I remember the slap landing squarely on my small face, the thud it had, the fingerprints that were imprinted on my cheek. I still remember how he grabbed at my grey sweater from the back, his nails digging into my flesh, before delivering the perfectly timed slap. I still remember it years later.
Yes, I can swear I even remember the madman’s smell. I can still see vividly his dirty tattered clothes, turned dark brown with oily patches of black. He was a scene to behold. Alarming to a little 10 year old girl. It all happened so fast that the teachers we were with never saw it. Only my best friend Emily saw the scene. She saw me clutching at my face, still absorbing the shock. What did I do to deserve the slap? Heaven knows.
Maybe my face resembled the madman’s old enemy. Maybe I walked along the path marked as his territory, obstructing his fast paced walking. Maybe that, because after delivering the slap, he immediately resumed his pace. He was gone. Cracks on the soles of his dirty bare feet hit the ground with loud thuds as he hurried away, as if nothing had happened.
The beautiful school trip to Uhuru Park was suddenly ruined. At least for me. The teachers were with other students ahead of us. They didn’t witness the mad rage from the mad man, who probably thought everyone else was mad, save from him. They didn’t witness the slap that left my face burning with pain, and imprinted by the pattern of a hand that was by then several meters away.
Now, I remember taking many school trips. Like the one we had to Seven Forks geothermal power stations when in class six. The huge turbines and weeping tunnels. What about the visit to Lake Naivasha? I remember the beautiful horizon dotted pink by flamingos. And before I forget, the culturally rich Bomas of Kenya with different traditional huts, topped up with performances from Maasai dancers.
And yes, I remember how I looked forward to those trips. You see, it was during school trips that my parents would go out of their way and buy all sorts of snacks. Oh! Those days of sharing. Every child was eager to share what they had packed for lunch. The more, the merrier.
Yet of all those good memories, this one memory stands prominently. The slap which seemed to stick on my face. The slap which no matter how hard I tried to wipe, just would not clear from my ten year old face. The slap which left me shaken to the point that I forgot to cry. The slap that left my best friend Emily equally shaken, but still trying to comfort me, the friend with whom she had been laughing with just minutes earlier.
That’s why, it is always good to walk together in a group when you are on a school outing. That’s why teachers should never lose sight of their students when on a school trip. Something terrible might just happen, and destroy the good memories of school trips. Every time I walk through Uhuru Park, along the wire mesh path, I still think that a mad man may just appear out of the blue, grab me by the back of my sweater, and slap me again.