In the Name of Love

I have a female best friend. I honestly believe that every man should have one. She’s like a breathing cheat code in all matters women. I pride myself in being perceptive but I do miss a few things concerning our female counterparts. That’s where she come in. for the purposes of privacy we shall refer to her as Jane. I’m sure she would hate that name. I presented Jane with a particularly confusing case of my interactions with a lady who’ll remain nameless and the verdict came swift and brief; the girl was in love with me. What an unfortunate situation it is. As I raked through my mind for an appropriate way to handle the situation I unwillingly revisited a much simpler time, a time when I was in love.
Fresh from high school and barely eighteen, I had lots of love to give and very little to distract me from it. I was going steady with the first actual love of my life, who was a year younger than me so she was still in school. I got to see her over school holidays and it was magical. Her parents were strict and overbearing but she would come up with witty excuses to get out of the house. I used to do catering gigs to earn some pocket money, which was never enough to cover the trifecta for a man in love; Look good, smell good, treat your woman. I tried my best and I got half-decent results.
On one of the holidays my boo informed me of a day she would be free to see me. All our dates had to be in public places because her home was a no-go zone and mine somehow always had people. Nairobi’s fast food joints gave us the perfect escape. My budget was ever strict since babe could not afford to chip in for lunch she wasn’t even supposed to be having. She barely even had enough for transport but I was glad to cover the meager bills. Lunch typically consisted of fries, chicken and soda. We would then walk arm in arm to a public park and enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company till it was almost her curfew. I would then walk her to her terminus before heading towards my own, with almost empty pockets and a full heart.
This time something changed. She needed airtime to call back her mother and determine how long it was safe for her to be outside. She was precious cargo this one, and precious cargo must be guarded. I did not hesitate to buy her the airtime but I knew immediately I did that I had messed up. That was my bus fare home and there was nothing else in my pocket besides a few coins I was certain would not suffice. After our goodbye rituals I walked towards my matatu terminus, feeling a knot form in my stomach.
Thirty shillings is exactly how much I had. I needed at least fifty. I had two options at this point. The first was to call my parents and explain my situation. I was supposed to be home cleaning kennels and feeding dogs so that was out of the question. The second was to wait out the evening rush hour till fares dropped. This one felt more reasonable, so I waited. I circuited the Nairobi CBD a few times to help pass the time. I window shopped and read at the terminus and was beginning to lose hope when after three hours the fares hadn’t changed. If I was to get home, divine intervention was necessary so I whispered a desperate prayer promising in future not to be so liberal with money I didn’t have if I was somehow rescued.
Almost four hours of waiting passed before I got my salvation. There’s a very old bus that’s quite popular with market traders. I believe the clientele is exclusively traders, vendors and people who can’t afford to pay regular fares. The entire thing is rickety, rusty and generally unroadworthy. Passengers are always in excess, together with their sacks of fresh produce and sweaty armpits. The crew didn’t look like they had showered since Y2K and there was somehow always a bunch of farm animals on board. This was “Kaa Na Watu” and it was my unpleasant saving grace.
I was swift to secure a seat between an onion seller and a chicken vendor. Both were sweating profusely and neither seemed familiar with the concept of deodorant. Stale tobacco was in the air, which fused marvelously with the aroma of chicken faecal matter and the smell of raw onions. This is the kind of VIP treatment thirty shillings in fare gets you. A man was selling pesticides and rat traps, with actual rats caught in the traps to demonstrate their effectiveness. Needless to say, the journey was long and unbearable but I dared not share what I was going through with my princess. As far as she was concerned, Prince Charming was home watching movies in bed.
When I finally got home my parents ripped me a new one for getting home late. They were curious as to why I smelled like a barnyard yet I had neglected my solemn duty to feed our dogs. We were breeding dogs at the time and they were, ironically, the family’s cash cow. The scolding followed me to the kennels. The sound of my quarreling mother was swallowed up by the excited howling and barking of twenty-four dogs to cause vocal pandemonium. Despite all this I still managed to whistle a happy tune. A tune of love.

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