Dolly Gitonga. Spirited woman. The best lecturer I’ve met so far. Nothing would stop her from teaching an enjoyable English class. Not even if it spelt JET. And therein lay the problem. JET shared ENGLISH 1106 in classroom A in the Spring of 2009.
JET was ostentatious and working against Dolly’s mettle. J had no part as far as she was concerned. The E and the T seemed to be the real issue. She was noting odd trends. Odd to the point that she thought we did it deliberately to annoy her. It looked something like this.
For two consecutive weeks, Turi and I came to class dressed in the same colors. It was the craziest coincidence. I too was intrigued by this and wondered if Turi had a role in any of it. I even dared to imagine that she was spying on me as I left my hostel and ran home to change to what she had seen me dress in. The idea was far from possible. We lived distances apart and arrived at school independently. Still, there it was; red on Monday and Blue on Wednesday. Then brown and Red again the following Monday and Wednesday respectively. What Miss Dolly thought of this remains unknown. However, it was clear as day that she had taken notice.
We arrived in class together, on time. And strangely enough, also together for the two days we were late. We missed the same number of classes for the same reason. Theater. We were main characters in the award winning play, Gold, staged at the drama festival. We asked for two days away from class because of the acting.
Her observations grew. In the mid-quarter exam, Turi and I scored the same mark. To top the creepy list, we even failed the same questions. She almost put up an argument only to recall that we were seated rows apart on the day her English paper was administered. She gave us a quiz after the exam and Turi and I, in the entire class of about twenty five, were the only ones who scored everything. The chances were credible so she let it pass.
The final straw was imminent. This one would give Dolly the evidence she desired. She would reach her boiling point of incredulity and declare her verdict from all she had observed. We handed in our final quiz and waited to receive our term papers. The semester had neared a close. The ruckus from the class proved it. I handed my answer sheet and resumed my seat. Dolly seemed oblivious to the fact that I had noticed her put it aside. As the last person handed in their sheet and sat down, Dolly made her first move. She pulled out the marked and graded term papers from a huge A3 brown envelope.
“Ernest and Waturi!”
An announcement. No, an acknowledgement. A question? I couldn’t quite put my finger on the inflection in her voice and what it meant.
“Ernest and Waturi!” she repeated.
This time, the class fell mute. It was as if someone had pulled the plug and denied the room power to speak. Was she going to thank us publicly for being her best students this semester? I would dwell on that fleeting fantasy until she pulled out both our term papers and showed them to the class.
“What do you think this is?” she asked in an almost bemocking tone.
It hadn’t registered as to why she was suddenly annoyed. Then it did. From my seat, I examined both term papers. They were in every way similar save for the name and school ID number. Same page set up. Same green binding page. Same font. Same size. Same school logo. Same everything! Even same score. 27 out of 30.
I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Surely, there were other term papers that bore similar characteristics. I looked at the pile of the other students’ work. All blue and red binding pages. Not that she had asked for blue and red to be the binding pages. It was just pure coincidence that the rest of the class somehow chose blue and red while Turi and I declared our love for nature’s colour. Both term papers doubtlessly stood out.
Another coincidence? Dolly would buy none of it.
I was inordinate enough to try explain.
“It’s just a coincidence,” I said with a shrug.
That cost both of us. She deducted two marks from each of our papers and handed them over.
“You two have the highest scores in this class, I just don’t understand why you’re playing these games.”
To respond would be unwise if not fatal. 27 down to 25 was punishment enough. After class, Turi and I looked at each other and just burst out laughing. That was the weirdest streak of similarity we had ever experienced.
Twins, Dolly had called us. She would take back the comment when we both scored strong As in her class. One and a half years from then, she would bump into us walking hand in hand from the library and remark how she saw it bud. A brief conversation with her and she would register awe in her face when she discovers that we both got into student politics and both won the seats through successful campus campaigns.
Yet in our time spent in USIU there was much more that Dolly Gitonga would never know. She wouldn’t know that we both took the Spanish minor and that we both could speak French and the Latino language fluently. She would never know that we intend to use both to spread the love of J. She would never know that we would graduate at the same time and she would certainly not know that in all this coincidence, J was simply setting the stage for something beautiful. It was JET in the making. And the creator was preparing stories like this to be shared. So that the listeners and readers may believe in love, believe in its power, believe in hope and believe in good. Everybody has their story. We have our story. Only difference is, we didn’t create ours. We trusted someone bigger than us to craft it for us. And J looked, we looked, the world looked and said, “It is beautiful!”