Meals in Campus

Maxwell farts. He scrunches up his nose and face because the air is suddenly filled with a really foul smell. Think of spoilt eggs. Think of a skunk if you’ve been unfortunate enough to be facing the wrong end of one as it does what it does best.

Max is thankful that he is alone in his little hostel room because, if there was someone else there, things would just never be the same between them – there are some traumatic ordeals you don’t just get over. He hears footsteps approaching his door and he literally wishes that he was dead. He stands and quickly moves to the door in a bid to block whoever it is from entering.

The footsteps go right past his door and dear Max lets out a breath he had no idea he was holding. He puts the door latch in place – for extra security – then goes back to his seat. As his butt hits the plastic chair, he releases another one. Oh this one is loud. If not for the blaring sound systems around the hostel, it could be heard from outside. Max picks up an oily serviette on the wooden table. He folds it up into a ball and makes as if to throw it into the plastic dust bin just next to the door then thinks against it.

Instead, he rises from his seat, walks to the dustbin and drops the folded serviette there. He notices that his hands are oily as well so he picks up what was once a table cloth but now looks like a mopping rug and wipes his oily hands on it. Satisfied that they are no longer oily, he places the mopping rug – sorry, table cloth – back onto the table.

He then flips the switch off, leaving only the light from his laptop to illuminate the now dark room.  It’s a ploy to make potential visitors think that there is no one home – you know, because of his current critical condition.

Max goes back to his seat and is about to press play on the laptop when he feels something hard on the chair; something that makes him less comfortable than he would like to be. He is in season 2 of the popular Game of Thrones series which goes up to season 8. He obviously has a lot of work to do and is taking it very seriously. He lifts up the right side of his butt and slides his hand over the plastic chair – nothing. Ah! The thing that’s troubling him is in his pocket.

He reaches into his back pocket and retrieves a twenty shilling coin. That’s the change he got when he bought 3 KDFs at the little fat man’s shop just a stone throw distance from Max’s hostel.

Yesterday, he gave the little fat man a one hundred shillings note. The shopkeeper had already started reaching out for the KDFs when Max said that he wanted a sachet of coffee worth five shillings. The little fat man’s round face could not hide his disappointment. Why not? Max was usually a good customer; a big spender; one of the pillars that held up the little fat man’s shop and helped contribute to the ever growing little fat man’s big tummy.

Max’s phone rings. It’s his mother calling. As he picks it up, he runs a hand across his lips to get the oil off, as if his mother will smell the oily KDFs he has eaten if he doesn’t – through the phone. After the usual niceties, Max’s mother mentions that they are eating rice and meat at home, with a side dish of steamed cabbage, just the way Max likes it. She says that it has been long since Max went home; they’ve missed him. Max pictures the food as he says that he has missed those at home too. “So what are cooking today? Let’s see if it will make me jealous,” says his mother.

“Umm… I… I didn’t cook today. We have so many assignments and I have a cat tomorrow morning. I ended up eating at a hotel nearby; chapatti and beans. Their bean stew was amazing. And you should taste their chapattis. They’re better than the ones Mama Kamau makes.”

“I am jealous. I haven’t had a good chapatti in so long. It was nice talking to you. I have to go now or else your sister will devour all the meat before it gets out of the kitchen.”

“Tell them I said hi.”

By this time, Max is pacing up and down the room. He does that when he is on the phone. He thinks of how his sister Maria has already eaten half the meat – despite her mother’s vigilance – and smiles.

The sound of someone fiddling with the door startles him. While turning to see who it is, he almost steps into a dirty sufuria. He picks it up hastily and places it on another sufuria in the kitchen section of the room – another dirty sufuria. All the sufurias are dirty, as they have been for almost a week.

“This room smells of something,” says Max’s roommate in that squeaky voice of his. “Really? I don’t smell a thing. What does it smell like?” Max replies; working extra hard to make it look like the room possibly couldn’t smell of anything.

“It doesn’t matter. It will soon smell worse. I think I’m just from eating the worst meal of my life yet. That bean stew, the one they sell at the squeezed hotel with funny chairs, it’s like… it’s like they boiled the beans and put salt in the resulting mixture without even bothering to pour out the water after the first boiling.”

“I told you to be going to the hotels on the far side. They serve decent food.”

“They are on the far side. I don’t have the time. I’m a busy man. Have I told you about the chapattis they had today? They were white. Shouldn’t a chapatti at least have brown spots?”

“So you mean to say that they had white spots?”

“No. But they didn’t look anything like chapattis.”

“Don’t worry about it. You are just a first year. Spend a semester or two here and you will no longer be troubled by all those things; you will have stopped noticing them or learnt how to wash utensils every day.”

“Listen, man; my stomach is not in a very good state today. I may accidentally let out one or two farts and of course none of them will smell like roses.”

“Don’t worry about it man,” Max replies as he slowly shuts the door, an evil smile lurking at the corner of his lips.

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Silicon

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