Kamvi blinked and was brought back into the present, in the classroom, by the sound of a voice. In her daydreaming she hadn’t even noticed the young man come into the room, speaking in a slow American drawl.
“And you must be Kamvi. Kamvi can you tell me a little bit about yourself? And also tell me about what you would like to get out of your English class this year.”
Kamvi straightened herself up in her desk and focused on the man before her. Tall. Caramel coloured skin. Young, maybe 24. Very short hair. Long-fingered hands. Soft brown eyes.
“Well,” she said slowly, her mind racing, “I have already read all the literature titles and so I–”
“Great,” said the slow, languid American voice, the brown eyes still gazing softly at her. His mouth was smiling, Kamvi noted. “I have plenty other books for you to read as well, if you like. Sorta extracurricular …”
Kamvi found herself nodding. “I’d like that,” she said softly.
“Yeah,” he added. “Maybe something American. Some Carson McCullers, Cormac McCarthy, maybe some old Walt Whitman …”
“Great,” Kamvi found herself replying, before finally blinking and looking away.
“You hate everything American,” teased Nikita at break time. “McDonalds, Trump, the Kardashians, even Hollywood …”
“I don’t …” protested Kamvi. “I don’t hate everything …”
And so Kamvi found herself strolling along to the English room after school. He was in the class alone. Steve. That was his name, and he wanted the class to use it.
“I’m too young to be called ‘Mister’ or ‘Sir’,” he had told them. “I’m American, and I am relaxed.”
He had also told the class that he had finished his studying in America the previous year, and had come to his first job in Africa to try something ‘different’. The school had offered him a one-year placement. He was looking forward to spending time with them, he said.
He pronounces my name ‘Caamvi’, thought Kamvi. I like it.
“Er … Steve,” she replied. “I’ve come about those books you mentioned.”
“Absolutely,” replied Steve, bending low behind his desk while he fumbled in the bookcase behind.
It was hot and Kamvi noted how his cotton shirt slipped up his back and she could see the indentation of his spine and the soft flesh of his waist as his leather belt dug into it. Not that he was fat in any way. Slender as a reed, wrote Kamvi in her mind. Tall and slender as a willow tree …
“I’ll leave them all on this shelf here,” said Steve, as he turned towards her, “and you can come anytime and help yourself. I’ll always be here in the afternoons. Take, read and then tell me what you think.”
At this point he passed a book over to Kamvi. She reached for it. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, she noted the title. She flicked through the pages.
Like me, Kamvi thought, as she handled the book.
“Nice title,” she said aloud. “I feel like my heart has been alone and hunting for something … my whole life.”
Steve looked at her for a long moment, and then he nodded. “Yes,” he said softly. “Maybe we all feel that way.”
The tips of Kamvi’s fingers had touched the blue-white skin on the inside of Steve’s wrist, as she had reached for the book. Kamvi felt herself blushing, her skin tingling. She clenched her fingers around the spine of the book.
“Let me know what you think of it,” said Steve, placing his hand on her shoulder.
To Kamvi his hand felt hot, the day felt hot, her cheeks felt hot.
“I really want to know, Kamvi,” Steve said again, “what you think.”
Kamvi nodded briskly and turned away. She hardly remembered walking to the hostel, but once there she collapsed onto her bed, in the coolness of her room, clasping the book against her breasts.
Tell us what you think: What is happening to Kamvi? And how does the teacher feel about her?