I'm in trouble. I always am. Ever since I became her plate carrier, I have not escaped from punishments. I serve punishments during siesta and after night prep. Sometimes even before breakfast. From Squat And Fly Your Arms to Ride Okada to Pick Pin and the latest Agama Agama. Sometimes, mostly at night, she just makes me sit idly on courtyard in the cold for hours. Other seniors give non-corporal punishments like scrubbing the gutters, mopping the corridors, doing the room. She prefers to punish the flesh. I'm called her plate carrier, but that's an understatement. I am practically her slave. I do everything for her save to wash her panties which I'm sure she'd have delegated to me if the gist wouldn't toss her rep. I know that because she stores them in her bucket for days until she has no extra to wear. Then she brings them all out and washes them, spreading them on the lines in front of our room (Room 4) and Room 5, pretending to be a Sacow because they are all white.
I am a gutter worker. As if that is not unfortunate enough, I have to queue at the borehole to fetch her water every morning, then queue up in Room 2 among seniors that will always chance me to boil her water. I also become their available J-girl and they keep sending me on errands. By the time I'm done, J-girls are banned from cloakroom, so I have to feign that I'm seeing my period to be allowed to bath at the count of 10 or go to Blue house surrounding and get caught, attracting punishment or simply do rub and shine. When she's up, I take her water to cloakroom, secure a space for her, keep monitoring it to know when it is her turn, while I'm doing my duty, but she expects her bed to be laid, uniforms ironed and sandals scrubbed by the time she is out of cloakroom. They call me a jomo worker because most times my duty is not complete when they chase us out of the hostel for dining. Inspectors for the day come and complain about the gutters and I acquire punishment from the house captain for that day.
While people are taking a nap and preparing for afternoon prep, I am squatting and flying my arms under the hot Northern sun, acquiring more melanin pigments as if to say I don't have enough. Then the house captain releases me just as she is banging on the pole and shouting, 'all girls out of dorm at the count of 10! 9! 8! 7!...' I'm thrown into a frenzy, rushing to change to my blue check and get my bag for prep. I come out just as the dorm gate is being locked and another prefect on duty tells us to squat and fly our arms. She releases us after a while and we run down to class just in time to meet a male prefect already punishing late comers. We join them. He takes down our names and releases us asking us to come with our cutlasses after prep. So while my mates are doing games, I'm having labour. I jab my portion and get back to the hostel to prepare for dinner and night prep.
If I'm lucky, my plate mistress has no punishment for me. That's rare anyway. She will definitely find something to accuse me of. Like the day Senior Dobi decided to eat her piece. Senior Dobi wanted to punish J-girls and asked us to submit all our pieces for the next meal. I didn't hear the announcement because I was busy on an errand. I came back to the hostel with my plate mistress' food which I had managed to smuggle without getting caught and there was Senior Dobi, fork in hand and mouth full, with a trail of J-girls holding up their pieces. It was too late to run. I tried to explain that it wasn't mine but she had swallowed it before asking what I had said.
If I'm lucky, I get to at least choose the books I'll read during night prep. But in no time we are being chased out of dorm again. I have to go to her table and submit her plate for her share. If her share is too small, I have to make it up with mine if not I'll serve punishment. I don't have a fork because seniors are always borrowing it and never returning. So I have to wait for a friend to finish using hers. Sometimes I'm after someone that's after someone. I get to rush my food when I finally get the fork because in no time they'll share The Grace and expect us to vamoose. I have to rush down to dorm to drop her food before I go for prep and I have to do this as quickly as possible to escape punishment. Night prep is longer than afternoon prep. I open my book to study but immediately fall asleep. Our prep supervisor spots me and asks me to stand up. I stand but I still sleep while standing. The whole class laughs at me. I'm ashamed of myself. But I'm too sleepy to save my rep.
You see, that is why I'm a giri. My uniforms are never ironed. Wearing them clean and dry is a big feat which happens only on Sundays. I am always late for every function. On top of that, I'm a bed-wetter. Nobody wants to have me on their bunk, so I sleep on the floor most nights. I currently don't have a mattress because the last time I scrubbed it, I forgot to bring it in and the rain fell heavily on it. Rain was frequent that period and so there was no hope of it drying. One day, I went to check on it and found out it had been tossed. How I cried that day.
The only happy times I have are breakfast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She does not like loaf, so I eat all her loaves, except she asks me to give it to her school daughter. It's so annoying that I don't only serve her but also her school daughter who is my classmate. I like Saturdays too because after inspection and breakfast, I zap to staff quarters, to my guardian's house where I wash my clothes, watch a movie and eat home cooked meals. I also get to eat home cooked meals on visiting days. They never come for me but I have Muslim friends who live in the North. During visiting days, I go to share their food and Kilishi with them.
With my girilized life, I'm unable to read ahead for exams. I always take twenty-something position. It's end of term and I'm in Imo bus, a big Macopolo bus. We spent last night loading the bus with our boxes. I'm happy to go home but I'm in soup. My report card reads 32nd out of 33. I'm afraid. The girl seated next to me won't keep her mouth shut because she came first in her class. This is going to be 9 hours of torture. When I reach home, I will definitely receive many lashes and they'll decrease my sets of provisions. I hope it doesn't affect my pocket money. At least, I passed somebody. I won't let them know it was a tie.
I wake up with a start as the bus jerks forward. Students are jubilating. I look out of the window. We've arrived. Our parents have been waiting for us. I catch a glimpse of my mom and I look away. Tears and shame cloud my eye. I'm in serious trouble.
This is a fictional work based on true life events
Chance: To jump a queue
Cloakroom: Toilet and bathroom facility
Giri: An unorganized person
Jab: To cut grass
J-girl: A girl in Junior Secondary School
Jomo: To rush a duty and not do it well
Kilishi: Dried meat
Piece: Meat or fish
Rub and Shine: To wash face and arms and apply cream and powder as alternative to bathing
Sacow: An extremely neat person
Toss: To throw something away
Zap: To escape