He was called George, just like me, but we were nothing alike. I was tiny. Puny hands. Frail. I was like this tall (imagine a dog’s height). And I was, let me just say this blatantly because it is true, bright. At least that is what my primary school teachers called me. I was one of those pupils who they hoped would be admitted into Maseno School. Maseno was the only national school in Nyanza.
Nobody called me George back then. They called me Magunga. Back then, during my primary school days, I hated the name Magunga. I badly wanted people to call me by my English name, George. They didn’t. They refused, and so did the guys in high school. I hated Magunga because I wanted a more sophisticated, more urban, more suave. George was that name. A name of royalty. A name for kings and princes.
Later on, after I grew up and hair sprouted from my pits, my father told Magunga stands for greatness. A name he gave me after his uncle died. A man who made him who he was. And I owned that name like a birthright.
The other George was called George, not by his surname. Unlike me, he was big, and strong and academically incompetent, and many a time he picked on me. I did not even talk to him. I kept off his path. When I saw him walking on the corridors of M.M. Shah Primary School, I stepped aside. When he came to the canteen or Dining Room, I gave him way.
I feared that boy.
Once, in Class 8, during break time, he found me finishing on a class assignment. For no reason at all, George slapped me. I cried. And some girls who saw me crying laughed at me. Such a baby, he called me.
It was always easy when my elder brother, Deogratias, was around. Whenever someone bullied me, I would go to him crying, and sometimes he would kick their butt. It kept them away. Until he cleared primary school and went to Form One, and I was left behind in Class Eight. Defenseless.
Girls loved George. The bully, not me. I did not understand it. Okay, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they loved him just as much as they loved the next guy. Maybe I was just too conscious about his presence when he was around me, so from where I was, they seemed fascinated by him. And it baffled me. He was too black. Too daft to answer anything in class. Too removed from reason. But they loved him nonetheless. He charmed them with his strength.
I wished he could just die.
For once, my wish came true. He died. And it was not one of those painless deaths that we all wish for. Neither was it a valiant one. He did not die for his country, or for family, or for love, or for anything honourable. He was killed. Someone in a blue uniform pumped lead into his body, and my guess is that he did not die instantly. He bled out. He suffered. More than I did under his reign of terror in primary school.
I was in Maranda. Form Two, I believe, when news came to us that George was shot dead by the Flying Squad. One of my former schoolmates informed me, and from the smoke in his voice, I could tell that he was really hurt by the news. I feigned pain, but deep down, I was glad that he was dead.
George got mixed up with a very bad crew in Kisumu, and they were gunned down by the bad ass Flying Squad, right in front of their gate in Tom Mboya estate. Apparently, a plan to rob some hapless stranger had gone sour. That is what I was told. Some friends said that it was a setup. That George was innocent, and that the police framed him.
I did not buy it. In my head, he had simply found someone else to pick on after I went to high school. He got what he deserved. He was not helping anyone anyway. Just another life form, preying unfairly on weaker life forms, and taking up space.
I know we are all dying. Living is just a slow form of dying. You know, Valar Morghulis. I know my time to dance with death is coming, and my death may be a lot worse. If the Christians are right, it is very possible that I am headed to hell. But George, guess who is still alive and breathing after all? Me. The one you ruined primary school for. I am the the one still standing. I am bigger these days. When we meet in hell, we will square this out mano-a-mano. I am not scared of you anymore. I am only scared you will beat me with experience, since you will have had a lot of time to get acquainted with the Devil’s lair.
Thank goodness this chap did not get a chance to reproduce.
Today I saw a photo of George as I scoured the internet. It was posted in our primary school Facebook group. It is a group photo of boys in my class. I was not in it. Which did not surprise me. I must have chickened out from getting into that shot because of him.
That is why I wrote this bleeding eulogy. I remembered him. I remembered the way this mean meathead slapped me for nothing. The way he roughed me up. Took my shit, not because he needed them, but because he could. I remembered him, and I had no sweet memory of him. I found nothing to say except these three sincere words;
“A welcome departure.”
Death equalizes us all.