When I was in high school, we were handed the fairy tale of “The Outside World”. We were told of a time in the near futures of our very young lives when we would do what we wanted, be where we wanted and eat whatever we wished, and no one could tell us shit because we were in that magical land. I wanted so bad for it to be true. They told the same things at home. /Enda usome…then when you finish school you can watch all the Kim Possibles you want/ But when we finished, Kim Possible was not on anymore…so, fellow Outside Worlders, weren’t we played?
Now, as I sit here to write to you, for you, I realize I was never personally fascinated by this notion of a better time in the future. Granted, I liked the idea of a time when I would be free to read my Nora Roberts without hiding inside my locker, but I was not fully sold on this fantasy of being at liberty to do whatever you want. I realize this makes me sound like a drag, but I wasn’t. I never said it out loud. To be honest, I’m not even sure I knew this is how I felt during that time till a few days ago, when it came closer to my graduation day.
It dawned on me on three instances; when the dean to my Faculty stood to call our names and my classmates stood to shout their last hurrah, when I took my cap to throw it in the air after the names were called, and as I shed tears during my graduation lunch, overwhelmed with gratitude.
I start this story like this today because I felt I needed to acknowledge that. To acknowledge that I have closed a chapter, while in the midst of a million other chapters. It rained the morning of graduation day. My mom dropped me at the gate and went on to Ongata Rongai to get something that I actually do not remember. Let’s say snacks. As I dug into the mud in my heels, someone approached me from behind.
“Hi, you’re Mirriam, right?”
My first thought was to run. I did not want to deplete my social battery before the day even began. But I was caught. It was drizzling, my gown acting as a raincoat cum trench coat and my feet making tiny holes in the mud that a Jack could later throw in some beans and get to meet his giant. Fee Fi Fo Fum.
I didn’t run. “Yes?”
“Oh, thank God. My name is Rain*” [I picked the name this time. Can you tell?] Then she stood there, me waiting for her to state her claim, she waiting for me to acknowledge her. [God I hope she is not coming to me ‘as a woman’] I pray.
“Can we speak under the tent?” I ask, fearing I will drench my seatmates. She is okay with that, the tent part, not the drenching.
As we waddle like penguins to the tent, she too in high heels, I try to think of all the things she might have wanted with me. Maybe this is the campus version of “kufunga na mtu”, where in primary you would settle all scores with people you had beef with on the last day of school. [Lion of Judah, I’m a good girl. You know it, I know it, these warthogs that you created know it. Don’t let me get a beating from someone unknown to me and most importantly, on an issue whose details I know nothing of. Thank you for this day Amen]
“You’re the Mirriam that writes?” she says as soon as we find shelter. I say yes.
“Awesome. I have wanted to get in touch with you for so long now. I want you to write my story”
For me, these conversations always happen online. A random email notification pops up, or a Whatsapp message from someone who was referred to me and, as of very recently, on my Instagram DMs. I didn’t know how to react. “That’s cool”
“It’s not a pretty story”
“Does someone die in it?” I ask.
“Doesn’t everyone die?”
Not the answer to my question but I brushed it off.
“Is there alcohol?”
“It’s all alcohol,” she says. I notice she is unable to maintain eye contact which brings me to either of two conclusions. One: That this story is something she is ashamed of. Something out of her control. And Two: That it is all a lie.
We were silent for another 16 seconds. I know because I counted.
“Sssooo…how do you do this?” she asked, and I broke from my counting.
“You can text me? I said, trying to make it sound like a suggestion when it was actually the one option I was giving. She took my number. “Congratulations by the way,” I added as I said the last digit.
“on what?” she asked. She was wearing a gown similar to mine.
“Graduating, I guess. Aren’t you psyched?”
“Psyched for what? An overpriced, oversize, used piece of black cloth that I have to return here in 7 days? Naah. I’m good.” She shrugs. “I just want it over with.”
I stayed there for another 16 seconds, watching as she walked away. I am still waiting for her text.
[I wanted to tell you about Rain first because of the relevance of timing. Also, I am hoping that she sees this and texts me. Sneaky, right?]