BY MIKE MUTHAKA
‘Wait for me’ by Rise Against
‘Adventure of a lifetime’ by Coldplay
We drove around in your dad’s car, with ginger beer on our breaths. We cut through the southern bypass, the windows were up and I could have sworn this was love marinating to the jingles of X FM. You swear you’ll never date a writer. You like to do Sudoku puzzles. You have a thing for socks. Funny enough, I’m wearing socks as I write this.
You tell me about your dad’s gambling problem. It scares you. He drinks. He checks into casinos. He works out of town. You rarely see him.
In my head your dad looks like Mr. Decker, Theo’s dad in ‘The Goldfinch’. But when I finally see his portrait in your living room, he looks nothing like Decker. He looks just like…well, a dad; shaved head, neat collar, steady gaze.
This one has two daughters and a beautiful wife who also enjoys the occasional tipple. His eyes are the last thing I see before you straddle me. My heart skips. You press your lips to mine. I’m skipping class to be with you.
One night in September we stay up and talk till 4 a.m. Everything changes from that point. Suddenly we’re cozy enough to hold three-hour video calls. We’d talk for so long, holding the phones above our faces until our arms ached. Your scalp would be tucked under a hair net, and I’d be shirtless.
Sometimes I dream about you. The last one was very lucid. You were in my bed. Then you rolled off and told me to wake up. I refused.
I said, “If I wake up you won’t be here.”
But you leave anyway.
On text you go on and on about a series called ‘Life in Pieces’. You insist I watch it. You promise I’ll cry. And boy do I cry.
I imagine you clutching a pillow to your chest as you watch it. You’ve put your phone away. You want to focus on the show. My text comes in but you don’t hear it. Your eyes are wet. I want to reach out all the way from Kitengela to hug you. But you’re likely to reject my embrace, because you never let anyone do things for you:
“No, don’t walk me to the stage.”
“No, don’t get me a birthday present.”
“No, don’t go down on me that long.”
Nights I pray about you. I ask God to keep you safe for me. I make peace by acknowledging that neither of us is ready for something serious. You had just got off that train when we met. You wanted to be alone for a while.
I figure we’ll live out our 20s separately, on different paths, and then we’ll meet and build a white picket fence.
I figure that’s all I have to do. Wait.
Funny enough, the classes I skip to see you are where I eventually meet Reggae.
‘No Air’ by Jordin Sparks
‘Kiss Kiss’ by Chris Brown
I hated the way you touched me as we talked. But I forgave you, because we were what, 14 years old? I was growing pubic hair and you had pointy breasts. I remember sitting at the back of the class, looking at your profile. Your cheek looked round and hideous, it just didn’t match the rest of your face.
You were a bad girl. An outlaw, taller than most. You had the guts to wear short dresses in a school run by nuns. You gossiped. You told every girl I belonged to you, shutting off any chance I had with any other ‘budding’ classmate. Take for example our class prefect. She was shorter, and her sense of humor was through the roof. Talking to her was a hoot. I bet even the nuns would have approved.
You liked Chris Brown. You obsessed over him. I imagined you had his poster hanging on your bedroom wall. But I never liked Chris Brown. His face tires the fuck out of me. Sure, the boy can dance, but everything else about him gets my goat.
You love Mr. Brown. You tell me if I want to marry you, I’ll have to bring Chris Brown and present him to you as a gift.
We make out. A lot. We make out because anything beyond that is unchartered territory. I have my doubts, though. It’s like J Cole’s ‘Wet Dreams’ – you give off the vibe of someone who’s had a few rolls in the sack.
Funny enough, sex with you isn’t all that.
‘Sexy Sandy’ by Jackie Edwards
‘Majesty’ by Chronixx
Catcallers in the street called you Empress. Maybe it’s the way you walk, how you refuse to be rushed. The world waits on you. Whenever we walk together you’re always a pace behind, one foot in front of the other with the grace of a real majesty. That walk gets me every time.
I love the way you don’t care. Unlike me, you don’t sweat the small stuff. Like me, you have no patience for my Rubik’s cube. You wrestle it for a moment before flinging it at the edge of my bed. Then you sit up and say, “Mike you’re mattress is so uncomfortable.”
You balance a plate of ugali on your laps. Your voice fuses with the sweet sounds of Chronixx, and Busy Signal, and Tarrus Riley. There’s a natural mystique flowing through the air. Then you remember we never finished ‘How I Met Your Mother’. We’ve only watched as far as season four. Barney makes you laugh. If this was ‘Game of Thrones’ Barney would be your squire. Marshall would be Lord Commander of the King’s guard.
On the ride home from school you speak to me like we’re the only ones alive. You don’t care that the man sitting behind us is listening to our stories, even the intimate ones. Then I remember I have a fire reggae mix in my memory card. (DJ Samkyd). I take out my earphones and we each take one side. The mat crawls out of the city center and onto the highway. Dusk is falling on Nairobi. And at the next traffic light you pull out the earpiece and say, “Mike this mix is boring. OK, it’s not boring. It’s the same songs. You know?”
I make a mental note to send DJ Samkyd an email.
I like charming you with my vocabulary. I use big words so you can ask me what they mean. I like that you think I have such a huge grasp of the English language.
“Whenever I’m near you, you make me feel sexy. You make me feel irie.”
‘Moonlight Sonata’ by Ludwig Van Beethoven
‘The Four Seasons Spring’ by Antonio Vivaldi
If musical instruments were people, the piano would be the most romantic. The guitar would be married to skinny jeans-clad dreadlocked fellows, and the trombone would get hired to play during Mashujaa Day. The nyatiti would be a notorious noisemaker, and it’d bear striking resemblance to Boni Khalwale.
I was stoned when I first heard you play the piano. You felt insecure about it. You were shy.
“It’s been years since I practiced,” you say.
I wouldn’t notice if you messed up. “Anything you play will sound like a Beethoven Sonata to me,” I say.
We’re in the student’s lounge. It’s a Saturday. You’ve never been to this room. You didn’t even know our school had a piano.
The furniture here is uninspiring, just benches with cushions on them, really. The windows have tracing paper for curtains. It’s that’ll-do furnishing, at best. On weekdays the place is packed with laptops and earphones and girls with too much make up. Sometimes someone brings a PS4 and the boys play Fifa. I only like it here because the WiFi is strong. Today it’s just us and a girl on the opposite side, we’re listening to Rihanna’s ‘California King Bed’.
You approach the piano like it’ll explode. You turn back to me and say, “Stop looking at me.”
Then you sit on the stool and place your hands on the keys. Your bra strap peeks through the back, pinching your skin, anchoring those big round breasts. I could have sworn I heard melodies each time I played with your nipples.
You take a deep breath. You push your spectacles up the bridge of your nose. And then you play. And I think: “Gosh, such talent.”
There, in the student’s lounge, surrounded by dull furniture and buoyed in a haze of smoke, you pulled my heartstrings, and it was like we were standing under the moonlight.
In bed you touched me like you were playing the piano.
Funny enough, you and Reggae are friends. And this semester we’re all in the same class.
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