By Lerato Mensah-Aborampah, Lesotho
My 5:00 alarm rang too soon today. I need some twenty-four more hours of nothing but indulging myself in this blissful concept called sleep. That is exactly what I need. My sister is sitting across our kitchen table, looking, if anything like the jolliest and the-most not-tired person in the world. She is holding her spoon of cereals in one hand and her phone in the other, watching S.A Idols. She only gets to do this because ‘M’e is in her room, preparing for work. My mother is a huge believer in proper table etiquette and my sister is not. The energy on my sister’s face somehow annoys me. I want to be energetic too right now but I think all my muscles can’t do that anymore. I decide to not look at her and stare instead at my ‘weet-bix’ cereals in my bowl which have sucked in most of the milk and look like mushy brown cardboard. It is not a pleasant sight. It never is.
I am still very tired. This is not the ideal feeling to have dominant throughout your entire body, on a Friday morning (It is Friday!) and when the first thing after the morning assembly is a Math test. I only slept four hours ago, studying for this Statistics topic and I will give myself the benefit of doubt, that my mind was simply worn out and exhausted, because some of those things in my Math book really looked new to me. I do not find Mathematics hard usually. I enjoy it quite a lot and usually help my classmates with exercises. But I was really tired when preparing for this test. Those moments when my mind ceased to take in what I was studying, I inevitably thought about Palesa. I wondered why she looked sad just before she went out of the bus yesterday. My mind ran the little conversation that we had had a few times. We were not friends and we had never spoken at school and yet now, I could not accept that fact. The idea that the one conversation in our school bus yesterday was my last with her, did not seem like an option.
“Yo, Bro!” I am quickly startled by T’sepiso’s shout, “wake up!”
I must have dozed off for some seconds. Ts’episo is staring at me with what I think is amusement and sympathy. She gets up and takes her empty bowl to the sink.
“Molato? You didn’t sleep well, did you?” she turns to me while rinsing off her bowl.
I smile a little and shake my head.
I stand and throw my not even half-eaten weet-bix into the green bucket by the kitchen door that keeps Sajene’s food- Sajene is my grandmother’s pig that lives with us, and I do not mean in the house or anything. It has its sty behind the house. I do not know why I keep trying to convince myself that I enjoy these stuff for breakfast. Sajene, unlike me, is unapologetic about his preference of food. He prefers all food, really.
“You know, you should stop eating weet-bix if you don’t like them- you wasting food!”
Ts’episo is what I would call, my two-years-younger-than-me-older-sister. She acts like my big sister- sometimes, that is. Smiling slyly, I give her my dirty bowl and give her a ‘menacing’ stare when she shows reluctance. She takes it from my hand defiantly and starts rinsing it for me. We made a bet that she could never spend a week without shouting at me. She lost. Hence her well-deserved punishment of taking over the laborious task, I find, of washing dishes. (I make my bets wisely.)
I shove her shoulder teasingly as I drink a glass of water beside her.
“Oh, dear sister- young and naïve,” I speak in a loud-pitched dramatic voice, “you sincerely consider me giving Sajene my weet-bix, wastage?” I laugh.
Ts’episo rolls her eyes at me and frowns. She knows how this always unfolds and she hates it.
“Sajene is an investment to this family. What you fail to realize is that we care for him because he will soon care for us.”
“Nxa!” she hits my shoulder with the dishcloth. Ts’episo, for some strange reason, has become quite fond of Sajene, and not the kind of fondness between me and roasted pork- the fondness of a die-hard dog-lover towards a cute little puppy. She has recently declared herself vegetarian because she claims that meat is bad for her voice, and also something about doing our least to protect the planet. I am still convinced that she will not keep up the vegetarian thing for long. My family likes meat. A lot.
I laugh and hug her.
“I say this with love little sis’”
“Whatever,” she gives me a little smile, “let me go pack my books dude, don’t leave me!” She runs out of the kitchen to her room.
The TV decoder screen reads 06:47. The school bus leaves at 7:00 and Ts’episo and I almost always miss it. I barely see my grandmother in the mornings because when she leaves for work at 5:00, I am either very deep in sleep or in that confusing state between being asleep and being awake.
I grab my bag.
“‘M’e oa Ts’episo!” I call my mom who I imagine is frantically trying to find her dress or shoes or earrings. My mother is usually frantic about a lot of things. “We are about to leave!”
“Bana ba ka!” she shouts from her room.
Ts’episo emerges from her room smiling, her bag hanging carelessly from her shoulder. “‘M’e oa rona!” Ts’episo and I shout in unison, laughing, as we head for the door.
Every morning before we leave for school, one of us shouts to our mother that we are leaving. ‘M’e shouts “my children!” and we “our mother!” and this happens almost every day. It comes so instinctively that those days when we hastily rush out of the house at 06:57 and do not do it, a minute pang of guilt hits us once we have settled in the bus, after having being shouted at by Bra Stacie, our bus driver, for being late, as usual.
I throw myself in the front sit beside Ts’episo and we apologise profusely and promise Bra Stacie that we will stop being late. Some of our school mates laugh. Bra Stacie brushes us off with his hand.
“What is the probability that an average number of all Pillowz‘s students in this bus will fail the Statistics test today? “ I hear the loud, familiar voice.
The whole bus erupts in laughter. That is TK’s voice somewhere in the backseats. I turn back to look at him and laugh. Tankiso is one of those comedian characters of any year group. At any given moment, he can embarrass himself and mostly embarrass Katleho and I. We usually kick him if he makes jokes that are just lame, which is most of the time.
Pillowz is our Math teacher, notorious throughout the school for his hard tests and his failing students.
“Thola uena monna!” I hear Katleho shouting at Tankiso to shut up.
“Ichu!” he is kicked. The bus laughs again.
Ts’episo laughs too and rolls her eyes. She says me and my friends are stupid and childish. During assembly I catch sight of Palesa Tefo. She is looking down to the ground and hitting her buccaneer shoes against each other to a rhythm in her head. She does not seem to be listening to our Principal Sekate’s regular announcements on the current state of the school, the upcoming sports events and keeping the school clean and those. Well, no one really does. She raises her head in time to catch me looking at her and I quickly look away, smiling. I should really work on my A.S.S. I see her smile slightly and look up to the Principal with a clearly feigned look of paying attention.
Friday tends to move slower than any other day. The Math test seems to drag like it is happening in slow motion. I occasionally find myself dozing off and my head is hot from thinking too hard. This Math test is not what I expected, at all. At one point, I look across my seat to find Tankiso staring helplessly at his paper. Katleho, who sits on the far left of Tankiso, looks at me and we laugh silently at Tankiso.
The last lesson of the day Literature. I still have ten minutes before class. I am standing by the door and watching my Literature classmates come in. I am drained. I have endured a double period of Geography, a single period of accounting and of course, the math test we had first thing in the morning. I cannot wait for this Literature lesson to end. And I have no soccer today. I flip through the comic book I found in the library. WEB OF EVIL. THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE.
“You are reading a comic book?” a voice laughs and I raise my head form the pages to find Palesa Tefo standing in front of me, clutching a huge file and carrying her bag on one shoulder.
“Yes?” I laugh, “What’s wrong with that?” I am still making sense of the fact that she is talking to me.
“Absolutely nothing!” she says in her hoarse voice, “it’s just an interesting sight, that’s all. The man who died twice,” she reads the cover, grinning.
I smile and nod. There is a few seconds of silence before I say,
“I need this class to end!” I laugh, yawning.
“It has not even begun, dude. You hate Literature class?”
“Hate is a strong word, I tolerate it. I prefer more visual approaches to storytelling, like this,” I say holding up the comic book.
Palesa Tefo frowns at me with what I think is amusement.
“Ke’ng?” I laugh,
“Nervous Conditions has never struck me as not being visual,”
I keep quiet and think quickly about what she says and what to say back.
“Eh, Rapelang,” she says, almost shyly.
“I actually wanted to ask you, been wanting to ask you, would you be willing to help me with Chemistry especially stoichiometry! I am really struggling with it, and that man- I mean, my father expects a straight A student out of me so-”
This catches me off guard. I do not realise that I am silent and not responding to her.
“Che, you do not have to if you do not want to. Ntjoetse feela- I’ll understand,” she adds.
“No, no,” I laugh almost embarrassed that she thought I would refuse help her, “I would love to, really,”
“Why are you laughing at me?”
“I am laughing, but not at you, kea leboha hle! I do appreciate this. Look, Miss Delaine is coming.”
She walks into the classroom and I follow her in to sit on my desk. She busies herself with flipping through her big dark purple file. I see her grab her pen and write something in her palm. She turns her head, glances at me and I see a little smile at the corner of her lips. I smile back.
It’s funny, how things can change after just 48 hours.
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