I am those people you meet for the first time and we are quiet. We don’t even speak with our eyes or bodies. Just quiet and unreadable like Hannibal Lecter. But not because people like me are snobs, no, us we keep to ourselves for the greater good. Because once you engage us we do not shut up. We will perch on your shoulder like a pirates parrot and be in your ear all night. You will have to pour libation to your ancestors and mine, slaughter a white crow and spit three times into the Congo to get rid of us. So to save you the trouble we do not engage. A slight nod with beer in hand is enough.
But I get it a lot. That I am shy. That I cannot stand or maintain eye contact. But me I have a counter argument; with all the things going on around; like the fly about to be hit by a bus on Kenyatta Avenue, convection around the heights of KICC, heck even the retreating booty of an expensive car into Mama Ngina street there’s so much more to look at than eyes. So I just divide my eye attention span for equity, after all is not that what we all want? Then there are the times I will be smiling when you are talking. Half the time I just made a joke in my head and I am smiling at how clever it is. My head is like a stadium and my ideas are comedians. Each one delivers a clanger. So no it is not your dashing charm and good looks that have me disarmed. I am just predisposed to living in a moment that does not exist.
It was a drowsy Sunday, the kind you get after a night out. The kind you wake up and your bedroom smells like a cheap distillery. There’s stuff strewn across the room, a lonely sock on a chair, a belt lazily hanging for its life at the bed post, a towel you don’t remember using at the edge of the bed and regret all over the dark curtained room. Some streaks of light sneak in and you see a painkiller wrapper torn open lying on one part of the floor. It explains why you have a dull headache like the thud from loud music on the other side of a thick wall. Something you can handle. In bed one leg is outside the trouser, you had unsuccessfully tried to get out of them. The other is constricted like a python does its prey. But at least the top button of the shirt is open and the tie, a strangled mess, is loose. Questions like how you got there are not important. What is important is you got there; you want more concrete answers like where the food is. Your stomach is as empty as your bank account and even the thought of how many times you slid that small card in between the ready slender lips of the black machine makes your head ache a little brighter.
People who do not believe in miracles have never lumbered home at 4.30 am, when the air is cold and stings your half closed eyes and the road feels like walking through wet cement or cold porridge. At this hour the people of the devil are working overtime. They want to either separate your fingers from their Siamese twin, the phone and gather the loose coins in your pocket that Joji of boiled eggs refused because stock was over. To be honest, they do not expect notes. If you had any you would be safely in the back seat of an uber trying to sing along to Alicia Keys or whatever musician radio stations play at that hour. Getting home like that is a miracle. It is your mother’s prayer and her mother’s prayer and that girl who thinks you would make a good boyfriend if you stopped drinking prayers. That one her heart crushes when she is in the church singing glory or something like that and you send a message saying “aki hii hangie :)”. She wonders why you put a smiley face like it is funny and she will pray even harder. Maybe for your salvation. Maybe for her redemption.
You somehow get out of bed, into the trouser leg and then into the excruciating pain that is sunlight. You rummage through the fridge for anything edible, with the way you’re feeling even semi-edible is fine. There’s a blackening half avocado with a depression where the seed used to be. It’s depressing. There’s a thin slice of melon wrapped in cling film looking fresh like a full smile. You take that one to the side and put it on the counter. Watermelon is always good, for hydration. The white containers look promising, the first one you check has a chicken leg in some stew. Bingo. The next one has white rice peppered with carrots and peas. Bingo again. That’s more than enough. You empty the containers onto a plate and throw in the microwave for 90 seconds. As you wait you devour the smiling watermelon. It doesn’t hit you to check of anyone is home; it’s Sunday. No one is ever home on a Sunday: so you devour.
The pinging microwave snatches you from the warm embrace of the melon’s wet flesh. You check the food; the middle is cold but the plate is hot. You’re too hungry to care but you taste the chicken; it’s fairly warm. Chicken is bad when not properly warmed or cooked. You know this too well. Last time you had an orchestra in the bathroom and you played the trombone. There was no standing ovation; your solo was shit. The rice can be had cold; and you’re too hungry to care anyway. You chow it down no mercy tearing the flesh from bone with ferocity like you had not seen food in days. Or it was one of Joji’s eggs that he said was out of stock but had hatched. When you’re nice and full and its around 1.30 and events from last night are coming back you decide it is time to catch more sleep. No sleep is ever enough sleep on a Sunday afternoon. The bad thing about Sunday is that your sins are always shouting in your face that the next day is Monday. They tell you that you will regret if you do not make use of that time and sleep. And when sins talk you listen. You hold one ear and lean forward and nod.
Just as you get into bed for round two of sleep the phone rings. You don’t remember putting white girl by U.S.D.A as your ringtone. The song brings memories of watching stolen tv moments after school and buying DJ Mantix cd’s with pocket money to watch at night when everyone else was sleeping. The screen says its Sue. You’ve only ever seen her pictures on Instagram and Facebook and then lately her whatsapp profile. But you don’t usually notice people until they interact with you. Sue did and that prompted a quick profile visit. Mostly they are disappointing because more times than often the person works at Swag Empire and is the CEO and lives in Kingston, Japan next to the Grand Canyon. But hers was different, yes the name was pseudo which was suspect, but it said she was a student. Her pictures showed a complexion brown like soil of an anthill and a watermelon smile on a face that had striking eyes. Normal people would call her beautiful.
“Hey cutie” she had said.
What cutie you thought. You think maybe mistaken identity. Maybe a prank. But sometimes a compliment is just a compliment and it is warm like morning sun so you just bask; you ask the questions later. That was how it started. Numbers were exchanged and somehow you forgot you had said to meet on that Sunday; so she was calling.
“Hey wassup?” You say like you usually do; in your laziest voice. Like you are okay with getting a comprehensive reply or just a dismissive “nothing” you don’t really care. That is what your voice says.
Perfect. So why did you call?
“You’re good?” You try salvage the conversation.
It is easier to talk on chat. There’s less pressure there or when drunk. Especially when drunk, stories just come out of hiding and you seem more excited. Which you learn is a good thing, different from your indifference façade you put up. You have been told it is the hip hop you listen to; it has nurtured and cultivated that attitude.
“Yeah I’m good. I’m on the way. We’re still on right?”
Shower. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. Then brush teeth.
“Where are you?” You ask as if she were far enough you would ask her to turn back. You ignore the last part of her question. You are trying to undress and pick up the towel and sound like you’re not doing anything at the same time.
“Town. Waiting for the mat to fill up.”
You toy with the idea of telling her to go home. You play with it until it becomes boring then you put it back on the shelf.
“Sawa, tell me when you reach.” You reply towel on waist and one finger on heater switch.
“Ok, see you soon.”
When you go pick her she is everything like the pictures, except she has a little bit too much make up. When it rains she will need an umbrella for her eyelids. But she looks good all the same; a lady that knows how to spend time in front of the mirror. The eyebrows are winged with surgical precision. You meet at the supermarket close to your place because it was the only place she knew. The whole way there your breathing was deep and heavy and sometimes shallow. You had palpitations in your chest and the palms were getting moist. There is always that uncertainty about meeting someone for the first time. It is both thrilling and draining. The mind does not rest. You have scenario after scenario playing in your head until you meet. And it is never that bad; it always goes better than expected. You give an awkward hug and compliment the dress. You say something about the sun, weather is a safe topic, you say how it is too hot and how it should chill. That joke is lost in the heat, evaporated maybe or worse suffering a heat stroke. You don’t mind she is probably running a lot through her head as well. Trying to think if the compliment was genuine and if it is really hot or she is just nervous. First meets are mostly like that so it is normal to be awkward.
You watch a movie and try to figure each other out. You realize you are talking a lot and she is doing most of the listening. The only problem is she is listening with a smile. So your mind wanders and when it does so do your eyes. You can’t maintain eye contact and then it comes up.
“Why are you shy?”
“No, the orange tree. Yes you.”
“You keep looking away.”
You know you never win these fights. People like knowing they were right so you let them sometimes. But it is better to lose the fight with a win, so you pay a compliment.
“It’s your eyes.”
She smiles and looks away.
“So that’s what it looks like” you say
“Shy. It’s pretty”