day.