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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Stupid Zone Episode 7

The Stupid Zone
Episode 7
I stood looking at the other Richard without uttering a word until he spoke.
“Can I talk to her?” he asked me.
I was puzzled because I didn’t know which was weirder, him asking for my permission to talk to Naomi or him coming to ask for permission to talk to her when he saw that she was with a guy who could potentially be her boyfriend.
“No I am with someone,” Naomi answered Richard.
“Its ok, you can talk to her,” I found myself saying and I mentally hit myself with a pan on the head for my stupidity.
I excused them and after a few minutes Naomi came back and told me how upset she was that I had allowed a stranger to talk to her.
“What if something happened to me?” she asked.
“We are within the school premises and I was only about 200 meters away from you. What could have possibly happened?” I asked her innocently.
“You don’t get it do you?” she asked me gawking at me as if I had defiled a little girl.
“What don’t I get?” I innocuously asked.
“Never mind.” She said and left me standing staring at her behind as she walked away from me.
From that day Naomi changed. She never ate with me and she didn’t walk home with me. She would avoid me if I tried engaging in conversation with her and she started dating Richard from the info I gathered from her classmates.
I was sad because Naomi was the only normal thing in my life considering my situation at home and how I didn’t have any friends in school. However, I had more time to myself and I studied harder than I ever had to get my mind off her. Also, I convinced myself that I didn’t need her, I was fine before she came and I would be after she left.
I still loved Naomi but she had become a total stranger to me. She would parade the school with the other Richard and I even saw them hug behind her school block a couple of times. The year was coming to a close and I would be leaving school any time from then.
The head teacher called me to his office and told me I had been awarded a scholarship to study at Stanford University if I aced my final exams. I was super excited and the first person I wanted to tell was Naomi. I knew there was a huge rift between us but I knew she would be happy for me because that was we had talked about it before.
I rushed straight to her class from the head teacher’s office and I stood outside hoping she would see me and walk out. There was a teacher in her class and so I couldn’t just go in.
“Richard you can come in,” the teacher said.
Most if not all the teachers in school knew me because of my outstanding grades and because I was the academic prefect.
“How can I help you?” she asked me after I walked into the class.
“I would like to talk to one of your students if it’s alright.” I said.
I had thought about just leaving but I would have looked stupid so I sucked it up and went in. If only I had that same confidence with Naomi, she would have probably been mine.
“Naomi I presume,” the teacher said shocking me out of my skin.
I turned to look at her, mouth wide open and she smiled at me knowingly.
“The class is almost over. You can wait outside a little bit,” the teacher said to me.
“Naomi, the academic prefect wants to see you after class,” the teacher said on top of her voice and I heard the pupils laugh.
I went outside the class and waited for the class to end. After the bell rang signifying the end of the period, the teacher walked out of the class and smiled at me.
I waited for a while but Naomi didn’t come and so I went in to see her.
“Hey Rich,” she greeted me coldly.
I smiled nervously and I even got more nervous when her friends looked at me as if they were going to laugh.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” I asked her.
“Now you want to talk to me?”
“Naomi!” I exclaimed in shock.
She was acting like I was the one who had been avoiding her and yet she was the one who had broken off our friendship.
“What?” she asked me.
“Will you please come outside with me for a minute,” I politely asked her.
“Yeah sure,” she responded nonchalantly and I walked out while all the pupils in her class murmured. They had been listening to our conversation the entire time.
Just when we reached the door, another teacher came in, a male this time.
“Ah the cream of the school Richard, how are you?” Mr Chilembo who was my math teacher greeted me.
“I am fine sir.”
“Young lady where are you going?” he asked Naomi and she smiled nervously.
“Go back to your seat right now, no wonder your grades are poor.” He shouted.
“I actually, I am the one who called her out sir,” I quickly intercepted.
“Oh is that so?” he asked.
“Yes sir,” I responded as I started thinking of a lie I would tell him as to why I called her out of class.
“Ok, hurry up.” He said to Naomi.
I couldn’t believe my luck, neither could Naomi because I was horrible at lying and I would have made a fool of both of us had that opportunity come. When we got out of class however, my mind was on Mr Chilembo so I Naomi I would see her later. She reluctantly went back to class.
After school, Naomi and I walked home together for the first time in a long time and I told her about Stanford. She was happy for me but sad that I was going. We spoke at length and she confirmed she was seeing Richard so I didn’t say anything about my feelings towards her that had chosen not to go away for some reason no matter how much I tried to get rid of them.
I made a decision that as soon as she broke up with him, which I anticipated, I would tell her. That week Richard came to my class and tried to pick a fight with me. Someone had told him I had been hanging out with his girlfriend and he felt the need to set me straight.
Richard and I got involved in a fight and I was suspended from school. He was supposed to be as well but his parents had money and I assumed they bribed someone. The head teacher had told me I had to choose between the suspension and withdrawal of the scholarship, I chose the suspension. I knew my mother would flog me to death so for the next month (duration of my suspension), I used to pretend to attend classes. I would actually bath, put my uniform on and go to school except I would sit at the football pitch reading until it was time to go back home.
Naomi had become distant again after I fought with her boyfriend because she couldn’t understand why I would want to meddle in her relationship as if I had feelings for her. Well I did, except she didn’t know it.
During lunch time, exactly a month after I had been suspended, someone told me the head teacher wanted to see me. He told me, my suspension was over and I still had my scholarship if I aced my exams but that I needed to be at my best behaviour. I thanked him and promised I would be good. I was excited to be going back to class such that I decided to go straight there even though I knew there wouldn’t be anyone most likely because they had gone out for lunch.
As I was walking to class, I passed through the orchard so I could steal an apple or two for my lunch and what I saw there made me lose my appetite immediately. The orchard was a few meters away from the classes but for some reason, while standing by the class corridor nearest to the orchard, I could see clearly what was there.
I stood at the corner of the class corridor as I watched her kiss him. I felt my heart shatter into a million pieces and my palpitations became rapid as I saw her circle her arms around his neck pulling him down towards her. She seemed to be enjoying it and with that realization, I died a little more inside.
My heartrate kept increasing and I imagined those who died from high blood pressure probably felt something like I was feeling in that moment. It was suddenly hot and yet I had been shivering from the effects of the morning cold in June earlier. What was really happening to me?
I could not see anything else save for the image that was before me and no matter how much I wanted to look away, I couldn’t for some strange reason. I kept wishing I was in Richard’s shoes, I wished I was the other Richard.

A breeze hit my face on the point a tear drop had fallen and it brought me back to the reality. I quickly wiped the tear away reminding myself that men don’t cry.
That day, I decided I was not going to continue being friends with Naomi, I was not going to stay in her friend zone anymore, not when it hurt that badly. I decided not to pursue her anymore and I was starting my life over. I had realized that what I was in was not even the friend zone, I had graduated from that a long time ago only I did not become her lover but I got stuck in a zone between- the stupid zone.
From that day, my behaviour towards Naomi totally changed and since she was still angry with me over my fight with her boyfriend, she didn’t seem to mind either. I went back to class but I couldn’t stay there. I rushed to the boys’ bathroom when I couldn’t hold it anymore and cried like someone had died. No voice was coming out but I let my tears fall freely. I cried for all the things I had not been able to cry about; my father’s absence, my mother’s meanness, our poverty at home and Naomi. After crying, I washed my face and went back to class.
The months that followed moved slowly but soon after I wrote my grade 12 exams and I was out of the school. I started mending people’s shoes at home while I waited for my results and I made a little money. Mom was happy with me because I assisted her buy some groceries at home. I also bought myself a couple of clothes that I hoped to carry with me to university.
When the results were out, I was the highest in the region and I was told to start preparing to go and study in the USA. I was over the moon. I had not seen Naomi in a long time and I thought I was over her until I met her in school the day I went to collect my results. We only exchanged greetings and I left thereafter but my heart stayed with her. However, I got preoccupied with preps for going to school such that I managed to get Naomi off my mind for a while.
On the day of my departure, the entire neighbourhood escorted me to the taxi rank where mom, my sisters and I crammed ourselves into a taxi to go to the airport. Everyone shook my hand and told me how proud they were of me. I was the first person to complete grade 12 with such good grades as most of the others who did in my neighbourhood had to re-sit for their exams over and over until they finally gave up. I was also the first to go to university, and the first to go abroad and the first to board a plane so you can imagine how proud everyone was of me.
My mother cried as she hugged me and told me how proud of me she was as I was about to check in and I shed a tear or two because that was the only time she was warm towards me in many many year.
The plane took off and I kept peeping outside the window as I saw the heroes stadium get smaller and smaller.

To be continued

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