I’m reading this book by Jenny Han titled, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” because I’m a guy and like most guys I have this pulsing need to understand women—crack them open and strip their contents bare even though I know it’s a fleeting dream. Like chasing waterfalls or playing chess and expecting to win when all your pieces are pawns because women are incomprehensible Rubik’s cubes, complex encyclopedias that they themselves sometimes don’t even understand. The book is about Lara Jean, a warm girl in her teens who writes love letters to her crushes and keeps them in a teal hatbox that her mother gave her and it got me thinking about the girls I have loved in the past and what kind of love letters I would write them. They’re not many, they’re just three and they all rejected me, so from the get go this story is a tragedy.
There was Milkah, a soft-spoken, light-skin girl who used to do this thing that drove me crazy. She would wear her hair in these blonde curls so that she looked like that Telenovela star Soledad Santander (remember La Revancha). I met her in campus and we clicked from day one. Only she kept me in the friend zone from year one to year four. We used to do everything together: eat, study and hang out. Folk thought we were an item only we were not. We would hang out and she would tell me what jerks the guys she was dating were and I would look at her smiling but livid. I would spend nights agonizing about how I’d break the news to her, the news that she didn’t need to take shit from jerks because there was a good guy right there, ready to treat her right.
I finally gathered the courage after many a somber and morbid nights, only I was a coward and I did it via text. She replied saying she was focusing on herself and she wasn’t ready for a relationship and I felt crashed. A void emptier than a starless night opened in me and a swollen feeling that refused to go away wrapped around my throat. I remember I was sour and bitter for almost three months. I also learned that sometimes, girls date douchebags because they love douchebags and they get some kind of kick sharing their thrills and frustrations with some poor sod.
Milkah love, I hope you still do your hair in curls. It used to get me muzzy with lust. I always pictured myself running my fingers through it while whispering sweet nothings in your ear. In an ideal world we would have been lovers, lovers in the proportions of Romeo and Juliet.
This one wrecked me. She was our tenant. You would think her heart would have mellowed in my favour because I was the landlord’s son but it never did. Instead it hardened. I remember we hung out together and there was a certain creak that their door used to make when she opened it that would jolt me off the couch and out the door. Of course she used to think they were coincidences and damn were they many. Well scripted and choreographed coincidences.
I had just finished high school and I was completely smitten by her. She was a short, pretty, yellow, capricious girl who had a quick mouth that cut like broken glass. My mom used to call her ‘kanya ka deto’ but to me she was my love. She had a thing for Rihanna and TI’s “Live your life” and I would often find her flouncing around singing the song. Something like, “You’re going to be a shining star, with fancy clothes, fancy cars. So just live your life and keep chasing that paper…” I remember I would text her R&B lyrics to solidify our love and she would just laugh in a monochromatic cadence when I brought it up, perhaps because none of them had “chasing that paper” and “shiny cars” in them.
My mom felt sorry for me so bad, she would laugh with her. I remember one day she told me, “Anga kairiitu kau gaku ti kega.” Apparently she had seen her cleaning another one of our tenant’s house, a senior bachelor who was a notorious womanizer, but I could have none of it. Nobody could break my love for Eva. Not even when I woke up early one morning and saw her coming from the senior bachelor’s house looking worn out and disheveled as if she had run a marathon all night. That day I learned that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck.
Eva sweet pie, I hope you became a shining star and got your fancy clothes and fancy cars.
I met Nancy at a local computer package class moments before I joined campus. Damn I loved this one. She was all dark chocolate—her skin had a sexy glow about it, Lupita Nyong’o should come to mind when you think about her glow. She was tall and curvaceous with a thing for tight jeans, loose fitting skirts and high heels. She also had this walk that made her look like a seasoned model working a runway. There was something sultry and exciting about Nancy, she could be buying roast maize on the roadside or doing something as unappealing as blowing her nose but still manage to look entrancing. She was way out of my universe but I’m a man who runs on confidence fuel so I called her and pestered her everyday till she agreed to be my girlfriend. There are days I think she said yes just to shut me up.
Nancy really bruised me. I remember she was studying cabin crew at Nairobi Aviation and I was a freshman in campus. I remember I would skip afternoon classes so I could be with her. We would have fries at Sonford with my close-to-nonexistent pocket money and later we would commute home together and sometimes fingers would do the walking in the bus. I invited her home when my parents and sisters were away and tried to get under her loose-fitting skirt without much luck. I’ll tell you this, it’s as if her thighs were stapled together. We kissed, there was a lot of tongue and saliva involved but I could tell she wasn’t feeling it. She didn’t like it. A kiss is like a handshake. You can’t enjoy it alone. I called her the next day so we could do our usual Sonford, home commute ritual and maybe iron out our issues but she told me she thought we needed a break. I never heard from her again, I called her again and again but my calls went unanswered and soon her number turned busy. That day I learned that sometimes breaks are just easier ways of cutting you lose.
Nancy darling, I remember you used to love TID’s song Nyota yako. Deep down I wished it was our song but I knew it never would be because our relationship was a sojourn, a placeholder. TID long faded and so did my love for you. In an ideal world you would be my Zeze and I would be playing you every day. Corny? Love always is.
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