She starts off with a ballad. Professing her deepest desires. The ballad is of other people. People living their lives, creating mental pictures and passing messages. She sings this song for a little over a minute, until you realize the whole thing is one huge ballad. “Back then I thought that all you needed to do was have a good voice, turn on the microphone and use that particular platform” But after high school, she realized she needed a little bit more education to compliment her good voice.
For her, the roadmap was through poaching. That’s how she thought it would work. There are a lot of realizations she comes to in her life, and she quickly realized the poaching thing only worked for animals that were already seasoned. No young ewe was getting poached. The meat was too tender. Too inexperienced. She needed to follow her journey, according to her, her destiny.
The first time Stella, shortened to STL Yamumo [because what do you need vowels for anyway?] got to interact with radio, it was with a vernacular radio station. It was an internship she did while on campus. “This was the first time where I was supposed to be very fluent in my mother tongue and unfortunately, I wasn’t.” It was, however, a starting point for her. The young ewe was released into the jungle, and the poachers were readying their blades and oiling their spears [who knows what poachers do, anyway]
“I got to learn a lot. The team was very amazing.” She was taught, encouraged and laid the founding blocks of her destiny. “After campus, you think it’s going to be easy to get a job [spoiler alert: it isn’t]. I was listening to the radio [a station that she insists closed, just so you guys don’t go applying to them now to test your destinies] and the presenter, who is now an established actor, said ‘You know, if you’re out there, you’re passionate about radio, you wanna co-host with me, come through and co-host’.
STL Yamumo went through with the message and got a DM back. If she was in Nairobi, would she come to the station at this time?
It was traffic that did her in that first gig. Nairobi traffic can be a pain, you’d think with all the running we’re known for, we would have figured out cars are not really a great thing to have around in large numbers, but a girl can only hope. She was a few minutes late, but it went pretty great. “That was one of the best times I had on air! It confirmed to me that I was on the right path.”
Fast forward to getting her first radio job. There were 2 rounds of auditions, the result of which you can only speculate as she was hosting a mid-morning show on Youth Empowerment. “I remember my first day on air (she chuckles) like it was yesterday. I had done a lot of demos and shows, but my first time doing a three-hour show ALONE, with the producer over there, giving me prompts, queuing me in, telling me to back up from the microphone, introduce a song, have a conversation, all that. By the time I was done with the three hours…whoa [I always picture rono.h doing the whoa when I hear whoa. Am I alone? I may never know] Niliskia ni kama nimetoka mjengo. I was tired, mentally, physically, [All the allys].
Her laugh is vibrant. She has one of those laughs that has you turning to see who it is. A laugh filled with bubbles and flowers and puppies. It vibrates in your ears from her throat. You feel it in your chest, as if you made the sound. A laugh that ripples through people. It is a laugh that I would not mind hearing on the radio while driving down a dirt road. A laugh full of color.
“And I can tell you for sure that many people don’t look at being a presenter like it’s a tiresome job. Whether you’re on radio or TV, people don’t look at it like it is. They think you just walk in, you talk, you play music, you talk, and before you know it, you’re done.”
It’s a lot because you have to give the listener new information. On the radio, as she tells me, you speak to one person. [Light bulb; that’s why it’s mpenzi mtazamaji, na sio ile ya kukata maji. Singular]. “Every time you feed the music then turn the mic on, or the cameras come on, what new information are you giving this person? Sure, I was tired but I chose this path, so I knew I had to keep walking, like Johnny Walker [Ah, that laugh again. But also, and I realize I’m putting a lot of my thoughts into this telling, the whiskey joke is totally hers. I promise, I didn’t hold a gun to her head and ask her to say it. I will say, however, that I was very glad to hear it]
“You keep learning as you move, sometimes you forget to turn on the mic, you’re talking and then the producer is like, ‘your mic is off’, other times you’re flowing and forget to turn off the mic and then the producer is like [say it with me, kids] ‘Yo, the mic is on!’ Then systems in the studio will simply fail you, songs will not play, so you have to learn along the way and keep getting better as time goes on” But definitely after the producer has said ‘Yo, the systems are failing you’ or something of the sort.
Talanta Mtaani is a show that celebrates talent; something that STL Yamumo wishes existed when she was growing up. “I am one person who is crazy about talent. Every Tuesday, on my radio show, I get to hostTalent Tuesday.” She calls herself “an artistic person. She emcees, does radio, TV and podcast shows. “I always feel like if I started earlier, I wouldn’t have struggled so much with my shyness.”
She and her friend started by working on radio and ended up on Talanta Mtaani together. “It was at a time in our lives where money wasn’t coming through from the radio [no one told them to send 90 bob to a number], so we wanted to do more.” So they brainstormed TV ideas.
The year was 2016, the month April and their minds were working overtime. They took their first idea to a particular TV station and spoke to the head of production. Producer loved it. Producer asked them to shoot and edit and bring the whole thing to life, then sell him the content. They were dumbfounded. “The only thing we had were the skills and the idea,” she says. Producer told them not to worry. Who was he after all? He could sort them out.
They did a script and planned for the shoot day. “It was this amazing, grand idea. Trust me, when I say it was big, it was big.” I trust her. At the end of the day, exhausted beyond exhaustion, beyond taking so many takes since, as she says, it takes a lot, they had the footage. They handed it over to the editor.
In broadcast, when you slot a program for 30 minutes, it means the show should be about 24 minutes. You have to consider the ads, you know, where most of the money comes from. By the time the editor finished his shenanigans, STL Yamumo and her friend’s show was 12 minutes long. She laughs again.
They go back to shooting. “For continuity purposes, you have to try to wear the same clothes, have the same hairstyle [another laugh]” The footage gets back to the editor. It was July. and they were done with the pilot episode. The TV station shut down.
With their dreams down the drain, they never even got to see their own pilot episode. They went back to the drawing board. Well, as much drawing as people behind microphones and cameras do. Good thing was, this time, they had a backlog of ideas from the previous brainstorm sessions in April. They pitched their ideas to different TV stations.
They met someone who couldn’t understand an idea they pitched. “I tell him, he doesn’t remember much of that story, but what he remembers is that he saw I was talented. He called me a week or two after pitching and said he had an idea. He was asking her to host it. He told her about this talent show that he wanted to start, and she was like, “Talent is my thing so here I come!”
And that is how she became the host of Talanta Mtaani Show.
Preachers’ kids always come with an elaborate backstory. You will not find one without a story. They live double lives, become gangsters, altar boys and economists. Not that there is a line that shows where the robe gives way to the face mask. You have to figure them out yourselves. They can be slippery. They have mastered the art of living in tales. Average is not a word that has been associated with any I have met, and I would definitely like to be proven wrong. PKs are a special breed. Their parents preach the gospel while they serenade the streets.
His father stood on the podium every Sunday, and he in the streets the rest of the week. Both preached the gospel, saving as many souls as they could. The son emulating the man. People understood his need to stand on the pile of sand at the side of his mother’s shop as he echoed his father’s words. His mother’s shop was next to a hotel and a construction site. The perfect concoction to generate the ideal audience for a young performer. Vince was 4 years old and commanding the attention of crowds. Tell me this is not a true child of the church.
His body moved before he realized his voice could move the hearts of girls all over the nation. His first love was dance. Saturdays were for Club Kiboko and working on choreography. “I was 9 or 10 and had to go to choir practice. I would make choreographies for the church. The congregation each Sunday was of about 250 people. They would give a decent round of applause and it made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.”
He went to boarding school in Class Five [show me someone who didn’t]. That was when he realized he had some serious pipes too. “It was only right that I started out writing gospel songs. I was from a religious family [and he was just being practical. If he started with secular, his father may have rebuked the devil that was in him]. He was a 10-year-old lyricist, penning choruses and “little raps”. He was the go-to entertainer at school. The guy who sang for guests and read poems to his peers at assembly.
It did not come as a Eureka moment for Vince. It was in him. He woke up on Saturdays pumped for practice. No one had to drill the excitement into him. It came pouring out. “Why do I do what I do? I do it because I love it. Because I love to put smiles on other people’s faces. Because I like seeing people dance. To laugh, cry. I like being a part of people’s moments.” He also does it for himself. It makes him feel good about himself. Pouring his soul into others fills him in ways he never imagined possible.
As he stood on the sand emulating his father, he remembers being liked. He was the kid hanging out with anyone and everyone. The child hiding between the feet of grown men under shade, preaching the gospel like his father. The 4-year-old who knew what he wanted before he knew anything else. Crowds drew to him. The child talking about a man he knows not. The child that preaches and sings and dances and choreographs for the church. At some point, however, even the preacher’s kid realizes music comes in many forms, and he succumbs to the ways of the world.
Vince was sitting in a boring oral presentation class in Multimedia University of Kenya. He was dressed in a suit, waiting to give his kickass presentation. The group giving their presentation was not as interesting as they hoped to be, and Vince was bored. He chuckles when he says this. He has had only 2 hours of sleep and has a voice so groggy it forced me to listen to his voice note more times than I actually needed to. Back to him in class. He opens Instagram and the first post he sees is by King Kaka.
The post asked for singers. That those with sultry morning voices should belt out the latest song at the time by the King, and see what happens. It was all very mysterious.
Class ended at around 2pm. He went home in his presentation suit. He did not change clothes, recorded the video of himself singing in suit and tie [Cue J.T]. He showed them a few things his voice could do. They loved him. They invited him to Kaka’s studios. There were three winners, Vince, Brandon and Ethan.
“I was 2 hours late to meet with the guys. The others had met with him and mimi ndiyo walikuwa wananingoja.”
They hung out around the studio and started singing. “King wasn’t there so we just started singing. We were like; Oh my God. Yeah. This is nice. Mh nice. You have a nice voice. Oh, I have a nice voice? No, you have a nice voice. Oh stop. Gush. Sigh.” [I exaggerate a little but you get the point]
King [Yes, I am forcing this first name basis] wanted to create “the next big thing. The next singing group, band, group thingy [Vince’s words]. None of the three minded doing it, and Jadi began its serenade to Nairobi’s rooftops. “We realized our dreams were based on the same path, and we wanted to walk down it together.”
Jadi means tradition. Your roots. The smell of rain in your hometown. Your mother’s special Sunday evening stew that you tear hot Chapatti into. The sleep in your eyes when you are woken up by the matron for preps. Okay, maybe not that last one. “We wanted our name to remind us of our tradition. We want to always make music that we love. Music that we think is substantial and resonates with people.”
“Meeting with the guys has made me into a better singer. Before Jadi, I was singing on campus, going to events, and performing. I was singing everywhere I could and that helped me develop more as a singer. It helped to make the audition easier. Now, I am producing my songs and can confidently say that I am following my dreams. I’m giving it my all and am not going to stop doing it.”
Things have definitely changed for him. He understands things better now. He knows about the music industry and business [which he says are totally different. I have no knowledge in this business/industry and will take his word for it].
“I think I have become a better musician over time. We have made some money. We have faced hardships. But hard times make the journey interesting. I have grown tough skin. I have improved on my skill set too. I was just a singer when I joined Jadi. Now I am a singer, a pianist and am becoming a producer. I’m getting better.”
Vince has identified a problem he has. That of needing appreciation. He relies on people telling him he did great. He sings well. He is talented. Vince feeds on compliments. He lives for the applause. They boost his spirit. He recognizes this is something he needs to stop doing. To stop waiting for validation, but the business thrives on it. Charts and comments and views and compliments. The business of a performer is directly influenced by his audience’s reaction. Their satisfaction. Their reviews. Validation. “I am big on opinions. It is something I have recently learned I need to change. I take people’s opinions to heart, whether good or bad. I appreciate it so strongly. People who tell me they believe in me end up motivating me. People love to hear that stuff. To hear ‘you’re awesome, keep going’, you know? [I do know]
Also, the other thing that has changed is his parents now take him seriously as an artist. Jadi has a lot to offer in the music industry and business and they are chasing the bag. “We have had some hard times, and I hope more are not coming, but I’m ready for it.”
Well, I am still facing procrastination hurdles but at least the day is not yet over, right kids?
The Butterfly Effect is a theory that offers an idea of the greatness of small things. That a butterfly can flap its wings, move two grains of sand and cause a typhoon at the end of the chain is fascinating. I never really thought that much about it until A Sound of Thunder. Ray Bradbury is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors especially in his time travel stories. In A Sound of Thunder, Ray suggests a cause and effect option. That stepping on a butterfly 300 million years in the past directly impacts a presidential election in 2055. The story is insane, and involves a Tyrannosaurus rex [my favorite of the rexes] and I am in awe.
So, in true novice fashion, I will try to channel my Ray in this story, [not that it will be difficult]
We begin in a classroom in Loresho Primary. The making of a prodigy.
The classroom is quiet. No one talks, only one thing is on everyone’s mind. Will they make it? Will they be chosen? Is this their time. One particular boy stands out. Eric. He bubbles inside. If you were to put the excitement of each girl and boy in the room on a chart, Eric’s would not be on it. No scale could carry his. There were ripples in his chest. He would have sold his left foot to be on the list.
The class prefect stood up from his desk. He walked as if the weight was not on his shoulders at all. An irresponsible man. A man who did not know the power he possessed. Heavy, was not the crown. Eric did not make the list. The prefect had a score to settle and our man was the ball.
Crying wouldn’t help so he did not bother. He could sulk or go out and look for another chance to be cast in a play for the talent show. Eric went out, and may have stepped on a butterfly that made the Class Eight people decide to also stage a play. He was cast, since he was small, a Class Five kid, as a child in the Class Eight play. He was phenomenal!
“I was tiny! So I was cast as a kid,” he tells me. “That is where my interest began. We did the skit and people kept laughing. Nilikuwa nashindwa mbona wanacheka. I didn’t have any lines, but my actions, my facials sold me.”
The Drama Club patron asked him to participate in the next year’s drama festivals, and his career literally began.
He starred in his first production when he was in Class Six.
Eric had two paths he knew he would take. “I wanted to either be a footballer or to be seen on TV. That was my dream. But I wasn’t getting picked to play football. Life has a funny way of unfolding events.” He received certificates for his performances. There are so many certificates mentioned on this voice note that I cannot keep this story interesting and tell you each time he got one. One thing has to go, and I choose his certificates. You should know, there are a LOT of them.
“One time, there were sponsors who came to our school. They were asking everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up. Answers ranged from doctoring to lawyering, [you know, Kenyan versions of success] but I said I wanted to be an actor.” The mzungu was impressed.
The mzungu told him he would look for Eric once he was done with high school. He was excited, as any Kenyan boy under sponsorship would.
In Class Eight, since he was a candidate, he could not participate in a school production. Kenyan schools prioritize passing national exams over talent. But, the butterfly was stepped on once more and the script needed his prowess. He was the exception. The only Class Eight pupil allowed to be in the show.
When they were selecting the high schools they wished to go to, his choice was based solely on the schools’ drama performance. He chose a school in Nyeri, Mukuruini Boys. He didn’t get in. His grades weren’t good enough for Mukuruini, and his family could also not afford the school fees for such a heavy weight school, but the butterfly still lives. The school right next to Mukuruini is Mweru High School. Mortal enemies to his dream school. If Mukuruini was Mr. Krabs, Mweru was Plankton.
Form Ones in Mweru were not allowed to be in plays. They probably needed to flesh out the ones who would get lost in the funkie crowds. Form Ones have a naiveté that Mweru did not want to deal with. The butterfly, still stuck in his foot, allowed him to sing. It gave him an edge, and he was, surprise surprise, the exception.
Mweru went on to reach National level competitions for the first time in it’s existence. They were second, and Eric says the Alliance Girls’ performance was not as great as theirs [he should know]. They got some perks for their secondness; a school bus, more certificates and a performance at State House that was shifted to KICC. The drama teacher transferred and no one stood up for their rights. It was as if a switch to the sun was found. Everything dimmed out, curtains!
Form Three forced Eric to write his very first script. There was no teacher in charge so he wore the pants. It is a safe bet that he had some idea on what to do. He had seen a good number of scripts in his lifetime. He joined hands with the less talented Drama Club chairman and they got to Nationals level. They were second.
In Form Four, he met Aliwa, a dude who made the same promise as the mzungu. “Look for me when you’re done with school.”
After high school, there was no doctoring or lawyering for Eric. He joined a local theatre group. He acted out set books and church plays. Did odd acting jobs that paid less than enough. Then he met Lodeki who taught him acting, directing, producing and all that appertains to the stage.
Eric found Aliwa. Eric moved out from home. Eric’s dad wanted him to become a lawyer. Eric refused to go to University. He prioritized talent over lawyering. He put together a group and called it Kinship Theater and Arts. They went on putting together skits for the church, and since whatever you put in you pull out, the church gave him rehearsal space.
When he called out for his first auditions in 2016, he was spoilt for choice. There were so many people who came it, and he only needed a dozen people. The church hall was great, but not so much. There were echoes. “It was not designed as a theatre hall so there were a number of challenges,” he adds. “The theatre group was demanding, we had no money. It was hard.”
He attended script writing seminars, did short contracts and gained some experience.
Eric’s big break came from the set of Beba Beba [Kenyans remember this. Apologies to my diaspora peeps. Beba means carry. Beba Beba was a local TV drama series that aired a few years back] He was hired as an extra. Some guy to walk past a matatu. Some dude to fill the matatu. [The show was matatu based. It revolved around passengers in said matatu. Oh, and matatu is a van, I think, or small bus. But I digress]
As the extra, he formed relationships with the crew and cast. He got more episodes to pass in vicinity in till he wrote a script that impressed them. He wrote more Beba Beba scripts. “That was also how I found myself writing for Real Househelps of Kawangware (RHOK). I started off as an actor, then went off to directing and now, Eric Mdagaya is the Casting Director at RHOK.
For the fourth year now, Kinship has been doing monthly theatre plays at Kenya National Theatre. They have been derailed with COVID, like everyone else, but that is what they do.
“Theatre has not been easy. I remember we would hit shows that would have a total audience of 14 people. It gets you in trouble. You have paid for the hall, there is no more money to pay the actors. And yeah, some of them understand the situation, but some don’t. You acquire debts to pay people because from Friday to Sunday you have received an audience of 14. But you have to do it. You get on that stage and hold on.” Their slogan has become ’14 is not just a number’.
He sees growth. He has built a fan base. Marketing the shows is easier now. He knows people. The challenges are not as huge as they were when he was starting out.
“You build a brand, like mine is ‘Super Director’. You have a name out there, but nothing in your pockets. It is a very depressing industry. You get to a point where nothing you do works. Nothing makes sense. But this is the life you have chosen. No one is forced into acting, you choose it. I chose it. All I can say is I believe in this and nothing can hold me back. I already decided that this is what I am doing, and this is what I am going to do for life.”
He realized he likes teaching. Imparting the knowledge of his craft to others. He teaches performing arts and theatre production, from his talent. He has not studied any of it in school. He is qualified from that Class Five classroom when his stomach bubbled. His life is on stage. It has entwined itself in him that he cannot say where the stage begins and he ends.
I forgot to ask about the mzungu deal.
Well kids, I finally finished this story just in time for January’s second post. I’d say I’m doing well, wouldn’t you?
It’s my birthday on Sunday, my stomach bubbles. I’m so old, lol.
There was a time last year when I decided I will stop lying to myself. I realized I was not happy. With myself, my situation, even my writing. Now, I get happiness starts with me. I do. I understand that I make myself happy. But put that aside for one minute and become human. Realize with me that external factors affect us. Affected me. Swallow it. Let that thought, before you begin to have reinforced steel around your choice to be happy goes up. Listen.
I realized I was faking everything. That I only faced the truth when I was alone, and could not even admit it to myself. A depressive period. A time when I wrote the following words.
I hate writing. Now. I hate thinking up words. I hate defining things. I hate thinking of a full paragraph and then some in my head, because my fingers do not connect as well anymore. My heart does not feel the flow. I sit and put things down that end up making zero sense to me. I hate it. It annoys me that I rethink everything. Every word out of my brain, every letter at my fingertips.
This feeling has been there for me, in the sense of a blockage that lets nothing out. It is writer’s block. I feel it. I have had it before. I know it from a previous time or two, but in those times, it left as soon as it came on. This? This feels like something out of the ordinary.
You want to know what I did before? I let it be. I allowed it to consume me. I gave it power, because I had realized it was an ordinary part of the process. “I always get over it. Always come out on the other end.” I did. I just don’t trust myself this time. The surety that was there in my heart is gone. Put out like a match in the wind. Out, without warning.
I tried a couple of things. One that worked well for me was trying to place my situation in a practical world.
Let me try to explain it, maybe that will help. It’s a well. A borehole if you will. A tapered shaft bored into the ground that is used for extraction. A pump is used to extract whatever it is. Water, gas, the alphabet. Now, the pump is manmade. It breaks. It needs maintenance, repairs. I know how to repair the pump. There is a system in place. I have a sometimes imperfect plan on how to, but the pump always roars again. ALWAYS. This time, I’m not so sure.
It is not a practical world. The borehole cannot work without the pump. I have both. What I was missing was something to turn the pump on. To help me access the water. The alphabet.
There have been lies over the last few years. Promises made and broken. I have lied to myself, which is insane to me. I pride myself in the art of truth. I don’t see reason to fabricate things, because I do enough of that in my writing. I cook up stories about everything. Cats, trees, even the sun.
This is not my reinvention. What am I reinventing anyway? I am not a new person. I am not different. What I am, is older [this number is really getting up there]. And wiser. I intend on using this wisdom going forward. I have had a lot of lessons this past year. A LOT of them. I had to unlearn some of the things I had held on to dearly. I had to distance myself from everything that pulled me farther from the switch to my pump.
I am not saying I am there. I am saying I now have a system. A method and the support I require to get to where the switch is. I am working every day to get to it. I am working every day to do better. Be better. Hydrate and mind my business. [That’s a weird word; Business. Like a thing to get money with, but also, a thing that keeps you busy. The act of being busy. Busy+Ness] My business, of course, being here. You, me, every Thursday.
Last year’s theme was Young Love. I am not changed so I see no reason for is to change. It also makes no sense to introduce you to a new theme when you have provided about two dozen stories on the theme. It is weird how you guys still sent in stories when I have not been writing. My 2021 MIRAWU planner is filled, and I am in awe. You may have been the method I needed.
I used to write more. In my teens, heck, even in my pre-teens. As I get older, I need to write more. At least more than the last few years. Here’s to hoping.
So, we continue with Young Love 2.1. I wanted to call it 2.0 but that eerily sounds so last year [Ha-ha]
Welcome back, kids! So excited.
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.
When they met, she wrote him a letter.
You’re not ideal. I feel like I am not supposed to be with you. I’m telling myself that it is because of him. Because I still have unresolved feelings about this other guy and I never really told him how I felt. But we both know I am over him.
So what the fuck is my problem with you? I want this. I want you. You are fun and kinda cute and weird and really strange and you make me angry and happy and weirder. I love how I feel when I am around you. And your voice? Whoever made music a thing must have started out by hearing you speak. You give me butterflies…but I feel like I will get hurt again. I feel like I am headed for a shitload of heartache and I don’t think I am strong enough for another hit. I need a break. That is why I pull back.
You don’t help your case either. So it can’t be my fault I feel this way. You don’t talk to me. You don’t explain shit. You just sit there, springing conversations out of jokes, which means we can never talk about anything concerning us. Sometimes it feels like there is no us, and I am just forcing things. I know nothing about you, yet I have shared with you some of my most intimate secrets. I don’t even know your last name.
I couldn’t tell my mom about you because of this. And maybe this is a good thing. Maybe she shouldn’t know just yet, so that I don’t have to defend you to her when you leave. I am tempted. I talk to her about everything. Yeah, I know you said you’re not going anywhere, but if I was to have a nickel for each time I heard those words then I’d have a butt load of money. So sue me if I don’t believe you.
But I really like you. I like how amazing your days are and how you smell. I like when you tell me stories and how you pull me to you after sex. I love your mind. God! I love your mind. I love your stupid theories and your stupid lies. But it still feels off. It still feels as if I have so far to go to equal how much you like me, if at all what you say is true.
It feels like I still like him and that is why I can’t like you enough. It feels like I am too little for you. I don’t match up to you. It feels like once you find out that I am not smart enough or pretty enough or funny enough, you will walk away, and you will find someone better, because there almost always is. You will look for someone willing to go the miles you travel and I will be left to collect my pieces once more.
When she fell in love, she wrote him a letter.
This is not a word I throw around. I mean, sure, I fall in love with a puppy in an instant. I love dark chocolate and sunsets. But you happened over time. Those words only became harder to say to other people the longer I learned to love myself. The longer I built the walls. But you? You are a sledgehammer.
I cannot clearly say when you actually broke through. But you did. And I love you, Spencer. I will tell you tonight. Thank you for loving all my strange little pieces.
When he broke her heart, she wrote him one last time.
I didn’t think I would be doing this with you… but maybe I should stop lying to myself. I have been wearing my heart on my sleeve all my life. Also, no one loves while anticipating heartbreak.
I just wish you had done it sooner. Like during the texting incident. I wish you had stopped texting back and I would know that I screwed up. But there was no reasonable proof to dump me then, right? Because he was the one who texted and I immediately told him I had you. Still, I wish you broke me at that moment because my feelings had not advanced to actually missing your name popping up on my phone. You waited, and I loved you.
I hate it. I hate that I tell myself it’s the last time. You know me. I will just sit here watching the time stamp on your socials as though you would do the same. I imagine you, living life, your hand on another girl’s thigh, cooking for her, and it bugs me… because I didn’t even get the chance to redeem myself. You just decided that my sin was too big to forgive.
But let’s talk about that for a minute, shall we? What the fuck did I do wrong?
You have disrespected me, mocked me and insulted my heart for loving and being emotional. You have called me weak, made fun of me and dismissed my thinking, but I braved it all. Not because I thought any less of myself, but because talking to you was bigger than anything else. But I realize now, that I had no sin. So what bugs me is I cannot understand why you would think it best to ignore me all this time when I committed no crime. When I took care of your heart as if it were in my chest. I don’t understand how you would say the things you say to me and in the same breath utter the words “I love you”. Your lips have no right to say those words. You know no love. You only know selfishness. You think of yourself and nothing more. No one else but good ol’ Spencer, and it makes me sick that I fell so hard for such a narcissistic bastard.
Also, let’s talk about the Whatsapp thing. I hate it, Spens. I do. I hate that you have me waiting to see your name among the list of people who have viewed my status, because that is the only interaction I get from you now. I hate it that I see your name there, among my friends and family. I hate that you have me there, waiting for you to view my status. What are you waiting for? A break-up post? A long thread of words weaved in your honor? I would never share you like that. I would never disrespect you like that. Or would that be actually granting you the respect that you lacked the grace to give me? Who knows. Still, I hate that my heart races. That it skips when I see your name. I hate waiting for you to change your picture just so I can get to see your face. I hate that I give you that much power over me… power that I had reclaimed over time.
Then you ducking blocked me [she said Ducking]. Which nulls every feeling that I may have had for you. You clearly did not want to deal with me, so why should I deal with you? Why should I waste my time, watching my status views and your time stamp when you clearly want nothing to do with me? It sucks that you still affect me this much yet you are not in my life anymore. And yeah, it has only been 4 days, but I hate that I know I will forget loving you. I have to forget. This is my last letter, Spencer.
I choose me. My mental health and my peace of mind. I will not grovel at you, or beg for your attention… because I do not want love kernels. I want a giant bucket of buttered caramel pops and I plan to find it, just not with you. You made yourself very clear… you do not want me. And I don’t think I should be where I am not wanted. I will collect my pieces Spenser, and you will own them no more. I wish you well.
[PS, you cool cats and kittens, I am still accepting your Young Love stories. Priority will be given to stories that are not boy-girl relationship related. Stay safe. Wash your hands]
There are dates you never forget. Your mother’s birthday, your first period, the first time you kissed a girl and when you get a dog. It doesn’t happen like a phone number. You don’t have to sit with a calendar and recite the numbers twenty-six times so your brain remembers the intonation. You just do. You might be depositing school fees at a bank in 2032 and the teller asks you one of those security questions, as if you are depositing money into an account you do not know.
Teller: Okay sir, Your name?
You: Rambo Schwarzenegger
T: Account number
T: Okay sir, now for security purposes, to absolutely posilutely make sure it’s your account that you are sending this money to, could you please tell me when THE DATE is?
And you won’t know where to start.
The date for Tasha is 30th April 2019. She had errands to run in Rongai and wanted to make the best of it by hanging out with her wrong guy [It was right there, I had to do it]. To kill three birds with one flimsy throw, her guy had promised to get her these fancy sneakers that she had seen online and she thought she’d collect them as well. So, at 7 months pregnant, she took the 4-hour journey from Nyeri to Ongata Rongai. Now, it’s not all crazy. She was renting a place in Ronga. She had somewhere to go.
The place was a mess. Like if you left a new puppy in the house without enough food and without having taken him out to poop. “It seemed like someone had had access to my place. There were muddy footprints on the floor, but I checked and nothing was missing,” she tells me. She couldn’t summon the courage to relax when her privacy had been invaded like that. She called her guy and told him what she had found. “He said it would be a great idea to just finish up on my errands and he would be at my place by the time I was done.”
By noon, she was done, exhausted and hungry. He said he was still waiting for some guy to deliver her sneakers and that he had been waiting for long and couldn’t just break his promise to her like that. So, to kill time, he was meeting up with his supposed best friend. I say ‘supposed’ because of the way Tasha said it. You got the impression that despite being pregnant with this guy’s baby for 7 months by then, she did not know he had a best friend of the female persuasion. “I had no worries about that so I just chilled at the restaurant I was eating in and waited…finally the sneaks were delivered at around 4 pm. He said he would meet me in an hour or so… haha, kumbe he had other plans!”
When it got to 6:30, with no calls or texts, she decided to call him. He said there was inadequate transportation to Ronga and he would be a little late. She then decided to go to a friend’s place, since she did not think it was a good idea to go back to her invaded sanctuary. He was in Rongai at 8:30 pm. He tried to call her but her line wasn’t going through. Not to any fault on her part, but Safaricom connection was poor at her friend’s place. He called her Airtel line after about 20 minutes and that went through.
To the mother of his child, who had been waiting for him for about 5 hours, not counting that she got to Rongai earlier so they could spend time together, this man said, “Kwani uko wapi? And why isn’t your line going through? Wacha nirudi tu kwenye nimetoka juu you don’t have time for me”
They managed to figure out where he was [Never underestimate the power of a motivated woman] and she and her friend decided to meet him there.
“Aah, so sasa hata salamu hataki (laughing emoji. The sane one, not the one with a cracked neck) I tried explaining myself but he did not want to hear me out. He was sooo angry… so instead of arguing with him, I told him that the baby and I needed some food and I’ll just order.”
He looked up at her then raised his voice so everyone could hear. “Wewe waiter, huyu mama akiitisha kitu, usimpatie. She and this baby are not my responsibility. I’m not even sure if this child is mine anyways.” Then he asked for the channel to be changed to the game. “Mimi nakesha huku leo.” [Okay group of schools peeps, I am sorry but there will be no translations today. Ask someone who knows someone who lived a normal life]
She left the hotel in tears. The friend followed and took her to a different restaurant where she got fries and ate while thinking of her situation. That all this happened in less than 10 hours was overwhelming. He called after an hour had passed to ask where she was. When she got back, he accused her of flirting with some guy on the internet. “I saw that guy on your dm who said hi to you,” he accused. “And I’m pretty sure you guys have a thing going on. That’s why you deleted your chats and I know for sure I am not that child’s father.” This is becoming a classic amateur Campus Telenovela. See, a few weeks before this date, there had been a huge argument about him sending flirtatious texts to other girls, some with him asking them to invite him over so he could “tap that arse”. She confronted him about it, said she was not feeling appreciated anymore and he begged and apologized and she was back at it again. Told you. Classic.
It might be important to note that there were no deleted chats on her accounts. And he had access to all of them [Rookie move]. It became a whole thing at the restaurant. Him accusing, she asking which chats and which guy and which account. Him accusing and she struggling to get free from his grip on her arm. A middle-aged man intervened and when he let go, she ran, like Forrest Gump [Ha! Biko used this reference as well this week. If it’s meant to be, right?]
She saw him again at about 1 am, when he came to her friend’s place and did not speak to her. “I was so mad at him and I finally made up my mind to go home. He came back to tell me that he was sorry and didn’t mean the things he had said but I didn’t care at that point. I just took a boda and headed straight to my place. When she got home, he called again and she picked up. It was a reflex reaction. Like rubbing your eyes when you wake up in the morning or cursing when you stub your toe. He apologized. She told him he could come over.
Here, it got a little messy. There was a knife involved, threats to an unborn baby, raw pork and a house that was almost set on fire. He punched the walls and did a whole SPLIT performance just for her. She was terrified and immediately he went outside to answer his phone, she hid the knife under the mattress. He came back into the house and asked for it but she feigned ignorance. He tried cooking the pork and filled the house with smoke, then lay on her bed and fell asleep. Whoever said there was no sleep for the wicked should have heard him snore.
Unable to get any sleep herself, or for the fact that he was sprawled on her bed, she started to clean up the mess in the house. “I found a receipt of the same date. Kumbe he took that lady [read best friend] out on a date and spent 3k on her… on some Desperados and chicken while he had some Tuborg beers for himself [#NotAnAd]. He paid the bill at 6:30 pm. This guy had me looking like a fool akinishow ati there are inadequate javs to Ronga. I felt so stupid and wasted”
“What happened in the morning?” I ask.
“I set my alarm for 5 am. I was so done with his ass, but when I came out of the bathroom he was already up. He apologized, blaming it all on the alcohol. He told me that he would never drink again, but he was just playing with me.”
I ask what happened to the receipt.
“I didn’t tell him about it. I decided to keep it to myself,” she says then adds, “I forgave him of course but I kept on contemplating. I felt less for him each time. A few months later, close to my EDD he decided to spend a weekend over at a guest house karibu na kwetu. I had a few hours to go ndio mtoto akuje (according to doc’s prediction). He started acting up again, saying that I looked boring with my pregnancy and I wasn’t fit for him anymore. Waaah I cried hadi contractions zikaanza. I didn’t want to talk about it again after labor. So after the baby came, he decided to go MIA for a whole week… drinking and partying and posting pics on IG showing people how much fun he was having. But he didn’t remember that he had a family…so I didn’t look back again. I just cut off the ties.” Atta girl.
“Have you spoken to him after that?”
“Has he reached out? Hata to ask about the kid.”
“He calls my dad. Mimi siwezi taka kumskiza.”
“What do they talk about?”
“All I know is that he just calls when he has money to spare for diapers. He sends like 2k after two maybe three months.”
“How are you? After everything.”
“I’m much better now. Nothing hurts anymore.”
[PS. We are still accepting Young Love stories. Hit me up on any of my socials. And remember clean your phones too]
The fact that this story is from the day after Fool’s Day should have been the first clue. It gets a little interwoven at the beginning which means you will need to pay only 17 shillings’ worth of attention. Michael was off from work and “bored to death”. In the process [which we must all trust] that included watching all movies available to him and walking around the house in his boxers [I clearly don’t know what boys do], Albert called [insert ominous music].
Michael and Albert have been friends for the longest time. This is something you say when you encounter a partnership that has lasted through tsunamis and COVID19s and so many birthday showers that you cannot count. A friendship that lasts the years. How many years, you might ask? Maybe if we cut them down and count the rings but otherwise, they have known each other a decent while. So Albert called saying he was not working that day [see? Birds of a feather] but his day, unlike Michael’s, had started with a mindset of getting to work.
That morning, Albert received a call from his other friend who had almost the same history as with Michael, only in this friendship, they had schooled together from primary school to university, and, as if to just add icing on this friendship, they came from the same village as well. This friend, Judas, had been admitted at Mater Hospital in South B.
“I didn’t now Judas very well by that time other than the stories I had heard. He had a reputation with women. The kind where he ‘could never let a skirt pass by without pursuing it’ if you know what I mean,” Michael tells me.
Albert was concerned, and if your friend is worried about something or someone, they become your problem by osmosis. The concern is transferred through the phone call and immediately Michael agreed to meet with Albert. “Up to that moment,” he texts, “we didn’t know why exactly he was admitted.” They met in town, Michael of course having dressed first, and tagged along to the hospital that housed their Judas. This was the first time either of them was going to South B’s Mater Hospital and so they had to seek help from another person.
Judas’s sister, Erika, [17 shillings worth, remember?] was their compass on getting around the grounds. She and Albert had a “thing” back in the day until it ended unceremoniously. “I’ve never gone deep into getting the facts on why it “unceremoniously” ended but going by their body language, you could tell there was still a flame somewhere waiting to be ignited…” says Michael.
Erika took them to the ward where their soldier was. they found him lying on the bed, unconscious, but out of the pathway that shows “the light”. The doctor attending to him assured them of his getting well soon. Soon is a peculiar word. It gives you hope without really giving it. Soon is the kind of peanut butter that clumps together and tears holes into bread. It is room temperature water after a couple hours’ work in the afternoon sun. It is something that is good, and powerful and delicious, while at the same time being average and bland and discouraging. Even doctors don’t know how soon is soon.
Michael sets the scene. “The hospital presented a gloomy picture. I was moved to see the condition of the patients while at the same time noticing how the behavior of the doctors and nurses was worthy of great praise. Their prompt and quick and services accompanied with sympathetic attitudes were rays of hope for the dying and diseased.”
When I was younger [ergo about 3 years ago] I was lying beside an old flame of mine, [details to this encounter are blurred on the basis that my parents read this blog] and I learnt a new word. I don’t recall each new word I come across, but every time I use this one, I just do. At some point, in random conversation that is my niche, I assume he wasn’t feeling well, and he said he “felt like regurgitating”. I remember how frantically I searched for this word in my head as if some pirate had hidden it in a chest. I know I knew I did not now its meaning, but I still remember searching, desperate to not let him upstage me in this sudden battle of Find the Mystery Word. And I remember coming to the conclusion that the word did not compute and gathering the words in my mouth to ask what it meant. I hated asking it. I hated myself for not knowing this one word, and I had to swallow a tiny part of my Luo pride and ask.
Michael left the hospital. Well, he left the scene he had described to go outside for some air. At the time he still did not know what had happened to Judas and he thought it rude to ask people whose minds were clinging on to ‘SOON’. “So I sat outside waiting for Albert to let me in on what had happened and at the same time I really don’t like the smell of hospitals, they make me feel sick.”
If you have watched enough movies in your day, you have encountered a scene where a character sees something that is disgusting and they use the words “I think I’m gonna be sick” and somehow always finds an empty bin to barf into. Therefore, ‘be/feel sick’ is equal to barf which is equal to puke and is in fact equivalent to regurgitate.
After around an hour, Albert walked out of the hospital and went: “You guy imagine Judas tried to commit suicide because of a woman!”
There was shock. Judas had outdated his own reputation. “I couldn’t believe that this was the same person whose reputation in getting women preceded him and yet there we were, in a hospital because a girl had broken up with him. It was unbelievable.” Mwanaume hisia…
As Albert was spilling the details to what had transpired, Erika came and called them back in. They found Judas conscious, able to talk but not very audible. “He still looked weak,” Michael adds, “I heard one of his aunties whispering to her friend that the woman Judas had been staying with had to be using dark magic on him…that for the past three months he wasn’t even sending money back home as he always did, and that the lady should be kept far away from their son.” Yes, I know you are thinking of your aunty who would say this about you. It’s okay, almost all of us have at least one of those. They are cut from the same cloth, these aunties. “Judas is the only son in a family of five daughters. He was somehow pampered and according to the norms of his community, he was the one who was to take over the homestead.” This occurrence was a heavy blow to the family; to think that their son nearly died because of a woman was a huge blow.
Because it was getting late, and Michael and Albert had ensured their friend was safe and in good hands, they left so they could beat the rush hour. On the ride home Albert told Michael that on the previous day [which happened to be Fool’s Day], Judas had told him that he had found evidence that his girlfriend, Genevieve, had cheated on him with the head of ICT at his workplace. “I didn’t see why he would use this as an excuse to commit suicide while he himself was involved with a number of women. Why was it right for him to cheat and wrong for her not to? It was baffling,” says Michael.
Two weeks later, Judas was discharged. They went to get him and took him to Pangani. He looked energized and had so many jokes you could hardly imagine it was the same person who had tried to commit suicide. So Albert asked him why he had tried to do such a stupid thing. “His response was that he was so madly in love with the girl that he couldn’t think of being with anyone else. I laughed. I couldn’t help it.”
I ask why he laughed at that answer.
“His idea of love was messed up. And his character wasn’t helping sell the ‘love narrative’. But oh well…they still got back together. A year later they got a kid together, I’m assuming it’s his because he believes she looks like him”
“You don’t think the kid looks like him?”
“Does he still cheat?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he texts. “Even after 2 kids. They even fight. They seem to not be able to leave the relationship. Reasons to this I don’t know.”
Well, everyone loves differently. Or obsess. Or lust.
Then, I asked the question you need answered. “What about Erika and Albert?”
“That was left as it was. Both went their separate ways. Albert married someone else”
I thought this was disappointing. “But flames don’t just go out,” I texted back. “People go back even after 20 years.”
Michael agreed. Then added that people’s preferences also change with maturity and exposure, and I said that maturity is relative then realized that we were starting to sound like philosophers.
PS. If you have a Young Love story, hit me up on any of my socials. Twitter and Instagram (@mir_awu) and on my Facebook page: MIRAWU
I have been somewhat hesitant to write anything for the last couple of days. For some reason, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t do it. That I had waded into uncharted waters and I was at the end of my road. But I had thrown a mini tantrum and I had to roll with it. I tried again over the weekend and it was the same. I didn’t even know what the intro would be…and those usually come easy to me. It was tough. I had the whole story, it was just a matter of putting it in prose form. So I said I was going to stop. I cut the thinking about it, I put my notebook away and I watched movies and listened to music back to back. I stopped being so obsessed with writing about anything and everything, and I waited.
He said we should call him Eli. He had always liked that name. The first time he fell in love with it was at a restaurant with his family and there was a set of twins on the next table. The girl was Eliza [read ‘i-lai-za’] and her brother, Elijah [read ‘i-lai-ja’]. He loved how, when they were not in their mother’s vicinity, she would shout out “ELI” and the two of them would come running while holding hands. It was their own Marco-Polo version. So the name Eli stuck with him.
Eli liked a girl in campus. She was pretty and smart and really funny. “She always made me laugh,” he told me. But he was scared to tell her. It’s not that he did not have the words to say it. I mean, he said it to the mirror each morning. He knew it in his gut that he was in love with her. He felt it in his bones every time she laughed because he tailored his jokes just for her. He lived for her. Seeing her would fix any bad morning there was. He was smitten but she was unaware.
Her boyfriend was one of those campus celeb-politicians. The ones who owned anything that needed to be owned. He made decisions on what would be sold on which days. He was the mayor and she the perfect first lady. The doting girlfriend who stood by her man on every podium at every debate and defended him against anyone who dared utter a negative word against him in his absence. Eli loved how passionate she was about her relationship. “It showed she was ‘relationship material’. The kind of girl who would stand by her man through thick and thin,” he says.
Now, you already know this is not a happy story. Our protagonist is dealing with a chronic case of unrequited love. He was aware of this. “I knew I stood no chance. There was no way, even in my greatest fantasy would she ever want me. I was her friend. And yeah, we would meet around school, but I would always just smile at her, say hi and walk away.”
She belonged to another, he says, and he wasn’t one to run unions that the universe had blessed.
Fast forward to about a year later, the politician boyfriend was campaigning against some dirty opponent who had had him followed around. The opponent’s paparazzi came out with two photographs, one on the night of the first debate where Eli’s girl’s boyfriend canoodling behind a common school building with a girl that was not Eli’s girl, and the other of him supposedly “writing a mwakenya”.
“You can guess which photo I was excited about. I mean, sure, cheating on an exam is wrong and all that bull they tell in school, but cheating on the girl of my dreams? That was bullshit! She was a nice girl. She loved him. I couldn’t get it.”
A normal 20 year-old sex-deprived, hopelessly in love boy would have struck while the iron was still hot. He would have swooped in and saved her from all the heartache by offering a shoulder and then some. He did not. “I knew every guy in school wanted the same thing. Her. She was the dream. And in that time, when she was vulnerable, they would all flock to her desperately waiting for a chance.” He was not desperate.
He went on with the smiles and the hi’s until one afternoon, he was walking past her as usual when she stopped him. He forgot to breathe. For twenty two seconds she spoke more that two words to him. He was ecstatic! This was a thing of fairytales. Snow White dared utter words to the bell boy.
“All I remember of that conversation, which she said all of the words, was the last part. She said, “Yeah, so I’ll get it from you later tonight?” and immediately I was out of my reverie. Get what? I thought. A kidney? Gladly. But kidneys aren’t given overnight in a boy’s hostel. Get some? Naah, she wouldn’t. Or would she?”
He couldn’t think for the rest of that afternoon. He doesn’t even remember if they had a class. A shower was had: a rare occurrence considering he “doesn’t sweat”. He applied Vaseline to his cheeks. All cheeks. He wore his favourite shirt. The one that “brought out his best qualities” and he waited, giddy with excitement at what it was that she could possibly want from him.
She came that evening donning a pair of black sweatpants and a grey hoodie. Her braids were tied in a bun on top of her head. She looked docile, yet still managed to possess the same grace she had when walking through lecture halls.
“I hope you have good ones,” she said immediately he opened the door.
My strokes? He thought. “Of course,” he said instead.
“How do you want them?” he added, trying to put tomato sauce on his flirting skills.
“Here,” she said while sitting on his bed. “Where are your roommates?”
He couldn’t out rightly say he had sent them on exile, and he was the Pharaoh now. “They’re around,” he told her, hoping for the opposite.
“So…,” he started, because there was no better way to do this. He wanted to be a gentleman. Make sure she enjoyed this as much as he was sure he would. “Do we just get on with it or is there something you would like me to do first?”
Then she laughed.
It wasn’t a flirtatious laugh. Not a laugh that a girl makes when she likes a boy. Some girls can’t even speak right in front of a boy they like. There was no way she would laugh like that just before getting it on. But it didn’t register to him then. The troops were aligned. The soldier was in position and ready to fire. He had no blood left in his brain to use it to at least a functioning capacity.
She stood up and he knew that was it. It was happening! She started digging into her pocket. There it was. I mean, that’s a little bit of a weird dance but she was gorgeous. She course hop like a frog and he would still be into that. She sat back on his bed, a little closer than where she was the first time. “I knew she was speaking with her body movements. Telling me to get closer to her.”
“Do you have it?” she asked, her lips inches from his.
“Oh shit!” He had forgotten the soldier would need protective gear.
She laughed again.
“I’ll be just 5 minutes. Don’t move,” he said already getting up for the school bathrooms where the helmets were stored for everyone.
“Oh, no. Don’t worry about it.”
He stopped in his tracks. Was she saying what he was hearing her say? Or was it his imagination.
“We can use mine,” she added.
“Then I looked at her outstretched arm,” he tells me,
“And in her perfectly manicured hand was a big black Transcend flash disk. She had come to get a movie. I never felt like more of a fool like I did that day.”
See, one of her friends had mentioned that since she was single, to kill her boredom, she should ask the geek guy who says hi to her all the time of he had movies, “particularly those geeky superhero ones”. He never stood a chance with her. She only saw him as her movie plug all through. Her geeky movie plug.
“So she never knew you two had different pretexts to your conversation that night?”
“Even if she did, she did not let it show.”
“Did you ever tell her how much you liked her?” I ask.
“How? How was I supposed to ask that when I was hurt and embarrassed and had a bruised ego all at the same damn time? I couldn’t even speak to her. I just nodded through all her questions about The Flash and Arrow and let her go. Besides, she got back together with the celeb guy the next day. I stood no chance. She was never going to be my girl.”