A prescription for kindness:
“The roof was painted red, sir. Many years of contact with hostile weather had stripped the paint of all its attractive qualities. Today, it looked thick and dirty, like diseased blood. Looking at it from a far one got the impression that a butcher had taken the blood-stained soil of his slaughter-house floor and thrown it all over the roof.
As you entered the house, your breath immediately stopped. The nose could not take in much of the heavy, prohibitive smell of the earth floor, moistened by countless seasons of rain-drops. When the threat of suffocation finally made you inhale the polluted air, you got the nauseating stench of rotten mushroom-obviously the contribution of the dead fungi that covered the walls everywhere inside this desserted house.
Walking on the floor of this house made you feel like sending a thank-you card to the inventor of shoes. You couldn’t imagine your feet being in direct contact with a floor whose disgusting sticky softness made you feel as if you had stepped into a pan of uncooked dough. Only the fortunate absence of the smell of human excrement saved you from the haunting imagination that you had fallen into a pit latrine.
So I decided to find a way of taking my mind off these imaginations. Yes, a chewing gum would help. I quickly fished one out of my coat pocket and threw it in my mouth. Pooh! I had certainly underestimated what this atmosphere of rotting plant and animal life could do to the taste of gum. It reminded me of the day the adventures of my youthful mind had driven me to chew a burnt piece of polythene material. I have never spat anything with so much disgust.
But soon I heard something that made survival, my most immediate priority. From the chilly remains of what was once a warm kitchen came a shrill terrified voice of a captured rat. What could have captured it? A snake of course. I bolted out like a frightened puppy. I could have been wrong. But only a fool would want to know the truth in these circumstances, sir. . .”
They are laughing! I am hot. These girls, what do they think they are, laughing at me like that? How can he ask a question right from the middle of nowhere? But he doesn’t know that he has disturbed me, asking so drowsily and drawlingly:
“Mister Wayndo” like that. . . he does not know how he offends me. And why should such a teacher be employed here anyway? I want to know that. Honest to God, Prof. Reuben, I will join the students for Academic Freedom and see that you are removed. The establishment should be rid of you and your kind of teaching. Aren’t there better things to teach? Don’t you know you are here because we students are here? Everytime I come late to your class, can’t you just peer from behind those thick-lensed glasses, pass a hand over your bald head and let me be??
“Mister Wendo, I repeat, what is the essence of stopping when you had begun? Continue. Or is it the girls you are shy of?! We are running out of time. Continue!”
There he goes again! You see, this self-confessed lunatic is not particularly a handsome man. Undersized, short with thinning fair hair and wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, it is difficult to understand him sometimes. Yet he calls me shy. Again, arousing giggles from the girls. Thin and miserable looking Prof. Reuben with a permanent grievance against life, you must go! You don’t seem to realize that it was sacrifice enough for me to lay down my whatever I was doing to come and submit to your domination and passivity. Isn’t sitting in front of you enough!? Why do you still insist on forcing things out of my head? Always picking on me to do the tedious job of answering your questions. If you want to be my friend, let me be. Perhaps I need to break it down for you;
When I come to class, your highness, I come to think my own thoughts, you know. It’s like I lease the room, teacher, and pupils as starting points for my mental adventures. My brain, you see, is full of memories of things past, upbringing, learning, temperament, passions, emotions, optimism and pessimism, successes and failures, hopes and fears, a presence of mind, and all others. Here in the classroom Prof., I sit down to receive excitement and stimulation. Okay? I choose what I am to learn and when to learn or know just as I choose my friends- it must have something in it which is my personality. You are paid for being in a classroom, and teaching what you like and hate, believe, doubt and disbelieve. I am not paid for anything. Not even a penny for giving you audience. Understood?!
Before your girls interrupted my narration with their stupid giggles, I was in the middle of interpreting something. You see, sir, their laughter, intruded my senses, without offering adequate reasons for being passed inwards for inclusion permanently in my tabula rasa. Moreover, in order to remain a permanent resident, it must come to my aid when I summon it; for future use. Will their laughter aid me elsewhere apart from wetting your dry jokes? Hell no! That’s why I will continue. May I add that it’s not because you said so, but because my tabula rasa rates their laughter and your poor sense of humour as very insignificant and of negligible impact to my being. I make better grades under female professors, anyway.
“Mister Wendo? Are you deaf?”
“Sometimes. . . No sir. Not at all. Er. .. Er. . . I was just thinking. . . Uhm. . . You know. . .”
“Thinking about what!!?”
“You. . . No!. . .Uhm. . . Er. . . The house. . . Yes, the house sir. The house.”
“What has the house got to do with your silence and lateness?”
“Er. . . Pardon?”
“I am asking what a goddamn house has to do with your silence and lateness, Mister Wendo!”
“Sir, I was silent because I was thinking about the house-the one whose roof was painted red. I got curious on my way here and decided to have a peek and…”
“And so this house. . . Er. . . this house that makes you mute when I need answers from you. . . And late to my class, it seems. . . What makes it special?”
“Er. . . ”
“The house, sir, is a prescription for kindness. It symbolises the human heart. How dark-hearted some of us can get, just as the house is described, full of snakes, sir, stinking rooms, walls coated with fungi. We all have such rooms and walls in our hearts sir, but just as the house can be cleansed and relieved of its stench and mess, so can our hearts. The house is a prescription for kindness, sir.”
And then there are these giggling girls. These girls keep on laughing, laughing, getting hot, hysterical and exuding their different perfumes into the atmosphere. The perfumes smell yellow and pink. And that other girl at the corner, she is all buttocks and breasts and thighs and large eyes (on account of shallow eye sockets) and a lipstick red on black lips stained with cigarette smoke. She is chewing gum (but she has bad teeth: rotten). She is gossiping with one wearing tights- that girl, she has a wasp waist, and two headlights stuck on her chest. Her neighbour, a friend of mine, cackles and laughs with her bosom. Whom are they deriding? Me? This intellectual?
“Have a seat, you’ve been standing there for a while now.”
“Uhm. . .Thank you, sir.”
“Tomorrow I will give you a test covering the Theories of Literature and East African Literature, Prose and Poetry and all the tests you missed today. You had better be prepared to explain, compare and correlate these landmarks of literature and criticism. As usual bring your own exam books-five or six will do. Come ready to sit for the whole stretch of three hours. Oh, and come in good time, I might not be kind tomorrow!”
Oh Gosh! Damn him! What a dense jungle of reading! You know what Prof., sometimes it is your stray idea, not the main thesis, which is more valuable. I keep that. My imagination is always in free-flight-wherever it wishes and to a distance its wings can safely reach. You must know that I have the freedom to be irrelevant and inattentive to you. After all, no ‘professor’ has yet thought a comprehensive school system where students are left free to study according to their inclinations and excel in whatever things they like or are best suited for!
And lest I forget, whatever passes in my mind is nobody’s business, sir-not even mine. Thoughts just flash and fleet like newsreel. My mind is self-regulating instrument which functions from within. No external directions can alter it beyond its capabilities without risking a wreck. It sees what it wants to see, remember what it wants to hear, remembers what is memorable, absorbs sensations which fit well with other knowledges in my mental store, sorts and classifies new knowledge, decides by arguments debate-wise the best way of reconciling new contradictions, convinces me that I am right and restores my peace of mind.
So you and your tests can be sought after, later; says my mind, after I have passed by the house again-this time with water, paints and brush. I will only come to class once it’s clean. It’s all in my mind. Sorry in advance.