Some of the words used to describe this year’s remake of the Chinese legendary warrior movie were “boring, over-hyped, overrated, awkward, unconvincing and cringe-worthy”. Now, the dictionary version of cringe is to bend one’s head and body in fear or apprehension or in a servile manner. To cringe, in the way they mean, is to dislike something so much that your body curls itself away from said thing. That someone took their time to use this word, would mean they physically hated Niki Caro’s remake so badly that their bodies, independent from their brains, decided to get away from it, which is much if to say unbelievable. Yes, it was not as good as the ’98 version, but most live action remakes [in this case the lack of Mushu] rarely measure up.
Mulan is a 16-year-old girl who tries to hide in a world of men while her chi reigns supreme above all the male species she encounters. She lives by three pillars; loyal, brave and true. Maria said she was brave to open her heart, loyal to all who she gave it to and true to herself. I could not help but liken her to the legendary warrior.
When Maria joined high school, she was 13 years old and younger than most of the students in her class. She was in fact, one of the youngest people in the school. Her physique did not help either, since puberty was just hitting her which meant she was still small on most parts. But she was smart, and even though boys rarely liked smart girls, she did not seem to mind [gerrit?].
She knew from a young age that she was not normal. Granted, no one ever feels normal to my knowledge, but she actually knew she wasn’t. She didn’t like the same things as her friends. First off, she calls them childhood acquaintances, since she feels like she never made any real connections with the so-called friends from younger ages.
“Going to high school meant I had a clean slate. I was not going to hide,” she tells me. She however found herself at a disadvantage. A small smart girl. Boys had nothing to say to her as young since she was still as flat chested as they come and did not like the same things as them anyway. She loved books, a little quiet and a whole lot of nature. Girls in her class liked boys, which meant they too liked loud and dirt and balls (watching for the girls and playing for the other gender) and holding hands. She rarely made any friends, which meant her time was spent alone.
“I started using the library at around week 3 when I realized everything was not as I had hoped. I was doomed to a life of solitude and I was just making my peace with that when Jack appeared to me,” she tells me.
Meeting Jack came as a surprise to both of them. Jack was everything she wanted. Read books, loved the quiet and enjoyed looking at trees and rolling in the grass. Jack was perfect. Jack had a gap in the teeth and always kept the shirt tucked. Neat was her second language. They got along quite well and were soon spending lots of time together.
Basically, this story is going as you expect stories to go. But I am not seated here in the cold with no coffee in my hand to write an ordinary story. Jack had a secret. They shared this secret, Jack and Maria. “It was like we both knew this thing weighed between both of us even before we first spoke. Even before I laid eyes on Jack, I knew it, and Jack knew. It connected us, that we kept this one thing to ourselves, and because we never spoke of it, it was almost sacred.” I like secrets. They give me an edge over the rest of the population. I have one rule on them; don’t tell, because they lose this power immediately you share them. You no longer have the one thing that only you knew. A secret shared is not worth two in the bush. It is worth nothing. Today’s little nugget of wisdom? Keep your secrets, kids. Unless you are telling me of course (wink).
Touch was her favorite sense. When Jack would lean over her shoulder in the library, reading a favorite passage. Passages she can recite by heart to date. When Jack’s little finger would graze hers unintentionally as they were both engrossed in a classic Austen. When Jack read to her, it was like touching her very soul. “We didn’t know it was happening, while being aware of everything in each single moment.” They were doomed to be in love with each other’s souls.
The moment that broke the pot happened on a Thursday afternoon. Thursdays were class library days for form ones. What Jack was doing in the library that day can be found in a rat’s arse. They did not share a table. “It was becoming too obvious that we were into each other, so we decided some distance in public would help put some suspicions to death,” she tells me. [It sounds eerily similar to some high society Jane Austen plot if you ask me]
Maria stood to find a book. Jack stood too, probably out of reflex, and followed. “I pulled the book I needed from the shelf and there she was, looking at me. ‘Stay there. Be quiet’ she told me. I didn’t move. She came to the row I was on, turned me by my shoulders and placed her lips on mine. If there was a time to say I genuinely froze, it was then. Until I kissed her back.”
She cannot tell how long the stood there, lip-locked with a forgotten encyclopedia between them in her hands. “I only remember the gasps. I can still hear them today,” she says.
In their temporary escape from reality, a classmate had come in search of the same book that was miserably failing to act as a barrier and had quickly called for other spectators.
“The next thing I remember was being pushed into the bookcase and Jack fleeing from me. I also remember feeling cold. Not from the weather, but from dread. It was the end of something that had barely began.”
If this was a perfect story, we would say Maria got the conversation she needed. The conversation that cleared things up. That had Jack tell her why she did what she did, or at least had her apologize for letting the whole school believe that she pushed herself up on Jack and forced the kiss. It would have had Jack explain why she lied to their parents when they were called to the school to explain the “demonic behavior” as the discipline mistress had it so well put. Maybe, all the nineteen times that Maria tried to get Jack alone to talk about it would have given her an answer instead of jeers and insults and accusations of stalking, writing “secret love letters” (that she still does not understand where they came from) and branding of filthy, filthy names. Names that she asked me not to repeat because she can barely stomach the thought of them, leave alone seeing them associated with her one more time.
“I have always liked girls. I grew up crushing on Melissa Joan Hart on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and the Spice Girls. So I kinda knew I was of the community, I just never expected my first chance at opening the blood pumper would be so chaotic and full of all it had. I wish it was different, but it also made me braver. It forced me to learn that nothing can come at me and defeat me. So, in a way, Jack gave me bravery without knowing it. I also knew that hiding helped nothing, I mean, you can stay in if you aren’t ready, but immediately you feel ready, all you need to do is be true to yourself and everything else will fall into place.”
She says she knows it is difficult. That knowing what you want and actually going for it are two separate things that can seem worlds apart, but they aren’t. She describes truth and loyalty as neighbors who don’t know each other until one steps out and decides to meet the other. “Once they meet, all you need is the bravery to face anything and all things that come at you.”
Mulan is her favorite movie. The animation, not the Niki Caro version. “Mulan is in a world that she needs to come out on top of. If she fails, everything goes to shits. If one of the boys finds out she is a she, I mean, look at what happened to me. So she holds her secret until she is at the precipice, just waiting to tip over, to turn herself in. She waits until they know how loyal she is to the cause, how brave she has been through the bathroom trips and sleeping in a dorm-like situation with filthy, crude men, to show them her true self. And she does it like a freaking boss. I think we can all learn something from her,” she says.
I think we can learn something from both of them.
[I’m keeping my promises now. Cool, huh?]
We all have at least one anecdote from this specific Pizza Inn. You know the one, right? You have waited outside of it for some late Cathy who told you they would be there by 2pm but it is now 3:42 and the small of your back has started singing, or you have bought ice-cream at the Creamy Inn then realized you would have gotten 2 for a cheaper price. You have broken hearts walking along it and love has been declared in between its tables. It’s crazy how many stories I have been told that detoured in there, and amazing that such a small expanse can hold hostage so many memories. So many chances either left in line or with one of the watch people looking into bags. God knows what secrets those guards have seen to date. That would be a story, huh!
Their first date was in this hustle and bustle just after high school. None of them had joined campus yet. They were both fresh into life and looking for someone to love. Someone to die for. Their union, blessed by a mutual friend who thought they would be good together, was filled with sparks from the very beginning.
He tells me this story on the day before her birthday. Maybe he was reminiscing on the times they had together. Maybe he was thanking the universe for getting him out of it. He said it in passing, like it didn’t really matter that he still remembered her birthday. Like it was out of reflex. Something his brain had trained itself to remember. He suggested that it would be something if the story was posted then. But hey, I’m not here to grant wishes. Write to Santa for that.
Anyhow, he had gone out to a party with this girl whose name is not important since she will not be mentioned again as this story develops. While there, the Cupid impersonator told him the unnamed girl wasn’t good enough for him, and that she would shoot him in the right direction. “She hooked me up with two chics [girls, not chicken]. One who was in the States and the other who was in Nakuru,” he tells me. “Being a logical dude, I thought Nakuru was closer, so I opted for the one who was nearer…and yeah, that’s when it started, on August 7th”.
Their vibe was insane! They liked the same things, and disagreed on a few. Life had hit her fast which meant she was doing what any young adult would: Getting away. She was in Nakuru when he first made contact, and they had not yet met by August 14th when he asked her to be his girlfriend. “It was crazy! I had never seen this chic in person. I had only seen like one or two photos of her. We were vibing on like level 1,000. There were late night texts, I would wake up at 3am thinking of her and then I find her online and we would talk…so yeah, 2015, August 14th, we started dating officially.” It went on for a while, till she came back from Babylon.
They met in September at Pizza Inn-Moi Avenue (commonly Pizza Inn Archives). Originally from Karatina, she was new to the city so she was escorted by her friends. “Afterwards, we went to her brother’s place where we chilled and had a good time. I was an 18 year-old in the city, living the fast life.” Her brother lived in Ngara where he would go, spend time with his girlfriend then leave at around 9pm. You know the feeling when you are in town and you have just realized your phone has been pickpocketed? Not the initial shock when your brain is still trying to grasp at the flimsy strands of the loss…no. The one you get when you have already realized it, the shock has passed and now, right before you accept the situation and walk in to the first sim card replacement shop you see. That feeling of abandonment. Of defeat. Right before acceptance when all that goes on in your head is “What the fuck am I to do now?” That is the feeling he gets when he recalls he was walking around Ngara at 9pm with all the atrocities that this Nairobi has to offer. [I didn’t get it either]
Things happened. Things that he told me. Things that I will tell some of to you. But first, let’s talk names. There won’t be any. But if I was to pick and because my mind is still in a slump, the best I could have done is Jack, because Bauer is my childhood version of Shwarzenegger [consider this your weekly useless fact]. I hope you keep up.
She joined college, in Murang’a. Yes, people. This was not the Babylonian exile as you can tell. She came back after much less than the expected 70 years and they could now meet on their own terms albeit with a couple of hiccups. “We didn’t have a place to stay so we would depend on people’s houses, ask friends if they could steal a few moments of privacy behind their walls.” If walls could speak…
They were together one weekend in early November.
“As she was about to leave, she called this guy and she’s like, ‘can you pick me up at the stage?’ and I’m like…why are you asking someone to pick you at the stage? And she’s like, ‘you know it’s late, I’ll get there late and I need to be safe’ or something like that. So, I was like ‘okay, cool’. I thought it made sense since she was thinking of her safety.” But shit hit the fan.
She started ghosting him. No, parents. She did not die. Calm your areolas. It’s amazing how one thing can mean something totally different to different generations.
“You can tell when someone is not the same,” he says. In his honor, we will change the storytelling tactic just a little bit.
Okay. Picture a frat house, about 11 guys [he may have exaggerated, who knows?] This is where she hangs out when away from him.
He decides to put on Sherlock’s hat between Nov 25th and 27th in the ruse of surprising her. “The surprise was an investigation kind of thing.” He admitted. His friend who was dating someone else then [which is why he trusted him] stayed in this frat house too. “I had just turned 19. I trusted people still.”
He hides in the bathroom at the frat house, waiting for her. She arrives and starts hugging all 11 dudes, but they know there is more than just slippery walls, tainted floors and several pieces of unfinished soap in that bathroom so they do not hug her back. She asks why no arms are wrapping around her a couple of times until she sees his shoes and asks where he is. “She came to the bathroom, hugged me and we went outside to talk.”
Outside the frat house, she deletes some texts on her phone while he watches, probably from the corner of his eye. They go back in and “have some serious sex” after which she says she was going to her friend Washington’s place, about one or two floors above the frathouse. She leaves her phone.
“She had deleted texts from this other guy; George, but forgot about Washington’s chats [rookie mistake], so I took screenshots and sent them to my phone then went to sleep.”
She comes back at midnight, asking why he went through her phone. “I didn’t think that that was the issue at the time. She was cheating one me.” He cried. It was bad, I mean, it was still Friday, and he was one of those kids [I was one too] who received pocket money weekly, at the beginning of each one. Which meant he had no money to go back to Nairobi with, he could not ask her for money because they were just broken up and pride stood tall, and the frat dudes would definitely be no help. It was a long 24 hours, but he made it through. “It felt like a lifetime. I went back, did my exams, failed miserably and went into my whoring phase.”
She reached out in January and because affairs of the heart are a mystery to us all, they got together in the new semester. His parents gave him the rent for the whole semester which he, being the boy in love that he was, used it all up on her. The word he used was “squandered”.
Sometime afterwards, there was some bam-chicka-bow-wow and the diddy was done. She asked the question and he said yes. He suggested the emergency pill Postinor-2 (P-2) but she basically shrugged it off, in so many words. 2 weeks later, she hits him with a positive pregnancy test. He ditched classes completely and they stayed at his uncle’s place in Lang’ata while they figured shit out. He reached out to a nurse aunt who he thought was cool to get them meds from the hospital she worked at. She was definitely not cool.
Nurse aunt snitched to his mom who in return called him fuming at the nostrils. After she calmed down, she sent him 5 thousand bob which they used at a clinic near Thika Road Mall in May.
“We were okay for a while, until I started liking this other chic from school. When she found out, she lost it and we broke up. The chic I started liking is currently dating my uncle [story for another time] and I don’t know where I am going with this story. I am now dating an amazing girl and things are not bad. I mean they are bad right now but, isn’t that every relationship?” [I don’t know, you tell me]
As an afterthought, he says, “Oh, and don’t use original names. People will read this blog even in 50 years and I don’t want to be brought down.”
I mean, first of all, thank you for hoping people will still want to hear from me in that era, and secondly, this ain’t my first rodeo.
[Guess who’s back (back-back) back again (gain-gain). You should have sung that.
PSA: I am not receiving any more stories since I want to first finish the ones you guys paraded in my inbox with. I’m also thinking of adding Sunday as an additional posting day just till I’m done dishing the currently available stories. Wait for the link.
PS. I missed y’all. Kisses]
Please don’t send any more stories yet. Please. I appreciate you all so much.