We even went to Paris


How I remember everything

We met on our first day in college. My father had brought me to the school and his mother had brought him there as well. We were both seated at the reception lounge of the admissions office, waiting for our parents to complete the required paper work.

We were both excited; it showed on his face and I felt it in my blood. Our college dreams were kicking off. Later on, out of class and along the corridors, our love lives would coincidentally kick off too.

‘Hi’ soon became ‘hey!’ And then there was ‘How are your studies going?’ And then we would meet at the school cafeteria, at the games, outings and, again, along the corridors. I was busy feigning shyness while he was busy fighting the same – waiting, gathering courage, and saving money for a proper date.

He never got enough money for a date, but time gave him courage. “Can we go for a walk?” I shrugged a “yeah”. We walked to Uhuru Park on a warm Christmas Eve. We sat under a tree and watched civil servants stride and amble and tiptoe from the government offices in Upper Hill into town. With the only coin he had – an old twenty bob coin with bruised corners – he bought a doughnut and nothing else. I remember he tore it into two, gave me the larger half and we munched with glee; we chatted and laughed and held hands and we both agreed that it had been a day full of butterflies in our bellies…and l was like, “This is awesome!” And he was like, “So freakin’ awesome. Can we do it again?”

And I was like, “Hell yeah!”

That day was the beginning of our love story, a strong bond that I quickly grew addicted to. A few days after, we sneaked out again. We walked the stretch from our college, passing right through the heart of Nairobi, turned a corner at Kipande House and crossed into Central Park. It was deep in the heart of the rainy season, so we expected green grass. And there it was; an inviting meadow, promising romance, and memories as soft as leaves and sweet as flowers. We lay there and listened to each other talk; I told him about how I used to be afraid of thunder as a kid and he told me about his old fear of darkness. He wanted me to know of his family. I told him of my family too. It was interesting to him that my father was a teacher and my mother was a lay reader. “A reader and a teacher!” he said. We giggled about the loftiness of our dreams and shallowness of our ambitions.

We were always broke. “Let’s break bad”, he always said. But my guy had inexpensive, even brilliant ways of having fun. We often walked towards Arboretum; we would stroll past Mamlaka Chapel, shy away from Nairobi University hostels and then zigzag, hand in hand, until we saw the Statehouse’s white fence. We feared walking too close to it. Munching on crisps, or njugu or popcorns—in those love-struck days we ate everything, it was no wonder we farted a lot too—we would ramble on the other side of the road.

Those days, Arboretum had scores of broke people, which was good because then, love was real – even sweet. Lovebirds were everywhere in that beautiful park. They were under trees, on the grass, at the other end of the park, in narrow pathways, or giggling like Indian actors behind the shrubbery. It was naked love. Once in, we would choose the quieter corners of the park where the grass was taller and privacy was guaranteed. I always carried a leso, which we spread on the meadow. We kissed for long hours. But he did not lift my skirt and I did not touch his zipper, which was good because he would later do it in a special way.

Later, i met his mother, a humble woman married to a good-humored husband. She prepared me githeri and chicken and later, after we were full, she prepared ginger tea. She said it was good for a full stomach. “This helps in digestion, my daughter.” She had no female children and so, naturally, I became the daughter she never had. Even after I had gone, she still called my name until her son, my sweetheart, reminded her that I had left.

He came to my home too. My father liked him very much. They often enjoyed sipping tea and nibbling on cashew nuts together as they chatted. My father liked to think of himself as a poet, even though he had never written any poems. They bickered cheerfully over who was better between Robert Frost and Pablo Neruda.  Sometimes they would ask for my vote so that a winner could emerge from their arguments.


He liked writing poetry and prose, and so instead of trying too….


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