At 21

I turned 21 on Friday. I woke up with two headaches that day. One a migraine from the previous day’s beer, and another one, a lady who called me, said she was looking for someone called Centrine. She had a loud piercing voice, like she was singing to me. I told her the number she was dialing was not Centrine’s. And she kept on insisting.

“Wrong number,” I said for the twelfth time.

“Lakini si hii number ni ya Centrine?”

I breathed out slowly, sending her a wind.

“Aiiiii, lakini wewe ni nani?” 

“Birthday boy.”

“Ati? Aiiiii, si nimeongea na Centrine tu saa hii? How comes ni wrong number?”

“Call customer care.”

Then I hung up. Okay maybe I didn’t say that last part, but I hung up though. She called about five more times, but by that time I had put the phone on silent. I poured myself a glass of milk, switched on the TV, flipped through the channels, and then I stepped out.

I watched the sun climb the sky, with Centrine’s friend’s voice ringing in my ears. I thought about this overhyped age that I’m meant to ‘live to the fullest’, and what living to the fullest means. I thought about time, how it slips through our hands like loose sand. I thought about the mistakes I’ll probably make, and the decisions. About the things I wanted to do before I die, about what I’d write about being 21. I thought about Centrine, where she was, and what she thought of her name.


I cut my hair recently. I don’t know why I did it exactly, it was an impulse. It’s growing back, fortunately, but a few weeks ago my head looked like a big egg. It took me a while to get used to the look. My shadow looked like a cartoon, and the barber gave me a terrible cut-line, looked like a sharp scythe when he was done. But I couldn’t hate him for it really, because he was a stranger to my head.

Most of my life I’ve had my hair cut by the same guy, Zakayo, I told you about him here a while ago remember?

The day I got the hair cut I went shopping for a hat. I bought two, one normal cap and my favorite, a fedora that looks like something straight out of Boardwalk Empire. I love it. It’s the kind of hat that you wear to a ruracio in Kinangop. Belle thinks it’s shit and wants to burn it when she gets the chance.

I usually don’t care much about how I look. But the following week I had people telling me the hair cut doesn’t work. Those comments gutted me a little, not enough to make me cry but still. Kwanza there’s this chic that thinks she gets fashion; she stopped me, looking all sympathetic and shit, and said

“Oh my Gaad, why did you cut it?”

And then she laughed after saying I look bad, made me want to punch the eyebrows right off her forehead.

At this age, I’m still a little mindful of image, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. It’s not like I spend ages in front of a mirror, or oil my elbows, but some things you can’t ignore. Like stretch marks, and how your inner thighs rub together on a hot day.

It feels like just the other day I was running around kicking a ball, boy did I feel athletic. Well, until my knees knocked (my knee caps turn when I make sudden movements). Who knows, maybe in another life I would be into sports and all that.

Which reminds me of an old woman I sat next to in a mat once, she was clutching a paper bag and a huge folder marked X-Ray. She had white puffy hair and a faraway look in her eyes. I held her stuff for her, and I saw how she struggled to smile at me, like she was in pain. I wanted to ask her about the X-ray, what was wrong. Tell her I too suffer joint problems, and that she’d get better, you know, send her off with hope.

But I didn’t say a word, I felt like I would tire her with my curiosity. Her face stayed with me for a while and something like that makes you appreciate your age more.

Of course there are things I want to do before my limbs cave and I can’t walk anymore. I want to own a bike, a very fast bike. A bike that, every time I’d get on, I’d be testing the deities. I want my name on best sellers, I want to travel the world, see Greece, and Rome, and New York. I want to jump off a plane, and go scuba diving. I want a house with wooden floors, Belle would love that. And dogs, she likes dogs. I want to spend nights holding a glass of whiskey on one hand and a book on the other, and my mornings in front of the keyboard.

Chances are I won’t get all of that, and it doesn’t worry me, not now at least. At 21 I’m only learning who I’ve become, and where I’m headed. I’m still wondering when I’d get a beard. I’m still plucking up the courage from within so I can make choices that hover above you at 21.

Right now I’m working up the nerve to quit school. I want to leave, go write for a publication or something. I want to get my feet in the water, take my writing to the next level. And I want to learn how to swim, literally.

As I write this, I’ve stopped minding the time, because my 11am deadline passed by about an hour ago. I’ve been struggling with this, the writing. I think I’m just tired, so right now I want a break, two, maybe three weeks. So long friends.









5 thoughts on “At 21

  1. Ha, I totally feel you on the image vibe. The number of times I’ve been asked (in a shocked voice of course) why I cut my hair, it warrants a world record.
    Take a leap of faith, life is too short to postpone your dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

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