We all called him PJ. The first time I heard it I laughed. I often wondered how he could be comfortable with the initials that loosely translated to pyjamas if an apostrophe and ‘s’ were included. Four years is a long time to get acquainted with someone.
In that time, we became friends. We met in class. Standard five to be precise. We ended up as classmates with all the reshuffling of classes that were involved until we finished our KCPE.
He was a “funny” chap. Dark and you could almost say he was good looking. He didn’t look bad. When he laughed, he would do so hard. Humour seemed to be part of his DNA. I can say now that he might have been running away from something. It was his defense mechanism.
One day during the holidays, I called him. We had exchanged numbers to keep in touch before schools reopened.
“Hello!” A resounding deep voice answered.
“Can I talk to PJ?”
I am not sure I have recovered from the shock that hit me that evening. Why was his voice booming? Is it the effect of the waves? I had assumed that his dad or brother had picked because that voice..
The male sexual characteristics part of Science hadn’t sunk in or I was in denial. We were growing up too fast.
In class 6, I tied a number with Sam as we had both attained the same number of marks. PJ was quick to couple us together despite both our dismissal of such an arrangement. He taunted and taunted.
PJ knew too much. He was watching Boondocks when I hardly knew what that was (to date, I haven’t watched an episode). The “dirty” stuff was what he laughed hardest at. They intrigued him.
He whispered to me that he would be a hit and run guy when he was older. He didn’t want attachments. There is no fun in that.
The things PJ was or exposed himself to were beyond his age. He would sit near me during night preps and open the dictionary to words no one should have to read. I would open my eyes wide as I read what he had pointed and he would laugh.
He would open another and another when I passed the dictionary back.
He was bright despite his “other side”. Academics was clearly not one of his struggles.
One afternoon, my best friend came rushing into the dormitory until she got to my bed. She headed straight to my legs and touched them. I looked at her quizzically.
“Kumbe PJ hakudanganya. Yenyewe hauna miguu za figure 8,” she said and quickly left with whoever was accompanying her. They must have gone to report back their findings. To PJ, the theorist.
I was hurt. Badly. We were all in standard 7 and who wouldn’t want to be a figure 8 then? I was highly conscious of the checking out the boys did of us. Why would PJ think he had the right to decide what body I should have?
It is then that I became aware of my body. There isn’t a time I was more alert. I started looking around. Trying to find out who had the figures, the right legs and the perfect set.
I would look at the teachers and students and analyze them to the standards that had been set for me.
He himself had nice legs. He had the right legs. He normally wore trousers but one Sunday he showed them to us. We were lazying in class after the usual services we all went to in the morning depending on our religions.
It was a day and boarding school. Those of us boarding had to keep each other entertained when it was not yet TV time.
For some reason, some of us were crowded around PJ. He was sharing jokes and stories. He was demonstrating how he would flirt were he a woman. Or how a woman flirts or how they SHOULD flirt.
He swung his leg, pulled his trouser to the knee, right hand on the face, batting eyes seductively, he brushed his left hand over his leg. From the ankle to the knee. He thereafter commented on the niceness of his leg(s).
Despite the hurt that kept probing, our friendship continued as I never brought it up to him. I acted as if nothing happened. I was afraid of what he might see next.
We were on a tea break in class 8, a classmate bent to pick something or tie her laces. Point is she was bending. I was sitting with PJ chatting about this and that when he noticed her.
“Acha tu niangalie hata kama hakuna kitu,” he was quick to point out before bursting into laughter.
It was funny then and I did laugh. Looking back now, I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed that I would join him and laugh at her. I’m ashamed that I thought she was lacking a bit more of a backside. What we called flat.
The girl never realized that laughter was of her. I’m glad she didn’t. His laughter was intimidating. You never wanted to be the victim. This might have been why I was comfortable then, joining in as it wasn’t me.
I am guilty of sharing some information with him that I shouldn’t have. He would say things and I would put in my own to come off as cool. He used the information to attack his victims. Maybe, they would be safe.
At that point, it seemed the right thing to do. In a way I was protecting me. By being his friend, I was less likely to be under attack. I’m not sure what he said when I wasn’t around..
He was a bully of sorts. He wanted to make people feel small. Laughter was his medicine to whatever his own inferiority feelings.
One morning, a teacher on duty walked into our class and started complaining how we (candidates) were slow and time wasters. He made the big mistake of using me as an example to show how the we girls, run with our “big buttocks”.
As soon as he was out, PJ was on to me. The “matako kubwa” cracked him up. He, like the teacher, used me as a point of reference. It took me walking out and confronting the teacher, asking him to apologise, for it to stop.
It is with this that I went back to class and informed him that the teacher had declared immediate stop of the “joke”. Outside, he had said he meant no harm in saying what he did and walked off with his cane.
After our KCPE, a trip to Mombasa was organized for us to steam off the pressure of exams.
I didn’t know how to swim. I was in the water because everyone else was. When PJ asked if I knew how to, I quickly nodded. There was a crowd around, I didn’t want to feel embarrassed.
He picked me up and tossed me into the water. Before I could die (that is probably what would have happened as I was swallowing water) he picked me up and laughed. He had confirmed, I couldn’t swim.
Later (in the same water), PJ shouted asking if I am the one “my boyfriend” had sent a text reading I have nice ass. I had received no such a text and I told him as much. I’m sure he knew who the text was meant for as they shared a room but he wanted a confirmation. From me, in public.
We fell out when we joined different highschools.
After the four years, I heard unconfirmed rumours that he had fallen into the deep abyss of drugs. Weed for him.
I remember asking over and over if it was the same PJ I knew. My source assured me they knew the news they were spreading. I hope he changes and I left it at that.
We began communicating last year on the phone. Every once in a while checking on how the other person is.
PJ asked me for a contact of one of our classmates back then. In all honesty, he had asked me several times before and my efforts to get him the number have hit a wall.
One of these times, I prodded why he wanted the number so bad. They tolerated each other those days. The consistent wanting to get in with her got me curious.
“I owe her an apology. I was a dick.”
I smiled. I was duly impressed. He must have changed his ways. It is not easy getting to the part where Sorry is all you want to say. We humans are conditioned to thinking that we are right and the other person is wrong. Ego.
If closure is what PJ is looking for, he might have to make apologies to more people than he has bargained for.