Missing morning prep had been my usual agenda, but this time the new Warden, Mr. Fluggy had declassified my innovation. As a way to extend my usual night sleep that was trimmed by late nights of akaboozi, I creatively combined two metallic suitcases under my double decker so that I could enjoy the conducive morning defrost amidst sunrise. Before this new Warden, I had established a good deal with Mr Shamzi the warden that handled the last four days of the week. To the shock of all my neighbors, I actually was present and had broken my legendary streak. My sleepy eyes were welcomed by a pale blackboard accompanied by our dark skinned physics teacher, Mr. Owori who had also made a similar sacrifice to mine. The only difference was that he was getting paid for foregoing his sleep and my reward was escaping the morning embarrassment of public flogging in the midst of juniors.
He scribbled the word “Distance” on the board. As soon as he finished explaining “Distance is a product of time and speed” I slumbered into a dream. In this dream, my neighbor was missing, the teacher had a mask on his face so did my other classmates that were seated alone on two seater desks. I thought to myself that this was a biology lesson, but the mere fact that the students were not wearing lab coats was also confusing.
When the bell rang for breakfast, I was quick to jump out of my seat to inquire from my neighbor about the previous lesson. Only to be welcomed by a spray bottle. “…okay!” I exclaimed at Musoke’s reaction. As I thought to myself that he was contesting for the leadership position of Health Minister. It was not long before the class monitor Mawejje demanded a fine of five thousand shillings for not wearing a mask. As I tried to reach out for my wallet to make the payment, I found it missing. Before I could express my dismay Mawejje told me to present my left wrist. To my shock, he scanned my watch and it showed a balance of forty five thousand shillings.
I later discovered that this device that resembled a watch was a health tracker, that monitored my body temperature and was also used to facilitate mobile payments. Money was now illegal. The balance was an indicator of the biweekly deposit of pocket money from the bursary. All this unravelled before my eyes as Musoke started to explain at a high volume while seated two desks away from me. He used a term called the “new normal” and said that the government had allowed us to report being finalists.
The device on my hand would buzz each time I was within one foot distance of another person. This was to remind me that I was too close. Unawares that I was dreaming, my mind rushed back to the topic that lengthened my night. It was a conversation with my roommates of how we were going to Gayaza High over the weekend for the Annual Interact Function. To my dismay Musoke told me that functions were also prohibited.
My entire world paused because all that was bothering me was fulfilling my promise to Linda, my girlfriend, who I promised to visit because I missed the debate function, so I had to make up for this gap because her and I had agreed to visit each other once a term and the penalty for this omission was to write a letter every after three days as a compensation. Writing was expensive in the long run because I did not have a good handwriting so I had to hire a friend and subscribe to the mailing service. Linda never accepted me to share an envelope with a friend that was equally writing to Gayaza. She perceived this as an insult to her worth.
It had now become evident that I was not going to be able to make up for the opportunity I had lost to spend time with Linda. Communal sports had been banned, it was illegal to have night conversations as the trackers on our hands were programmed to deduct a fine off our pocket money and credit one’s school fees account if one’s pocket money was insufficient.
Despite all these restrictions, writing mail was acceptable. To me Linda had become the most important thing in my world and not hearing from her was something I could not forgive myself for doing. After receiving her letter which acknowledged that she missed me a lot and that her constant longing to see me was the only obstruction between her success in the forthcoming Uganda Certificate Examinations. This message was a reassurance from my love and an affirmation of the bond that connected the two of us.
After two weeks of reading letters, it was high time I acted. I made up my mind to go to Gayaza High. With the tracking device on my hands and the impenetrable security procedures across the entire country, my adventure required a leak proof plan. Overcoming my tracker was not the difficult part because all I had to do was to steal a mouse from the biology lab and negotiate with Musoke who was doing ICT to hack the program running the tracker and keep the mouse in a container in the classroom so that the security is convinced about my location.
The success of the location bypass left me with one challenge, to figure out my way to Gayaza. My friendly nature had won me friendships with some of the non teaching staff. On one occasion when I stayed in the dorm, I witnessed an illegal transaction of cigarettes in between the Warden, Mr Shamzi and the senior Monitor. In exchange for my silence, I was offered sleeping rights. Mr. Shamzi also served as the school driver and was responsible for transporting school teachers to sister schools so as to facilitate seminars.
Despite Mr. Shamzi’s assiduous rejections to my proposal that was to be executed on Thursday, since it was the day when our school participated in a Mathematics teacher exchange program, my desire to see Linda did not fade. Finally when Mr. Shamzi accepted, Musoke assisted my escape, the mouse that we had now kept for a week was being fed on my morning breakfast bun and was the perfect substitute because of its body temperature (homeothermic). I hid in Mr. Shamzi’s boot and had earlier communicated with Linda on how we shall meet in the guest’s washrooms. In my mind, I perceived myself with the wits of Michael Scofield the protagonist in the award winning series Prison Break.
Upon arrival at Gayaza High, the security was authorised to do a holistic investigation. This did not bother me, because I felt invisible in my position. The guest teacher Mr. Otti, who was to facilitate the seminar at Gayaza High was checked and so was Mr. Shamzi. All the doors were to be opened. The only fault in my plan was that I was ignorant that the security was supposed to open the car’s trunk. I remember hearing excuses from Mr. Shamzi as he tried to divert the security officer with excuses that the boot was faulty. I quickly started sweating only to be woken up by a huge slap on my cheeks from Mr. Owori, the physics teacher whose class I was attending in reality.
To the surprise of my neighbors, I was happy and rejoiced. When I looked around, the two-seater benches were filled, there were no trackers on my classmates’ wrists and I was assured that Saturday was going to find me in Gayaza. The only person I was thinking about, was Linda. The speed with which our hearts pumped when proximal, could not be erased by time and distance that were physical elements of this world.