THE LADIES IN MY LIFE 1: Valentine Jebet
It`s my birthday, and Today I will start giving credit to those people I never really tell how much I treasure them. I am African at the best, and sometime saying the mundane ` I love you` takes so much effort that you’d rather circumnavigate it with a thousand words. Perhaps you won’t know any of them , many of them are my classmates, some are just very good friends, some are people I have never even spoken to, but they are all the ` Ladies in my life` and they are `honorable` to say the least.
Sometimes I think it’s very funny, how those people blessed with small bodies have personalities big enough for a Goliath. But let’s cut that. This series ought to be about ` women` but hardly had I said I will be writing about ` women` than she went “woman is a very big word, you dare use that on me and I will block you for the century.”
So we are seated at the `Frustration square.` It`s not really much of a Trafalgar square or something, no, it’s this small space in between buildings with a solitary tree and a couple of woeful flowers surrounded by a low wall that we perpetually sit on at the Parklands Kiosk I study in. One moment she is at the gate, adjusting her glasses and walking fast as she usually does, and when I call her out, we have to sit there, for almost half of the hour, in which we ought to be reading, talking pretty much about nothing of importance, whining about how bad our grades are, me scolding her about her pathetic eating rations (she is comfoundingly slim) until Gibson Gisore turns up, and she goes ballistic. She won`t attend the class anymore, we have wasted too much time talking already.
I think staying with her grandma gave her too much insight into life. Too much of it that though she ought to be the kid among her friends, she mothers over them (Shavar can confirm this). I think her maternal instincts are pre activated somehow by shows of irresponsibility. While the rest of us are out there trying to have a laugh out of a friend`s misfortunes when they get drunk, she is that person going like “no, let me take her to bed. I think it’s better if she went to sleep.” And when she comes back later, after putting this friend to her bed, she still has to keep thinking out loudly whether this friend will be safe, just like typical mothers.
She will beat me for this, I guess. But am afraid her taste of music is worth writing a whole story about. Everyone my age listens to trending music, the new ones. We are all about Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna and the general group of the new crop of stars. In fact, some of us spend so much time dissecting the apparent lack of creativity in Cardi B and Nikki Minaj. But Valentine, she`s just it, the 21st century body stuck in 20th century music. Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, Mary J or whatever she was called, that`s practically her usual playlist. You snatch one of her earphones to sample what she`s listening to and you will walk away in a little shame and awe. I don’t know what is alluring about old music, to her. I don’t even know how they click with Shavar, who is always all over `what`s new` and `what`s trending` or Matara, who is always listening to Sauti Sol and Diamond.
I probably don’t remember how I really came to know her, as it’s always with me. To be honest, I am the guy who makes friends by default, but every day she has to remind me how much she ` hates` me because I keep reminding her the things she doesn’t want to hear. And it’s always a tussle of wills, this friendship, and a little brain. Each day we have to unfold another layer of the strata, to peep at what the world has for us. But hold on I am not done with Valentine just yet.
I don’t know what it is about her with color, bright screaming colors. It`s part of her, I guess. One day she has pink hair, those pink braids that are twisty and all, the next day it’s been turned to another shade of pink, or purple or some other girly color. Her nails, for as long as I have known her are the epitome of doing, well-manicured, the edges well rounded. I always have to ask what it is with her fixation with the finer details of beauty, until she answers ` ebu nyamaza wewe` and I have to pick my bag and leave.
There are this people in your life that almost seem like they should be living on the edge of action, where their energies are. She is definitely one. She does everything with a level of gusto and passion that sometimes baffles everyone. I earlier said that she never walks slowly; I don’t even know how she strolls because she is always moving like she has an appointment the next moment. It`s not that her walk is ugly or anything, in fact, it’s beautiful, like the sort of glide that is not really a glide because it comes with a focus, the type of walk you would give to a model who is rushing. She talks with energy too, especially when she`s concerned. No, it`s not one of those Malcolm X speeches that leave you with a good number of quotes, it’s just that simple change in tone, a subtle rise in her soprano that tells you she`s excited over something. But her feminism never really allows her to tell you what it is, ever. Somehow she`d rather struggle to find the solution on her own that involve you, and it`s always been that way.
She believes, with passion and lives it. She even forces her roommates to wake up on Sundays to attend church, even though some of them might have the spent the yester night partying. And it’s not one of those Bible brandishing ` Praise God` personalities that is abrasive and woeful to listen to. No, she just seems to be the kind who both likes and loves God in stoic silence, with honor. She almost makes you want to believe, when she tells you “it`s your choice” not to. But you still have to stick to your side of the argument so that she won`t claim she did beat you the next day, because after all she always does that.
In retrospect I’d say that she is a blend of lemonade and mint, the little sweet and salty type that stings but is really sweet. The juice that everyone warns you not to have too much of but you can’t really have enough of. And when her classmate tells me that she has ` two left feet`, I really have to question the rationale of disjunction. It`s an honor, to know her, to write about her, and to really admire her. She is one of those mentors no one really ever cares to give credit for.