They got me that name and it stuck, Dennis white. The onslaught was led by a kid called Chris, half Kyuk half Chinese. Yah, that was mid 90s and kyuks had exploited stuff mpaka China. He spoke fluent kyuk this Chris guy.
Disclaimer: that boy in the pic above ain’t me, i was much whitter in a blacker way, i just googled the pic and among the tags on it were ‘wildlife’! Don’t ask me why!
Chris had a sister called Ruth. They were both kids of our pastor at Thika Road Baptist. Their father was the head pastor, mother (American Chinese) was the Church pianist. Ruth was in the choir while Chris was up and about doing stuff to make his daddy proud, like counting offerings. He joined Starehe Boys later and it made for the sermon of the week. I wasn’t moved!
I first watched Police Academy at their place and their Kungfu mum made pop corn with margarine; awesome!
They once organized a barbeque which I was also invited. I swear, Ruth invited me personally and asked me to wear a black suit for the event. My bro told me that I was not invited; I told him he was wrong, the invitation was extended to me too. He laughed.
On the day of the barbeque I walked to Church from Zimmermann, my black suit on, shoes polished to a fault. Got there at 9, bbq was slotted for noon-ish. I felt awesome going for the barbeque, the first I had been invited to my entire life.
So I reach the Church main gate and found it locked. Went round to the other gate opposite Safari Park hotel and it was locked too. I waited. I waited. I waited. I was getting hungry and angry by the minute. I check out the main gate again and it was still locked. I sat on a rock and started counting the vehicles speeding by. My stomach grumbled.
I peeped through a hole in the fence and you will not believe what I saw; the entire youth ministry seated round a table eating. They had started without me, the bastards, and they had made me wear a borrowed black suit for the event! Wait, how did they even get past me and i was there since 9? Had they flown in by chopper? I was angry. I decided to whistle at them, just so they could let me in, i do not know how to whistle!
I went back home, downcast like an evening shadow. My bro has never stopped laughing at me for this.
Another day, another Church event. Swimming Saturday at Kasarani, now Safaricom Stadium. We were supposed to pay something like 20 bob for the event, i was broke, had a little cash flow issue, so they left me out again! Me and a bunch of other boys.
Old soldiers never die, my grandpa always told me. We hatched a plan. You see that fence surrounding the entire stadium, it had a point, only one point where the metal bars were a bit further apart; we would enter through there and join the rest at the swimming pool.
We were just kids, so going through was not difficult. We jogged all the way to the swimming pool area, the longest jog of my life coz I was pretty sure we would get shot for trespassing. Back in the Nyayo days security was no freaking joke man, you could get shot or detained without trial for trespassing!
The rest of my trespassing bunch were quite excited with the swimming thing. Me, i wasn’t, I did not even have the vaguest idea about swimming. I knew one thing though, i would be the talk of the Church for the next 2 months! I soldiered on!
We had our costumes in tiny back packs. Mine was just a change of underwear. We changed chap chap and the fishes jumped into the pool while the coward (in this case yours truly) opted to walk around the pool. Walking is healthy you know.
Fear started leaving my body gradually till i mastered the courage to get into the pool, the baby pool. Here i was safe, water reached slightly below my knees. I sat in the pool and my long knees were sticking out like markings in a graveyard.
I left after some kids (probably rich coz they seemed to know their rights!) complained that there was a ‘big’ person in the baby pool. Man, i was only 13, that don’t in any way account for ‘big’!
I mastered all the courage i could and got into the shallowest part of the main pool. Chris and the other boys were having a blast, jumping from the diving boards, floating on the deep end. Man, i envied them.
Sticking to what i could do best, splashing around on the edge of the shallow end was the safest option. I wanted to be there coz i could feel solid ground beneath me. A lot of water is dangerous; i had seen people on TV die from such huge amounts of water. Tsunami’s can even start from pools, i swear you can even google that!
Now, after the whole thing we head to the locker rooms for a shower and quick change. I cleaned my underwear and wrung it thoroughly so i could anika it under my bed later. Chris and the more knowledgeable kids had packed some lotion, i totally had no idea i needed to lotion my body after a swim. Bad mistake, very bad mistake.
Soon as we left the locker room i noticed i was attracting too much unwarranted attention, like i was some kind of a hunk on TV. The girls i met giggled and clapped girly high fives. Chris had a cocky smile. I looked at my arms and goodness; i was undergoing a mutation into the whitest nigger to ever walk the face the earth.
My arms were starting to crack up; common sense told me my face was even worse. Old soldiers never die, my grandpa kept whispering encouragingly inside me, old soldiers never die!
Even the bunch of trespassers was in stitches as we headed out to our mischievously discovered entry/exit point. I just kept quiet; i did not have much to say in my defence. It was pretty clear i was a real Dennis White. I was plotting for revenge, and when it came it would be as cold as the snout of a grizzly bear.
When i got home my mum just looked at me once, shook her head and asked, “Eeh, kwani you’ve been to a circumcision ceremony?!!”
My bro had to be collected under the table. He was beside himself with laughter!