Okello’s shoes spoke a plethora of languages. Elegance was one of them, he was from the lakeside. The shoes had a youthfulness of manner that yet betrayed their age, during hot Njoro afternoons, sent satiric thrusts of foul odor into the air. A language only the nose could understand, and understand they did. Upon being stung by the stench we would all peacefully let a brother literally rest in peace, leave the room and slam the door behind us.
The four of us first encountered on the first day of College, when after haphazardly running up and down the hustles of registration, finally met in Block 37, all new and sparkling of innocence. We would share Block 37, and all of us, bar Okello nearly choked to death that night. He was used to his own stench.
Okello the person wasn’t anything close to detestable, he was cool, and easily liked people. Guess his shoes must have borrowed the character from him, greeting every Tom, Dick n Harry without notice.
We dared not head to our room on the afternoons of Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. These were tough time for, the shoe (and us), the sweltering January heat had roasted Okello’s shoes, they now spoke in tongues. Jerry was the last casualty of a Monday afternoon Shoe attack. His two weeks old girlfriend had called to see him that afternoon, and having forgotten that Monday afternoons were Okello’s hours off, he made for a dash back to Block 37 to change his sweat-soaked clothing.
I remember seeing Okello only once during one of his afternoons off. Worn out from marathon morning classes, he would offload his feet the first thing upon entering the room and heave himself on to his bed-a lower decker bed- and convection would take toll. Three minutes into his arrival would see every stubborn fly in the room drop dead. I survived the first onslaught.
Jerry didn’t have to close the door himself when he realized he had interrupted Okello’s off hours. The pervasive smell from our roommate’s brown leather shoes did it for him, slammed the door back the moment Jerry pushed it open. He still claims to have heard the patter ram itself into lock, and he’s certain Okello never rose from his sound sleep.
Nights were our nightmares, however much Hillary stayed away during the day, night had to always find us in our room, as so was Jerry, and so was I. We were still very young then, void of pirating thoughts. So we got used to it, busying ourselves during the day and walking into the welcoming arms of Okello’s shoes late in the evenings.
The shoes caused harm, we had no visitors. None of my classmates would ever lend me a book, not when I would tell them to come for it from my room. And even when they did, one would stand at the entrance of block G and request me to ferry the book to whence they stood. Jerry’s girlfriend only came once that January, I have never seen a lady use men’s washrooms that number of times. Okello’s shoes were calamity. As for Hillary, he had Okello’s shoes to thank for his all A’s in year one transcript. An asthma patient, he was the most affected by the shoes and spent two thirds of his time in the library. Okello’s shoes forced him to pursue his dreams.
So Okello’s shoes did many things. Killed flies, earned people A’s, sent people’s girlfriends away, but the latest was yet to happen; Okello’s shoes were about to send another girlfriend, this time, for good.
Wednesdays were Okello’s busiest days, robbed our beloved roommate from us at exactly 9 a.m and released him back to us at 5 p.m. Human Heath is not an easy course comrades. So fate gladly ushers Okello back to the room at exactly 2 pm, his last lecture bounced off the timetable, just when Angela is taking the first of her very soft sips from a glass of Jussi Cola I had concocted for her.
Okello does what he does best, relieve his heavy laden shoes of his leather footwear, and I saw the heavens descend in that room. God gives the strongest battles to his toughest soldiers; I am not strong, someone lied to God. Okello, now snoring and turning on his bed, has served us the worst. Angela has now choked into her glass of Jussi Cola seventeen times, I am afraid. I’ve tried to open the windows but even the plenty of fresh air outside now evades our room like a plague, nothing seems to be working.
Angela deferred her studies just one week after coming to our room. I cannot tell why, but it’s been four three years now but she still hasn’t resumed school. My calls never went through after that incident. In the weeks that followed, I would wake up and search for her on Facebook, each day with renewed hope that somehow, the daughter of Kerinyaga had finally found herself on Mark’s platform.
I’m still looking for her.