We were backbenchers. The Terrible Three. That’s what our teachers called us. Stoked on adolescence, pubic hair growing and making us feel like men. We bent every rule. The only boys with copies of Playboy at St. Giovanni High School. Teachers couldn’t do a thing about it. Yes, they pulled their nose hairs about it but that’s where it stopped.
For what he lacked in eloquence in the girl department, Opio Tin made up for in having lots of money. He was a dealer, sold cigarettes on the street and sachets of gin during the weekend. He always had money to splash at the canteen. And who didn’t like a kid who made his own dough? No one.
Me? Ha, I played music; the Adungu, Xylophone and Tube fiddle. I pulled at the heartstrings of girls with these. Music was my biggest weapon. It worked.
What a mess we were!
If you don’t change your ways boys, teacher Mark said, you all will amount to nothing in this world and become a disgrace to yourselves and your families. We laughed it off. But the guy who really needed more Jesus in his life than any of us was Odoch Machol.
Odoch was the high school Casanova. Every girl bowed at his toes, adored his biceps (which he built by lifting concrete weights every evening). They whispered his name under their sheets before going off to sleep and stroked his hair with fingers running down his thick neck whenever they got the rare chance of hugging him.
He hated maths class. His favourite subjects were Art and English Literature. Those ones gave him leeway to express himself with no boundaries. He liked painting women, adding a bowl of an ass to his paintings. He wrote poems too, poems that made our new English teacher beam with a smile so wide he contemplated dating her.
She was a final year Bachelor of Education student at Makerere University doing her classroom emersion. Fine woman with deep dimples and fleshy oranges for boobs. He wrote her a piece. “It is a love thing,” he called it. She knew it and gave him a Distinction in that homework. She was youthful, about twenty-two years old. Trust Odoch to pull through with his plans. He wrote her another poem two days later, on a Friday. She did not return the next week because the previous was her final week of emersion.
Dude was king and prince of hearts. Girls dreamed of marrying him, bearing him children and spending forever of their beautiful lives with him. He would make the best husband, they imagined.
How many girls are we talking about here? Two dozen. That’s the confirmed number in the records. A long line of twenty-four girls, all teenagers, banging their heads from earth to mars, dreaming of being our boy’s wife. Unconfirmed rumours had it that the number ran well over forty. It could have been the entire female population at St. Giovanni. Our boy was a master in the craft of stealing hearts.
It wasn’t just the hearts of young girls that he won.
While Tin and I were struggling to keep our paths going strong in the love race, Odoch was flying top gear with the old breed too. No one was out of his league. He was a skirt chaser after all. Boy had game, the best in the land, the demi god of attraction, a smooth talker, killer with his vibe. Happy to be a gigolo if anyone gave him the opportunity. He would have grabbed it with a bang.
Look, at sixteen, our boy hit on his mum’s friend. Who even does that? Odoch, without a doubt. The guy was as confident as the storm, the only teenager who ran the length of the neighbourhood, old women winking and hissing at him. Oh, how he loved it!
She was thirty, fourteen years his senior. He didn’t care a cats ass what she would think or how she would react. He gathered his energy, all he could muster from the last year of his escapades. His mum had stepped out into the kitchen. His target sat on their grey couch, at the corner, next to the reading lamp, flipping the pages of the New Vision newspaper from the previous week.
He walked in slyly, moved in on his target, her, with the intelligence of a cheetah, sat on the arm of the chair and, in a light and sexy tone, the one he had practiced just before walking in, without fear of reproach, with the grandeur of a little man stretching his elastic daring limits, he whispered in her ear. “You, my dear, are the most beautiful senorita I have seen my whole life.”
Of course, that was a lie. He had pulled that same line on countless girls in school. It always worked.
It worked on Nyaceng, the girl with hairy drumstick legs and a voice so hoarse she chocked while leading the national anthem at the school parade. She was his girlfriend for two weeks. They never broke up, she says. He just walked away.
Those same words worked on Akoth, the babe who lost one of her incisors in a freak bicycle accident as she rode downhill to catch a glimpse of a bare chested Odoch fetching water from the spring down the valley. Word had made it so quickly that our boy was doing a half-naked evening jog, a show no girl in her right mind wanted to miss. That’s why Akoth jumped on her brother’s bike and sped down hill. She peddled like a horrible version of Armstrong Junior and tumbled over. It was a bad evening for her.
The gap between her teeth took a toll on her confidence. It crashed her spirit. At that point, her self-belief was at zero point zero zero, lying cold on the floor, waiting to die.
Poor girl almost gave up on herself twice. Why? Because of a missing tooth. She tried this the first time by over dosing on a cocktail of Aloe Vera and Neem. That’s some bitter shit it grinds your grey matter into paste. Naïve though. She survived it.
And the second time? She drank half a litre of cooking oil. She was dumb. Akoth! She should’ve have tied a cord of toilet tissue round her neck, made a knot on a branch of the mango tree behind their house and hang herself by it, under the rain. That would have served the purpose.
Just when she almost hung up on her life for the third time, depression eating her whole, hiding behind the Senior two classroom block, Odoch appeared. He asked her out. Their date was at the Ice Cream Corner, bought her a cone and as she licked the last bit of it, he used those same words. “You, my dear, are the most beautiful senorita I have seen my whole life.”
That was it. He hit the nail right in, all she wanted to hear. This was the validation she needed. She pumped herself back to life.
Their relationship lasted seven days. Odoch dumped her so quickly like a hot potato and moved on without giving her any reason.
And if you thought that old line wouldn’t hit the depth of a thirty year old woman, you are dead wrong. It wasn’t any different. Before she could say anything as she recovered from the shock of what her ear had just witnessed, he blushed and blew a kiss down her cheek. She was in a daze. It was another move of magic from our boy. That was an easy one.
She had broken up with her boyfriend of five years seven months before and was craving some male attention. No man – for reasons I have never discovered – had asked her out during that time. She was lonely. Homeboy struck at the right time. He always did.
Isabella. That was her name. She beamed so bright it lit the room.
Make eighteen then we shall talk, she told him, winking.
Copy that, he responded.
She was flirty.
His mum walked back in.
Homeboy hit on a girl who was in the convent too. He was a mental case. No one was beyond his limits. Her name was Marie. Meek catholic girl who couldn’t kill a mosquito. His words, the signature stream of words, made her feel like a woman.
And one evening after Mass, she stopped to speak with him. Mother Superior saw them shaking hands. The sharpness of rumor had already made its way to her office that our girl and this boy were unto something naughty. One moment, her face was ablaze with a smile close to him and the next, she was in the office answering charges.
Marie, you are in contravention of rule number three. That was Mother Superior. Rule number three barred any of the girls from getting uncomfortably close to boys.
The next day she was out of the nunnery, expelled for “indecent relations with a boy”.
What special gift had he been born with? Where did all this talent come from? It is said, once in a generation, a child is born with the genius never seen before in his lineage after a combination of genetic variations from a long line of ancestry. I don’t even know what that means. Odoch had that genius. The truth is all we wanted was a piece of his DNA. Tin and I were above all the other guys but we badly wanted to reach Odoch’s level.
He said we let all the girls slip through our fingers without saying a word. Make them feel special, he always said, giving us advice. That’s what they want to know and that is exactly what I do, he bragged. Our boy had the balls of a nut.
How he turned out the way he did is a surprise to everyone. His parents were virgins when they married. His dad, Apollo, twenty-three at the time of marriage and his mum, Akello was twenty years old. They were proud of having kept themselves for each other. They gave talks to the community school about abstinence and being faithful. They dated for three years before getting the bands. She was seventeen when they started dating. Descent man his dad was. Where Odoch’s genes of overly zealous promiscuity and a hyper inflated girl knowledge came from is a mystery.
At school, we spoke about things the average teenager was scared of mentioning in public. That’s how we got our assess suspended for brandishing condoms in class.
Our defence should have won the World Cup. We told Principal John that we were showing the boys how to use those rubber tubes in case they needed them in future.
Not in a catholic school, you spoilt pigs, he retorted.
It was the truth, we insisted. We weren’t spoilt kids, we pushed on. We were messengers, we said, sharing knowledge with our kin. We told the Principal we were being honest about the things happening in school. The school should not punish us for it.
We put up a fight, which didn’t save us from getting one week off. Our parents went red; our mum’s mostly.
Odoch’s mum was active in the Charismatic renewal prayer group at church, spoke in tongues and when she prayed, people fell off their seats and started screaming, manifesting strange things. One man started wriggling like a snake during one of the prayers she led. She was an exorcist. I feared her, couldn’t look her straight in the eye, always kept my distance.
Tin’s mum, a round faced beauty who wore extremely long dresses you couldn’t see her ankles, cut her hair short and wore a smile of an angel. She said her rosary every day without ceasing. You would find her at the grotto praying, probably for her son to become a responsible person in life.
And my mum – oh my mum – fasted every so often, ate only one slice of bread and drank a glass of water at the of the day to break her fast, prayed so hard for the Lord in heaven to save me from the treacherous life I was living.
Where were our fathers in all this? They were around. Good men who occasionally sat us down to give us the lessons on life. My father worked in the neighbouring district, managing a hotel, coming back two weekends during the month. Tin’s dad worked for a sugar factory and he also came home a few times in a month. Odoch’s papa worked long hours in his banking job, leaving before sunrise and returning when the moon was up.
For all our reckless school life, we believed in our mothers (and fathers). We respected them, sometimes. We did not want to let them down but for now, teenage life was good.
We were boys growing up.
After that suspension we walked back to class, Senior Four Blue, bouncing like we had springs down our shoes to an applause from the boys. We were superstars. Girls threw their boobies at us, at Odoch to be sincere. There was an appeal about him, which left the female species gazing and dying for his touch, even if it was just the tip of his finger.
But sometimes luck’s not on your side.
For all his prowess and conquests with girls, Aminata Karim, daughter of our member of parliament, the ever-joyous Honourable Amin Karim, was one he failed to win over.