It’s good I have to remove my shoes before entering this house. Coincidence 1: the girls never leave the house all the time I’m in there. Coincidence 2: they have this ninja for a mother drumming sense into their bleached heads. Now, who’d otherwise waste their respect on a teacher whose shoes are torn?
I remove my shoes at the door. It is one of those painful moments where you have to part with a close and faithful friend. I grew up with friends whose fathers thought we were stray children born to corrupt their good children. So I know how it feels when Vic stops on the way, near their gate, and tells you to wait for him here. I know how it feels to be left aloof so that the friendship may reach a tomorrow.
And so for a whole two hours my shoes remain in the cold, alone, unused and neglected. Those black Gucci hooves that once were an envy in the village. I often taste betrayal on my tongue, yet still can’t help. For two hours I rant inside their sitting room which is our makeshift classroom.
I take days explaining the present simple tense. I spend a few more centuries preaching the spelling of ‘remove’, each decade reminding them that the word does not have an ‘i’ and things like that.
To earn some coin.
I am hoping that I will be rich someday: a stinging rich fellow with 97 cars, a jet, a belly, and a fleet of women trailing my ass. I have this dream that one day I will own a house like this and force people to remove their shoes at the gate while I shelter my clean toes even at the swimming pool.
It doesn’t matter that I don’t know even quarter the IGCSE ESL syllabus. It doesn’t matter that my pronunciation gives them hell (at least it did). Nothing matters really. Nothing should as long as there is money coming this way. Live in this city and you will know what I’m saying. Which reminds me of an old Arabic proverb: Al-rizq-ul-ulamaai fiy yadd-il-juhalaa’. (Visit my bank just in case you want the translation.)
So basically, this thing is about lies, pretension and money. What is not about lies and money these days, anyway? I lie; I get my fuckin pay and go home. I lie more; I get even more. Willing buyer and stealing seller on the bargaining table and the world spins.
But sometimes I feel what they give is not even their money. Last time their ninja mother paid me in notes and I checked: they were minted in 1976. In nineteen-seventy-fucking-six she was still a virgin and not in Kenya. In 1996 she was still a virgin nigger in Norway. In 2006 all the four girls were born, alright, but they were still living under Stoltenberg. So the 1976 notes are by birthright more deserved to me than her.
Or what if we’d all shared the money somewhere around 1977? What if, during Kenyatta’s funeral, Nyerere and Uncle Bob oversaw the sharing of the country’s resources to every citizen? They’d have come from that fuckin Norway and got nothing, poor things. They’d be beggars at Jamia Mosque or somewhere around State House. Or they’d be running a brothel along the coast. Point is, this 1976 money is legitimately MY money. In my next visits I should start knocking, sitting silently and waiting to be given my cash without a word – no parroting. That is before my brother becomes president and they start queuing at my castle every morning to bring to Caesar what the Jew commanded them to.
The first day I came here, they scared me. They put all their English in their noses and forced me to take my pronunciation back into the shoes waiting outside. Only a teacher’s confidence saved me, plus some lies about me lecturing at a college in town and having applied for a PhD at Cambridge ee-of-tee-and-see. They still fear me like a deity.
What else? If you stay in Norway all those years and you come back to Africa without knowing London’s language, what do you want? Norwegians are cousins to Londoners yet they didn’t leave a mark in your grammar; what in the name of the Queen can I do, thousands of miles down the Sahara, to give you the same language?
So I teach them with the attitude of let-the-goat-eat-its-rudeness. I keep skipping topics I don’t like. Like Noun Clauses and Prepositions. I tell them to write assignments I hardly mark. When by accident they ask a challenging question, I dismiss it and assure them it can never come in the exam, and you should see how the four faces beam! Anyway, they couldn’t have understood the answer even if you, you, told them.
The girls! They carry chocolate to class and never remember to get a fifth plate. When they are not chewing, they are talking to each other in Somali. At 19, 18, 16 and 15 they believe they know freedom and rights. Fuck Norway.
All along I pray no one leaves through the front door. I pray that no one becomes curious on what is hiding under the door mat. No one, dear God, should have business there.
My Gucci pets are leather. I bought them when old-school moccasins were just the thing in town (they still are!). Cost me a fortune. But now they are an old pair with a forced smile on the left piece (my mother says my left foot is bigger) and a beaten look like they come from apartheid cells. The soles keep cursing rain. The leather that was originally dark black can currently not go beyond blackish grey no matter the polish. The right piece is comparatively better, only that it has this dented heel that resembles a loose bumper. And then they have this conspicuous rise, just at the fulcrum, where they curve upward like some creepers.
But shoes aside. Our girls.
My many sessions with them and a lot is revealed to me. They are a bunch of innocent girls whose mother thinks you can buy brains downtown. They believe your grammar can improve through bleaching, watching Meixcan soaps and spending the afternoons practicing American accent before the mirror. They are sweet things sometimes though, especially Riya, 17, who has this sharp twinkle in her eye whenever she smiles. Last time she even told me I have dimples, and twinkled her eyes.
The book we study is supposed to take four years or so I guess. Their mother told me to take seven months because they have some exam around ‘Nofember’. I will complete it by September so she can tip me a speed allowance. Then before she realises what I did to her white girls, I will be gone.
Perhaps to take another job that can give me better shoes. Or perhaps to take one where the Gucci pets can proudly accompany me to any table.