SOME LINKS ARE LONGER

I remember seeing you for the first time. You were dressed in the normal school girl uniform. Happy, just over the top.

You had an air around that pushed people away though some just wanted to be closer to you. I observed from a distance. You were too beautiful for a primary school kid. We didn’t talk, let alone shake hands. I just looked at you and respected you or feared you, I still don’t know.

You went to the podium, fellow school kids stood around you. You were ready to shine, show them what you are made of. Your mother kept smiling at you, cheering you on. I wondered where you got the courage to talk in front of a crowd. Slowly you began, a poem was in order. Our retiring teacher was ready to be sent off. 

You put on an amazing show and by the time it was over everybody was applauding, this was your day too.That was five year before we met. We didn’t meet after that, all I heard was that your mother was a teacher and you were a class ahead of me. This had me thinking but time went by. Slowly by slowly you were growing out of my mind. Funny thing is I always visited your village for football games and school games but I never saw you. It was the first and last until five years later.

We were now in form four, our last year. High school was over, as exhilarating as it was, I was afraid. I had no idea what was going to happen. Growing up in the village had its perks but life was streamlined into one straight line, you go to school, study, some drop out at class eight others in high school and those who get to form four the closer it gets the harder it becomes and finally when done, you marry and start a family of your own as you await death.

It was during our first term break that I met my schoolmate at home. I knew him from how popular he was at school. It felt good seeing him and just like that we struck a liking in each other. He had a Chemistry exam paper in his hands.

“Hii ni paper gani?” I asked while stretching my hand to take it.

He gave it out effortlessly. He had answered some questions and left the rest. I went through the paper and excitedly began answering, it was both challenging and easy. A moment passed and I gave him the paper right before he asked if I could help him with the paper.

“Ni ya nani kwanza? Mbona nikusaidie na hata sijui mwenyewe?”

“Ni dem fulani, mtoi wa madam.”

“Madam yupi?”

“Aaa, twende nikuonyeshe basi.”

“Okay.”

Just like that we left the football pitch to go and meet the girl.

We took 5 minutes and then there was your gate. Ready for visitors but still unwilling to welcome them. Fear gripped me in the moment, I was afraid to walk. He kept urging me forward and as such I had to hide my fear. We came by the entrance. You were by the study room. Seated with a novel in your hand. The TV was on, the stereo system booming whatever the TV gave. The songs were loud to our taste and we enjoyed them. 

“Sasa, naitwa Ian.” 

I tried recalling where I had seen you before but my mind failed me. I went along with everything. You didn’t introduce yourself. I left for the living room, sat at a comfortable corner to watch the TV. He remained by you as you talked in low tones. It was my first time at your home. I absorbed everything slowly as I listened to music. It was beautiful.

You called me or sent for me. He came in and I followed him. We sat at the study table as you waited for me to talk. Trying to be funny I asked, “Wewe ndio mtoto wa madam?”

You didn’t respond.

Mulindi introduced us to each other and said that I could help you answer the Chemistry question. It was my time to shine and shine. 

It took us a while as we combed through the paper, answering theory questions before sinking into calculations. You seemed to be understanding but kept saying, “Hata mimi sielewi but endelea tujaze hii paper.”

Time flew and your parents came home and it dawned on me that you were the poetry girl. The one I had forgotten about. You were now a lady, a beautiful one more so.

Your father came in first and found us absorbed in the paper. He was impressed by how discursive it was. He greeted us and left for the bedroom. He came a moment later and suggested that we should form a study group. It was a great idea owing to the timing that the national exams were a few months away. We agreed as we walked out with Mulindi. I thanked him and asked for your name.  As I left for home, I wanted to be back there with you, I wanted to just sit with you and not talk. I wanted to be close by your side. The next time we were to meet was after our KCSE examination.

Once we got to school for the second term, life just went to the norm. Surprisingly we did the same paper we had discussed as our midterm exam. The ‘Pavement paper’ was difficult but for the Chemistry paper it was easy. We met with Mulindi in the evening. I wanted to see if he had a glimpse of the different papers since we were doing the whole Pavement series. Life went on as usual. I met with Mulindi, spent time together as the term sluggishly went on.

A time came when we had to host Kaimosi Girls for a bench-marking, it was an inning during the second term. We hosted them and as expected we were friendly. Being boys, we just had to cajole some of them. I talked to one, her name was Melissa. 

“Mambo, by the way I have friends in your school.”

“Poa, wako form?”

“Ni mmoja tu, ako form three.” 

“Oh, huyo siwezi mjua, I’m Melissa by the way. “

“Ian. Where do you come from? I mean mtaa ni gani?”

“Kakamega, huko ndio home.”

Back then most high schoolers had their supposed homes in Kakamega and as it turned out she was one of them. Luckily her home was a village away from mine and so we talked of things we missed, of things we could do while at home.

Our second lesson had us separated. I was doing Physics and her, CRE. We went to different classrooms.

During the last lesson we reunited and I gave her my mom’s number. She promised to call or at least write a letter. Being in the lawn tennis team, I had to go for a bunch of games at their school but I never saw her. Then, I received a letter from her a month later. She was doing okay, happy if I am to say. I met Mulindi and shared the letter. Seeing it was from Melissa, he went silent for a second.

“Bro, acha nikushow kitu.”

He took out five letters from the same girl and I went through them. As heartbreaking as it was, we had to decide. I remembered you, I wondered why he couldn’t have you and leave us alone. I wondered why you were so close to each other than he was to the other girl. If only he could stay in his village or the village next to him, we could be squabbling. He remained adamant. As the school took a break for half term, I remained with several others for the 2nd term games. We had several games at Chavakali High. Judging by the talk of town, this was going to be an easy loss and we would be back to our studies. Chavakali high was rumoured to have the best players.

When the day arrived, we traveled from Nyang’ori High to Chavakali, where we met the teams at the gate. The Chavakali team was already warming up. Being the first day, we spent it warming up and planning for the games. The next day in the morning, we came early for the start. The hype yesterday had us drained of any hope to ever proceed from the county level. We watched as Chavakali defeated Emusire Boys 3 sets to 0. Our turn came, we had to come up with a plan for our doubles team. I had to receive it after which my partner finished. We managed to thrash them 3 sets to one. I went home the next day ready for the regional level. 

I met Mulindi by the road as I was headed home. It was around five thirty in the evening. He wanted me to take him to Melissa’s home. It felt bitter but I told him off softly. I asked if we could go another day. I gave him an ambiguous direction by pointing to the general direction of Melissa’s home. We didn’t meet until December Holidays after exams. We were done with high school.

In December, we came by your house twice. You were happy to see us or so you seemed. We talked for a while each time before I excused myself to go home.

By the time December was over, the relationship between us was growing slowly but not steadily. January came and I started teaching at a local high school in Melissa’s village. We talked as often as we could then eventually grew apart. She went on her way. By the time the KCSE results came we were strangers. You were fully into the picture. I was happy for you in every way. You had passed.

Came April, a month I started doing computer packages, your dad suggested that we go with you. Mulindi was long gone by then. So a journey to where we are today began. The period we spent together, always seemed short, was the best. As raw as I was, you always sparked emotions in me. After the packages, I came to your house. Sometimes we were all alone. Helped you do the homestead chores to an extent I saw fit. A month went by and we had to apply for our Colleges. You had your way and I had mine. You applied first and kept the details to yourself. As fate would have it, we were to go separate ways. A week went by and you traveled to the big city- Nairobi. At home I had to keep myself busy and happy at the same time. We used to chat but it was never the same. I came to know that I cannot make stories during a chat so most of them ended prematurely. A gem had been washed back into the ocean.

One time I recall asking you out, throwing myself at you to which you replied that I was a joker, I was too much of a joke to you.

August came, I traveled to Nairobi. I had to stay with my uncle. He has just lost his wife. Life seemed a bit in order. I thought we could meet then, maybe in the city I would have the courage to confess. Time went by and you went back home to prepare for university. We could not meet until 1 year later during the long holiday.

In university life changed, you changed. I could feel it in your texts and whenever I called you. I wanted to be with you but then distance and the university came between. Girls in college had an appetite for higher life, they grew up really fast. I was left thirsty, holding onto memories that turned painful as each day passed. I still had the crazy idea that we would be together one day. I called you every weekend, joked around and checked where you were. It was great always hearing your voice, as I lay on the bed, it would be a soothing voice. Other weekends you will not pick, I concluded you were busy and indeed you were busy. Other days you will call to talk about how life was, how cruel it had become, we were slowly adulting and just like a caterpillar is afraid of the cocoon we were afraid of the process. It seemed painful, it was painful.

I remember, the time you called, I sensed a break in your voice as if a tear was building up. You had gone to visit some guy and somehow he ended up mistreating you. I didn’t ask where you were, there was not much I could do after all.

You talked for some time before saying goodnight. I did not get a chance to say my piece. We went silent on each other for almost a month.

I later called, I teased you of how you had changed, of how you would narrate your escapades to me, he who was after you. I teased you of how beautiful you always were, I teased about how it would have been, really visualizing life in my head and to that you laughed but to me it felt possible, it felt real. It felt like I was all I got.

 I have always been a loner, talked to few people so friendships to me were not easy but from your stories I could see that you were doing well in every angle. Life in Egerton was great, it was good for you. I dreamt of visiting but money was tight. I thought of coming after you but straining to has never been my forte.

We went through college, a time came I dropped by yours for a graduation but you had long gone home. I took pictures just to show you I was around. Years went by and we were done, graduations happened. I promised I would come to yours but only if you could spare time for mine. You asked me what my mother would think. I paused for a while before answering and with that you never came. You had a homecoming I heard. It was great I heard. You really enjoyed yourself, I heard.

I came home later and we met, for a brief moment but it was great, you were not big, still beautiful.

We hugged for the first time ever and you bade me goodbye. As you walked I could visualize all the futures we could have had, the one bound to happen, the ones impossible to happen – these were only possible to me. I could see you by my side, my strength, my addiction, I could see myself obsessed by you. I could see you in every foreseeable future but I knew it was all a bubble bound to burst. You were a pearl only to be seen, I could not touch you, No. Touching you would ruin the magic, would render you useless. You walked away, you walked out of my heart and you kept walking. All I could do was watch. I watched you go.

ALICIA

I laid on the bed like a gecko busking in the sun, I had taken an early lunch after a marathon of 24-hour fasting. I could have gone for 48 hours but my unwilling body gave in. I was growing weak by the minute as breathing seemed forced. I had to eat and so lunch came around 11 in the morning. I took a shower afterwards and took my phone to bed for a heart to heart with my girlfriend as I waited for her arrival.

On the sink were dirty dishes from lunch and a day ago, beside the door to the washroom was a pile of dirty clothes but I was too lazy to work on them. The bed had clothes all over with the duvet on the side, opposite the sheet exposing the worn-out mattress. It was a Saturday that had me lazing around the house.

I shifted my body in a bid to feel comfortable as the bed creaked to accept my weight. I was sweating after taking a hot shower in the middle of the day. I turned again, this time facing the ground with my phone in my hands.

I was busy on Twitter as I waited for her response. The lone text read, “Upo” without a question mark but it felt wrong as I meant to ask, “Uko?” It had been sitting there for an hour awaiting her response which was taking ages to arrive. I dived into the trends of the day as I try not to lose my head over her delayed response.

Twitter became boring as the feeds became flooded with everyone selling something, from shoes to clothes and apps that may or may not help you. Everyone was trying to advertise something and with that I switched to Instagram.

On the bed with only a short I went through the feeds before clicking on the search button and scroll downwards through the reels and pictures-beautiful people. As I went through the pictures, well dressed people, I felt poor. An overwhelming feeling of brokenness set in, but I went on scrolling. The various challenges came on of people showing off and each reel affected me differently. I was spinning on my bed.

Realizing that all those emotions were elicited by the posts I crossed over to Facebook, here the environment was calm. I resonated with every post, every piece of gossip, I handed out likes like a god giving out blessings.

It was now an hour and 30 minutes since I texted her. I decided to call.

The call went through, as I listened to the call trilling, I breathed in, finding words that would seem calm and at the same time demanding. I was angry at her, at her late replies and I didn’t want to show that, so I breathed in and let out a long gush of air.

She didn’t pick.

I called again and again but the calls went unanswered. My anger was growing trying to rationalizing why she was not picking.

“Maybe she was busy.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Maybe she is in a Matatu.”

“Probably.”

“She always has her phone on her hands especially in vehicles.”

“Yes? So no on the Matatu.”

“What could she be doing?”

I called once more just to make sure she was avoiding me. I went ahead and called her through another number. She picked up the phone.

“Hello.”

“Where are you?”

“Who’s this?”

“Really? It is Dude.”

“Oh, let me call you in a few.”

Before I could say anything, the phone went dead. I threw the phone on the bed and took my laptop. My anger was slowly consuming me, I felt useless for a moment trying to comprehend what she was doing. I was restless even with the laptop on my laps. I could not concentrate.

I stood up and decided to clean up the house. I piled every dirty clothes and beddings together by the washroom door. I spread the duvet on the bed and went for the sink. I cleaned the utensils as my breathing came down to the normal rate. I mopped the house and went to do laundry. I was done by 2 in the evening. I checked my phone. No calls. No texts.

I texted her.

“Hey, kwani uko?”

It went without a reply.

At 3 in the evening I called her, her phone was off. I resorted to sleeping.

An hour into sleeping, I heard my phone ringing. I assumed the first call but the caller became persistent.

It was a new number.

“Hello, what do you want?”

“Hello.”

A soft-spoken voice could be heard from the other end.

“Dude, it’s me Alicia.”

“Really? Finally, you have called. Whose number is this? Where are you?”

“It doesn’t matter how long, but I called. I am with friends but I will come by, the day is not yet over. Can you lend me like a 1000 bob?”

“Okay.”

The call was ended with that. I sent her a thousand shillings and waited for five minutes before calling to confirm she had received the same. She promised to call me later.

I went back to sleeping.

Another call came in at 11 in the night. She had called with another number.

“Dude could you help me with five hundred shillings please?”

I clicked as I sighed.

“Why are you clicking? Kindly help me, I will refund you. I am stuck here and the friends I had have left.”

“Where are you?”

“I am at a club in Westy.”

“Which club?”

“What’s up with the questions? Don’t you trust me?”

“I want to know where you are. Is that too much to ask?”

“Help me with the money, and if you can’t just say so and stop wasting my time with useless questions.”

“I am sorry, I care about you, you know.”

“If you care about me then send the money.”

“Okay honey.”

The call ended as I sent her the money and went to the washroom. I came back and whipped out a meal of eggs and tea. I ate as I thought of Alicia. As beautiful as she was, she behaved so differently when dealing with me, so worse than when she is with her so called friends. The friends who could not help her when is stuck.

“And was she drunk?”

Her voice was breaking.

“Where was she getting the phones to call me? Could she just call me using her phone?”

I went back to bed, angrier than I was before. I placed my phone beside my head just in case and drifted off in sleep.

An hour later she called.

As usual with a new number.

“Dude, where are you?”

“I am at home.”

“Oh, and how did the name Dude come into being?”

“Alicia why are you calling me this late into the night?”

“Don’t ask me silly questions. Can I not call my love any time I want?”

“Go home Alicia, you’re drunk.”

“Did you buy me any liquor tonight? Who are you to tell me when to go home?”

“I may have funded a half of your fun tonight so tone down your attitude.”

“Your measly 1500 shillings did not buy anything substantial plus I will refund you when I get the money.”

“What do you want then?”

 “I have forgotten.”

I ended the call and went back to sleep.

An hour later, she called again, with a different number. She was crying.

I was moved as I wished I was there to comfort her.

“What’s wrong Alicia?”

She continued crying.

“Hey Alicia, talk to me.”

“Dude I have been mugged.”

“Where are you? Are you okay?”

“I am…fine. I don’t know where I am but let me try to ask around.”

“Just be careful.”

“I will.”

She ended the call.

I called her back immediately.

“Stay on the phone I want to know what’s going on.”

“I can’t, I have to give the phone back.”

“The ask the guy where you are before giving him the phone.”

“I am still in Westy, just a few meters from the Delta Stage.”

“Okay, let me get you an Uber.”

“No, Dude just come for me.”

“I can’t, let me get you a ride I will pay.”

“Okay, but I just wanted you here with me. I am cold you know.”

“Okay, I am coming.”

I ended the call and dressed as fast as I could. My heart was racing as I smiled in a bid to curb the excitement building in my heart. I ordered a ride and waited outside the gate. A minute went by and I was on the road to meet the love of my life.

“Why are you going to Westlands this late?”

“I am going to pick up somebody.”

“Sending them a ride might have been cheap and easier.”

“I know, it is girl and I think she might be in trouble. She was mugged.”

“Shit, is she okay? Should I step on it?”

“I don’t know. That will be helpful.”

We flew on Manyanja road into Outering road then poured into Thika Road then branched into Forest road and into Ojijo Road. We went by Ring Road roundabout straight towards Delta stage. As we approached, no one was at the stage. The driver packed the car as I convinced him to keep the journey going. I tried the same number we spoke through last. It was off.

My heart grew weary, I started sweating. I threw glances all over the place before seeing her coming from my left. She was dressed skimpily in a short black dress that was low on her right hip exposing it and had a lace on the left. The back was exposed as well as the cleavage. She seemed comfortable. I saw her.

I rushed to hug her as the stench of liquor slapped me heavily. I hugged her nonetheless and offered her a sweater. She wore it and we got into the car. The ride back was quiet until Alicia awoke from her sleep. She was nauseated. As she looked outside the window noticing that we were on Outering road, she made a disgusted look before vomiting.

The driver looked at me via the rear-view mirror and shook his head. I could feel his gaze on me as I tried not to look at him. I was ashamed but I had to act strong. I didn’t want an argument and so I asked to pay for it.

A few minutes later we were at home. I opened the gate and handed her the keys to the house as I sorted the driver. He declined payment for the vomit.

“Bro, the best you can do for yourself is to let go of this girl. She is not doing you any good.”

“I know, I just wish I had the courage to walk out.”

“Nobody will give you the courage, find it within you.”

“Thank you.”

I paid him a total of 2500 shillings. My rent was now half spent. I knew the money I had lend her was never coming back and so I had to find a solution to my rent problem.

As I walked back to the house, my heart was heavy, my mind was thinking of what the driver had said. Leaving her was for my own good. I repeated it twice, “Leaving Alicia was for my good.”

I had to articulate it in a bid to make it real.

I found her on the stairs doubly bed over choking on her vomit. Her breaching was slow. I sucked some of the vomit from the nose and took her into the house. I took her to the washroom, prepared hot water, washed her and dried her before dressing her in my sweatpants and a t-shirt. I placed her on the bed while she pretended to be dead asleep all this time.

I covered her and watched her sleep before joining her while facing the other side. I woke up from my sleep to find her looking at me. Lights were on, it was four in the morning.

“What are you doing?”

“I am just staring at you.”

“How long have you been doing that.”

“Not long enough, you know I love you.”

I smiled in pain as my heart became excited and my mind raced against the excitement. I knew I had to let her go if I wanted to leave peacefully.

“I know.”