Between is a funny word.
Between. Between. Between. Between. Between. Between. Between. Between. Between.
But any word is a funny word if you write it a hundred times on a small piece of paper. It’s especially funny when that piece of paper fills up and so, lacking no other alternative, you start writing the word Between over the word Between and then over another Between.
That’s what Jane is doing; writing the word Between over other Betweens, not paying any attention to what the lecturer is teaching .
I, of course, am watching her. Not in a creepy way, no. I am not that kind of guy.
I am watching her because I am seated next to her, and when you are seated next to someone who is writing Between over and over and over and over again on a piece of paper, it’s hard not to watch them.
Jane’s hair is pretty.
Some might even call it sexy. I prefer to use the word pretty.
She has these long black braided Artificial locs that fall on her lower back when she stands. When she is seated, like she is now, she pulls it to one side so that the locs cover part of her face.
Today, they are covering her right side, which is a good thing because I am seated on her left side so I have a clear view of her face.
I can see her eyes, intense on her paper of Betweens, and then her hands moving in the same motion over and over again.
She has red lipstick on today. That’s weird. She rarely applies red. Maroon maybe, or sometimes when she feels bold, she goes for purple.
It fascinates me that she chose red today, but that thought of fascination is over when I notice the loop sided scowl on her red lips. However, it makes sense. I mean, no one happy would be writing this intensely one word over and over again on a piece of paper, would they?
The lecturer suddenly stops talking. I look up and see why. There’s another lecturer or student at the door, summoning him. He heads over to the door, and then outside it to talk to him.
A sigh is heard around the classroom, and then numbles, rumors, people catching up.
Not for Jane though. Jane does not even notice that the lecturer has left. She just continues writing her Betweens on her piece of paper, minding no one.
“Hey,” I decide to wake her up from her trance.
She does not give any indication that she heard me, so I tap her and put on a smile when she turns to face me.
I am happy that she has turned to face me, but then almost immediately , I regret it.
And here is why.
Jane’s usually bright eyes are filled with eyebags, and I am not sure if they are from sadness or lack of sleep.
Her red lips, the one I thought had a scowl do not have a scowl at all. They are stretched in one grim line that can bring down even the happiest child. Her usually chubby cheeks are sunken, kind of like those of a famished person.
And her face. God, her face. I used to light up for that face, but now , it looks ashen, beaten, ragged, old.
She still has her beauty though. I do not know how I see it, but beneath these layers of morbidness, it's there, lurking, waiting to be drawn out.
“Hey, uko poa?” I try again.
She does not answer me. Instead she gives me one last look of her morbidness and goes back to writing her Betweens on the piece of paper.
Surely, that paper must be tired by now.
I am just about to tell her that when the lecturer returns, and the lesson continues.
An hour of watching Jane write her Betweens and not hearing a single thing in class passes; and finally the class is over.
Jane is the first one out of the door; after the lecturer of course. I hurry to pack my bag and catch up with her in the corridors of SPA, but she disappears in the crowd of students rushing to get out of these desk prisons.
I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn, and there is Fred.
“Wee, Kevo, uko sawa?” he asks.
“Yeah niko fiti. Nilikuwa nadai kucatch up na Jane kiasi but ako sijui na mbio gani leo .”
I see the quizzical look on Fred’s face. The furrow of his eyebrows, the question in his eyes. Before I can explain myself further, the quizzical look suddenly turns to that of understanding and before I can even recruit him into my mission of finding Jane, it changes again to that one of pity.
“ Kevo, “ the sympathy in his voice. Why is it there?
“Nini?” I have suddenly gotten defensive.
He grips my shoulder, lightly at first; as if I might crumble; then firmly; as if I might crumble.
“Kevo, hujaget over hii story ya Jane bado?”
I don’t know what he’s talking about . I don’t. I swear I have absolutely no idea what he’s mumbling on about.
Why am I even standing here? I should be following Jane. I should find her and ask her why she was writing the word Between over and over on a piece of paper. And why her eyes were sad. And why she decided to wear red lipstick today. And why her face had that morbid look.
I should find her. I should find her.
With that one agenda in mind, I struggle out of Fred’s firm grip; and off I rush to the cleared corridor; eager to find Jane and her answers .
Fred stays behind and watches as Kevin runs like a mad man between the corridors. He shakes his head in pity, and then vows to do all he can to help him.
“Nini mbaya na Kevo?” Tina, who has suddenly come up behind him asks.
Fred smiles at her first; but it’s not a happy smile. He contemplates telling her, and when he decides there’s no harm; he opens up:
“Fuck manze. Imagine Kevo bado hajaget over death ya Jane. Sahii amekuwa akisema vile ati anamwona.”