Ever since I turned 22 on a hot day in July, I’ve always wanted to write about my life at 22, how it’s turning out thus far. You know, like the At 21 number last year but on steroids, with a bit more meat and extra spicing on top. So when I went back to read what I had written, my first thought was, Christ! I should be shot at the back of the head for writing that.
And then I paid a little more attention to the words and it made me reflect. That piece called to mind a long lost phase in my life. The words therein felt like they didn’t belong to me. (Because now I use words like therein?). And it also shocked me, really, not least because I had half the mind to quit school (Okay, I still kinda do. But my mom now reads this blog. No need to kick up a storm).
So I wanted that to be the next post. At 22. I wanted to fill it up with all the bits of knowledge and opinions I’ve gathered over the past year. Key among which: trap music is not really music and shouldn’t even be termed as music, and that all trap artists should be executed hourly until all of them are wiped off the face of the earth. I also wanted a piece with a beautiful sunset at the end, but, as I’m still a serial procrastinator this year, I never got around to it.
And then something happened this past weekend (which may or may not be related to that intro).
I had a dream, and it was largely about the girl I was dating at 21. I made a promise never to write about her so I won’t tell you much about it. It’s just a dream for chrissakes. I don’t want to bore you with all that fantastical nonsense.
Thing is, though, the day I got onto that dating bandwagon –it was on the 17th of the month. Me and the girl sat on the ground and our love cemented as the sky turned into a dark purple. Just minutes before that I had noticed my phone was missing. It only made sense that we get mighty drunk to wash away the bitter taste in my mouth.
I was feeling terrible. The pocket where I’d feel my phone against my thigh felt like a gaping hole, like I was wearing someone else’s leg. So we shared a bottle of liquor, passing it over after long swigs until there was nothing left, until our heads were cloudy and we were intoxicated on each other’s words. There was a bit of kissing and some promises were made before we decided it was time to go home –valid reason for losing my phone already made up in my head.
That was the first time I came home drunk, at around 11pm at least. BM came to open the gate and I staggered inside with blood-shot eyes and a scrambled brain. Then I confessed that I had lost my phone and that I was too drunk to talk sensibly and that it would be pointless to lecture me because I wouldn’t be able to remember any of it in the morning and that he should just let me go to sleep.
“We’ll talk tomorrow,” he said gravely.
And that was the end of that.
Since then, the number 17 has stuck with me somehow. Every time I see the digit I feel something tugging at me. It could be something as simple as the time, like 9:17pm for example, or when I’m watching a football match and a player with a jersey number 17 comes on screen.
Tell us what the hell happened this past weekend, Michael. Jeez!
So, as you might have noticed, yesterday was the 17th of the month. And what happened was, as the sun went down over Kitengela, I found myself seated on the ground next to yet another girl. Only, with this one we were stone cold sober and in the company of my movie guy.
I was at the movie shop, obviously.
We were seated outside as I waited for my movies to burn, and a cow was mooing in the distance. The air smelt like popcorn and this girl was going on about the last time she’d ‘turned up’, which might have been a lovely tale if it wasn’t the tenth incident she was recounting. The rock that was supporting my weight felt uneven and part of it dug into my flesh until I was sore. This girl was chatty as hell, talked with an edge of hood. She had a crop top and a cap and she smelled of wild flowers.
And I thought, Boy, she really drinks a lot.
She wore her face with a tough expression, stern, almost. But her features looked soft to touch. She didn’t look any older than I was and her eyes were droopy, as if she had tasted all the tragedies of life. She was obviously giving the other guy all the attention. So I was left listening to the mooing cow and the damning realization that it was the 17th.
They were talking about hair at the time, and from what I could tell they were sort of debating who had the better hair. The girl said,
“Yangu nikiwachilia mtameza mate.”
Then after a beat she said,
“But sai ni vile nataka kucheza chini.”
And in that moment her tough exterior melted into a child’s innocence. And then just as I began to think I wasn’t going to get anything meaningful out of the conversation, she mentioned something about Migingo. That it was the name of a place on the other side of town. And I jumped up and said,
“Walai? There’s a place called Migingo in Kitengela?”
I laughed my heart out and she looked at me like I was a madman. When my movies were finally ready I walked away having decided that the day wasn’t a complete waste. I might not have been kissed or drunk this time, but at least I learnt there was a place called Migingo in Kitengela.
As is the norm here, a movie shop mention comes with a tuktuk tale. Church and tuktuks. That’s all this blog seems to be about these days.
Anyway, I was the first to arrive at this tuktuk, which means I got the best seat in the house –the back right. Now it only needed 4 more passengers and we would be off. A few minutes later I saw a gang of seven women strong. They came around the front of the cab and started talking to the driver. One was particularly loud. Some had children. Some didn’t. One of them had a young boy in tow and they got in and sat next to me. The child was dutifully placed betwixt me and the woman. (Eish. Betwixt. 22 is no joke I tell you). And then the loud one entered.
Soon we were skirting our way home and I noticed that the child was munching on chips. The meal smelt heavenly. Oncoming traffic streamed headlights into the cabin and the boy’s tiny eyes turned into glowing marbles. His lips and fingertips were smeared with oil and I could hear him chewing over the sound of the gunning motor. And have you been inside a tuktuk that’s doing a whooping 65km/h? That-shit-is-loud!
I wondered what his mom would think if I borrowed his fries. Maybe she would let me have some; she didn’t look like the sort of woman to deny anyone fries. Maybe when they got home she would give the boy a talk about giving his fries to strangers. “There are all sorts of sick predators out there,” she’d say. Maybe she would lecture him about his loud chewing, or maybe she wouldn’t. He gets that from his dad anyway. Maybe she wouldn’t even let me look at her boy while he ate.
No worries, though. I would rest easy knowing there’s a place called Migingo in Kitengela.