By Nick Twinamatsiko:
It had become the norm for my P7 friends and I to converge at Mbarara Secondary School during our free periods. It wasn't our dream school. Our dream school was Ntare; such was our obsession with The School that we had decided that N.B didn't stand for Nota Bene, but for Ntare Boys. However, Mbarara Secondary School had its own attractions at the time. Persuading our parents that we needed to sharpen one another for the forthcoming exams, we would leave our homes and, meeting at the school, talk trivia and launch excursions for the Jambura trees that were aplenty in the environs of the school. Jambura fruits, besides tasting good, were effective weapons in the battles for the hearts of our female classmates.
One afternoon, as we lounged in the verandah of Mbarara Sec, we espied some pretty girls at the other end of the yard. “Let's go and befriend those girls,” cried Patrick Kagwisagye. O Patrick! You have been distant from me for a long, long time, but that cry of yours has never slipped from my memory, and it's 20 years now since you uttered it! Something in the sentence – I don't know what – caused a jerk in my spirit. Befriend those girls!
Befriending girls wasn't my forte. Indeed, I used to eat all my Jambura fruits, instead of investing some in the battles for girly hearts. I wasn't insensitive to the charms of girls. On the contrary, I had a keen eye for feminine beauty, and can still recall the prettiest girls of the school, from Sarah Kagingo, the queen of the 1988 P7 class, whose reign gave way to the reign of my sister, which gave way to the reign of Gwennie, which gave way to the reign of Yvonne.
Yvonne was my classmate for many years. (And, when I wrote Jesse's Jewel, I drew upon my memories of her to lay the groundwork for the character Samantha: Jesse's only sunshine…who made him happy when the skies were gray!) Then the headmaster, who seemed to be fond of experimenting, decided to relocate me to the next class, and I found myself in Gwennie's dominions. Thus I became the only person in the history of the school to share a class, first with a queen-in-waiting, and then, with a reigning queen. Then, due to the alphabetical proximity of our surnames, the queen and I always sat next to each other. The alphabetical proximity having spawned physical proximity, you would think the physical proximity would spawn emotional proximity. But it never happened, perhaps because I was a coward, perhaps because it wouldn't have happened anyway, since my takings from Jambura excursions were meager! But take another look at Kagwisagye! If I couldn't befriend a queen I sat next to on a daily basis, how was I to befriend the girls I was seeing for the very first time?
The years rolled by, and rolled by, and then, one day, as I sat at my desk in the 2nd year civil engineering class, my classmate and friend Daniel Mehangye handed me a piece of paper on which he had written this beautiful poem:
'He looks at me and says not a word
But within him is a bottomless abyss
Coz he harbors deep inside a secret yearning
One that stabs his beating breast.
He talks and his words ring true
But they are tainted with a hollow sadness
Valiantly he braves the storm
And prays to God that the pain may cease.
The tortuous pain of love untold
Burns painfully he refuses to be bold
And tell the maiden about his woes
That his sun has ceased to be the natural sun
If the sun stopped coming from the East
But came and went as it pleased
We would understand the young man's plight
And, from passion, he would make a fast flight
Be bold and carry your yoke with pride
An evil mind is the one to hide
To skulk in admiration is a thing not noble
So smile and accost her and say what is true.
With Dan's good permission, I later reproduced this poem in the novel, Jesse's Jewel – for the young man whose plight was in reference was Jesse.
But there is an important point to note: if Jesse had, from the outset, smiled, accosted the maiden, and said what was true, Daniel wouldn't have found the inspiration for this beautiful poem. If I hadn't been 'cowardly', or selfish with my jamburas – whatever explanation you prefer – and had made a go at one of the queens of Mbarara Municipal School, it's improbable that, later in life, I would have managed to look back upon the experiences with the pleasure necessary to convert them into Art. In other words, the choice was between Adventure and Art, and, without realizing what I was doing, I chose Art. If I had adventured, I would have discovered reality, and perhaps not found it equal to expectation. By refraining, I kept my beautiful imaginations unscathed.
Then Facebook came on the scene, and made the forging of friendships as easy as a click of the mouse, and I found it possible, even easy, to befriend the queens of Mbarara Municipal School. My sister is my friend. So is Gwennie. So is Yvonne. Only Sarah Kagingo, that political adventuress, is yet to become my facebook friend. Kagwisagye was trying to rush me. Dan was trying to rush Jesse. But Art had to be chosen through passivity, and the friendships would come in their own good time
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