My feet were raw and bloody by the time I reached home. Joseph, my brother, was seated on a couch, outside our home compound. He was scanning an exam script as he engaged John, our cousin, who had decided to visit after school. I moved closer and stole a glance. 80% was inscribed, in red ink, on top of the exam script. Excellent just below it.
I gasped in surprise and congratulated him. Well done, man. Lovely! Your performance has flipped the script! However, as I leaned further to have a better look, my eyes noted something: a wrong. Where was Jesus born? Nazareth! Though I slept through most sessions in church, I knew stuff. Dude, you have no idea where Jesus was born? Just before I offered an answer, trouble struck.
My brother cast a fiery glance. Hey, too quick to note other’s mistakes? Yet you are a toothless bulldog matters academics. By the way, before we go any further, go bring your exam scripts. My brother was passionate about education. And he was a friendly and soft-spoken type. He could not possibly go physical on an innocent kid. However, his tone was strange, out of ordinary. As commanded, I dashed to the room and pulled out my scripts.
My scores: Swahili- 45%, Math- 39%, English, 42%. Dismal, but to me, up to that point, I felt they were solid considering the previous single-digit scores. However, that was nothing compared to my cousin’s.
Trembling, I flipped through the papers. I checked for errors in grading, at least so I could use it as an excuse. How I wished the scores were the wrong way around, inverted; in place of a 39, a 93. A thought of making the adjustments crossed my mind. But seconds later, I heard a loud command piercing through the calm air. My brother.
Shaking, I handed out my papers and as I stood before him, my body automatically broke into near-convulsion shakes, as I mumbled a prayer; trouble imminent. While glued to the ground, hands firmly fixed to either side of my hips, I imagined a possible explanation for my low scores. I tried to recall a moment I had been sick in the past months. No record. I contemplated the dog ate my homework tales. Failed attempt.
As I had anticipated, my brother barked back. My ideas and thoughts came into a standstill. You have missed the simplest of questions. My guy! He shot up and reached out for my arm. He twisted my legs, lifted me off the ground and commanded my younger sister to bring him a pair of Bata, and a sisal rope.
While I gasped for air, my legs ten inches off the ground flailing, my sister came running with the pair of slippers. The quick steps she made matched the rapid beat of my heart. My brother all the while was speaking, swearing to break my long legs into three equal pieces. Words, most of which I can’t recall, poured out of his mouth in a staccato of approximately 100 words per minute.
I regained consciousness a half hour later. My mum was seated on a chair in the compound, just staring, threatening to add more lashing if I continued crying. My right leg was bruised, and my back was paining. Marks left by the straps were all over my body.
Meters away was the pair of slippers that scourged me. They had fully disintegrated, the straps torn. I lay in the dusty ground looking at the sky while still watchful in case my brother came back for another rough up. I swore that I would run from him this time.
That day transformed my life. That moment instilled fear in me. Fearing for a similar experience, I swore to work hard in school. Though this experience forced me to go against all odds and work hard in school, it brought benefits in the long run. Most notably, it revealed I could thrive even in the face of social and academic challenges.
Author Notes: Events as I remember: 2004