By Okumu Ken

We were psyched up. We burnt the midnight oil. All we were thinking about at the time was books and books alone. But no, there was something else that was on my mind. The money that comes with it. You see, in my first three years in high school, my grades were a total mess. I used to beat not more than ten people in a class of forty. And I found every excuse for it. That there was no water. That the sun was too scorch. That I was yet to settle in. All manner of excuses. To be fair though, my first two years had been a total nightmare. The beatings and harassment from senior students were just too much. We sometimes slept inside classrooms because dormitories were a mare. We were forced to wash people’s clothes. We were forced to dance to none existent music. We were forced to make calls with none existent phones.  We were incensed but we couldn’t do anything about it. I’m not creating stuff. Every time I narrate the high school tales, I’m usually met with eyes and facials of skepticism. These things used to happen. I’m actually being modest. It was much worse.

In my last year, I had no option but to work my socks off. I had to run myself rugged. I had to grind out results mainly because my elder sibling had told me that joining a public university pays handsomely. “You go into a public university and your pockets will be stuffed with coins and notes. Deposited directly into your bank account.” It’s not that I hadn’t heard of HELB before, but the sound of it from someone else’s mouth echoed deep into my system. It made me gyrate with euphoria. Believe you me, somehow, it did. I remember one time staring at the emptiness of the sky and the words ‘there’s money’ kept playing at the back of my head like music. That money became my drive still fascinates me to date. So yeah, that was the beginning of the turning point. An absolute turn of grades!

Two years later when I’d received my lump sum for two semesters, I looked up to the heavens and thanked God. He’d seen me through my journey and heck, I was going to thank myself for being there for me when no one else was. A cool twenty nine thousand was lying in my account. Okay, that’s not much, but it isn’t little either. You just don’t wake up and get that amount stuffed into your bank account. Well, unless you are a thot or a gambler.

I remember I used to walk like the world belonged to me. The feeling was absolutely heavenly. But of course it was diluted because I wasn’t the only one who’d received the cash. In fact, there are others who’d received more. That however, didn’t deter me from walking tall. You see, the confidence that money gives someone is second to none. Hitting the gym maybe. No, even that doesn’t come close. The first time I went to a serious gym and had a worthy session, I came back feeling like I can start a fight and give someone a TKO. Luckily, I didn’t try that out. You just can’t do a trial and error with your body. That’s for the labs only.

I never used to have a girlfriend then. I was in the ‘chasing like a fool’ stage. And this stage I came to find out is not only emotional but also economically draining. This is the stage that girls use to milk men. Boy, I was milked like no one’s business. At one point, I was more than convinced that this type of girls don’t have a heart. How do you, as a sane being, make one, a student, spend a whooping fifteen thousand a night on you just because you have a behind that’s big, soothing and symmetrical?

In a week’s time, between me and poverty was five thousand shillings. That’s twenty four thousand down the drain in a week. A freaking week! Christ. I still recall that with bitterness. If only I could slap myself as hard.

I had spent my money on girls who it turned out, never gave a toss about me. It was because of my money. The kisses I got was because of money. The long and warm embraces was because of my money. The smiles were all plastic. Folks, when I tell you I’ve been to hell and back you better listen. Luckily, I had bought a few khakis, shoes and shirts. They served as a reminder that I wasn’t totally bonkers. If I hadn’t, I would have gotten mad at myself and probably ended up being mad. In just a week, my money had been chopped. A record (my record) that still stands to date.

 

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