So you have been standing at the corner of the street, watching, watching and waiting. You are grimacing as you look at your watch, it’s past the usual time, and she has not come yet. You pace around, keeping track of your breath as you saw in the movies, keeping cool. Your hood is already drenched with sweat, the perfume you had drenched yourself in is past used up, but you have to wait, you have to wait for her. It is the day.
Things have been tough on you; she has not been good to you. You thought you knew your way around girls; you were always the pro of chivalry and flattery. And yes, your style, creative pickup lines, bouncy walk, confident erudite and intelligent talk has got you into a lot of places, into a lot of pants, but not hers. She wouldn’t even spare you a second look, not the second time. Wait, do you even know her name, yes you do, but sometimes you have doubts within you that he lied to you. You know her as Shania, yet you heard her girlfriends call her Stacy. How did Shania become Stacy, how now? That is reaganomics, girl child magic.
You have been reading on how to approach a girl, how to ask your crush out on a date. You have even gone as far as rehearsing the steps in your tiny bedsitter apartment, taking care not to step on the plates or the tones of biscuit wrappers you dump on the floor when reading. You have even got yourself a new hood, not the grey `Washington state university` blanket that you call an antique anymore. Your shoes are polished, beyond the usual levels of cleanliness. But in the last hour they have gathered enough grime and dust to be a gumboot see? You forgot that dust is attracted to dry polished shoes, but you still have to wait, don’t you?
People zoom around you, some looking at you, some actively ignoring to. No one stands in the streets of Nairobi when dark starts to fall. Unless you are part of those guys reining terror on `law abiding` citizens who diligently pay bribes to the police officers on the road. Cars beep around you; the bus park is starting to fill up. Your hope rises, and with it your fear. A girl walks out of the crowded lot; she walks towards your direction. She`s also in a hood, like Stacy is always in, she has her height, tiny petite, a short dress like hers. It looks like her, it has to be her. She’s on her phone, texting like all other young nairobians, smiling only to herself and to God knows what. The lights go off on the building up with a pop that is a blessing of sorts for you. She will not get to see you approach, she will not get the chance to turn onto the other street before you get to her, she will not… Today she will be yours.
Start walking, will you, but today your legs won’t move. The courage drains from your body. Take in a breath, a deeper one. They said somewhere that it is taichi, it does help. You feel your systems unlock, the adrenaline before the kill or the killing, the thrill. But wait, you should have taken something to kill the freeze that is gripping you, something stiff like whisky. Your loins deflate with courage, she’s just a couple of steps away, trying to hurry, now clutching onto her small handbag with fervor. The dark has set, is setting. Your patch of darkness is no longer the darkest point of the corner, it is the brightest point.
People coming, people going. You count the steps she takes, from the fifteenth one downwards. Twelve now, you can even hear the click of her shoes though they are rubber now. You can even smell the waft of her cologne, stinging your nose like roadside roast maize. But it’s different, just like she’s different. Ten more to count, a couple of seconds. The lights blaze back on. They startle you, blind you for a moment. A curse, but you hold it down your throat. Your hands react by coming to your eyes, automatism at work. You have to rub them, get your sight back on. Tears sting them from the glare. But you have to keep them open, alert. When you open them, she’s no longer before you. She is gone.
Blood rush to your head, you feel dizzy. Your escapade is in jeopardy, just when you had thought everything was so near. Should you go after her, seek her in the melee of people walking home, or should you wait for tomorrow, another day. The tomorrow might never come, it never comes. Like broken promises it will never be realized. All your effort comes flooding into your being in a deluge. Your imaginations run amok, free from restrictions. You and her, walking down the streets, laughing your head off over some silly joke you had made, sharing a pizza downtown, holding hands like real couples are supposed to. And the hugs ooh! Those hugs, kosher and warm, hugs that would relieve you of the tautness and anxiety of daily hustles. You can’t let them walk away, you can’t let your future hide in the crowd, and you just can’t let all your effort go to zilch… You can’t, you can’t.
Take a step, turn down the street. You can’t see over the bubble of heads around the butchery, past the tarpaulin covering the stalled truck. You think of running, no…But she might have turned the other street. Your brain in turmoil, high gear. Perhaps you should climb the building to the first floor, perhaps you should run down the street, to the other end. But if you did, if you did that, she just might have well taken the other street. And you can’t run both ways, can you?
You can’t waste time thinking either, so you hop onto the next available pedestal. Only that it isn’t a pedestal, you have stepped onto the neighborhood trash can.it is filled to the brim, it is unstable too. It totters for brief moment; you shift your weight in desperation. Left and right right and left, following the wind, riding the `rocking chair` you are on. A flash of brown braids somewhere, you think you saw her head bob up amidst the crowd of baldheads walking the Nairobi streets. Almost sighing, then…….. Crash! Your pillar is gone, and you are falling, losing her, losing yourself in the cloud of dust you kicked up from the falling bin. A rat scampers here, sniffs at your hand and runs off to find itself a better home. Your fall wasn’t your bad luck alone; you have just made it displaced, an IDP.
But you were taught never to lose hope. Some stupid busybody in the name of a `motivational speaker` told you that the key to success is `persistence`. Somewhere along life problems don’t break you they make you. I know, yes, it was a stolen quote, but it resonates with your travails, doesn’t it? You hope you had listened to your earlier intuition, that you had never started thinking of this one girl. before she happened you had been a “madem ni wengi“ guy, but now, in your despair, in trying to find a way to rise without making the news and the memes, you are thinking of not losing hope on her, not losing trail.
The crowd is gathering, looking at you. You rise up and limp away, hoping to lose yourself within the crowd of watchers. That is stupid, right? They part way every other step you make, your smell assails their noses. But you fell down for her love. For her love alone, you have to find her. Walk down the street, the crowd follows, like moths attracted to light, flies to stale meat. They have their cameras out, everyone is hoping to make the next big YouTube video. Probably you will be famous from it. you see her ahead, standing at the doors of the small kiosk, gesticulating wildly. They are talking about you, you guess. So you approach the shop, limp towards, innocently, smiling. And when you open your mouth to say hi, to tell her how much you have gone through to get to her, how much you and her would look good together, she creams. She screams not your name, she screams, for help.